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Car vs Motorcycle Engine Oil; What are the Differences?

Cars and motorcycles are the two most popular vehicles in the modern world. Both vehicles are lubricated with oil, and thus, many people have the wrong idea that the same oil can be used in the engines of cars and motorcycles. Though the basic function of both car engine oil and motorcycle engine oil is to help in driving these vehicles smoothly, there are some noticeable differences between these two oils. 

If these two oils are interchanged, there can be adverse effects that can even damage the engines of those vehicles.  

What is car engine oil?

Car engine oil is used for lubricating the parts of a car engine. It is not used for lubricating the gearbox of the car. It is added with friction modifiers for better mileage and reduction in the use of fuel. Detergent additives are also provided in this oil to reduce the ash content and protect the metal parts of the engine from deposits. This oil is marked with low viscosity so that it does not increase the friction limit in cars.

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What is motorcycle engine oil?

According to the survey done in 2021, the largest and fastest-growing segment by vehicle type is the motorcycle. Motorcycle engine oil is used to lubricate both the engine, wet clutch, and the gearbox of a motorcycle. It also keeps the engine and transmission tube cooler while driving. It has high frictional properties and more viscosity than other oils used for lubrication. The frictional properties of this oil are balanced to maintain both good clutch performance and satisfactory fuel efficiency in a motorcycle. 

Major differences between car engine oil and motorcycle engine oil;

Viscosity – 

The viscosity of car engine oil is lower compared to the viscosity of motorcycle engine oil. Car engine oil has low viscosity to ensure lower friction, leading to the better performance of the car engine. On the contrary, motorcycle engine oil should have high viscosity to improve the performance of the wet clutch and manual transmission to shift gears easily. 

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Frictional properties – 

Car engine oil is provided with frictional modifiers to boost fuel efficiency and reduce the friction of moving parts, resulting in better mileage of the car. On the other hand, motorcycle engine oil is designed to have much higher frictional properties, to maintain a perfect balance between the fuel efficiency and the performance of the wet clutch.   

Lubricating effect – 

Both car engine oil and motorcycle engine oil are basically meant for lubricating the vehicle engine parts. So, this is the common function of both oils for the maintenance of vehicles. However, motorcycle engine oil also lubricates the gears and the clutch, apart from the engine of the motorcycle. But car engine oil is meant only to lubricate the engine parts, as another type of oil is used to lubricate the gearbox. 

Cooling effect – 

The car engine oil has a cooling effect on the car engine, about 1/3 of the engine heat is dispersed and there are mechanical systems installed in the car to cool down the engine and other parts. On the other hand, motorcycle engine oil is used to dissipate the heat from the cylinder head with air-cooled engines, apart from the lubrication of the engine. 

Ash content – 

Detergent additives are responsible for increasing the ash content in the engine oil. Car engine oil contains more detergent additives, leading to higher ash content. On the other hand, the motorcycle engine oil has a much lower amount of detergent additives, leading to lower ash content. This is one of the main reasons why car engine oil cannot be used in motorcycles.  

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Effects of car engine oil on a motorcycle 

Car engine oil is not suitable to use in a motorcycle. The low friction coefficient of the car engine oil is not suitable to work on the wet clutch and gears of the manual transmission of a motorcycle. The low frictional properties of car engine oil will make the wet clutch of the motorcycle too slippery, which can be dangerous. A large amount of detergent additives in the car engine oil is another reason for not using it in a motorcycle, as it will have more ash content that will cover the piston crown and valve train with deposits, deteriorating the performance of the engine. 

As always refer to the requirements of the vehicle manufacturer.  Information will be found in the vehicle’s owner’s manual.

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