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Oil and Oil Change - by Jeffrey Fillmore on 11/14/2002

How Often?
Ahhhh.... excellent grasshopper, you're going to change your own oil. I say that because by the book, you may not have to and in fact you're warned against it.

That's right. After the first oil change at ~600 miles (which your manual says that you need to go to the dealership for anyway) the Monster Owners Manual states that you are only required to change the oil at the same interval as the required valve service. So, if you go directly by the book AND have your 6000 mile services done at the dealership, you could probably get away with never having to change your own oil.

I said COULD, but I didn't say should...

Why, you ask?

First of all because if you aren't changing your own oil you'll probably never be technically proficient at doing anything on your Monster. It's the most basic maintenance that you can do, and if you aren't comfortable with doing that you'll never be comfortable with doing anything else.

Second, like washing your bike, changing your oil is a good way to become familiar with your bike and how it's doing. Your head and hands will be down at the bottom of the bike and you'll be able to see if there are any fluids leaking anywhere else. You'll also get to see, feel, and smell the oil that came out of your bike. Even if you're a complete novice and don't know what to look for, you'll still get to know what it looks like and if it suddenly comes out different, you'll know that it might need a professional to take a look at it.

Lastly, regardless of what the owners manual says, common sense tells me that 6000 miles is too long to go between oil changes. I change the oil in my cars twice as often as that and I run less oil and run it harder in my Monster. I think that the oil should be changed at least once between valve services at 3000 miles and I prefer every 2000 miles. Think of it this way... If gasoline is the food that your motorcycle burns for energy, then oil is its blood. Would you really want your blood to get absolutely full of toxins and sludge before you kidneys cleaned it? Also, if you target your oil changes at 2000 or 3000 miles and you happen to be on a road trip and miss that target by a few hundred miles you've definitely got a little "wiggle room" without worrying about causing your bike damage.


Tools / Drain
Ok, now that we've agreed, let's get down to it.

(Note: Whenever I refer to something in the Owners Manual, I'm referring to the Manual for a 2000 Monster 750. You should double check your own manual. Electronic copies of recent owners manuals are available on ducati.com. All of the torque values, oil capacities, etc that I mention come from the technical data sheet at ducati.com)

What you'll need:
  • 10mm allen socket - For the oil drain plug. You can take the plug out with an allen wrench (hex key) but you'll need the socket to properly torque it back into place.
  • 21mm socket - To remove the oils screen. Again, a wrench would work here, but you'll need to torque it later anyway.
  • Some kind of filter wrench - This will depend on your bike and the filter to be removed. (We'll look into the details later)
  • A container to drain the oil into - I use one of the flat oil change containers with the wide, flat funnel that screws into the side.
  • Oil filter
  • Oil - About 4 quarts. This varies a bit by model and displacement, but 4 quarts should be the max.
  • Oil drain plug crush washer
  • Oil screen crush washer - A Ducati dealership once tried to convince me that these were the same. It made me think that they had never changed the oil before either...


Step Zero: Do you really have everything?
Don't assume that you local dealership has everything in stock and ready to go. Mine rarely does...

I try to support my local shops when possible, but because I live in a small market I often can't find the things I need for my Ducati when I need it. As an alternative I generally buy maintenance materials in small batches that will last me six months or so. California Cycleworks is a great resource for just about any maintenance or repair supplies you might need including everything you'll need to do an oil change. I can also recommend Salt Lake Motorsports for all of your OEM parts needs and quick delivery.

Step One: Drain the Oil
Run your bike for a couple of minutes just to stir stuff up and warm the oil enough so that it drains easier. If you've run it too much you'll get burnt by both the exhaust headers and oil. Set your oil catch container under the drain plug and use the 10mm allen socket to remove the drain plug. The socket head in the drain plug is very easy to strip, so be sure that the allen socket is firmly seated when removing the plug. I usually throw some cardboard or paper on the ground because a little bit of oil always seems to miss the pan.

If you use a catch pan with a wide, flat funnel you can usually see small amounts of metal come out of your engine. A small amount of fine sediment is normal, but if you see lots of metal or big pieces, you may have problems and should probably investigate further. If you have a magnetic oil drain plug, check the plug for the same types of metal shavings and if nothing looks too big, just wipe it off with a shop towel.

Now remove the oil filter. If you have a filter that has flats around the bottom you may or may not be able to remove the filter with a "cup-type" filter wrench that fits around the bottom of the filter (I haven't had much luck with these). You can also try the strap type wrench, but I've found that they don't work well if the only part of the filter that protrudes has flats on it, it doesn't work well either. If you or your mechanic used a K&N or other filter with a nut welded on the bottom, you can just spin it off with a wrench. Personally, I use a universal locking wrench that I got a Harbor Freight for about 8 bucks. It's like a big pair of ViseGrips with large curved jaws that lock around the filter. It's worked on every filter that I've ever tried it on as long as I've had the space to use it. Other methods I've heard about for removing the filter include big-ass channel-lock type pipe pliers and driving a large screwdriver all the way through filter and turning it with the handle. (I've done this, but it's a bit messy and a lot Neanderthal).

With the filter off, make sure that the oil filter gasket/seal came out with the filter and if not, reach up inside, pull the gasket out and discard.

If your catch pan is big enough, move it so that it catches the few remaining drips from both the drain and the oil filter mount. Otherwise catch the few remaining drips from the oil filter mount with a few paper towels.


Screen / Fill
Step Two: The Oil Screen
On the right side of the bike, below the oil sight glass there is what looks to be a large 21mm bolt head. Remove this "bolt" and you'll find a cage like structure with a fine mesh screen on it. This is what's referred to in the Owners Manual as the "Engine Oil Intake Filter" or "Oil Mesh Filter" and the manual says that it only needs to be checked/cleaned every ~12000 miles. My philosophy is if I'm going to be getting oily anyway, it's worth the 50 cents for a new crush washer to check and clean the screen while I'm down there.

There will typically be some small metal shavings on the screen, particularly for the first few oil changes. Like the sediment that comes out of your drain hole, If it's just a few very small pieces, you're probably fine. If anything looks too big, you may need to investigate further.

Another thing to check is to make sure that the plastic cap is still in the end of the screen filter. I've heard of a few cases of this piece falling off (both on Supersports though). I don't know that the plastic would do severe damage from falling off in your crank case, but it would make it so that filter wasn't doing its job.

Clean the filter screen. Some people just swish the screen around in a jar of gasoline or kerosene to clean it. I use a can of VP carburetor cleaner and just spray it off.

Carefully replace the oil screen using a new crush washer. Make sure that everything sits flat while finger tightening it. I've bent the crush washer in the past while putting the screen on and found that I had an oil leak afterwards. My manual says to tighten the screen to 45 Nm (33 ft-lbs), check your manual to be sure.

Step Three: Fill It Back Up
Move your oil catch pan and clean up all of your oil drain mess. Replace the oil drain plug using a new crush washer and being careful not to strip the plug. My manual says to tighten the drain plug to 45 Nm (33 ft-lbs), again check your manual to be sure.

Next, fill your new filter with the oil of your choice (we'll get to that later), let it sit a while, and then top it off. Take your new oil filter gasket/seal, cover it with a bit of new oil and place it where it fits in the top of the filter. Carefully install the new filter and tighten firmly with your hands. (The Manual say to torque it to 16 Nm (~12 ft-lbs), but I've never had a oil filter wrench that would work with a torque wrench, so I've just done it firmly with my hands.)

OK, now put about 2 quarts of oil in through the filler on the forward/upper side of the right side engine cover. (Do you still have that cardboard/paper on the ground? Your Dad, Mom, Wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, or SOMEBODY is going to get pissed if you leave oil stains on the driveway or garage floor...). If you don't have the bike up on stands, stand it up level and check the oil level in the sight glass. My guess is that the oil will look full or more than full right now. Start the bike and run it for about 15 seconds and the level will probably be lower.

Now, top off the oil about 1/4 quart at a time. The 2v Monster models range from 3.1l (3.3 qt) to 3.5l (3.7 qt), but I've never seemed to use quite as much as the bike "should" take (probably residual oil in the cooler, etc). Each time, let the oil settle, run the bike for a few seconds, let the oil settle again, and then check the oil level. The oil will expand a bit when it's hot, so I never go above half way when I'm filling it with new oil.

INTERMISSION!

Now that you've got everything closed back up, take a few minutes to clean that bike up. (You should be embarrassed..) Take a clean shop rag and wipe up all the oil that you spilled down the engine cover, and get the oil off of the exhaust headers and new oil filter. Now use a little WD-40 and your rag to get all of the spilled oil as well as all of that funky old encrusted oil and dirt off of the outside of the sump. This isn't just to keep you from being an embarrassment to both of us, but also so you can see any oil leaks quickly and easily.

Step Four: Go Ride
It's time to take your Monster for a little ride. Take your bike off of the stands if you're using them and start it up. Let it run for a few minutes to get warmed up and thoroughly check the bike out for any oil leaks. Double-check the oil level again, too.

Assuming that you aren't creating a Superfund site in your front yard, go ahead and take your bike for a short spin and get it up to full operating temperature. You'll probably smell some oil smoke, but it should go away in a few minutes. When you get back, check the oil level one last time and look for any oil leaks or blow-by. After your bike cools, re-torque the drain plug and oil screen and you're good to go.

I take a quick glance at the oil level sight glass every time I ride, but you should specifically check the oil level every 600 miles or so.

Extras / Oil Type Questions
Extras...
There are a couple of things you might want to think about when you do your oil change...

I've gotten tired of dealing with those easily stripped oil drain plugs so I've started installing aftermarket hex head oil drain plugs. These just require an ordinary socket to remove or install and are much harder to strip. The ones I use also have an o-ring seal so you don't need to use a crush washer anymore. Some of them also come pre-drilled for safety wire.

If your filter was a pain to take off, you might want to consider switching over to K&N filters with the hex nut welded onto the end.

This is a good time to check your air filter. If you're using a standard paper element, just check it and replace it if it's nasty looking. If you've made the switch to a re-useable K&N air filter, go ahead and clean it every time you change your oil. I use the K&N "Recharge Kit" which makes the process pretty simple. If you have a spare K&N air filter, you can always have a prepared filter set aside in a zip-loc bag which makes the process go much faster.

Speaking of re-useable filters, Scotts Performance makes a re-useable oil filter. I haven't tried one yet, but I like the concept. If anyone has any experience with these, please let me know what you think.

OK, OK... The Oil Question
There have got to be as many opinions on oil choice as there are motorcyclists. The Owners Manual says to use SHELL Advance Ultra 4, SAE 20w-50, but it also says "Engine oil and oil filters must be changed by a Ducati dealer or authorized workshop at regular intervals,as specified in the routine maintenance schedule" so take that for what you will. Some will swear on Uncle Zeke's grave that $11/qt Agip synthetic is the only thing that should go in your fine Italian machine and others will berate you as a fool for using anything more pricey than .89 cent/qt Valvoline dino oil from AutoZone. I've seen claims that "Most motorcycle oils are SG/SH and JASO MA rated where most auto oils are now SJ/SH rated and not JASO rated at all" implying that newer Automotive oils are not designed with motorcycles at all. The truth is that most of what I've read (like the MCN article link below) on the subject says that under most conditions and by most criteria, there's not a lot of difference between quality automotive oils and motorcycle specific oils. I personally think that changing your oil regularly is more important than what oil you use.

One thing that seems to be in almost universal agreement is that for the first 600 mile break-in period a non-synthetic oil should be used to help "hone-in" the cylinder walls. Since your new Ducati should have come from the dealership with oil in it, this shouldn't be a big worry for most.

That said, I personally choose to use Redline Performance SAE 10w-40 full synthetic in all of my motorcycles and my Jeep. I've been running it in my Monster 750 since 600 miles and I haven't had any mechanical issues with the bike. Some people have claimed to have had problems with using full synthetic oils in wet clutch bikes, but Redline is specifically formulated with an additive for wet clutch motorcycles.

My personal Ducati Guru, Mike Lancaster at Ducs-R-Us, once told me that he uses Agip in all of his bikes (Hey... He's the one that started me on Redline!) but that it was more because he got it at cost than because he thought it was significantly better. He said that if he didn't get performance motorcycle oils at cost, he'd have no problem just filling them up with Mobile-1.

Bottom line: Ask around, do your own research, and then you can join the oil crusades yourself.

The Motorcycle Consumer News Oil Article
http://www.xs11.com/stories/mcnoil94.htm

Motorcycle Oil Filter Comparison
http://www.twocreeks.net/toby/oil_filters.shtml

-Jeffrey Fillmore / Rev. Deadpan

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