Choosing The Right Engine Oil


Choosing the right engine oil can be quite difficult sometimes. Honestly, most engine oil these days can be just good enough for your motorcycle but what you actually need to pay attention is not the brand, but the standard and its classification.

In this article, I will focus more on motorcycle engine but generally, the principle applies to most of the engines. You should always refer to your manufacturer’s manual to see what is best for your engine. This write up is merely to provide basic guidelines in choosing the right engine oil.

Modern motorcycles usually have the same oil lubricating the engine and the wet clutch. For this purpose, most of the time the regular friction modified engine oils are not good enough. To make sure that the right oil is used motorcycle manufacturers usually require the oil to meet one of the JASO standards explained below.

The motor oils that meet the JASO T 903:2006 standard can be classified into four grades: JASO MA, JASO MA1, JASO MA2 and JASO MB. The classification is based on the results of the JASO T 904:2006 clutch system friction test.

In order for motor oil to meet any of the above mentioned JASO standards it must be at least one of the following quality levels:

  • API SG, SH, SJ, SL, SM
  • ILSAC GF-1, GF-2, GF-3
  • ACEA A1/B1, A3/B3, A3/B4, A5/B5, C2, C3

Furthermore, the motor oil’s Dynamic Friction Characteristic Index (DFI), Static Friction Characteristic Index (SFI) and Stop Time Index (STI) should be within the following limits according to the JASO 904:2006 friction test:

The JASO MA range is further divided into 2 distinct ranges – the JASO MA1 and JASO MA2 ranges – as follows:

If all three properties of a JASO MA oil fall within the limits specified as MA1 then the oil can be classified as a JASO MA1 oil. If all its properties fall within the limits of MA2 then it can be classified as a JASO MA2 oil. If some properties fall within the MA1 subcategory but others in MA2 then the product is simply a JASO MA product.

Since my motorcycle is on a Wet Clutch, I should always use JASO MA, preferably MA2 standard.

Apart from JASO and SAE Grade, you should also pay attention to the engine oil API.

As per the image below, it is based on Car Engine oil but the API classification applies to a motorcycle as well.

The API Classification is based on when the Car/Motorcycle etc are manufactured and the engine oil that you used has to least meet its minimum API classification requirement.

SN Introduced in October 2010 for 2011 and older vehicles, designed to provide improved high-temperature deposit protection for pistons, more stringent sludge control, and seal compatibility. API SN with Resource Conserving matches ILSAC GF-5 by combining API SN performance with improved fuel economy, turbocharger protection, emission control systems

SM Current For 2010 and older automotive engines.

SL Current For 2004 and older automotive engines.

SJ Current For 2001 and older automotive engines.

SH Obsolete OBSOLETE: For 1996 and older automotive engines.

SG Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1993. May not provide adequate protection against the build-up of engine sludge, oxidation, or wear.

SF Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1988. May not provide adequate protection against the build-up of engine sludge.

SE Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1979.

SD Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1971. Use in more modern engines may cause unsatisfactory performance or equipment harm.

SC Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1967. Use in more modern engines may cause unsatisfactory performance or equipment harm.

SB Obsolete CAUTION: Not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1951. Use in more modern engines may cause unsatisfactory performance or equipment harm.

SA Obsolete CAUTION: Contains no additives. Not suitable for use in most gasoline-powered automotive engines built after 1930. Use in modern engines may cause unsatisfactory performance or equipment harm.

Below is the recommendation for my Hyosung motorcycle and the minimum API that you should use is SJ. You should be able to see a similar recommendation in your motorcycle’s manual book.

Remember, regardless of what engine oil brand that you use, most of them provide sufficient protections for your engine. The main things that you need to take into consideration are the API Classification and JASO standards.

*Image credited to Zeirie Zack Mzy.

The SAE grade is secondary I.e. If you’re in South East Asia, you can use 10W40, 10W50, 15W50 and these are all based on your personal preferences and how aggressive you push your engine. If you’re riding in hot weather and aggressively, you should consider higher viscosity grade oil.

If you’re not sure about the minimum or recommended requirement for Engine oil, you should always refer to your manufacturer’s manual.

On another note, use unleaded gasoline with an octane rating of 91 or higher for your motorcycle. Unleaded gasoline can extend spark plug life and exhaust components life.

If you have any questions, drop them at the comment box below and feel free to share this article via the social buttons.



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