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Motorcycle Fluids Guide

Chaparral Motorsports
March 5, 2020
Last Updated: September 15, 2023

No matter how great your motorcycle looks, it's not going anywhere anytime soon if it doesn't have the right fluids. Fluids such as motorcycle oil and coolant help keep your ride up and running, and doing so for many miles to come. Here's a guide to help you learn more about the many fluids your motorcycle needs most and why.


These days most new motorcycles are liquid cooled-meaning liquid is cycled through a radiator and around the engine to keep the engine temperatures down and prevent engine damage. Engine coolant can also serve as an anti-freeze which is important if you store your motorcycle in cold places during the winter as the liquid won't freeze and cause damage to your engine. Before you grab the first coolant option you see refer to your owner's manual and follow it's recommendations.

You should also know that there are two different types: ethylene glycol and propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is less toxic of the two. Ethylene glycol offers better freeze point and heat transfer. However, when shopping for coolant/antifreeze you'll come across a variety of mixtures so it's best to read the labels and determine which properties are best for your purposes. Yamalube Yamacool High Performance Antifreeze is a ethylene glycol based coolant/antifreeze. It's a pre-diluted 60/40 coolant/water ratio mixture.

Take care that you do not blend the two different types of coolant together; look at the color differentiation between the two to make it easier to ensure you never accidentally mix them together.

Engine Ice Coolant

Engine Ice is a highly popular propylene-glycol based antifreeze and coolant that many powersports fans often reach for.
Engine Ice features boil over protection up to 256º F and offers freeze protection to -26º F. It meets or exceeds all ASTM and SAE standards and is safe for aluminum and most other metals.

On a related note, as you're checking out propylene glycol coolant, be sure the options you consider don't have phosphates or silicates. Both ingredients can corrode the coolant over time, leading to poor heat transfer and the potential for overheating. Coolant that has silicates or phosphate may also wear away at your water pump seals.

In regards to how often you should change out the coolant in your motorcycle, aim for about once a year. When it is time for new coolant, be sure you mix it with ionized water. That way, you can avoid the scale buildup common when using impure water.


Oil is rather fundamental, as far as automotive and motorcycle lubricants are concerned. It also serves a multitude of purposes. The moving parts in your motorcycle engine need oil for ease of lubrication, heat reduction, and ease of movement. Also, motorcycle oil helps keep your engine clean by circulating particles and metal debris to the oil filter.

While shopping for motorcycle oil take care that you only look at oil made specifically for motorcycles. This specific type of oil is engineered to address the unique rigors of motorcycle engines. If you notice dispersants and detergents in your oil selections, don't worry as they are both common and helpful additives. What they do is help maintain engine cleanliness. Other helpful additives commonly found in motorcycle oil include corrosion inhibitors, buffers, and Viscosity Index improvers.  

Much like with automotive oil, the choice is yours when deciding between mineral-based and synthetic oil. That said, in most cases, you'll want to go with synthetic oil. Speaking of other similarities between automotive oil and motorcycle oil, take a look at your manual to see which oil weight is best for the make and model of your bike.

Brake Fluid

To best ensure your motorcycle has maximum stopping power when you need it most, change your brake fluid once every one or two years. Different types of brake fluid may come in different colors but whatever the color is, when it's fresh you should be able to see through it. If it's brown or black it should be changed. The reason it's vital you keep fresh brake oil in your bike is that heat and moisture absorption over time breaks the fluid down, even though it's within a sealed system. When moisture absorption happens, the fluid doesn't do as good of a job as it should in providing you with the best braking performance. Always top off or change your brake fluid using a fresh bottle with an equally fresh seal.

The same principles used for motorcycle chemicals like motor oil apply to brake fluid. That means you need to check your manual to understand what rating you need for the brake fluid you put in your motorcycle. Usually, DOT 4 or DOT 5 work best in motorcycles.

Hydraulic Clutch Fluid

Some motorcycles come with a hydraulic clutch as opposed to a cable operated clutch. Much like your hydraulic brakes, there is a master cylinder with fluid in it and a line that runs from the master cylinder to the clutch. When you pull the clutch lever it creates hydraulic pressure with the fluid runs through the line and disengages the clutch.  If your motorcycle has a hydraulic clutch you'll need to replace the fluid as per your manual's recommendations or if you notice that the fluid is bad or discolored. If you check the clutch fluid and find that it's brown, it's a sign that it needs to be changed. Be sure you use a brand-new, sealed bottle when changing this fluid.

One thing to mention about hydraulic clutch fluid is that it's usually the same as brake fluid. Some system may require a mineral-based oil so it's important to check your manual to determine what is required. If you have a Magura hydraulic clutch setup on your bike you should use Magaura Mineral Oil to replenish your hydraulic clutch fluid.

Fork and Transmission Oil

Depending on your bike, you may not need transmission oil (sometimes referred to as "gear oil"). Check your manual to see which transmission oil weight is best for you.

With fork oil, you'll have to change it every one to two years, possibly sooner if you do a lot of off-roading or hard riding. Just like engine oil, fork oil is available in different weights so you need to refer to your manual to find out what type you need and exactly how much to use.

If you ever need help understanding more about motorcycle fluids, know that we here at Chaparral Motorsports are always available to help and answer your questions. Feel free to give us a call at 1-800-841-2960.

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