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How to check motorcycle oil with a dipstick

Checking motorcycle oil regularly is essential. Follow these simple guidelines to check the level and condition of your engine oil using the dipstick.

Human hand checking oil in a motorcycle with a dipstick

Checking motorcycle oil with a dipstick

How to read oil levels with a dipstick

  1. As with checking oil through an inspection window, start by parking your bike on level ground, on a centerstand or paddock stand and waiting for the engine to cool and for all oil to drain back into the sump.
  2. You will find the dipstick low down on one side of the engine. Unscrew it counter-clockwise by hand, and wipe it on a rag or paper towel. Then place it back into the dipstick hole until it is resting on the thread - you don't want to screw it back in at this stage.
  3. Then carefully withdraw the dipstick again to check the level. You should see a lower and a higher mark on the dipstick, sometimes with a cross-hatched area in between.
  4. The oil level should be somewhere between these two marks. However, if it is below the lower line or above the higher line, you need to either top off or drain off some oil.
  5. Assuming that the level looks OK, you should also take this opportunity to assess the condition of the oil. It should be green or yellow, glossy and semi-transparent. However, if the oil is black or dark brown, the oil has been burnt and broken down, which means you need an immediate engine oil change. You should also check for the presence of any thick sludge.
  6. In extreme cases, you may even see particles of metal in the oil, which can indicate engine wear, or the oil may have a milky quality, which can indicate that coolant is getting into the oil. In either of these last two cases, you should consult with a mechanic as soon as possible to determine if your engine has a serious problem.
  7. Before replacing the dipstick, it's a good idea to smear a small amount of oil onto the seal, and to take care to avoid cross-threading the screw when you replace it. So if you encounter any resistance when screwing the dipstick back in, always back it off and try again until you're sure the threads are properly aligned.

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