Will Car Oil In Motorcycles Work?

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you put car oil in motorcycles? It, honestly, crossed our minds—we wanted to see how the oil will impact the engine. However, after some research, we realized how reckless that would be.

Unfortunately, car and motorcycle oils are different and should never be interchanged. Using car oil in a motorcycle and vice versa will damage the engine, which means the performance will go down. In short, using any type of oil that’s not made for a specific vehicle is never a good idea.

Let’s look at the characteristics and differences of motorcycle and car oils and why you must not interchange them.

What are Engine Oils For?

People have been using oil as a lubricant for thousands of years.

It was first used by the ancient Greeks and Romans who bathed themselves with olive oil as a sexual aid. Oils also helped move large stones and heavy objects, and grease any stuck object. Lubricants only consisted of plant and animal-based oils until the 1800s when the first oil well was drilled successfully.

They then underwent many stages of refining and included additives to make various types of oil. These additives can do many jobs from prolonging lubricant life, reducing friction, and allowing the lubricant to cling better.

Car Oil in Motorcycles: Motorcycle and Car Oils Difference

Not all oils are created the same. Knowing the difference will help you understand why some oils are only made for certain types of vehicles.

Motorcycle Oils

Motorcycle oils help lubricate both the engine and gearbox. They cool down the engine and transmission components as well. Now, since motorcycle oils lubricate the transmission components and the engine, their frictional property has to be slightly higher.

The higher frictional properties aid in lubricating the wet clutch, which transfers power to the drive train. This is why motorcycle oils have higher viscosity levels compared to car oils.

When it comes to frictional properties, oils with high frictional characteristics have high clutch performance but low fuel efficiency. Meanwhile, oils with low frictional characteristics will be high in fuel efficiency but the clutch won’t be in its peak performance.

Therefore, motorcycle oils should have a balance of both because they power the engine as well as the gearbox. Car oils, on the other hand, don’t have this problem since they are only used for the engine. This explains why motorcycle oils have balanced friction properties while car oils will have low friction levels.

Car Oils

Car oils only help lubricate the engine parts. Since the gearbox does not use them, they normally have friction modifiers to increase mileage and fuel economy.

Car oils also have lower viscosity levels since they do not require high friction levels. Plus, along with the friction modifiers, car oils contain detergent additives to increase their ash content.

While a motorcycle oil contains some detergent additives as well, the amount is significantly lower than a car oil. Using a car oil with high ash content in a motorcycle will hamper your bike’s performance.

Car Oil in Motorcycles: Motorcycle and Car Oils Characteristics

A motorcycle oil has a higher viscosity, higher frictional characteristics, and low ash content. Car oils, on the other hand, have lower viscosity, low friction, and high ash content.

Here are the main differences between the two:


Both motorcycle and car oils lubricate the engine of their respective vehicles. However, motorcycle oil lubricates both the engine and the gearbox while car oil only lubricates the engine. A separate type of oil is used for the gearbox.


Motorcycle oils, along with lubrication, help cool down the engine components as well. This is despite having a separate cooling system.

Meanwhile, car oils do not need to cool down the engine because cars already have robust cooling systems. Lubricating the engine is the oil’s only function.

Car oils do help cool the engine parts. But, this is not necessary because its cooling system is already in-charge of cooling down the engine thoroughly.


Motorcycle oils come with high viscosity levels to balance the wet clutch and transmission performance. Car oils have lower viscosity for smoother power transmission and better engine performance.

Viscosity levels are labeled using oil grades, which depend on factors like the make of the engine, its condition, etc. Oil grades are denoted by “XW-XX.” You can refer to your bike’s manual to know which oil grade is compatible with your motorcycle.

Ash Content

The oil’s ash content is directly proportional to how much detergent additives are present in the oil. Car oils have more detergent additives than motorcycle oils, which means the ash content will be higher.

Friction Level

Motorcycle oils come with higher friction properties to balance fuel efficiency and wet clutch performance. Conversely, car oils have lower friction levels to provide maximum mileage and fuel efficiency.

Can You Put Motorcycle Oil in Cars?

No. While motorcycles use the same oil for both their engine and gearbox, it is not the same for cars.

Firstly, motorcycle oils have higher viscosity and friction characteristics compared to car oils. If you use motorcycle oils to replace car oil, their high viscosity will only reduce the car’s fuel efficiency.

Secondly, using motorcycle oils in a car will reduce the engine’s transmission performance. Because of the high friction levels in motorcycle oils, cars can experience transmission lockup while running. This will extremely hamper the car’s performance and also damage the transmission.

Can You Put Car Oil in Motorcycles?

No. You cannot use car oils in a motorcycle.

Car oils generally have lower viscosity and thus, low friction characteristics. This low friction will not help lubricate the wet clutch properly since it will be too slippery for the clutch. As a result, the clutch will not work as required if you use car oil in motorcycles.

Another reason why you cannot use car oils in motorcycles is that they have detergent additives with high ash content. The additives can create deposits in the piston crown and valve train that could eventually damage your bike’s performance.

Why Does a Motorcycle Engine Oil Go Black?

Motorcycles oils go in clear or colored but will eventually go black or at least much darker. This is normal—it only means that the cleaning agents in the oil are working and are cleaning the engine. The oils also help carry debris and contaminants to the filter where they are, hopefully, filtered out and stored.

That is why you should not forget to change the filter, too!

Contaminants can either be small metallic particles from the engine to clutch friction material from the clutch baths. They may also be heat-affected parts of the oil that have been against hot components and gone hard. Some additives react better to heat than others and the engine’s heat cycles will darken the oil while it “cooks.”

Car Oil in Motorcycles: When to Replace Your Motorcycle Oil

Change your engine oil periodically to ensure that the engine stays in its prime condition. Here are the steps to check if your motorcycle needs an oil change:

  1. Make sure the motorcycle is on a flat surface and its main stand.
  2. See to it that the engine is cold before checking the oil.
  3. Take the dipstick off the oil canister.
  4. Check the level of the oil, its color, and use your fingers to gauge its viscosity. Replace your motorcycle’s oil if the oil is below the specified level, is too dark, or feels thick.

Changing your oil is one thing a motorcycle owner has complete control over. For instance, you can control when to change it and decide what you want to change.

Just ensure to use the correct oil and change it frequently so the additives would not wear out. Anti-wear agents in the oil help keep friction down but they will deplete over time.

The additives will oxidize, too. The more you use the oil, the thicker it gets; and the thicker it gets, the less efficient it becomes. The less efficient the oil gets, the dirtier the engine inside gets.

Not changing your motorcycle engine oil will lead to a catastrophe. Once the warning lights on your dashboard light up, your bike’s about to fail and it’s time to replace the oil.

Car Oil in Motorcycles: When to Change Your Motorcycle Filter

This depends on the motorcycle’s make, model, and the conditions you are exposing it to.

Your motorcycle’s oil filter clears the oil of dirt, contaminants, and metals while being lifted from the oil pan. These will clog the filter over time, which will then affect your engine’s lifespan, performance, and efficiency.

Here are some signs that you may want to consider replacing your bike’s oil filter:

  • The motorcycle engine has a burning smell.
  • A black and dirty exhaust cloud is coming from your tailpipe.
  • The engine sputters or feels reserved or under-powered.
  • There are metallic sounds such as pinging or knocking coming from your engine.
  • Your oil pressure gauge drops low.

It’s best to change it every oil change, which comes at a factory-recommended distance or time interval.


Using car oil in motorcycles is dangerous both for you and the bike’s engine. Always make sure to use oils stated by the manufacturer to ensure an easy and smooth ride.

Happy shopping and be safe on the road!

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