What Happens When You Put Too Much Oil In A Motorcycle?

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Changing your own oil is one of the simplest and most frequently performed tasks on a motorcycle. But it’s possible to do it wrong.

What happens when you put too much oil in a motorcycle? Adding too much oil to a motorcycle will increase the pressure in the crankcase which in turn forces oil out of the engine and into your intake system. This can cause damage to the engine as well as burn oil in the engine where oil is not supposed to be present.

While it may seem insignificant, your motorcycle is designed to operate with a specific amount of oil. Too much oil or too little oil will damage components. The best tip that I can give is to always just slow down while adding oil.

Sometimes we don’t pay attention and just add the amount of oil we think the motorcycle needs just to find that we now have it overfilled. Taking the extra time to make sure that you are adding just the right amount will save you time in the long run and prevent problems.

The Consequences Of Putting In Too Much Oil

Growing up, I was able to first learn how to change oil on my dad’s cars. From there, I got my first dirt bike, and I was responsible for changing my own oil in that. I have personally made the mistake of adding too much oil after an oil change because I was in a hurry. Despite being a fairly simple task to perform, if you aren’t careful, you can cause a lot of problems while changing your oil.

As previously mentioned, when you add too much oil to your motorcycle, it increases the amount of pressure in the bike’s crankcase. In the case of cars, this could result in your seals being ruined and lead to oil leaks.

Motorcycles operate a little bit differently. Motorcycles have what is known as a rebreather system. This system allows for the pressure inside the crankcase to remain balanced. During normal operating cycles, your motorcycle will be cold when you first start it.

After driving around, the oil becomes extremely hot. The same amount of fluid is still present in the engine just at a very different temperature which would result in different pressures inside the engine. The rebreather system allows the pressure to be vented so that it always remains balanced.

When your motorcycle has too much oil in it, oil can escape the engine through your rebreather system. On most bikes, this rebreather system will lead directly into your intake. This means that your air filter can quickly be soaked in oil. From there, oil can get past the air filter and down into your engine.

Once the oil has entered your engine, you will now start burning oil with each combustion cycle. As this continues, you will eventually ruin your spark plug. Once a spark plug gives out, a domino effect happens throughout the engine and other parts begin to fail as well. This can result in quite a bit of parts needing to be replaced and/or cleaned if left running.

How To Remove Excess Oil In A Motorcycle Engine

When you notice that you have added too much oil to your motorcycle, what should you do? Is there anything that can be done? Luckily there are several ways that you can drain some of that excess oil.

The first way would be to drain some oil through the drain plug. Be careful not to remove the drain plug completely as the oil will pour out very quickly. By opening the plug partially, you can allow for the oil to drip out slowly. From there you can continue to keep draining fluid and then checking the level until you have it where it needs to be. 

At your house, you probably have a wide variety of bottles that can help remove your oil. You can use any type of bottle that has a hand pump or any spray bottle. First, make sure that you clean out the pump very well so that you do not introduce anything into your engine. From there, insert the long straw like piece into the oil fill port. From there, keep pumping until the oil is at the level that you want it to be.

Another similar method is to use a syringe to remove the excess oil. This method works similar to the above method except for the fact that you can measure with the syringe exactly how much oil you want to take out. This can take some of the guesswork out of draining your oil.

The Right Amount Of Oil A Motorcycle Engine Needs

So how much is the right amount of oil to add to your motorcycle engine when performing an oil change? The truth is that it varies from bike to bike. It is important that you always consult your owner’s manual before attempting to add oil (click here to see where we recommend buying a manual if you don’t have one).

As each motorcycle is designed differently, they each require different amounts of lubrication and cooling through oil. So just because one motorcycle takes a certain amount of oil, do not assume that yours will need the same amount as well.

In general, a motorcycle takes 3-4 quarts of oil. Again, this will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and bike to bike. Also, depending on whether you change out the oil filter on each oil change will also affect the amount of oil that you need to add. If you choose to leave the oil filter on, you can expect to need about half a quart less of oil than normal to fill it up.

With all of the variables that exist in adding oil to your motorcycle engine, it is always important that you check that the right amount of oil has been added. After adding oil, make sure to give the bike time for the oil to settle down before reading the fluid level.

After you drive it for the first time, check the fluid level again. Make sure that it is not dropping and that you have not accidentally added too much oil. The small amount of time that it takes to check your oil level can save you hundreds of dollars down the road.

Symptoms Your Motorcycle Engine Has Too Much Oil

There are several obvious indications that your motorcycle has too much oil in it. The first and simplest way to verify this is by checking the oil levels with the sight glass or dipstick. This should be performed weekly although it very rarely is. After changing your oil, you should check your oil frequently to make sure that you have the correct amount of oil in it. Never just assume how much oil your motorcycle needs and always double check.

Excessive smoke coming out of your exhaust is an indication that your motorcycle engine has too much oil. As oil passes through your rebreather system, through your intake, and into the combustion chamber the oil will combust along with the fuel and air. This will result in smoke coming out of the exhaust.

The amount of smoke can vary based on the amount of oil leaking into the combustion chamber. Smoke that comes from the burning of oil can often have a blue-ish color to it. If you notice this smoke coming from your bike, you should probably stop and check the oil level before you drive around too much more.

Another sign of having too much engine oil is apparent through the intake. The air filter can become very saturated with oil. If this is to happen, you may notice a loss in power as the oil is significantly restricting the flow of air through it. You can also visually inspect your filter to make sure that it is not saturated.

You can also look inside your air box; if oil is leaking through the rebreather, it is likely there will be oil all around the inside of the airbox. If you suspect too much oil has been put inside your motorcycle engine, be sure to do these visual inspections to solidify your suspicions.

It is important that you never ignore anything that your motorcycle suddenly starts to do differently. This is it’s way of telling you that something is wrong.

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

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