Oil Change. Based on Time or Miles? The Answer From Spectro Oils.

Question. I own five motorcycles (2 antiques) and only use Spectro oils (I picked up a case this morning). On many of these bikes I only put perhaps 1,000 miles on them or less annually. People tell me I should change the oil before putting them to bed for the winter but I don’t want to be wasteful either. What is your recommendation? Should one change oil based on time or miles? Once the bike has been ridden any miles after the oil change should it be changed again before storage? I thought I would ask the experts!

Answer. Even though you don’t roll many miles, time does count for something, as the oil does oxidize while it is just sitting in the engine. That oxidation can affect the lubricating qualities of the oil, and whatever contamination did occur during your brief riding activities also then has a long time to degrade the inside surfaces of the engine. It may not amount to much, but why not be on the safe side with your machines?

That said, once a year oil changes will be fine. Change the oil before you store the bikes and make sure you start and run the engines after the oil change for 15-20 minutes. This ensures that the new oil has been circulated throughout the engine. Don’t overlook the problems of today’s gasoline, either – between ethanol’s corrosive effects and vagaries in refining, you don’t want to assume your fuel will not degrade. You should make it a habit to add a prescribed amount of FC Premium Fuel Conditioner to every tank of gas, and if you think that too much, at least be sure to add it (and run it through the system for 15 minutes) before you set aside the bike for any amount of time. Spectro Oils.

26 Responses to “Oil Change. Based on Time or Miles? The Answer From Spectro Oils.”

  1. 1 richard Jul 1st, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    I’m sure there’s some truth to this response. However, I’ willing to bet the degragation is so minimal that it will not have any discernable effect, especially if the bike is stored for the winter when the oil is at running temp. This will help assure that “stuff” will be suspended in the oil and removed by the oil filter; and that Combustion by-products and any condensation will be evaporated off minimizing corrosive attack. Oil and filters are becomming expensive and it does not make sense to overdo it. I’m an old guy who used to change oil and filters way to often. Now I do the every 4000/5000 mile recommended changes. My viewpoint is that this is sufficient except when an engine is operated under very heavy load, very hot or very dirty conditions.

  2. 2 J. H. Jul 1st, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    I live in Texas, in the summer I switch to straight 60 wt. it says in my 2000 FLT manual if the temp are 80+ degrees as they are here to change to 60 wt. I have asked Harley Mechanics at several different dealers what weight to run in the summer and they all have said 20-50 wt. and you don’t need a oil cooler, I have run an oil cooler since I bought the bike new. My question is why would a factory trained Harley Davidson mechanic in Texas or anywhere in the south west, recommend this? Could it be to get more repair work. I have been riding for 40+ years, owned Sportsters, Pans, Shovels, Evos, Twin cams, even a BSA, all recommended 60 wt. some even 70 wt. when it’s 80+ degrees. Of course I do understand that the Mechanics know that most “Newbies” don’t let their bikes warm up before blasting off. With the 60 wt. let the cylinders get hot enough that you can’t keep your hand on them is usually sufficient to get things warm enough. The same for the transition, I run 90 wt. Mobil 1, or Royal Purple. Just wondering if anybody else has heard this? Thanks

  3. 3 Steve Carr Jul 2nd, 2012 at 6:27 am

    This debate is one of those that will keep us all thinking we all know something the next guy doesn’t know.

    One question, has anyone ever seen any engine fail because of one weight oil being used over another? Im not talking about a mistake by pouring tranny fluid in a engine, I mean by the use of motor oil in a motor……I would bet that IF this has happened, it was because the oil was overlooked by the owner, or the engine was old and used or burned oil which caused the engine to fail. Either of which would not be because of the oil.

    Religion, Politics, oil weight, Stay out of these debates, there is never a right answer……..everyone has the right answer, their own answer is always the night one, not yours.

    Steve Carr

  4. 4 jim Jul 2nd, 2012 at 7:43 am

    J. H. Do some research on oils. I bet you wouldn’t run Royal Purple after that!!!

  5. 5 J. H. Jul 2nd, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Sorry, I meant transmission for the 90 wt. Thanks for the help.

  6. 6 Lyle Jul 2nd, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Why would anyone want to run 60 wt in their bike? Most wear occurs at start up and 60 wt is too thick for a cold engine. I run 20w-50 in everything I own including my 38 Chief.

  7. 7 Doc Robinson Jul 2nd, 2012 at 9:17 am

    I’m with Steve Carr when he says, “One question, has anyone ever seen any engine fail because of one weight oil being used over another?” I will add, or one brand? Oil is oil, after all.

  8. 8 Jeff Nicklus Jul 2nd, 2012 at 10:33 am

    OIL ….. is the life blood of any engine ….. in my opinion you cannot change the oil and filter too often, especially if you live and operate your bike in a hot environment such as Texas, Arizona etc. We recommend changing the oil in our motorcycles every two thousand miles at a maximum ….. oil and filters are much, much less expensive that toasting a motor.

    Over & Out,


    PS: We recommend 20-50 wt oil for year around use in our bikes and NO synthetic oil for the first 5,000 miles on the bike.

  9. 9 Easy Jul 2nd, 2012 at 11:01 am

    I use 20-50 wt Rotella Diesel. Anyone see a problem with that? Never had had an engine related failure on eithe rmy 1977 XLCH or my 2000 FLHRC.

  10. 10 X HD rider Jul 2nd, 2012 at 11:06 am

    I read if storing you should change your oil. Oil deteriorates with time they all so said.
    So you change your oil and then the bike sits for 5 months. Now when you go to ride it isn’t the oil bad from sitting for 5 months.

    Sorry J H 60 is not that good. If you do a searmultiiie grade is way better and the flash point between 50 an 60 is all moidenticalcel.

    If your ever have questions about your oil get it analyzedlized its cheap to do.

  11. 11 Steve Carr Jul 2nd, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Understand the viscosity. The first number in the code is the starting viscosity. This rates the thickness of the oil when the engine is first started. 10W oil has a viscosity rating of 10 at winter temperatures. The second number is the high temperature viscosity. When this oil is heated by the engine, it was a viscosity rating of 30.

  12. 12 Kirk Perry Jul 2nd, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Harley owners use Harley oil. 🙂

  13. 13 Poppa Jul 2nd, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    I’m shocked, (shocked I tell you!), that an oil manufacturer would recommend replacing $20 of perfectly good oil because their additives/oil are insufficient to counteract normal oxidation.

    Perhaps this is a marketing opportunity for someone to come up with an oil that isn’t significantly effected by oxidation due to time for those motorcycles that do not get a lot of annual miles.

    But then they would have to actually show scientific data …

  14. 14 Doc Robinson Jul 2nd, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Jeff Nicklaus, I’m interested that you say, ” . . . and NO synthetic oil for the first 5,000 miles on the bike.” What is your rationale for that?

  15. 15 Jeff Nicklus Jul 2nd, 2012 at 4:57 pm


    Synthetic oil is too slick for a new engine in my opinion. In a new engine, when using synthetic oil, I have found that the “balls” in the roller bearings will, more often than not, slide along the race instead of “rolling”. In doing so the rollers will form flat spots that can never be corrected short of an engine rebuild. If however when using regular oil the bearings will roll as they are intended and in doing so the surface of the rollers will develop microscopic scratches and scars (wear) that helps the regular oil adhere to the rollers. This surface wear will also insure that if you should switch over later to full synthetic oil will likewise adhere better to the rollers and the rollers will not slide in the race. Further, I have found that rings will seat almost 50% faster on regular oil vs synthetic oil. On last observation: I have found that engines running regular oil will have an operational temperature almost exactly the same as an engine running synthetic oil so there is no benefit there, again in my opinion.

    Damn, now I am sure I have opened a can of worms here …. The Harley crowd will say “My Hardly Davidson has synthetic oil in it so you don’t know shit.” Cool, run what the factory tells you and may the force be with you.

    Hope this has shed some light for you Doc.

    Everyone have a safe holiday.

    Over & Out,


  16. 16 nicker Jul 2nd, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Oh great…….

    So, not only will i have to drain all the gas out of a classic before i park it, now i’ll also have to drain the engine oil too ….. 🙁
    What about Tranny oil…….. ???

    What’s next? No tires over 4 years old….???

    Soon the only thing left will be virtual motorcycling.
    Oh ya, i’m so looking forward to taking a 10 day MC trip on my i-pod ap….. 🙁


  17. 17 Doc Robinson Jul 3rd, 2012 at 4:14 am

    Jeff Nicklus I do respect your opinion and thank you for your reply. Obviously, your findings are your findings. However, I keep getting told that this view is old hat and not correct. Maybe a few more people with credentials such as Jeff’s could weigh in on this issue? Or maybe an engineer from S&S, a company that recommends Mobil 1 V-Twin for their engines from the get go?

  18. 18 Jeff Nicklus Jul 3rd, 2012 at 10:33 am


    Just out of curiosity I looked at TP Engineering’s website to see what they called for as to new engine break in, and this is what they show:

    New Engine Break-in procedure

    CAUTION: This is an-air cooled engine that relies on airflow for cooling. Do not allow engine to overheat by subjecting it to prolonged periods of idle
    Note; If operating your engine at temperatures of 70 degrees F or below, use SAE 10W40; otherwise use SAE 20W50 motor oil for initial 100-mile break-in. At 100 miles, change engine oil and filter; use SAE 20W50 mineral-based motor oil only. Do not use any additives or synthetic motor oils for the first 5,000 miles.

    I have a call into S&S now and when they return my call I will ask what they are recommending for initial break in on their new motors. I am always up for learning something new, if at all possible.

    As Steve Carr said earlier: “This debate is one of those that will keep us all thinking we all know something the next guy doesn’t know.”

    Over & Out,


  19. 19 Kirk Perry Jul 3rd, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Harley says of their motor oil:
    “Sun® formulates our oil to have cling. The “cling” includes a roller bearing/race “skate” preventive” (not “resistance”).

    Harley owners need only be insured, that on a typical August, 110-degree day in Gila Bend, Arizona, while idling at a super-long-wait red light, that there’s ALWAYS a thin film of oil between the sprocket and pinion shaft roller-bearings (and everywhere else) and the race that they spin in.

    “Cling” is a Harley-Davidson conception and execution.

    If it cost $2.00 more a quart than other oil, then you’ve “overpaid” a total of 8 bucks, per 3,500 mile oil change to fill a Panhead. You can’t divide 8 bucks by 3,500 and get a figure.

    Yet Harley is willing to stake their reputation on a formulated oil, that any petroleum engineer could re-construct with a Gilbert Chemistry Set®, and scream “Fraud”….?

    Pass me the grade 60…. please. 🙂

  20. 20 Steve Carr Jul 3rd, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    20/50 wt mineral based oil of any brand is the correct oil for an American made V-Twin engine built in the last 20 years or so. If the MFG. says to use it, that’s what you use! We ate not smarter than the engineeres than build these motors!

    End of story…

    Steve Carr

  21. 21 Poppa Jul 3rd, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    It depends on how well the engine was constructed, how close the machining tolerances are.

    Corvettes come from the factory with synthetic oil. A modern well constructed engine should be able to run synthetic without a dino oil breakin. Nothing wrong with using old manufacturing techniques that require dino oil breakin, those engines will work well too.

    It cracks me up when people say synthetic oil is too slippery, causing the roller bearings to slide and not roll, causing flat spots. Make up your mind, either it is too slippery and reduces friction between metal parts, or else it does not protect as well as dino oil. You can’t have both.

  22. 22 Jeff Nicklus Jul 3rd, 2012 at 5:16 pm


    The oil is too slippery…. the bearings slide instead of having some surface resistance allowing them to roll. With anything eventually the surface to surface contact, no matter the lubricant, will heat up and wear….. is that really so complicated?

    Secondly, the Corvette motor does not have “roller style” main and/or rod bearings so you are talking apples and oranges.

    Over & Out,


  23. 23 richard Jul 3rd, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    I re-read my post above and believe it is correct. Adressing the synthetic questions….I agree with Jeff. I have worked in the engine design area for 45 years. We always recommended petroleum based oil to start out with. We believed, based on tests, it is essentially too slippery and could interfere with the “breaking in process” (I.E. the wearing in or seating process). If that occurs for example, the piston rings may not seat (conform) to the cylinder surface. If that happens, cylinder glaze forms on the cylinder surface filling up the cross hatch with the byproducts of the combustion from gases blowing-by the rings which do not seal properly until they wear in to the cylinder . That makes the cylinder surface even slippier and the rings will never seat to the cylinder.and the engine will pass oil. The only way to correct that condition is to remove the cylinders and “de-glaze” them.

    Having said that, however, things change…manufacturing control/processes have improved dramtically and parts “match up” much better than they did at one time minimizing the need for the “seating process”. I also understand Harely has a better Cling value so that it works well on roller bearings. Lastly, i know several people who have Screaming eagle engines that utilize full synthetic from day 1 and they have no problems.

    My inclination would be to follow Jeffs’ recommendation to use petroleum oil for at least the first 1000 and then switch to synthetic…just to be safe.

  24. 24 Brett Jul 3rd, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    well neither of my bikes is new. I use Amsoil & would never use anything else. I own a 2001 HD Softail Standard & a 2003 Gilroy Indian Chief. I change about every 2,000 to 3,000 miles & have had no issues to date.

  25. 25 Rob Jul 3rd, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    Lasst bike was aa 01 fxd. changed to synthetic at around 250 miles and never looked back. Sold the bike with 65,000 miles and sstill ran great. All my bikes have always been equpped with oil coolers &thermostats………………

  26. 26 Doc Robinson Jul 4th, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Jeff Nicklus, I appreciate the exchange of ideas on this subject greatly. No-one (yet) has gotten highly emotional as so often happens on this site. Today I had an S&S 106 kit fitted to my 2012 Road Glide. Here is what the S&S instructions read:

    S&S Cycle recommends the use of Mobil 1® v-TWIN 20W-50 synthetic oil. Break-in can be performed with either conventional oil or Mobil 1 synthetic oil.
    Regardless of what type of oil you select, be sure to only use oil specifically designated for use in an air cooled motorcycle and utilize the viscosity suggested for the temperature you will be operating your motorcycle in.

    Thank you Jeff for putting your point of view across. As I said before, your results are your results and thus unarguable. Overall, oil is a subject that we’ll probably still be debating in the nursing homes from our wheelchairs. My wheelchair will have flames, skulls and ape hangers by the way. 🙂

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Cyril Huze