2 Aug 2009

Oil Change

Posted by AC

As a youth, living with my dad, we changed the oil together on the 1973 VW Beetle that became mine when I turned 16. So, it wasn’t an unfamiliar concept. But I was long out of practice. Nonetheless, it was past due on my motorcycle and while I could just take it to the mechanic, I don’t have a mechanic here I’m totally in love with. So, with some encouragement from a friend, I decided to undertake it myself. I documented it thoroughly so that I would know what I needed to do next time, and also for you if you happen to be in a similar situation. With that, here’s how I changed my oil on my 2001 Honda VFR 800 “Interceptor”.

I didn’t track the time for the whole job. I took the plastic off on Friday night, did the actual oil change Saturday morning, and then washed the plastic, and some other parts of the bike with a 3 3/4-year-old which maybe made the process take a bit longer than it might have otherwise.

Tools used: (I forgot to take pictures of the tools I used. I’ll try to remember to update this blog entry with them when I get a chance.)

  • #5 Allen wrench
  • small philips-head screwdriver
  • metric 17 head on ratchet set
  • strap wrench (to remove old oil filter)
  • filter wrench with ratchet set (to put on new oil filter)
  • empty litter pail (to catch the used oil)

1) Remove the plastic fairings/cowling

When all was said and done, this is what I’d taken off the motorcycle. The steps are detailed below.


1a) Remove the two (2) center trim clips.

These are located on the bottom of the bike in the center and join the left and right cowl. My shop manual indicated that the center of them should be pressed in. But for my bike they turned out to have a shape requiring a philips-head screw driver. A partial counter-clockwise turn was enough to pull the stopper out of the way and the whole clip could then be levered out of the hole.

1b) Remove the four (4) screws and (2) trim clips from the lower front cowl.

These can be a little tough to get at, but shouldn’t be too bad. Need to move the steering column in one direction or the other. At the end of this process, the lower front cowl remains fastened by two trim clips that you’ve not yet removed.

1c) From the right cowl, remove five (5) regular screws and two (2) special screws.

In this picture, you can see the three silver-headed screws ascending the right (front) side of the bike just behind the front turn signal. The other two are on the same line, just on the top instead of the side. The two special screws are the large-headed ones. One a bit below the “V” in “VFR” and the other at the scuffed-up spot toward the far left (rear) side of the cowl.

1d) Repeat the above for the left cowl
Not much to say here. Same deal, just the other side.

1e) Remove the last two (2) trim clips holding on the lower front cowl. Unhook and remove the lower front cowl.

To remove the lower front cowl, you also need to un-hook it from where it joins up to the rest of the front fairing. Those last two can be a bit tricky to get to. You can see them in this picture. They are the furthest back and down in the red portion of the fairing. Again, moving the steering column to one side or the other can help you get back there.

2) Drain the old oil

2a) Run the engine for 2-3 minutes. This is to get the oil warmed up and moving so that it drains completely.


2b) Turn the engine off for 2-3 minutes. This is so you don’t get hot oil on you as you drain it.

2c) Take the filler cap off

I assume this is to add additional air pressure or airflow into the chamber.


2d) Placing something underneath to catch the oil, remove the drain plug bolt.

The washer on the bolt is a “crush washer” – replace it, too.
2e) Cover the exhaust pipe below the oil filter with aluminum foil I didn’t do this as part of this oil change, but it was recommended to my by my friend.

As you’ll see in the pictures following, oil from the oil filter drains onto the exhaust pipe. I cleaned it fairly thoroughly before my next ride, but better to just put the aluminum foil down and remove it as part of clean up rather than to try to scrub oil from the exhaust pipes.

2f) Remove the oil filter

I bought a filter wrench with the oil filter I purchased to do this job. However, the filter wrench only fit the new (Honda) filter I installed. It did not fit the after market (Fram) filter I replaced. Fortunately, I had a strap wrench which I was able to get in and get enough mobility on to get the filter off with. I don’t have a torque wrench but the shop manual I have indicates that the filter needs only about 1/3 the torque on it that the drain plug bolt does, so the strap wrench worked fine.

3)Fill it with oil


3a) Put the drain plug bolt back on.

As mentioned above, you should replace the sealing (crush) washer on the drain plug bolt (one was included for me in my oil filter purchase). I don’t have a torque wrench, so I couldn’t follow the exact guidelines (29 N-m), but that’s quite tight.


3b) Oil the o-ring on the new oil filterJust with your finger, get some of the new motor oil, and run it along the o-ring (black-rubber washer on the interior) on the oil filter.


3c) Put the new oil filter in place.

This time, I was able to make use of the filter wrench since it fit the Honda filter. I don’t have a torque wrench, so I couldn’t follow the exact guidelines (10 N-m) , but it should be “snug, but not something you bear down on to crank into place”.


3d) Fill with 3.3 qt of GN-4 10W40 Motor Oil

For this, I got a little freaked out because at the end of the third quart, it already showed above the “max” line in the view window. So, I started the engine to get the oil moving again. It quickly filled the filter, etc drawing it down entirely from the view window. So, I shut the engine back off quickly and then put in the remaining 3/10 of a qt.

3d) Replace filler cap

4) Clean up

4a) Put the plastic back on This is just the exact reverse of taking it off.
4b) Recycle the used oil. I poured the old oil into the quart containers of the oil I’d just put into the engine. I then put those all in a bag along with the filter and a couple oily rags, and took the whole kit and kaboodle to my local Kragen auto parts which took the whole thing with a smile. (Maybe because I had said 3 3/4-year old with me?)

And that’s it. Job done. Now that it’s less intimidating, maybe I’ll be much better about making sure the oil is changed regularly on time. And maybe it’ll encourage you to undertake this straightforward maintenance yourself. You get a bit more familiar with your bike, you save some money, and you get done what needs to be done.

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