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Thread: checking / adjusting oil level

  1. #1
    On the Road
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Abingdon, VA

    Question checking / adjusting oil level

    This is one of those things I obsess about and know I probably shouldn't (but I do).

    The rule of thumb I've heard for checking oil level is, run the engine for 2-3 minutes, turn off, let sit (on center stand) for 1-2 minutes, then check level. If the oil is visible in the sight glass, you're ok.

    Now, if checking after a longer ride, say an hour and a half, do I have to wait longer to check the oil level? Is 15-20 minutes ok? In a related note, I'm always afraid I'm overfilling with oil. If in fact I wait the appropriate amount of time (whatever the heck that is) and the sight glass is full of oil, should I drain some? Is it possible to drain only some?

    thanks for the upcoming info and advice.


  2. #2
    With an oilhead, I find it most helpful to check the level the morning after riding it, or before the next ride. For kicks and giggles, I usually check it a minimum of 1 hour after returning from a ride, but wait til the next morning to get a more accurate assessment of the level.

  3. #3
    El Dookey loves to ride. 99007's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Ada, MI (outside Grand Rapids)


    I recollect the dealership telling me to check the oil in my sight glass when the engine is warm (as opposed to hot off the freeway). I try to get a look 15-20 minutes after i pull in.
    Don't winterize; Rounderize!

  4. #4
    there's been much written on this subject.
    try a search on advrider. com..
    personally, i think the important is you always check it the same way and no.. don't drain any. you'll be fine.

  5. #5
    It's a good idea to park the bike on the sidestand for awhile before you put it on the center stand to check the oil. This is supposed to release oil that might get trapped in the cooler. Some people recommend getting two consecutive low readings before adding oil. If you know you started with the right amount of oil, there is no need to drain any.
    Frank G.
    Hattiesburg, Mississippi
    2004 R1150RT

  6. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    WC Indiana

    Hot Oil Check

    Riding long distances in extreme conditions is hard on oil. You need a quick way to get a fairly accurate oil check on the road.

    First, know your engine, does it require oil to be added at about the same mileages?

    After a good ride, with the engine hot, shut it down, put it on the centerstand and time how long it takes until the oil drains out of the cooler. This is usually between 45 seconds and a minute and a half. It will fill the sight glass faster than if you were adding oil. Make a mental note of this and the next day before you ride it check it again to see how much more oil has drained into the crankcase. I have found this to be about an 1/8 of an inch.

    Another method I use on the road is to gas the bike on the sidestand, pay for the gas, etc. Then if the sight glass is covered with oil on the sidestand it has plenty of oil in the crankcase. This method I like, because the sight glass is extremely sensitive to having the bike on a level surface. It will check high if the front wheel is touching the or leaning to the left. The rear tire on the ground or leaning to the left, and it will give you a low reading.

    The most alarming situation is to having rode a thousand miles one day. Then check the sight glass and see no oil at all. You can have the oil locked in the oil cooler. I had this happen to me. I added 200ml, got the oil level into the lower ring on the sight glass. The put another 300 miles on the bike, the next morning the oil level was almost touching the top of the sight glass.

    FWIW I haven't seen a thread where someone burn't up and oilhead from lack of oil. 3.5 liters of oil for an engine that small is a lot of oil. Asphalt Ranger

  7. #7
    Alps Adventurer GlobalRider's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Canada and the Alps

    My Observations...

    Being new to Oilheads (no you can't ever have my Airheads), these are some of the observations I've made:

    All of the following noted in the same location on a level surface, on the center stand.

    After the engine has reached operating temperature during a ride (5 bars on the oil temperature gauge), I noticed that the oil level on the sight glass increases after the engine has been shut off. Obvious enough as the warm oil runs down into the engine block.

    Then many hours later when the engine is cold, the oil level on the sight glass is lower than it was say 10 minutes after an engine shutdown. This is due to the fact that oil contracts when cold, like most things do.

    Nowhere does it say that the maximum level on the oil sight glass is a cold or hot engine oil level. The difference between the two can easily be 1/8" to 1/4" in indication.

    Whenever I top up the oil so that the oil level is at the "maximum" level when the engine is cold, the actual operating temperature oil level is past the top of the sight glass window some 10 minutes after I shut down.

    This got me to thinking that the oil level should be at the maximum level at operating temperature. So now I take my level readings 10 minutes after a long ride and fill it at that time accordingly.

    Works for me and oil consumption has dropped to almost zero.

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