Changing the oil in your dirt bike or ATV should rank high on your routine maintenance list and something easily done at home.

It's much like changing the oil in your car except you don't have to crawl under the engine. Fresh oil keeps your engine parts protected and lubricated and as a general rule should be done every five to 10 hours of riding but check the owner's manual. Brands and models vary so ensure you're following the manufacturer's recommended oil change intervals.

Once you've done two or three changes you'll be able to change the oil in your sleep. It's actually quite easy and shouldn't take more than 20 minutes or so. If you're the wrenching type, you'll enjoy it.

This dirt bike and ATV oil change guide is for 4-stroke engines. If your ride is on a 2-stroke it actually gets simpler since there's no oil filter and you use "pre-mix" which is engine oil mixed with gas. We'll discuss that below since it's pretty straight forward.

What you need to change the oil in your dirt bike or ATV:

Changing the oil in a dirt bike or ATV


Step 1

Run the engine first and get the oil warm. Like a car, warm or hot engine oil flows better and suspends the contaminants so they flow out of the engine. You can put your bike on a dirt bike stand if you want but it's not necessary.

Remove the drain bolt

Step 2

Unscrew the drain bolt and drain the oil into your oil pan. Wear work gloves unless you want used oil all over your hands. There's only about a quart of oil that drains out, not the gallon or so if you're used to car oil changes. Let the oil drain as you now focus on the changing the oil filter.

Step 3

Remove the oil filter. You'll need a wrench to remove the oil filter cover or cap. If you're the thorough type, use your hand on the kick start to roll the engine which pushes out more oil. Now, clean around the oil filter cover and inside the compartment where the filter goes.

*KTM owners - remember the oil screen filter.

Replace the old filter with a new filter and yes, like your car oil filter, put some fresh oil around the rubber lip or seal before placing it inside. If you're using a reusable metal oil filter, then wash it thoroughly before putting it back in. Most just use a mild dishwashing soap like Dawn to get it clean.

Only problem is you'll need it thoroughly dried so that can add significant time to the job. One step around this is to use compressed air which can also be used to dry off the oil screen filter, if necessary.

Once the new filter is in place, put the filter cap back on and tighten.

Out with the old oil filter! Put a new one in.

Step 4

By now whatever oil is going to drain has drained. Clean off the drain bolt and screw back in. Add your fresh oil - be sure to measure according to manufacturer's guidelines! If you're Mr. Steady hands then forget the advice on the funnel. But if you're like everyone else, use it, otherwise risk spilling oil all over the place because even after 100 years manufacturers still don't know how to create a container for oil that doesn't drool over the side of the lip and/or glub glub glub on its way out.

Special Note: Some 4-stroke models, specifically Hondas, have two drain bolts because they have two oil compartments, one for engine oil, and the other for transmission oil. Change them both at the same time. Follow the same instructions as above.

Use a funnel. You'll thank us for it.

2-Stroke Engine Oil Change

Technically on a 2-stroke you're just changing the transmission oil. As stated earlier, the engine oil is what's called "Pre-Mix" which is an oil and gas mixture. This mixture gives the crank and piston lubrication but is burned away just like normal gas as you ride. Therefore, in terms of maintenance, just drain and fill the transmission oil much like you would the engine oil on a 4-stroke.