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A portion of the following article is from Motorcycle Consumer News and is for informational purposes only. MCN in no way endorses the products of Amsoil, or any other lubrication company.

Own a motorcycle? Click here to get the right motorcycle oil and filter!

The new American Petroleum Institute oil performance rating, SJ, has now been introduced, and again motorcyclists are being cautioned that automotive engine oils are not to be used in motorcycle engines. Sadly, these recommendations are based purely on profit, not the protection of your bike.

The new SJ standard requires that oils marketed today meet stricter fuel efficiency standards as well as lower phosphorus limits, for catalytic converter protection, than did their predecessors. Some new oils have managed to meet those requirements by way of friction modifiers for fuel economy, and all of them contain lower levels of anti-wear additives in order to lower their phosphorus levels.

Friction modifiers cause wet clutches to slip, according to motorcycle oil proponents. They also maintain that lower levels of anti-wear additives allow excessive wear in motorcycle engines and transmissions.

Of course, these same motorcycle oil proponents indicate that motorcycle specific oils pose neither problem. Interestingly, you'll pay 320 percent more for petroleum products and 185 percent more for synthetics, according to Motorcycle Consumer News (February 3, 1994).

"It is obvious," according to Motorcycle Consumer News, "that motorcycle-specific oils have become one of the premier parts department cash cows of the 1990s."

However, the claims against automotive oils just don't wash. Clutch slippage in motorcycles is mostly caused by deposit and varnish buildup on clutch faces. Oils with inferior thermal and oxidative stability or inadequate detergent/dispersant packages allow the accumulation of varnish and deposits.

Engines and transmissions in motorcycles are no more subject to the metal-to-metal contact inhibited by anti-wear additives than are their automotive counterparts - and you can bet the Big Three aren't sacrificing engines - or warranty budgets - to insufficient levels of anti-wear additives.

Furthermore, now that a number of motorcycles are catalytic converter-equipped, motorcycle oils and automotive oils contain virtually the same amount of ZDP, the phosphorus-containing anti-wear additive.


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The finest oils for motorcycle lubrication are AMSOIL synthetic motor oils and AMSOIL Series 2000 synthetic motor oils. Their superior thermal and oxidative stability and robust detergent/dispersant package ensure varnish-free, deposit-free performance for superior wet clutch cleanliness. Their superior anti-wear chemistry has been proven in the lab and on the road.

Finally, AMSOIL Series 2000 Synthetic 20W-50 Racing Oil has been proven through independent laboratory testing to provide four times the wear protection provided by other popular oils in the Four Ball Wear Test, ASTM D-4172. This adds up to superior protection for all of your motorcycles.

However, AMSOIL knows that the rhetoric of motorcycle manufacturers and dealers against the use of automotive oils is strong, and they also know that riders generally don't want to go against "professional" advice. So, to bridge the gap between what motorcyclists need and what manufacturers are preaching AMSOIL has reformulated its standard 20W-50 and 10W-40 synthetic oils to address the issues raised by motorycle manufacturers in recent years.

AMSOIL's reformulated high performance oils for motorcycles

AMSOIL High Performance Synthetic 10W-40 and 20W-50 Oils are specially formulated to protect high-performance, extreme stress gasoline and diesel engines.

Excellent for use in gasoline or diesel engines powering automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, motorhomes and equipment used in construction, farm and marine applications as specified by the manufacturer.
Recommended for all V-twin and other motorcycle engines requiring an API CD, SG-CG or SH-CD oil.


Wet Clutch compatible
Superior 12+ TBN synthetic formulation provides long service life and maximum protection against engine wear.
Runs cooler - reduces crankcase temperature
What's a motorcylist - or other high performance engine owner - to believe? On one hand, cyclists are told by equipment manufacturers that automotive motor oils are not capable of protecting their bikes. On the other, AMSOIL synthetic motor oils have offered unparalleled protection and performance to motorcycles for 25 years.

AMSOIL synthetic 10W-40 and 20W-50 motor oils have always given motorcyclists what they need: superior wear protection for high-stress motorcycle engines and transmissions and clutches that stay clean and deposit free.

Now AMSOIL is giving motorcyclists and manufacturers what they want: AMSOIL High Performance Oils, new high-stress formulations of ARO (20W-50) and AMO (10W-40). AMSOIL High Performance Synthetic 10W-40 Motor oil and AMSOIL High Performance Synthetic 20W-50 Motor Oil have beefier anti-wear and detergent/dispersant packages than ever, and no friction modifiers.

Why the Demand for Motorcycle Oils?
Motorcycle manufacturer rhetoric against the use of automotove oils in motorcycles has become very strong. "Harley recently issued a statement indicating (API) SJ-rated oil should not be used in their bikes. How come?" askes Cruising Rider (July/August 1998).

They continued, "The reason is, up until recently, refineries used zinc and phosphorous additives to help reduce wear, especially under high-pressure conditions, such that exist on cam lobes. These additives are more important to most cycle engines, which typically have steep cam slopes, creating high pressure between the parts. The additives were greatly reduced in the SJ formulation because they degrade catalytic converters and oxygen sensors over time."

Harley Davidson Service Bulletin M-1065 states that API SJ oils are formulated for water-cooled engines typically operating with oil temperatures lower than 200°F (93°C). Harley Davidson motorcycle engines, on the other hand, are air-cooled and typically operate with engine temperatures greater than 200°F. It also states that the additive package in genuine Harley Davidson Motor Oil was not formulated to meet API SF requirements and "will continue to be formulated with the additive package that has protected Harley Davidson AIR-COOLED [emphasis theirs] engines during rigorous testing by Harley-Davidson and years of operation by H-D owners."

Finally, motorcycle manufacturers claim friction modified oils cause engine start failures, rough running feel, increased fuel consumption due to higher engine stall speeds and clutch compatibility issues.

What AMSOIL products should I use for my Harley Davidson motorcycle?

Crankcase requiring 20W50 lubricant; Harley Davidson part numbers 99903-93 and 99896-88, use the AMSOIL High Performance Synthetic 20W-50 Motorcycle Engine Oil, product code AMV.

Transmission requiring 75W90 lubricant; Harley Davidson part numbers 99892-84 and 98853-96, use the AMSOIL Series 2000 Synthetic 75W90 (AGR/TGR) Gear Lube, product code TGR.

Chain Case Oil (primary) lubricants requiring 10W40; Harley Davidson part number 99887-84, uses the AMSOIL High Performance Synthetic 10W40 Motorcycle Engine Oil, product code AMF.

The exception is the Sportster. It has two oil reservoirs instead of three and uses the same oil in both reservoirs. Use AMSOIL 20W50 Synthetic Engine Lubricant in both reservoirs, product code AMV

Note: The AMSOIL 20w50 (AMV) and 10W40 (AMF) Motorcycle Engine Oils do not contain friction modifiers and meet Harley Davidson specification for the wet clutch system.

Harley-Davidson forks that recommend type "E" or "B" fork oils, use the AMSOIL Shock Therapy Suspension Fluid, product code STM

Harley Davidson air filter part numbers, 2900252, 29002-52A, 29002-57, 29002-58, and 29036-56 uses the AMSOIL, product code TS-77

Flawed Arguments
Cruising Rider missed some important points. First, phosphorous limits do not apply to 10W-40 and 20W-50 oils, the viscosity grades most often recommended for motorcycles, nor do they have to contain the friction modifiers necessary to pass the Sequence VIA Fuel Economy Test. Second, all motor oils of all viscosity grades contain zinc and phosporous for their anti-wear value, and some contain as much now as they did before the phosphorous limites went into effect.

Harley-Davidson failed to point out that its 20W-50 grade need not exceed the phosphorous limit applied to API SJ oils in order to comply with SJ requirements.

How do motorcycle oils compare to AMSOIL High Performance Synthetic Motor Oils in wear protection?

Wear Protection
AMSOIL submitted four popular motorcycle oils to spectrographic analysis and Four-Ball Wear (ASTM D4172) testing and compared the results to those of AMSOIL High Performance Synthetic 20W-50 Motor Oil (ARO) and AMSOIL High Performance Synthetic 10W-40 Motor Oil (AMO).

None of the popular motorcycle oils, including Harley Davidson 20W-50, compared favorably to the AMSOIL products in wear additive content or wear protection (see Spectrographic Analysis Chart & Wear Protection Graph).

For example, Harley Davidson 20W-50 oil contained 829 parts per million (ppm) zinc and 616 ppm phosphorous compared to ARO and AMO's 1270 ppm zinc and 1150 ppm phosphorous. In the Four-Ball Wear Test, Harley Davidson 20W-50's average wear scar was 0.60mm - 35% larger than the scar left by ARO (0.39mm). AMO, a 10W-40 grade oil, produced a 0.40mm wear scar - 33% smaller than that left by Harley-Davidson's 20W-50.

What about oil temperature and wear? AMSOIL conducted the Four-Ball Wear Test at 302°F/150°C, a significantly higher temperature than the 200°F/93°C harley claims as the typical motorcycle oil operating temperature. AMSOIL products protect better in higher temperatures than any of the tested motorcycle oils do.

Some motorcycle transmissions and engines share a common oil sump, so the engine must also provide wear protection to the transmission gears, which, according to Motorcycle Consumer News (Aug. 1998) are subject to high gear surface pressures and gear rotation speeds. The superior performance of the AMSOIL products in the Four-Ball Wear Test applies here too.

Motorcyclists and other high performance engine users will find no better oils than AMSOIL high Performance Oils.

NOTE: Due to our premium additive packages AMSOIL has recommended Series 2000 20W-50 for motorcycle engines and found its performance to be outstanding. However, due to the motorcycle manufacturers' attack on passenger car oils with friction modifiers and the fear instilled in motorcycle owners, AMSOIL reformulated AMO and ARO to eliminate these sales obstacles and provide top performing oils that are in line with manufacturers' recommendations. For these reasons AMO and ARO are now the recommended oils for motorcycle applications.


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Become an AMSOIL dealer

Robert Riley
Authorized AMSOIL Independent dealer
Amsoil Beverly, Massachusetts
Telephone (888) OIL-4CAR
Click here to send email

Customer Tesimonials:

Satisfied Customers Praise AMSOIL

"We have a $15,000 motor to protect. That's why we use AMSOIL."
- Brian Cardiff,
Hawaiian Punch Monster Truck Owner

"I own NASCAR race teams and a car dealership in Colorado Springs. I have been a long time user of AMSOIL products in both enterprises. AMSOIL
synthetic lubricants are required for my late model race cars and the tow vehicles hauling these cars. My
service department at the dealership is required to feature and use AMSOIL products. From dependable, high speed lubricants to hand cleaner, we rely on
AMSOIL to get the job done"
-Mike Bonicelli,
Bonicelli Racing Enterprises

Where you can use Amsoil
Performance & Competition:
Performance vehiclesneed performance oil. AMSOIL Synthetic Racing Oil reduces heat and wear whil providing quicker engine response and increased horsepower
Custom & Show :
Vehicles stored for long periods of otime need rust and corrosion protection. AMSOIL motor oils and fuel stabalizer protects against harmful conditions to preserve irreplaceable engines

Snowmobiles & Personal Watercraft :
AMSOIL Series 2000 2-Cycle Racing Oil maintains a higher level of lubricity than 2-cycle petroleum oill, while dramatically reducing friction and wear.
Motorhomes & RVs:
Motorhomes and RVs operate in the widest range of environments and temperature extremes. AMSOIL Motor Oils provide dependable starts, maximum power amd increased fuel economy.
4-Wheel Drives:
AMSOIL Gear Lubes and motor oils provide the hard pounding protection needed by 4x4s. Even under the most extremeconditions and temperatures, AMSOIL lubricants perform and protect
Family & Personal:
AMSOIL synthetic lubricants and filtration products provide unsurpassed, long-lasting service and protection for cars, trucks and other family fleet equipment.