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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Plan on pulling the bike (2006 Softail) out of the back of the garage this weekend and changing the oil for a new riding season. In the past I bought Harley-Davidson oil just because the Harley dealer was close by. But now it's a trek to the closest dealer so I was wondering what I should use other than Harley-branded oil? Is there a difference? Synthetic?

Your thoughts?
 

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Nightfly
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This topic will generate hundreds of opinions, you can count on it. Personally, as a Harley rider for many years I have used 20W 50 weight oil almost exclusively. Probably what the Harley dealer has on his shelf. Should you use synthetic or conventional oil is up to you. Don't get caught up in the minutiae of the subject. No engine has ever exploded or stopped running because of the brand name of the oil.

Check to find the proper weight oil for your particular engine and go from there.
 

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Do not know about HD. I always use what the manual tells me to use, or something better. Most of the bikes get 15 40 diesel oil. Rotella yellow can. One bike the manual says to use synthetic. Rotella blue can. Both available at wally world. My 83 XS400 rattles when I fire it up. Woz told to use synthetic, which would fix it. Have not noticed any difference.
Maybe I should listen more closely.

UK
 

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I believe that HD are specific on the viscosity grade of the oil used, it MUST be an SAE 20W-50

I also understand that older models could use a conventional mineral oil, later models must have a higher thermal load as HD specifies a synthetic oil for them. If using a mineral oil in an older HD then do change the oil more often.

So, use a synthetic engine oil SAE 20W-50 (or it might have to be an SAE 15W-50 due to the synthetic characteristics, but having a lower SAE W classification won't hurt, but it must be an SAE 50 high temperature classification).

HDs are air cooled and those tend to run hotter. A thicker oil (such as an SAE 50 high temperature classification) will thin down under heat to the required viscosity at operating temperatures. The SAE 20W low temperature classification means the oil will be able to circulate on start up at temperatures down to (IIRC) -10 deg C/14 deg F.

SO, I'll say this again, synthetic SAE 20W-50
 

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I used Red Line 20W-50 motorcycle oil in my EG Ultra. I can't say I saw any difference with the engine but I sure could in the transmission using their transmission oil. Much smoother shifting. They also make a primary case oil but to be honest you could use the engine oil there if you wanted. I used the stuff but I think I still have some left and I have a bike now that has one oil for everything and Red Line doesn't make the weight required for it or I'd still be using Red Line.
 

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I used Red Line 20W-50 motorcycle oil in my EG Ultra. I can't say I saw any difference with the engine but I sure could in the transmission using their transmission oil. Much smoother shifting. They also make a primary case oil but to be honest you could use the engine oil there if you wanted. I used the stuff but I think I still have some left and I have a bike now that has one oil for everything and Red Line doesn't make the weight required for it or I'd still be using Red Line.
I used to use that oil way back in the day when I had a Ninja 750. I could pick it up at the local Turbo gas station where I lived. I thought it was great oil. Gone are all of the Turbo gas stations and I haven't seen that oil around here since then. My current bike is brand new so I'll be using the manufactures oil for the first year or two or at least during the break in period.
 

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Since you asked, my 2 cents.

Harley branded oil is a waste of money. They won't tell you who makes it, there's a lot of speculation, it may just be cheap Chevron oil at a premium price.

Motorcycle oil rules I live by:
1. Use the proper viscosity.
2. If the oil is going to touch the clutch plates, make sure it meets JASO specifications.
3. Oil is cheap, engine repairs are not; change it often.

What's in my Harley:
1. Mobile1 Full Synthetic 15w50 (this is a car oil that can be used for "power sports") in the engine, low price ($25 for 5 quarts at Walmart), super premium motor oil.
2. Mobile1 Racing Full Synthetic10W40 in the clutch (Meets JASO)
3. Amsoil V-Twin motorcycle transmission fluid. Expensive, but it doesn't need to be changed any where near as often as the clutch/engine.

Notes:
1. Mobile will run rebates from time to time that can cut the price in half...5 quarts for $13!
2. If your Harley has an issue with seepage between holes, run JASO, dedicated motorcycle oil in all three holes. If that "energy conserving" car oil seeps into the clutch...bad news.

https://mobiloil.com/en/promotion/mobil-promotions

PS> I take the old oil, run it through a 1/2 micron filter sock (ebay), and then reuse it in lawn equipment, etc.
 

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Nightfly
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Harley Syn3 is a 60 - 40 blend. It does not have the JASO etc., specification because Harley doesn't promote their oil for other than Harley use. Therefore they are saving money by not having the oil rated. Buy from a Harley dealer, you'll pay a premium price. Should know that going in.

I'm surprised the Amsoil crowd hasn't come out pounding their chests claiming there is no better oil than Amsoil. Fact is, there is very little difference between brands of motor oil. Valvoline, Mobil, Castrol etc., are all quality oils, they all make a lot of claims that their oil is better. And they all have to meet a certain spec.

The Blackstone Labs newsletter that came out a couple years ago, sent the motor oil geeks into a tizzy. They tried to answer the age old question, "Does it really matter which brand of motor oil you use?" The company compared rates of engine wear in 4 different engines using a variety of leading motor oils that are on the market. You look it up and read the article for yourself, but it is quite lengthy. To sum it up there is a quote from the second to last paragraph which states: "Whatever differences exist from oil brand to oil brand, we don't see much difference in terms of wear for most types of engines."

If you want to get into the minutiae of this brand has so many parts per million compared to this brand and this brand well, have at it. And then there is copper being found in the oil. Amsoil was found to have the most ppm of copper when using 15W-40 and of course this was seen as not a good thing. But they don't tell you that copper is not necessarily an indicator of wear. Copper often originates from oil-cooler tubing.

Despite what the 'experts' claim, the most important factor to consider when picking an oil for your engine is the viscosity grade. The brand names of synthetic oil on the market are practically identical. Of course I realize motorcycle wet clutches need to be addressed.
 
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