man checking his motorbike

How to Check Motorcycle Oil Level: Quick Tips from SA1NT

Engine oil is what lubricates and cools the moving parts of a bike's engine so that everything can run smoothly. Every bike owner should know how to check their bike's oil level before a ride, so you don't run the risk of friction and overheating on the engine's components.

Thankfully you don't need a set of complicated tools or an engineering degree to check a bike's oil level. It's a pretty simple process that only takes a few minutes to explain.

Steps To Check Engine Oil Level on a Motorcycle


bike skidding in dirt

Before you start, park the bike on a flat surface. Checking engine oil with the bike parked on rough terrain or a slope won't give an accurate reading, which is why we keep it flat. Use the center stand or the paddock stands to keep the bike upright. Either one is fine, so long as the bike is upright and not leaning to either side.

You'll also need to warm up the engine to operating temperature. Once this is done, turn off the bike and wait 15 minutes so all the oil can drain back into the pan. This will give us the most accurate measure possible.

Next, pull out your bike's manual. We need to establish whether the bike's oil level can be checked using a dipstick or if it has an inspection window because it can vary from bike to bike. If you threw the manual out, Google the bike's model number to find it online.

Sight Glass

Most modern motorcycles have a sight glass, which is a really easy way to check the oil level. Your manual should tell you exactly where it is.

This little glass window tells you exactly how much oil is in the bike, and has a marker that indicates where the oil level should be. As a general rule, the sight glass should be about three-quarters full.


If your bike uses the dipstick method, locate the oil cap/gauge and take it off. A pair of pliers might be needed if it's fixed on tightly. Once you've got the oil cap off, wipe it with a (clean) rag so it's dry. As you can now see, the oil cap has a gauge at the tip that tells you when the oil is full or low.

Now put the oil cap back in but don't screw it in yet. When it's gotten nice and wet, take it out and you can now see your oil level by checking the markers on the oil cap. Try to aim for about three-quarters full on the marker.

What Do Different Oil Levels Mean?

If the oil level is between full and low, that means it's at the right level. There's no need to adjust anything.

If the oil is below the low mark, it's time to top it up or change the oil.

If your oil is above the full mark, that's also a problem. Some of that excess oil needs to be drained out.

What Each Color Means

Amber: An amber color means your oil is right on the money. It's nice and healthy.

Dark/Black: The oil needs to be changed

Milky White: This usually indicates that coolant has come into the oil. This might happen because of a blown head gasket or engine problems, so it's time to consult a mechanic.

Low Engine Oil In Motorcycle: Symptoms and Effects

bike in snow


A bike engine needs oil to keep all its parts lubricated for smooth operation and cooled down to prevent overheating. Here are some signs that your motorcycle is running low on oil:

  • Harsh sounds or vibrations from the engine. You might even hear metal clinking on metal because it's not lubricated enough.
  • The engine starts to overheat.
  • In the worst-case scenario, an engine can seize up when the bike is lacking oil.

How Long Can Your Motorcycle Run on Low Engine Oil?

You should never push your luck on low oil, because a bike is only lasting about 65-80 kms if it desperately needs oil. Not only that but running on low oil will likely damage your engine parts.

So if you find yourself in a situation where your oil is running low, do everything in your power to refill it ASAP.


burnout with airplane


Do I check the oil in the motorcycle hot or cold?

So do you check the oil in a motorcycle that's hot or cold? For the most accurate results, warm your bike up to operating temperature, then turn it off for 15 minutes so the oil can drain back into the pan. This is an especially crucial step if you're checking the quality of the oil.

Do you check motorcycle oil when running?

You don't want to check motorcycle oil when running, because oil is being pumped everywhere while a bike is in operation. A bike that has just been stopped will always read low. Instead, turn off the bike and wait 15 minutes so the oil has a chance to filter to the bottom of the crankcase, and you can get a proper reading.

Do motorcycles have oil dipsticks?

So do all motorcycles have oil dipsticks? Most modern bikes use a sight glass that lets you check the engine oil by simply looking at the reading. But many bikes still have dipsticks. Check the bike's manual to see which one your motorcycle has, or Google the model number.

When should you check the oil in a motorcycle?

Exactly when should you check the oil in a motorcycle? There's no magic number, but for a general recommendation, you should check it weekly if you ride a lot. For those who ride less frequently, you should probably check the oil level every time you ride.

How do you check the oil without a dipstick tube?

You might be wondering how to check the oil level without a dipstick tube. Maybe your bike doesn't have one. In this case, check the manual. It will tell you exactly how to check the oil level, which in this case would probably be by checking the sight glass. Just scroll up if you want a rundown on how the sight glass works.

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