“The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
The Suzuki V-Strom 650 is a relatively ordinary commuter bike with an adventurous side—I’ll never forget the pair of V-Stroms with dual-sport tires that blew by me doing about 80 on Alaska’s Dalton Highway, while I struggled through the mud with my knobbies and my overgrown dirtbike. In any case, you’ve got a few simple tools, a V-Strom due for its every 3000-mile oil change, a filter jug of oil, and a little bit of nerve and desire. Get your tools ready; let’s do this. Remember that a bike that has been ridden or at least warmed up before the oil change will drain more readily, but be careful not to burn your hands on hot oil.
Thanks to Peter Hartikka for graciously loaning his bike for this series.
Tools and supplies you’ll need for an oil and filter change on the
2004-2012 V-Strom 650
1. 2-3 liters of 10w40 oil (look for the small circular label on the back of the bottle; if it says “energy conserving,” it’s the wrong type for bikes; additives in the oil will make your clutch slip. If there’s no such text, it will be fine).
2. An oil filter (K&N brand #138 is the easiest to use; the 17mm nut on the front of the filter is very useful. Other compatible filters: The original Suzuki filter part number is 16510-03G00-X07, NAPA brand PS1359, WIX 51359, Hi-Flo HF 138).
3. A sturdy screw-top jug for recycling oil and ziploc for recycling your filter (Especially if your area offers curbside recycling).
4. An oil pan to catch oil–for the home mechanic, the type with a screw-on lid is convenient for transporting oil to a recycling location.
5. Plenty of shop towels or paper towels for cleanup, and latex or nitrile gloves to protect your hands–used oil is carcinogenic.
6. A new crush washer for your drain plug (The standard size for most Japanese bikes has an interior diameter of 12mm).
7. A 17mm wrench, or better yet, a socket wrench and 17mm socket. If you decide to use a K&N 138 filter, the wrench will also turn the nut on the filter–very convenient. If you don’t use a K&N, a socket and a cup wrench of the appropriate size will work to snug down the new filter, as will a sturdy strap wrench.
8. A funnel for re-filling the oil.
9. A pair of oil filter pliers–Channelock makes a good variety, but mine are the inexpensive model from the local O’Reilly’s. Most are adjustable, and they must have a minimum inner diameter of 2″ or so to grasp small motorcycle oil filters. A socket and oil filter cap wrench, or one of the various types of strap wrench will also work.
10. Soap and water, a mild solvent like Winzer’s MPS-100, or Simple Green solution for cleanup.
Here’s a view from the left side of the bike: note that I’ve put the bike on its centerstand and put down some cardboard to catch oil drips. The red arrow in the photo points to the spin-on oil filter; the green arrow points to the oil drain bolt.
Here is a closer view of the left side undercarriage of the bike, showing the filter and drain plug.
Set your oil pan beneath the drain bolt, put your gloves on, and get out your socket wrench and 17mm socket. Left is loose, right is tight; spin the oil bolt off counterclockwise, being careful to keep the bolt itself from falling into the oil, and leave it for a while to drain.
Grab the oil filter with your filter pliers (or a cup-type wrench, or a strap wrench), and remove it.
Here is the exposed oil filter stud–let it drain as well. Then clean the area that will come in contact with the new filter with rags and/or solvent.
Before spinning on the new oil filter, dip your finger in fresh oil and run it along the o-ring on the back of the oil filter. This will lubricate its contact point with the bike’s engine.
The new filter should be installed with your socket, strap or cup wrench (I’m using a K&N filter here, with the 17mm nut on the front) hand tight (snug but not white-knuckled), plus 1/4 of a turn.
Add a new 12mm inside diameter crush washer and replace the oil drain bolt, also with your socket wrench and 17mm socket.
Tighten the drain bolt gently, feeling the crush washer give slightly, then resist more firmly. The proper torque for the V-Strom’s drain bolt is not especially firm: 16.5 foot-pounds. As a beginner, I broke an oil pan on my old Nighthawk, and the process of fixing it required an expensive new oil pan, as well as the removal and replacement of the exhaust system and its gaskets. Learn from my experience: get a more experienced mentor to help, or use and practice with a torque wrench to give you a growing sense of how tight a delicate 7 ft-lb fairing bolt vs. a burly 80-ft.-lb. axle nut should feel. In time, your hands will develop the necessary feel for the job.
With the new filter and the drain bolt back in place, it’s time to add in the oil. For an accurate oil reading, make sure that the bike is perpendicular to the ground, whether on its centerstand, on a lift, or simply held in place when checking oil level–not on the sidestand. Remove the filler cap, pop in your funnel, and commence filling. Check the sight window as you fill, and listen to the number cast in the side of the engine case–2300 ml is the Strom’s estimated oil capacity.
When the sight glass is completely full, put the cap back in and start up the bike, running it for a minute or so. Shut it off, then wait 5 minutes for the oil to settle. Check the sight window again; some of the oil you added gets pulled into the oil filter, and odds are you’ll have to add some more oil, until you see the oil level reach the fill line in the sight window. Cleaning the entire area of the oil drain bolt and filter with your Simple Green, solvent or other cleaner is a good idea, at this point.
Here is my screw-top oil drain pan, full of used oil. If I decide to take it to my local auto-parts store for disposal, I just drive it over there in the pan, dump it in their container, and clean my pan for the next use.
I drain my oil filter into my oil drain pan for several hours, then ziploc bag it to take to my local recycler or to recycle curbside (my city offers this convenient option).
I don’t have a dedicated oil filter drainer, so I put my old filters in the bottom of my empty oil drain container and let them drain overnight.
If I’m leaving my used oil for my city’s curbside pickup program, I empty it into a clear, screw-top container, as required, and set it on the curb (and the ziploc with the oil filter) near my trash cans on pickup day. Easy as that.
Run the bike and check the oil level (as well as carefully checking the bike for oil leaks), make sure everything is in place, all bolts are tightened, and the bike isn’t leaking oil. Then, you’re ready to enjoy your newfound skill, and head out for a ride.