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Don’t Let Extreme Heat Sideline Your Motorcycle

An Oil to Resist Thinning from Extreme Heat and Mechanical Activity

Extreme summer heat combined with slow-moving rally or parade traffic can pose big problems for you and your motorcycle.

As heat intensifies, motor oil loses viscosity and becomes thinner. The oil can become so thin that the engine loses oil pressure, causing the oil-pressure gauge to bottom out. You may hear increased valvetrain and gear noise as parts clatter together. A good rider knows not to ride with no oil pressure, so he or she will shut down the bike and sit alongside the highway (or push the bike) until the engine cools enough to restore oil pressure.

Decreased airflow stresses oil

Air-cooled V-twins get plenty hot on their own, but riding in slow moving traffic makes it worse. Crawling along barely above idle doesn’t generate enough airflow to cool the engine. Add to that the blazing sun reflecting off the asphalt, and it’s a recipe for trouble. In extreme dyno testing designed to create heat, we’ve seen cylinder temperatures in a 2012 Harley-Davidson* Street Bob* as high as 383°F (195°C).

It’s up to the motor oil to protect the engine despite the intense heat; however, oil becomes thinner as it heats up. If it becomes too thin, it can fail to form a lubricant film of enough thickness and strength to prevent metal components from contacting during engine operation and wearing out. Once the lubricant film fails, it falls on the anti-wear additives to prevent wear. They form a sacrificial layer on components to keep them from contacting. But additives are designed to deplete with time and use. Once they wear out, your engine isn’t protected in this scenario.

Heat breaks down oil faster

The rate at which oil oxidizes, or chemically breaks down, doubles for every 18°F (10°C) increase in lubricant temperature. Oxidation occurs when oxygen molecules attack oil molecules and result in a chemical reaction that leads to harmful byproducts, like sludge and varnish. The faster the oil oxidizes, the sooner it wears out and requires changing.

Ride Hard. Run Cool.®

AMSOIL Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil uses high-quality synthetic base oils that naturally resist thinning due to extreme heat and mechanical activity better than conventional base oils. As a result, it forms a thick, strong lubricating film on engine components despite the intense heat. Although any oil will become thinner in extreme heat, riders who use AMSOIL Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil won’t see their oil-pressure gauges bottom out, providing the confidence they need to keep riding after others have shut down their bikes and started pushing.

Find AMSOIL Products for My Bike

*All trademarked names and images are the property of their respective owners and may be registered marks in some countries. No affiliation or endorsement claim, express or implied, is made by their use. All products advertised here are developed by AMSOIL for use in the applications shown.

Why You Should Be Wary About Using Break In Oil in Powersports Equipment

Why You Should Be Wary About Using Break In Oil in Powersports Equipment

Marco Navarro asks on our Facebook page about break in oil, with attention paid to powersports engines.  (Break in oil importance, drain interval on it, and applications. To include motorcycles and ATVs since life of engine is shorter and rebuilding occurs more often.)
Thanks for the question, Marco.

Let’s get to it.

Maintaining an engine is a constant fight against wear. Over time, wear not only results in expensive damage, it reduces compression, robbing your engine of power.

That’s why it can be tough to accept that “controlled wear” during a new or rebuilt engine’s break in period is critical to maximizing its power and longevity.

Take a seat

One of the primary reasons to break in an engine is to seat the piston rings, and that means allowing the rings and piston skirt to carefully wear down the peaks (called asperities) on the cylinder wall.

The images show what we mean.

Although a new or freshly honed cylinder appears smooth to the naked eye, it contains microscopic peaks and valleys. If the valleys are too deep, they collect excess oil, which burns during combustion and leads to oil consumption.

The sharp peaks, meanwhile, provide insufficient area to allow the rings to seat tightly. That means highly pressurized combustion gases can blow past the rings and into the crankcase, contaminating the oil and taking potential horsepower with it.

Breaking in the engine wears the cylinder-wall asperities, providing increased surface area for the rings to seat tightly. The result is maximum compression (i.e. power) and minimum oil consumption.

Getting the shaft

That brings us to the other primary reason to break-in an engine: to season, or harden, the flat-tappet cam. Flat-tappet cams can wear out faster than their roller-cam cousins, especially in engines modified with high-tension valve springs.

And cam wear is bad. Really bad. Worn lobes or tappets affect valve lift and duration, which reduces engine power and efficiency. In extreme cases, increased pressure can remove material from the lobes and deposit it in the oil, where it circulates through the engine and causes damage. Break-in helps harden the metal so it’s more resilient to wear.

That raises a critical question: How do we simultaneously allow controlled wear to the cylinder wall/piston rings while protecting the cam against wear? Those two tasks seem mutually exclusive.

In a word, oil

The solution is to use a properly formulated break in oil that allows controlled wear at the cylinder wall/piston interface, but that also protects the cam lobes and tappets from wear.

How do we accomplish this black magic?

Most break in oils, including AMSOIL Break-In Oil, use conventional base oils. Compared to their higher-quality synthetic counterparts, conventional base oils result in a thinner, less durable protective oil film on engine parts. The thinner fluid film allows controlled wear at the cylinder wall/ring interface.

But what about the cam? Won’t it wear, too?

ZDDP

That’s where anti-wear additives come into play. ZDDP anti-wear additives are heat-activated, meaning they provide wear protection in areas of increased friction. In this case, it’s at the cam lobe/tappet interface. The additives form a sacrificial layer on the surface of parts, which absorbs contact and helps prevent cam and tappet wear.

As a rule of thumb, a good break in oil should be formulated with at least 1,000 ppm ZDDP. At AMSOIL, we take it a few steps further; our Break-In Oil contains 2,200 ppm zinc and 2,000 ppm phosphorus.

How long does break in require?

Another rule of thumb states you should season a flat-tappet cam by running the engine above 2,500 rpm for 15 minutes.

As for seating the rings, our testing has shown it can take as little as seven dyno passes. That time varies depending on the engine, ring tension, cylinder hone and other factors.

If you don’t have access to a dyno, follow the engine builder’s or manufacturer’s recommendations. If none are provided, consult the recommendations on the break in oil label. In general, run the engine under light-to-moderate loads for about 500 miles. Again, that duration is a rule of thumb, but break in shouldn’t exceed 1,000 miles. Then, drain the break-in oil, install the synthetic oil of your choice and commence driving.

An engine dyno provides the best method of determining exactly when the rings are seated. You’ll notice a boost in horsepower as the rings seat. Eventually, horsepower will stabilize once the rings are seated.

Check out 5 Ways to Boost Horsepower for Under $500

You can also perform a leak-down test. Another, albeit more time-consuming, method is to remove the exhaust headers and check for oil residue in the exhaust ports. Presence of oil shows the engine burning oil, meaning the rings aren’t completely seated. Once the oil residue is gone, the rings are seated.

What about powersports engines?

Ask yourself a few questions about your motorcycle, ATV or other powersports application before using a break in oil:

  1. Does it have a wet clutch? If so, the break in oil may not be formulated for wet-clutch compatibility, leading to reduced performance.
  2. Does it use a shared sump with the transmission? Many motorcycles use one oil to lubricate the engine, transmission and primary chaincase. The churning action of transmission gears, especially in high-rpm applications, can tear apart – or shear – the oil if it’s not formulated to handle the stress. Using a break in oil not designed to handle high-shear applications can lead to damage.
  3. Does it have a dry sump? Some motorcycles store motor oil in a tank separate from the engine. Residual break in oil can collect in the system following the break in period and contaminate the service-fill oil. In this case, run the engine long enough to circulate the oil throughout the system and change it a second time to ensure the break in oil is completely removed.

Given the above challenges, we recommend breaking in a rebuilt powersports engine using the motor oil you’ve always used. Run it according to the original equipment manufacturer’s (OEM) new-engine recommendation, then change the oil. In short, treat it like a new engine from the factory.

For new engines, just follow the OEM guidelines. Typically they recommend a shorter interval for the first oil change to remove wear particles and contaminants from the factory. Then, change to the AMSOIL synthetic motor oil that’s recommended for your application and commence riding.

Should I Warm Up My Motorcycle Before Riding?

Should I Warm Up My Motorcycle Before Riding?

As soon as you crawl out of bed tomorrow morning, try this experiment: run outside and sprint down the street. Aside from embarrassment over your jammies (or lack thereof), how do you suppose you’ll feel?

Your motorcycle likewise needs to warm up a bit before hitting the street. Many folks at AMSOIL love anything to do with an engine, including motorcycles. So to get the technical details explaining why, I consulted a few of our resident bikers. They provided two main reasons for letting your bike warm up before riding.

1) Help avoid piston scuffing

Metal expands when it’s heated, and anyone who’s sat astride a motorcycle knows they make serious heat. Subjecting a cold piston to extreme heat and friction without first allowing it to warm up can cause rapid piston expansion and scuffing.

John Skuzinski, AMSOIL Mechanical Test Development Manager, says this:

“Optimal parts ??clearances inside the engine are not achieved until normal operating temperatures are reached. If clearances are less than normal due to low engine temps, and the throttle demands the engine goes to work spontaneously, internal temperatures can rise very rapidly. Most frequently the pistons will heat-up and expand well ahead of the cylinder bores. The chances of clearance-related scuffing and seizure are thereby increased proportionally.”

Translation? Something might break.

AMSOIL Director of Facilities and Maintenance, Rollie Everson, agrees. “I like to get them [engines] warm before putting any type of stress on the mechanical components. This makes sure components expand at a gradual rate when they are cold.”

2) Ensure the oil circulates properly

Another reason to warm up your bike is to circulate the oil. Here again John Skuzinski has some good insight. “Cold oils inhibit pumpability and flowability, making it more prone to thin-film and hydrodynamic-wedge breakdown. Under extreme cold-oil conditions, it is possible that the oil won’t be able to flow into the oil pump, leading to bearing and journal damage and wear.”

Translation? Again, something might break, this time due to lack of oil.

Of course, a good solution to poor cold-flow is to use a high-quality synthetic that flows quickly to engine parts despite cold temperatures. AMSOIL laboratory chemist Dale Beck explains:

“The highest chance of wear should be under the initial startup when the oil has yet to be circulated to all the components in the upper end. AMSOIL motorcycle oils have very good pumpability at cold tempatures, definitely colder than I enjoy riding the bike at, so I don’t worry much about the oil not being circulated enough. Our oils also have very good protection for cam wear, relating to initial startup, so unless you are redlining the engine after startup there shouldn’t be any worries about other engine parts.”

How long should you warm the engine?

About one minute is plenty of time to allow the piston and other parts to gradually expand and ensure good oil circulation to the upper end. Most riders start the engine and spend a minute or two putting on their helmet and preparing to ride. Once they’re ready, so is the bike.

“I warm mine up so I know everything is running well. I usually do this while I put on my helmet and make final adjustments before departing on a ride.” – Patricia Stoll, AMSOIL Trade Show Manager

“I usually let it warm up while making my last adjustments (ear plugs, gloves, glasses, etc.). This takes about a minute or two.” – Jim Swanson, AMSOIL Trade Show Representative

“I would guess that mine only warms up for around a minute. I usually start it just before putting on my helmet and gloves. In my opinion, anything more than a few minutes is a waste of fuel and can lead to deposit formation on the spark plugs and exhaust.” – Dale Beck

To wrap it up, warm up your bike for at least a minute before heading out. Just use the time to buckle your helmet, slip your gloves on or finish other preparations. That way you’re not wasting time – and you’re likely saving your engine from wear.

Find out why our Co-President & CFO loves V-twins.

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Why are We Tearing Apart this Indian Scout?

Why are We Tearing Apart this Indian Scout?

(Plus, Check Out this New Product now in Sioux Falls)

Motorcycles occupy a prominent place in our national lore. The V-twin engine, one can argue, belongs in our menagerie of quintessentially “American” items, right next to the bald eagle, the Liberty Bell and Abe Lincoln’s stovepipe hat.

It’s easy to see why. Motorcycles stand for freedom, rebellion, power. For many Americans (like Guinness World Record holder Danell Lynn), a motorcycle is their weapon of choice to fight the specter of an unlived, ordinary life.

One of the best…

Most opt for a Harley-Davidson, whose engines have provided the soundtrack of the American summer for decades. It’s impossible to drive through just about any paved corner of America and not hear the rumble of a Harley. The brand is so firmly entrenched in our psyche that, for many, “Harley” has become the generic term for “motorcycle,” the way “Coke” stands for any soft drink in the South.

Not bad for a company founded in a little shed in Milwaukee, Wis., in 1903.

…but not the first

But for all Harley’s fame, the company can’t lay claim to being the first American motorcycle company. That distinction goes to Indian, founded just two years earlier, in 1901. Throughout the 1910s, Indian was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. The Indian Scout and Chief gained huge popularity throughout the early 20th Century.

But financial trouble eventually beset the company, and Indian ceased production in 1953. One of America’s definitive brands shuttered its doors.

Flash forward to 2011, when Polaris Industries, better known around here for making snowmobiles, bought the brand and injected into it new life…and money. The Chief is back. So is the Scout, which was unveiled in Sturgis in 2014. Motorcycle.com named the Scout its 2015 Motorcycle of the Year.

Today, with sales of V-twins stagnant industry-wide, the Scout has bucked the trend, thanks to its classic styling and lightweight chassis powered by a 100-hp V-twin.

Let the testing begin

This preamble isn’t meant as a commercial for Indian. It’s meant to add context to this Indian Scout that rolled into our mechanical lab earlier this year.


While one look entices most people to jump aboard and hit the streets, it beckons us to drive right into our dyno cell for a few rounds of testing. In fact, this 2017 Scout is replacing our 2012 Harley-Davidson Street Bob, which has accumulated 207,111 miles over the past few years in all kinds of engine testing.

Why the Indian? For starters, we simply like testing things around here. Our mechanical lab is a who’s who in the world of engine and equipment manufacturers. Adding Indian components to our collection of Harley, GM, Stihl, Honda and other parts seemed to fit the bill.

More importantly, we just introduced new AMSOIL 15W-60 Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil, and it’s recommended for the Indian Scout (along with Victory motorcycles). We already know the formulation works great in the Scout, but we’re never satisfied with “good enough” around here. This bike gives us our own “proving grounds” in which to test, tweak and re-test our formulations. So, in the months ahead, the Scout’s 1133-cc V-twin will be rumbling away in our mechanical lab under the watchful eyes of our technicians.

Once the tests end, the real fun begins –tearing down the engine and examining the pistons, rings, cylinders and other parts. One of my tasks here at AMSOIL is to assist in documenting some of our testing, so I plan to get awfully familiar with the guts of this Scout in the days ahead.

Hopefully we’ll have some interesting results to share soon, so stay tuned.

Until then, get out and ride.

Upgraded Protection for Indian Scout, Victory Motorcycles

 

New AMSOIL 15W-60 Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil expands the AMSOIL V-twin motorcycle oil product line. It is recommended for the popular Indian* Scout* and all Victory* motorcycles.

Fights heat and wear

Like the rest of the AMSOIL V-twin line, 15W-60 Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil is designed to resist extreme heat and deliver excellent wear protection. Summer riding can cause engine temperatures to skyrocket, especially in slow-moving rally or parade traffic. AMSOIL 15W-60 Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil’s outstanding heat resistance helps bikers ride with confidence in the most extreme conditions.

Why is extreme heat so bad for motorcycles?

High heat causes the pistons to expand, potentially leading to catastrophic scuffing and cylinder wear. It also hastens oil breakdown – the rate of oxidation doubles for every 18°F increase in temperature. Oil that has oxidized leads to performance-robbing deposits.

In V-twins, especially air-cooled models, the oil plays a vital role in carrying away heat and dissipating it into the atmosphere via the oil pan or oil cooler. AMSOIL Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil withstands intense heat, helping your bike last longer and run better.

Helps ease shifting

Riders also like to use an oil that helps deliver smooth shifts. Here again, AMSOIL 15W-60 Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil delivers. Its wet-clutch-compatible formulation contains no friction modifiers and promotes smooth shifts, helping riders avoid killing the engine.

Find AMSOIL Products for my Motorcycle

*All trademarked names and images are the property of their respective owners and may be registered marks in some countries. No affiliation or endorsement claim, express or implied, is made by their use. All products advertised here are developed by AMSOIL for use in the applications shown.

AMSOIL Helps Motorcyclist Set Guinness World Record

AMSOIL Helps Motorcyclist Set Guinness World Record

Sioux Falls Note: Yours truly tipped AMSOIL off on this story!! And it’s a great one! Consider your own adventure whether it’s on the pavement such as a coast to coast run or a single track off road advanture. Just be sure to use AMSOIL as it will hold up when all others sheer out. Over-built to take the abuse!

Danell Lynn hoists her GWR certificate while seated on her bike, Amelia.