Motorcycle vs Automotive Oils

What’s the difference between motorcycle and automotive motor oils?

Every once in a while someone wants to know why regular motor oil can’t be used in motorcycles. The short answer is that oils are formulated for specific applications. Motorcycle engines and automotive engines function differently, and the lubricants that service them have different requirements.

  1. Motorcycles operate at significantly higher operational speeds than automobiles, placing additional stress on engine components and increasing wear protection requirements
  2. Motorcycles operate with higher engine compression ratios than automobiles, placing additional stress on engine components and increasing operating temperatures
  3. Motorcycle engines produce nearly twice the horsepower per cubic inch of displacement as automobile engines
  4. Many motorcycles are air-cooled or use a combination air/oil design. Though effective, they result in greater operating temperature fluctuations, particularly in stop-and-go traffic
  5. Because the engine and transmission share a common sump, many motorcycles need a multi-functional fluid. Many motorcycles also incorporate a frictional [wet] clutch within the transmission that uses the same oil
  6. Motorcycles are typically used less frequently than automobiles. These extended periods of inactivity place additional stress on motorcycle oils. Rust and acid corrosion protection are critical


These are six primary differences between motorcycle and automotive engine applications according to June 2012’s AMSOIL Magazine. Sign up as a preferred customer to get your copy mailed to you next month.

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