Motorcycle vs. Automotive Oil

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


Every once and 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.

Six Primary Differences Between Motorcycle and Automotive Engine Applications


First Difference

Motorcycles operate at significantly higher operational speeds than automobiles, placing additional stress on engine components and increasing wear protection requirements.

Second Difference

Motorcycles operate with higher engine compression ratios than automobiles, placing additional stress on egine components and increasing operating temperatures.

Third Difference

Motorcycle engines produce nearly twice the horsepower per cubic inch of displacement as automobile engines.

Fourth Difference

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.

Fifth Difference

Because the engine and transmission share a common sump, many motorcycles need a multi-functional fluid. Many motorcycles also incorporate a frictional clutch within the transmission that uses the same oil.

Sixth Difference

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.