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Is Motorcycle Oil Different from Car Oil?: Know Today!

Let me guess. You use motorcycle oil in your car or it’s the other way around. Well trust me, you should stop doing that right now before it’s too late.

But why? Is motorcycle oil different from car oil?

Yes, motorcycle oil is certainly different from car oil. When you use one type of oil in another type of vehicle, it will slowly harm the overall performance of the engine and cost you a lot in the long run. It has a negative impact on the vehicle’s transmission components as well as its fuel efficiency.

In this article, using my 10 years of experience in the automotive industry, I will walk you through the differences between motorcycle oil and car oil. You will understand why you should not use motorcycle oil in cars and vice versa.

Let’s Go!

Is Motorcycle Oil Different from Car Oil

What is Motorcycle Oil

Motorcycle oils are specifically made to be used for both the engine and the gearbox.  

They have balanced frictional properties and higher viscosity levels. Wondering why? 

They lubricate the transmission components as well as the engine which most of the car oils don’t do. Car oils only work for the engines. 

Motorcycle oils are made to handle the wet clutches which are found in most of the bikes these days. When it properly lubricates the wet clutch, the engine power is transferred to the drivetrain. So to maintain this, they have higher viscosity.

Again, motorcycle oils need to have balanced frictional properties to ensure both high performances of the clutch and good fuel efficiency. 

They maintain a good balance between the transmission protection and clutch performance. 

If the frictional features are high then you cannot expect good fuel efficiency. And if the friction level is too low, then the clutch performance won’t be up to the mark. It won’t be able to engage properly and cause slippage.

These oils are smooth enough to protect and cool down the engine parts. 

What is Car Oil

Car oils are designed specifically for use in engine parts.

Here’s the best part! Car engine oils will ensure fuel economy and efficiency as they have friction modifiers. They reduce friction in the moving parts because of these friction modifiers.

Not only that, the car oils use different types of detergent additives. They keep the engines really clean and help to avoid corrosion. Ash content is increased in the oil because of these detergents.

What else? They enhance the overall lubrication process too.

Yes, surely motorcycle oils have different additives in them as well. But it is significantly lower compared to car oils.

So as you can see, the two types of oils are far from being the same. That is why you should always use a motorcycle oil for a motorcycle engine and vice versa. 

Motorcycle Oil vs Car Oil: Two Engine Runners Compared 

Have a glimpse at the key differences between car oil and motorcycle oil. Don’t worry, we’ve gone into more detail in the following section. 

Basis Motorcycle OilCar Oil
LubricationBoth Engine and GearboxOnly Engine
Friction LevelBalancedLow
Viscosity HighLow
CoolingYesNot necessarily
Oil Change CostLowerHigher
Ash ContentLowHigh


This is one of the major differences between car oil and motorcycle oil.

While motorcycle oil lubricates both the engine and the gearbox, car oil does so only for the engine.

Then what about the gearbox? A separate oil is used for the gearbox.

Motorcycle oils are formulated in such a way that they will protect the gearbox as well as the engine. On the other hand, car engines require different types of oils for engines and gearboxes.

Friction Level

Just like I said earlier, the friction level needs to be balanced in the case of motorcycle oils.

If the friction level isn’t balanced, then the wet clutch won’t be lubricated properly. The engagement of the clutch will be hampered.

What happens when the friction level is lower? There will be less fuel efficiency.

One of my friends used to put motor oil on his motorcycle. Well, he did learn a lesson. Continuously faced slippage problems, and his fuel was running out faster.

That is why, to get perfect clutch performance and good fuel efficiency, the frictional properties are balanced in the motorcycle oils. Another reason why you should use this type of oil in your motorcycles

On the other hand, car oils tend to have a lower friction level than motorcycle oils.

They also contain different types of friction modifiers. Lower friction properties help to get good fuel efficiency and ensure good mileage as well. 


Car oils have lower viscosity than motorcycle oils.

To get better engine performance, car oils usually have a lower viscosity. Also, it provides good power transmission as well.

Although the grade varies, the most common viscosity levels used in automobiles are 5W-20 and 0W-20.

In the case of motorcycle oils, they have higher viscosity levels. It confirms good wet clutch performance as well as transmission performance.

Most bikes have viscosities of 5W-40, 10W-40, 10W-50, or 2W-50.

If you do not maintain the correct viscosity level, then it is highly likely that the oil will drain out. It will hamper your engine from time to time.

That is why, before using any type of oil, make sure it has the proper viscosity level. The viscosity is very important in engines. Particularly in the cars. Always check the owner’s manual to learn about your vehicle.

If you can’t, then take it to a mechanic and get his suggestion about which viscosity level to use.


While motorcycle oil cools down the engine, car oil doesn’t need to do that.

Motorcycle oils take the heat out of the engines and keep them cooler. So, alongside lubricant, they work as a coolant as well.

However, motorcycles do have separate cooling systems, and the oils cool down the engines as well. But despite that, motorcycle engines remain hotter compared to car engines.

Cars usually come with robust cooling systems and they help to cool down the vehicles.

Here’s a funny story. I came forward once with a person. His Honda’s engine was really hot, and it wasn’t working as per his expectations. Instead of inspecting the engine, he requested an oil that would directly cool it down.

But you don’t have to worry about something like that. Surely car oils also cool different components of the engine from time to time, but the cooling system does the main job.

Oil Change Cost

Oil and filter changes in cars cost slightly more than motorcycle oils comparatively. 

If you use conventional oils for cars, they will cost you 35 to 75 dollars on average. But if you use synthetic car oils, then the price can range from $65 to $125.

How often should you change your car’s oil? Well, cars need their oil changed every 3000 to 6000 miles. So get it done around every 3000 miles.

Now let’s come to motorcycles. On average, you might need to spend around $30 to $50 to get your motorcycle’s oil changed. Wondering when to change your motorcycle oil?

Well, my suggestion would be like these:

  • Mineral Based motor oil– Every 2000 to 300 miles
  • Semi-synthetic motor oil- Every 5000 to 6000 miles
  • Fully-synthetic motor oil- Every 7000 to 10000 miles

Ash Content

I guess you already know about this one. Car oils have a lot more ash content compared to motorcycle oils.

The more detergent additives there are, the higher the ash content. Because car oils use a lot of detergent additives, they have a higher ash content.

On the other hand, since motorcycle oils have fewer additives like these, they have a lower ash content.

Can You use a Car Oil in a Motorcycle?

Well, the straight-cut answer is No.

I mean the motorcycle will run surely, the egnine will work. But slowly, the engine will get damaged. Here are some reasons why you should not use a car oil in your motorcycle:

  • Car oils are only used for engine. But bike oils work both for engine and gearbox.
  • It will surely affect the wet clutch badly because of low friction.
  • Fuel efficiency will be reduced.
  • The engine won’t be cooled down properly.
  • Excessive use of ash content will form different types of deposits.

So, you might not face any problems instantly if you use a car oil in your motorcycle. But sooner or later the bike’s performance will go down and the engine will be highly damaged. 

Also, it is just the other way around. Using a motorcycle oil in a car will hamper the car’s performance in many ways. It will damage the transmission performance and will harm the fuel efficiency & economy as well.

Final Thought

It is now time to summarize this lengthy discussion.Is motorcycle oil different from car oil? You bet it is.

That is why you should keep getting the best performance out of your motorcycle and never use car oil. It’s the same for your car as well. Don’t use a bike’s oil in it.

If you have been using a different type of oil until now, stop it right now and use the perfect type of oil. You can always check the owner’s manual or consult with a good mechanic to choose the right type of oil

Till then, drive safe!

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