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Scooter Engine Oil 101

26 December 2009 47,000 views One Comment

  • Scooter oil comes in a variety of types. (even strawberry scented oil shown at right)
  • The most important thing you need to know about scooter engine oil is whether your scooter is a 2 stroke or a 4 stroke. There is a major difference between these two types of oil. 2 stroke oil gets injected into the gas and burned whereas 4 stroke engine is circulated to lubricate key parts without getting burned.
  • Not all oil is created equal
  • Learn about oil and be religious about checking it – both your scooter and your wallet will love you for it

About scooter oil…

If you do nothing else to maintain your scooter, focus on making sure it has the proper oil , at the proper intervals, in the proper amount, and you will go a long way to prolonging the life of your scooter and avoiding breakdowns and costly repairs.

This article focuses on Scooter Engine Oil. Another article, Scooter Gear and Hub Oil 101, will cover the other main areas that need regular lubrication.

With regard to engine oil, the first thing you need to know is:

Is my scooter a:

  • 2 stroke (also designated as 2T)  or
  • 4 stroke (also designated as 4T)

Two stroke oil

Two stroke oil differs from 4 stroke oil in one very important respect – it gets mixed with the gas and is burned during combustion. This is what is called the total loss principle which means you never have to change it since it all gets burned. You just have to keep adding more. This is also why you see that bit of blue smoke out of the tailpipe of a two stroke scooter. They are not as environmentally friendly as a 4 stroke scooter since the combusted oil contributes to smog forming emissions. On the plus side though, you tend to get more power and pep out of a 2 stroke engine of the same size as a 4 stroke engine.

Most modern 2 stroke scooters do not require you to premix the fuel and oil like you have to with a chain saw or weed whacker. The scooter has a separate reservoir for oil (usually under the seat). You fill it up, and there is enough oil in there to take you for a few tanks full of gas. Your scooter automatically injects the appropriate amount into the fuel and does all the messy work for you. (Some performance tuned scooters and racing scooters still run on premix.)

PART OF EVERY PRE-RIDE CHECK SHOULD BE TO CHECK YOUR OIL LEVEL IN THE RESERVOIR TANK. ALWAYS CARRY A SPARE CONTAINER OF THE APPROPRIATE 2 STROKE OIL UNDER THE SEAT.

Most modern scooters have an “idiot light” that will warn you if your oil is running low. Never rely on it. It WILL burn out or malfunction one day. The result of running out of oil in a two stroke is a seized engine which will require a new piston and cylinder and possible a damaged crankshaft. These are expensive repairs and you probably have better things that you’d rather spend your money on.

Even though many stores such as Home Depot or the corner garage will have 2 stroke oil, they usually carry the kind that is formulated for garden equipment, chain saws, or marine motors. In a pinch, it is better to use some 2 stroke oil that may not be the ideal formulation rather than run without any oil in the reservoir but beware it can cause problems.

The loads on scooter engines and the range of operating RPM’s are different on scooters than on weed whackers. Marine 2 stroke oils often have different additives for anti-corrosion that are not really relevant for scooter engines. USE SCOOTER FORMULATED 2 STROKE OIL AND USE THE PREMIUM BRANDS. ALTHOUGH THEY COST A BIT MORE, IT IS CHEAP INSURANCE. ALSO TRY TO BE CONSISTENT WITH THE BRAND YOU USE SINCE YOUR ENGINE WILL BE TUNED BASED ON THAT TYPE OF MIX.

ALL 2 STROKE OIL IS NOT CREATED EQUALLY. IN FACT, ALL 2 STROKE SCOOTER OIL IS NOT CREATED EQUALLY. (At Scooter Underground we carry a half dozen different types of specifically formulated 2 stroke oil and we can help you find the best one for your scooter.)

We will post another article that details the types of 2 stroke oil so that you can decide which one is best for your scooter.

Brands like:

  • REPSOL
  • IPONE (even offers a strawberry scented 2 stoke oil)
  • MOTUL

Tend to be good quality, consistent, and understand the specific needs of scooter riders.

Once you have filled the reservoir with the right type of oil, riding is pretty care free except there is one little thing to be aware of – riding downhill. Most 2 stroke engines are only lubricating the engine when the throttle is being used. If you are going down a long hill, even though you may be coasting, you should give the throttle an occasional blip to inject some lubrication into the engine.

4 stroke oil

Four stroke oil does not get burned in a proper functioning scooter. It circulates in the engine to provide lubrication to the metal on metal surfaces to reduce friction. In the process of doing this, it gradually collects impurities and breaks down and therefore must be changes at periodic intervals. Harsh conditions such as excessive heat, dust, etc, will shorten the intervals between oil changes.

When it comes to oil change intervals, err on the side of doing it more frequently – this is cheap insurance and your scooter will love you for it.

WE RECOMMEND CHECKING YOUR OIL PRIOR TO EVERY DAY OF RIDING. IF YOU ARE TOO LAZY OR YOO RUSHED TO DO THIS, AT LEAST DO IT EVERY OTHER TIME YOU FILL UP WITH GAS – BARE MINIMUM.

The reason checking oil levels in your scooter is even more important than doing so in your car is that the oil reservoir capacity is small and even being a little low can have harmful effects on your scooter.

Checking oil in a 4 stroke is a bit more complicated than checking oil in a 2 stroke where you only have to look at the level. In a 4 stroke scooter, you should look at not only the level of the oil but the quality of the oil.

Oil should be checked with your scooter on the center stand and on a level surface. The dipstick is usually built into the filler cap.

  • Wipe the area around the filler cap with a rag to remove dust and grime
  • Unscrew the filler cap (which usually has the dipstick built in)
  • Wipe the dipstick clean
  • Reinsert the dipstick (check owner’s manual to see if you should screw it back in when checking the level or just dip
  • Pull out the dipstick to see where the oil level reads on the dipstick
  • Try to assess whether the oil looks dirty compared to what new oil looks like

If the oil looks dirty or you are near a service interval, look into getting an oil and filter change.

If the oil level is a bit low, oil should be added VERY CAUTIOSLY. Overfilling oil is quite a common problem and can cause serious damage to your engine. When the engine oil is overfilled, pressure can build up causing seals to leak or burst. The way to add oil is bit by bit. Fill a little, dip, check, fill a bit more, dips, check… get the picture.

Oil changes will be the subject of another article – “Changing the oil on your 4 stroke scooter”

When adding or changing oil, just like for the 2 stroke, there are many kinds of 4 stoke oil available. Again, we recommend scooter specific formulations from reputable companies such as:

Brands like:

  • REPSOL
  • IPONE
  • MOTUL

There is a lot of debate about which is the best type of oil for a particular scooter. As a starting point, make sure the oil is the correct weight and grade as specified in your owner’s manual. Then there are synthetics, synthetic blends, non-synthetic, and race oils.

In general, you should not use a non synthetic in an engine where the owner’s manual specifies a synthetic or synthetic blend. Synthetics can generally be used in most engines, even if the owner’s manual does not call for a synthetic.

You should not mix and match the types of oil in your engine – for example, don’t top up a synthetically filled scooter with a non synthetic. Get a good brand and stick with that brand and type until the next oil change when you may decide to make a switch.

It is good to do oil changes more frequently than the specified intervals, especially in the early engine life when the engine is wearing in.

Regular oil checks and oil changes are cheap insurance for a relatively small cost and inconvenience.

The folks at Scooter Underground will make recommendations on the proper oil for your scooter and can book oil changes for you in our service department.

One final note, if you have done performance enhancements to your scooter, the recommended oil may differ from what is specified in the owner’s manual. Check with the experts.

Please give us you comments and inputs – it helps the whole scooter community!

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