Checking engine oil is pretty easy – pull the dipstick out and see the level. But turns out that’s not all, there are several other things you need to pay attention to. 

One such thing is the engine temperature – should you check engine oil when it’s hot or cold? Does it even matter?

Actually yes. You should check engine oil when the engine temperature is warm. 

Specifically, when checking engine oil, you should start the engine for a couple of minutes to warm up and then turn it off for another minute before actually checking the engine oil. 

But why such a procedure? Coming up right now. 

Why You Should Check Motorcycle Engine Oil When Warm

You should check engine oil when the engine is warm because a warm engine indicates that it has been running for a while – allowing the engine oil to fully circulate around and give you a more accurate reading.

It’s also important to allow the engine to stop for a minute before you perform the engine oil check. This allows most of the engine oil to come back to the pan and give you accurate reading on the level. 

It’s always best to follow the instructions on your manual but if you don’t have the manual anymore, here’s the quick steps to follow when checking engine oil:

  1. Start engine for 5-10 minutes to allow engine oil to circulate
  2. Turn off engine for 5 minutes to allow engine oil to return to pan
  3. Pull out oil dipstick and wipe it clean
  4. Insert dipstick and pull out to analyze 

What to analyze exactly? Let’s talk about that next.

What To Check From Motorcycle Engine Oil

Here’s a list of things you need to check when analyzing engine oil (be it motorcycle or car). 

1. Engine Oil Color

The color of an engine oil defines how dirty or clean it is. Expect to see amber color (color between yellow and orange). See image below. 

Engine Oil Check

Amber color indicates clean engine oil


Colors much darker than this indicate that your engine oil is dirty and should be replaced. You should estimate a little. If the engine oil color is a little darker than amber, then it’s still ok.

If the engine color is literally black, then you need to replace the engine oil as soon as you can. Dirty engine oil imposes many risks like below:

  1. Reduced gas mileage
  2. Reduced engine life span
  3. Engine failure

I talk more about the dangers of dirty engine oil in this article. Can You Clean Motorcycle Oil Filters? 

2. Engine Oil Texture

Similar to the color, texture of an engine oil also indicates how dirty or clean it is. Clean engine oil should be smooth to the touch – this means there are no dirt particles on it yet. 

Engine oil that feels very thick and rough could mean dirty engine oil and impose the same risks outlined above. Replace the engine oil immediately if it’s rough and thick. 


3. Engine Oil Level

The level of engine oil indicates how much engine oil left you have in the pan. If the oil level is below what’s required, then you should look to add more or replace the engine oil entirely.

If the engine oil color is still amber and it’s smooth to the touch, then you can simply add more engine oil. Otherwise, replace it entirely.

The dipstick should have indicators to tell you whether the engine oil is less than required. Pay attention to the markings. See image above.

How Often Should You Check Engine Oil On Motorcycles?

You should check your motorcycle engine oil at least once a month. Best is if you can do a quick check every 2 weeks and before you take any long trip. 

This allows you to catch any potential problems way earlier – prevention is always better than cure right? 

When you are checking for engine oil, make sure you turn off the engine and let it rest for 5-10 minutes to allow all the oil to return to the pan. This gives you a more accurate reading (I just explained all this above).

Some Afterwords

Thanks for reading this quick article. I see this question again and again on different forums and it’s quite important. Thus, this article. 

Here’s more articles I wrote related to engine oils. You may find them interesting. 


Ifandi S.

Ifandi S.

Passionate about everything mechanical. Ifandi has been involved with motorcycles and cars since the old days - in his family's auto parts shop. Want to keep in touch? Scream "STRAIGHT PIPEEEEE" at the top of your lungs and Ifandi will show up.

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