Sunday, September 20, 2009

How good is Your Motorcycle Oil?

How good is Your Motorcycle Oil?

The argument about what the best oil for your motorcycle has been keeping internet forums in business for years and yet the great debate still rages on. Do a simple online search and you will get mounds of information on dino oil vs. synthetics and synthetic blends against Full Synthetics. Then the debate rages on as to which full synthetic is better.

I do not want to enter into a debate over oils. I will however tell you to use one with the proper ratings your MOM, (Motorcycle Owners Manual), calls for. I will also tell you to change the oil at least at the factory recommended intervals. Lastly, use a good oil filter. Oil filters are not all created equal, but that is another raging debate, and the topic of another article.

I will share with you what I have seen with my own eyes about engine oils. One of our automotive supply dealers, Dealer Industries, representatives came buy the shop with a Bardahl representative to demonstrate some of their products for the Technicians and I got to set in on a couple demos. One of those demos was for Bardahls engine oil additive.

For the engine oil additive demo they had a machine set up to demonstrate their additives lubricating prowess. This machine was basically a heavy duty metal box with an electric motor inside. The motor was hooked up to spin a bearing race on front of the box. There was an amp meter hooked to the motor to show how many amps the motor was drawing as a bearing as pressed down against the spinning race. On top of the box was a series of levers to increase leverage on an arm that held the bearing to press against the spinning race. The bearing was a standard case hardened cylinder shaped bearing similar to a wheel bearing. The arm was also hooked up to a pressure gauge that included a marker to mark the highest pressure the gauge went to. On the front of the box was a small container to hold the oil that was being tested against the spinning race and kept it about one quarter submerged.

They started by testing the bulk oil, Chevron 30 SAE weight, we use for engine oil changes at the dealer I work at. They turned on the machine that started the race spinning and made sure it was smooth by rubbing a piece of emery cloth against it as it spun. Then they filled the oil cup with the bulk oil. The bearing race now was one quarter submerged in the bulk oil as it spun. A new bearing was attached to the arm directly above the race and the operator pulled the lever down and started pressing the bearing against the race that was spinning in the oil. He slowly applied more and more downward force. As the force of the bearing increased against the spinning race the amperage the motor was drawing increased as did the gauge showing how much pressure was being applied to it. Finally enough downward pressure was applied to the bearing that it stopped the race from spinning.

The operator released the pressure and the black arm of the pressure gauge marked where the bearing seized the race. The pressure gauge did not make it very far up with the dino oil lubricating the bearing and race combination. If memory serves me right it only went up to around 25 on the gauge. What that number relates to in pounds per square inch I’m not sure but the point to remember is where that mark is in relationship to the other test marks.
Next he added some of the Bardahls engine oil treatment to the dino oil, about a half a teaspoon I would guess. Then he started applying pressure again. This time the bearing did not lock up until the pressure gauge read around 95. I was slightly impressed in the change their additive made. I must admit I was also very skeptical and everyone watching was looking for some slight of hand, after all we all refer to these chemicals as “snake oil”.

The demonstrator then said lets compare that to the synthetic that you use. We gave him a bottle of the Mobil 1 10W-30 we use in our synthetic oil changes. He proceeded to clean off the race, clean out the little oil cup and rotated the bearing so we could see how the Mobil 1 stacked up. While this was going on I asked him if their additive was compatible with motorcycle wet clutches and he did not know. Finally he was ready to test the Mobil 1.

I was not sure how I expected the Mobil 1 to do on this test but I know that I expected it to do a lot better than it did, especially after all the hype and the expense of Mobil 1. The demonstrator slowly pressed down and the bearing locked against the race bringing it to a stop with the pressure gauge reading around 45. For some reason I had expected it to do a lot better than the dino oil with a little additive thrown in, but it hadn’t. I them asked if he had tested AMSOIL on the machine and he had not but offered to if I had any. I asked what other synthetics he had tested and it was good to hear that he had tested Royal Purple and it had gotten one of the highest readings.

Curiosity was about to kill me now so I went out to my Mistress and got the half a quart of AMSOIL 20W-50 Motorcycle oil I keep in my saddlebag to have it tested. The Bardahl representative finished cleaning off the race, bearing and oil cup and we were ready to test the AMSOIL. Note that this test was not completely fair against the Mobile 1 because the AMSOIL was 20W-50 weight oil and the Mobil 1 was 10W-30. I thought the results were spectacular and it made me very happy in the oil I had chosen to run in my Yamaha V-Star 1100 Classic. He slowly applied pressure again and the gauge just kept going up and up even passing what the Chevron oil did with the Bardahl additive.

The bearing finally did seize against the spinning race and stopped it with the gauge reading around 135. I was impressed by the AMSOIL. The bearing itself incurred the least amount of damage from the race with the AMSOIL as well. The only variance in the tests that I could tell was the rate at which the operator applied the downward force to the bearing. If this part could be automated it would have taken out the only variable and opportunity for slight of hand that I could see. I honestly do not think that it would have made a difference in the outcome of the tests though.

I did not write this to bash other engine oils or to put AMSOIL up on a pedestal. I did want to let everyone know what I had witnessed with my own two eyes. I also kept the bearing that they used in the demos and have pictures to show the amount of damage done to the bearing before it locked the race up. I wish I had taken a picture of the machine they used for the demonstration. I could not find a picture of one on the internet, only similar ones. The amp gauge was nice in that it showed how much friction was there between the race and bearing as it strained the motor. I was happy with the AMSOIL results and makes me want to switch to AMSOIL in my other vehicles if I ever get some new ones. I give AMSOIL 20W-50 Motorcycle oil a M.M.M rating of 10.

Ride on,

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