Engine Oils

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Daantjie's picture
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a Few points to ponder on lubricants in general, as this is one of the major design components of machinery in general, and motorbikes specifically. First we must realise that a lubricant is a chemical product. The oil part of the product act as a filler to create volume, and as thus need some very specific caracteristics. The oil part also act as a carrier for a lot of chemicals which is the stuff that actually protects the machinery from itself, it's surroundings and OPERATOR! Secondly it is important to know that lubricant knowledge and development is generated as part of the study of Tribology. Thirdly, as oil is a design component of an engine, we must allow the manufacturer of the engine to lead us to the correct lubricant type to use, and we must never allow advertising stunts to fool us into believing in wonder products. Fourthly this is a very dynamic field, and new developments happens every day.
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Daantjie, VERY interesting topic. 1) If your bike is under garantee and serviced by the dealer, FIND OUT what oil they use. The boxer engine needs a few drops of oil from time to time - ONLY top-up with the SAME oil as the dealer (that services your bike) uses. The dealers do not all use the same oil !! 2) Once out of garantee some will service the bike themselves. I would also like to (once out of warantee) - BUT I am not sure how to get past the "service" message on the display. (Any ideas??) Sorry back to the topic - what oil to use once out of garantee .... Presonally I would stick with the oil that the dealer used. I do not like "mixing" oils. Many would go for synthetics - if it was needed wouldend BM use it ?? I did not say "it is not good", I asked if it is "needed". High performance engines "need" synthetic oils - Boxer engines are NOT STRESSED. Thus the longer service intervals and long life. The "K" engines, well I would love to hear what is needed here (my guess would be synthetic). 3) Syntheitcs and addatives ARE BAD DURING THE FIRST COUPLE OF THOUSAND KILOMETER !!! Engine parts must "bed in", thus many manufacturers use "poor quality" (relatively speaking) oil to start of with. Additives or synthetic oils will cause the engine parts to "glaze" - causing increase oil consumption and bad performance. 4) With a motorcycle there is also the issue of a "dry or wet" clutch. On a car the clutch runs dry, thus the oil is designed for the "engine only". Many motorcycles have "wet" clutches, meaning that the clutch is exposed to (runs in) the engine oil. Certain oils/additives will lead to the clutch slipping !! Confirm with your dealer - BEFORE you change the oil or add "stuff" to the oil.
Daantjie's picture
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Additives to oil is never good, it only serves to mess up the recipe the oil company has developed, tested and guarentees. Synthetic oil definitely only benefits on highly stressed engines, as the oil's resistance to flow is decreased slower than that of mineral oils. Synthetic oils may never be mixed with any other oil either synthetic or mineral, as there might be unwanted chemical reactions under certain unknown circumstances. In the owners manuel you will find an indication of the viscosity requirement of your vehicle's engine, something like for example 20w50 or 15w40. Adhere to this is closely as possible. Also try and find the API specification prescribed for your engine, as this gives an indication of the development level of the oil. Exessive top ups or blackening of oil is an indication to use a higher quality lubricant, or to drain the oil more regularly, or to ride slower!! Important to notice that engine oil must be changed an absolute minimum of every 12 months regardless of distance travelled in that period. This is due to the forming of acids during the combustion process that is dumped in the oil.
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Daantjie wrote:
Important to notice that engine oil must be changed an absolute minimum of every 12 months regardless of distance travelled in that period. This is due to the forming of acids during the combustion process that is dumped in the oil.
That adds value to the whole annual service debate we had recently - thanks Daantjie :)
Freakonaleash's picture
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Daantjie how come you are so knowledgeable about oils if you dont mind me asking. I RIDE THEREFORE I AM!
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Daantjie's picture
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Freak, Thanks for the question. I do not want to be misunderstood that I pose as a Tribologist. I work for a company that distribute lubricants, and as such had training as well as extensive exposure to the subject.
Max Lange's picture
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Joined: 2007/06/26
I'm confused, I was also under the impression that oil needed to be changed annually, however we have a bmw car and the manafacturer claims only every 2 years, we don't do a lot of mileage in a car (less than 8000km per year) What would you suggest? 2006 R1200S 2005 R1100S BCR 2005 F650GS(Cindy) Motorcycle Rider Training http://www.twowheels.co.za

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Maybe it's the lower rev ranges that allow for a lesser amount of acid dumping?
AJ
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BMW het goeie engins
Jeremy Martin's picture
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Just as a matter of interest, what oil has been recommended for your respective bikes? When I took my bike for her 1000k service, shane told me to use Total 5000 20W50... and to keep away from synthetic oils.
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Daantjie's picture
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Max, I would strongly disagree with allowing a vehicle's oil to stand for 24 months, especially if you do very little mileage. Shaded ask about low rev's, worst scenario is cars and bikes that are used for 10 to 20 min drives with ample time to cool down in between, that really allows for acids to break down the additives of the oil. Long distance driving that allow the oil to heat up properly creates the opportunity for acid water to evaporate rather than stay in the sump. Interesting to know that on average the combustion of 1 litre of fuel creates very close to 1 litre of acid water. This acid water can be seen running out of the exhaust of an engine that has not yet warmed up properly. Jeremy, if I am not mistaken the 650 single prefer a 15w40. The boxer however prescribes a 20w50. It will serve you well to go through the owners manual to sort this out. Using a 20w50 instead of a 15w40 will not harm your bikes engine, but the "thicker" oil will provide higher cranking resistance which can increase fuel consumption and hamper performance.
Jeremy Martin's picture
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Daantjie, Ive got the new 650gs twin, and ja.. my owners manual recommends 20W50.
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Neil Terry's picture
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Interesting thread Daantjie, please keep it going,thanks!
Frank's picture
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A fitter and turner once told me that the Afrikaans for viscosity is ; taaiflooibaarheid (spelling is probably wrong). Now my mom is Afrikaans and when I speak it you can't tell that I am a 'soutie', BUT that word still CRACKS ME UP EVERYTIME! :) Oh yes, that and knormoer! (choke) :) :) :) Frank
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Neel's picture
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Almost there! It's "taaivloeibaarheid" (taai = sticky, and, vloei-baar-heid = fluidity). And, "knormoer" is a starter-motor. Then there is also a "skopmoer", I kid you not, as in kickstarter!!! Cheers!
Frank's picture
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I just LOVE Afrikaans! En dan praat ons nie eers van die skel woorde nie!
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Daniel Nelson's picture
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You also find kids doing a "vloermoer" or tantrum. I think it describes it perfectly.
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Daantjie's picture
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Hi Jeremy, Neat, so the applicable viscosity grade for your bike is established. Now read further until you find the API or ACEA specification. This will be written in the same chapter where you found the applicable viscosity grade. Whenever you buy oil, make sure that the API or ACEA specification complies with that of the manufacturer of your engine.
Abel's picture
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Thanks for a very interesting discussion. A question - I'm using my GSA to commute to work. It is about 7km from home to work. I accept that the boxer engin does not properly warms up in that distance. Sometimes I do take the 'long way home'. However, it is not always possible. Do you guys recommend that I change my oil more often because of this shorter distances? The ride is the destination.
The ride is the destination.
Daantjie's picture
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Abel, I would seriously consider changing the oil quicker than 10 000km, especially if the long, multi hour runs are few and long between. Regular, as in weekly, longer runs should take care of the quality of the oil. Always make sure that you use a good quality product adhering to the required specs.
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It does make for pleasant change to have an interesting informative subject of discussion on the forum. First the C o C and now oils. I have a basic knowledge but would prefer to be better informed. Daantjie may I impose on your knowledge and ask for a more detailed discussion on oils lets say from the well to the end product. How about Product A, 20 W 50 and product B, 20 W 50 are they the same, here I am talking about recognised brands. How about semi synthetic, what is the basic composition here. When using Synthetic and a top up is necessary can I add normal 20/50? The differences between oils, engine, gearbox and Rear axle. What does all this mean to the layman, S A E, API, SJ, SL and CF? Can I use Petrol formulated oil in my diesel and how about the super/turbo chargers? I have a 1966 BMW and the oil specified is S A E 30, what do I use here? How about the different greases, in the automotive sense of course. Would you be prepared to give the club a brief evening chat on the subject. Ignore opinions, heed facts. Feet on the pegs, always.

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Cheesy, Answering all of these is quite a mouthfull and will really stress my typing abilities. As the topic seems to attract the attention of quite a number of people, I wouldnt mind chatting with interested people at a workshop meeting. I live in Worcester but do spend time on your side of the mountain as well, my office is in Strand. We could sometime meet for a cup of coffee, maybe somewhere out in the Karoo with a fire going and some wors on the coals. Just let me know!!!
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Daantjie, Do you have more of those sugestions, sounds good to me. I note that part of the text is missing however the gist is there. I have also sent you a P.M. Ignore opinions, heed facts. Feet on the pegs, always.

Think before you ink.

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Daantjie here is how understand it (PLEASE correct if needed) The need to change oil "at least" annually is due to the acid build up AND the fact that oil absorbs moisture - NOW, engine oil can "boil off" the water in a long run (as you pointed out), but brake fluid can not. Since it attracts moisture and the moisture stays in the system it "pits" metals surfaces - many of us have seen slave cylinders when they start leaking due to the pitting. However it is "cheap" to re-sleave these and fit new seals, NOT SO CHEAP to "repair" an ABS break booster (sounds like the dealers only replace ...) I have also heard of other manufactures stipulating 30 000 km or 2 year service intervals - not sure how they get past the moisture / acid situation. Frankly an oil change is CHEAP, just not worth taking a chance on it. Cheezy, regarding your question of oil A versus oil B. Daantjie did refer to the "API" index. Atlantic used Motul 3000 20W50 on the boxers, with an API "SG" rating. The "S" refers to "spark", as in a petrol engine. You can also get "C" for compression, as in diesel engines. The last letter is purely from A to Z, Where A was the first (bad) oils, the better the oil (various fancy test applies here) the higher the letter used. For example "Castrol GTX" has a "SG" rating, while GTX High Milage has a "SL" rating. "L" being MUCH better than "G". Maybe Daantjie can confirm what the highest available letter is at this point in time. Daantjie does this system also apply to synthetic oils? So Cheezy when you have two oils with similar viscosity ratings (20W50) have a look at the API rating, the higher the second letter the better it is supposed to be. BUT, now many mechanics are getting all excited. MANY mechanics believe the Castrol GTX causes "build up" on the inside of an engine. You will find those that LOVE a brand, be-it TOTAL or BP or .... So find a brand, check the specs (within that brand) and do not mix your oils. I know that the dealers DOES NOT use the same oil, just proving that there are different good options available. Remember BMW does not specify oil "A", it specifies the viscosity and API rating. Now for a bit more "useable" general info on oils and BOXERS. USE THE CENTER STAND! My 1100 RT used about 1 liter of oil per 10 000 km, when I parked using the side stand (space problem in the garage). When I started using the centre stand the oil consuption DRASTICALLY lowered. The reason is purely that with the boxer a small quantity of oil runs into the left hand pod when parked on the side stand, when you start the engine this is burnt off. Parking on the centre stand reduces this tendancy. Apparantly the 1200 engines are not prone to this problem - once bitten twice shy ... Daantjie now to put you on the spot. Most vehicles have a specified oil change interval, but those that may be used off road often recommend shorter intervals if the vehicle is used off road regularly. What does the BMW garantee stipulate for GS bikes - and what would you recommend as a "safe" solution for those that spend most of their miles off the tar?
Daantjie's picture
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Hi Padlangs, Quite right, a proper engine oil does have the ability to “cook” of the water and neutralize the acids left behind, up to a point. When the braking system heats up due to excessive braking you may reach a point where the water that are diluted in the brake fluid starts steaming, forming pockets of steam inside your system, and you are stuck with a spongy brake when you really need stopping power. I must admit that I’m not exactly sure how the ABS system will deal with such a situation, but will research and post. When manufacturers stipulate this kind of service intervals they normally have Europe and America in mind with extremely high quality fuel. Emition control in the first world countries do not allow high sulphur and other acid forming additives in their fuels. The OEM carries the risk of long service intervals, but we will have to see if these engines will be able to achieve high mileage over and above the 100 000km? they are guaranteed for. On the comparison of oils there is a few points to bear in mind. Although a SL rating is a lot newer than SG, I will not recommend for instance that cheesy put a SL rating in his 1966 Boxer. He might experience increased oil consumption with no other benefit, due mainly to the fact that SL oils were developed with a very specific generation engines in mind. The materials used to build the 1966 Boxer will differ from those used for the new 1200. Point I am trying to make, newer does not automatically indicate superior quality in all instances. Yes, the API rating does apply to synthetic oils as well, and you might be surprised at finding synthetic oils with only a very old API rating like SF or SG. Oil unfortunately is not part of an exact science, and there are no absolutes here. “Horses for courses.” I would rather research the manufacturer and supplier in order to choose the best brand. Within the brand and supplier of choice I will look for advice, service and backup. The how of checking oil is extremely important. For some unknown reason we in South Africa believe that oil must always be exactly on maximum. Not necessary. As long as the oil level are indicated between minimum and maximum you are save. You might even find a lowered consumption in this way. Unfortunately I am not an expert on the BMW guarantee. My 1150GSA spends 80% off road, is serviced every 10 000km by a good friend of mine, and the service always include a new airfilter. I bought this bike with 10 000km on the clock, it has now just over 37 000km on, I don’t need to add oil in between services, I use a mineral based 20w50 with an SL CI-4 rating.
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Padlangs welcome back to the forum. To be scientific, as most of the better heavy duty/machine operators are inclined to be,they do a silica test. I cannot for the life of me recall what the permissable figures are but there is a (I seem to recall Wearcheck in KZN are big into this) specification out on this, maybe Daantjie can enlighten me on this. BUT as you will no doubt know it is not only the silica that causes engine wear but many of the other contaminants as well. How about sulphuric (sulfuric)acid and carbon? Jean recently bought a new Polo and she was strongly advised that the oil must be changed at 15K or once per year!! Jean also only does about6 k's to work and the same return. Think of the condensation build up in the oil, YEAK! On the GS I do prefer to change the oil every 5K, reason being that the sump is fairly small so the oil is turned over more frequently plus the motor is aircooled and generally runs hotter. This makes sense to me if to no one else, besides I do not keep my bikes that long so am I preserving the motor for some one else at my expense? I am a nice Guy. Peter O take note!! Ignore opinions, heed facts. Feet on the pegs, always.

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Daantjie you just touched on another interesting point - oil level. The 1200 RT has a software function where you get an on board "tick" showing the oil level is "OK" when you stop. I was using this and was SHOCKED to see the sightglass firtually empty when I washed the biked. So if you are "fixated" on the sight glass do not trust the "OK tick". Daantjie then you also refer to the fact that oils are designed (and rated) with Europe and America in mind. You do know that our average temperature is about 5 degrees higher than theirs. This also means our engins run "slightly" hotter and work "harder" - further reducing the life expectancy of the oil as compared to similar use milage in the northen hemisphere. The accuracy of this statement is probably the topic for some serious research .... This also begs the question if the viscosity ratings should be adjusted for our warmer climate .... PLEASE stay with the BMW recommendations, I am just toying with some "applied fluid principles" here. I should point out I have been "exposed to some info" on the topic, but I am NOT an expert !!
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Cheesy wrote:
This makes sense to me if to no one else, besides I do not keep my bikes that long so am I preserving the motor for some one else at my expense? I am a nice Guy. Peter O take note!! Ignore opinions, heed facts. Feet on the pegs, always.
René, soliciting your "Nice Guy" favours on an open forum like this could get you into trouble with the morals watchdog! My late father-in-law was involved in an experiment with the SA Railways where they ran a number of trucks for a hundreds of thousands of Km, some with no oil change and some with only a filter change, and compared them with the fleet of trucks that were serviced normally. The total Km ran to a million but I can't remember the details of how many trucks were involved. The outcome was that the trucks that had only the filters changed showed no adverse effects when compared with those that had the scheduled oil change. The trucks that had no oil change eventually gave problems with the oil changing to sludge. Shows the importance of good filters. ''If you can dream it you can do it!''

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Peter for many years the "Department of Post and Telecommunication" (later Telkom) had a policy that all vehicles had an oil and filter change every 10 000 PLUS a filter change at every 5 000. These vehicles had a HARD life, between hard work and abuse - never heard of any that had any "oil related" problems though.
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Padlangs wrote:
Daantjie you just touched on another interesting point - oil level. The 1200 RT has a software function where you get an on board "tick" showing the oil level is "OK" when you stop. I was using this and was SHOCKED to see the sightglass firtually empty when I washed the biked. So if you are "fixated" on the sight glass do not trust the "OK tick".
Hey Padlangs, That Tick is to do with oil pressure (I think) When your oil runs too low on an RT you will get a on your display. Ask me I rode al the way back from Plett trying to figure out what this insignificant symbol was. No red exclaimamtion mark just the which came on and off intermittently.Went to Hamman and they explained to me that I needed to put oil in. Andy1200 Never ride faster than your guardian angel can fly!!!
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When all else fails read the instruction manual. Ignore opinions, heed facts. Feet on the pegs, always.

Think before you ink.

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