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23643 miles already?

April 20, 2012
Dirty oil

Icky, isn't it? (Orin ONeill photo)

Time for an oil and filter change for the GTS. As you can see, this can be done without removing the exhaust pipe. But Jason has a bench, so I took it to him; I’ve lost my taste for crawling around on the ground to do stuff like this (the Fourth Estate likewise goes to Jiffy Lube). And if you don’t have a way to clamp the front wheel, the icky old oil gets all over the center stand.

Changing your oil regularly is the most cost-effective way to extend the life of any internal-combustion engine. Any 4-stroke internal combustion engine, that is. A 2-stroke engine BURNS its oil, because it gets mixed with the fuel. I mention this because, based on the search-engine terms that lead people here, there seems to be some confusion on this matter. I wish I could think of a clever mnemonic for this, but I can’t. I was never very good at such things.

These days, there’s considerable debate about how often to do an oil change. They used to say every 3000 miles for your car, but now 5000 is more than adequate. Some say you can extend that interval even further if you use synthetics.

Back when I was playing with race cars, we’d get the engine from the engine builder with an hour meter on it; run the engine until a certain reading on the hour meter, then pull it out and send it back for a rebuild. The engine builder always said, don’t f@#$ with it in the meantime. Red Line synthetic was by far the most popular brand, and it was good for a whole season. Nobody used dinosaur residue.

Piaggio recommends 6000 miles between oil changes, but if you ride infrequently it wouldn’t hurt to do it once a year.

However, I’ve become skeptical about the recommendation for a 5W40 oil. I paid 14 bucks for a liter of this stuff, which is difficult to find away from a motorcycle store. The cynic in me thinks that’s the main reason behind this recommendation.

That number is called the viscosity index. The “5W” means the oil in question will, at 32°F (0°C) or below flow as readily as a single-viscosity oil with an index of 5.

But a vast majority of scooterists I know won’t ride when the temperature is below a certain number. For some, that’s 60°F; for me, it’s 35. In other words, above freezing.

So why the heck can’t I use, say, a 10W40? Which is readily available in both synth and dino versions, a heckuva lot cheaper. Any ideas? Favicon

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4 Comments
  1. Nate MC permalink
    April 20, 2012 1:07 pm

    Shell Rotella T6 Full Synthetic 5W-40, it’s about $28 for 4 quarts (comes in gallon container) of this stuff at lots of auto parts stores and meets all the Piaggio requirements “SL/A3/MA” .

  2. April 22, 2012 3:15 pm

    Nate, “SL” is the American Petroleum Institute’s SL Service Grade; all oil sold for use in 4-stroke internal combustion engines meets at least that standard, if not SM/SN. That’s the important one.

    Any oil meeting these standards (look on the label for a circle graphic) is compatible with any other oil meeting them, synth or mineral; if you discover you’re really low on oil and Dinoco 10W30 is all the convenience store has, it’ll work. (4-stroke ONLY! Anyplace that sells chainsaws has little bottles of 2-stroke oil.)

    I found Shell Rotella T6 5W40 at Walmart for $21.36/gallon; they also have it in quarts for $6.78. Where I live, the only auto parts stores that aren’t O’Reilly are NAPA. I’ll check those out later…

  3. April 23, 2012 2:28 pm

    Okay, O’Reilly has the gallon jug of Rotella T6 5W40 for $26.99, but no quarts. NAPA has gallon jugs, but no 5W40 by any brand.

  4. April 30, 2012 12:27 am

    Hi, I worked at an oil analysis lab for almost 10 years. My job was to test oil, grease, coolant and fuel from commercial trucks and city metro busses for “preventative” wear and tear. I’ve seen every oil come through work from the cheap dino to the most expensive synthetics. We study the longevity of these oils and give recommendations based on the wear and additive packages remaining from their oil.

    The absolute best oil hands down is Royal Purple, with over 60,000 miles changing the oil “filter” every 5,000 miles it still had plenty of life left. This was tested in my car, motorcycles and 6 hybrid buses. The second was Mobil 1 full synthetic, also was the cheapest as you can pickup a 5-quart jug at Walmart for about $20. The third and fourth were Rotella and Castrol.

    Eveything else is garbage and don’t even get me started on Amsoil… pure garbage! But to answer your questions it makes no difference, what you really want is the viscosity even if it’s 50w40 it will still protect your engine. Hell, put 0w40 and get the added benefit of lower warmups because the oil will be thinner when the engine is cold and prevent cold startup damage. So use a 10w40 and happy ridding.

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