A Fluid Change for Sue's Trike

It was that time again.

A few years ago I decided it was time to get more familiar with my bike, have more control over periodic maintenance, and save a few bucks in the labor costs associated with taking my bike into the dealer for service. I didn't have a problem with what the dealership was doing, I just wanted to become more engaged with my motorcycle.

At first, it was all about saving a few bucks. Now it's something I enjoy doing and I find satisfaction in knowing what's lubricating my engine, transmission, and my primary and that I didn't have to have someone else do it for me. Because my garage is now set up to service my bikes, I have also helped a friend or two do the same with theirs.

One of the reasons I like taking care of my own periodic maintenance is because it gives me a chance to inspect the bike to make sure there are no issues going on that might get missed. Both of our bikes are older—Sue's is a '98 and mine is an '04, so the potential for little problems to fester and become bigger problems is there. I'm convinced it's made me a better rider to get my hands dirty wrenching on my own bike.

My lift makes it pretty easy to do and it doesn't take very long any more to drain and refill the fluids, change the oil filter, and get back on the road. If you have a shop manual for your bike, I'd start there to figure out where the drain plugs are, what the recommended fluids are, and the amount of fluids your bike is likely to need. Sue's bike is an EVO and mine is a twin cam so the specs are just a little bit different on how much oil I need, but the drain plugs are in the same places. The Buell is a Sportster engine, so it's different than either of the other bikes, but other than a few differences, this general information will apply to whatever you ride.

I'm a fan of Red Line synthetic oil, but I know plenty of guys who don't use synthetic and don't have any problems. You'll have to decide what you want to use. This seems to be one of those things motorcycle folks tend to have strong feelings about, so you'll have to make that decision for yourself.

You'll need a couple of things to get the job done. An oil drain pan is essential. I tried several before I accepted the logic of Harley-Davidson's Low Profile Oil Drain Pan. It slides under the bike, has enough capacity for a couple of changes, and even fit under my Road King before I had a lift and it was on a side stand.

You may or may not need a funnel for filling your oil tank or your transmission tank (depending upon how careful you are). Any funnel will do, but this funnel came with the kit offered by Red Line when I first started doing this, and it seems to do a good job. I like the long neck. I put it in a big plastic bag when I'm done so it doesn't drip oil all over everything. This is a "nice to have" item, but it does make the job easier.

Another "nice to have" is Harley's primary oil fill funnel. I went for a few years before I bought one, but I have to admit, it makes adding oil to the Primary a little more tidy (if not a little easier). I also put this in a plastic bag so I don't get oil all over everything when I'm done with it. It just keeps the tub with this stuff from getting filthy.

I like K&N oil filters. These are bike specific, so you'll want to make sure you get the right filter for your bike. NOTE: You notice in the photo above that when I put the filters on the shelf I've identified this as a filter for Sue's bike. There are a lot of filter manufacturers, this is just my filter of choice.

Once you drain the oil tank, you'll notice when you take the oil filter off (at least on a Harley) you'll need something to catch the oil that will still spill out of the filter. I use a large ziplock bag around the filter as I take it off. It works as well as anything else and I have yet to find anything that does any better.

Your primary will have a gasket or an o-ring you'll need to replace when you fill the primary and both the transmission and oil tank plugs have o-rings on them. Some guys will leave the old o-rings on if they look to be OK, but I always change them. They cost pennies compared to all the other things you buy for your bike—but neither my twin cam nor the Buell mark their territory in the garage. The EVO, on the other hand, does. So I have an aluminum pan I slide under the bike when it's in the garage to try to keep the floor cleaner than it would otherwise be (that being said, I've made a number of messes over the years that still leave evidence of my sloppiness).

The guys at Revzilla have a great video on how to change your oil if you've never done it before. And you can get the supplies there if you don't want to purchase from the dealer or Amazon (where I tend to purchase my supplies).

What do you do with the old oil? There are places in your area that will take your old oil and recycle it. If there is a Pep Boys nearby, that's where I take mine. You may need to call around, but look for places that sell auto parts or a full-service repair shop. Pep Boys doesn't charge me anything and it usually only takes a few minutes before I have an empty oil pan back. 

Doing this yourself might not be for everyone, but if you're like me, it will become a rewarding exercise you'll look forward to. Since I started doing this I've also tackled a lot of other maintenance and repair projects I would have probably avoided in the past. Most of the time I'm able to figure out what's going on and enjoy the self satisfying feeling of doing it myself.

Hopefully this will help you do the same.