Is Motorcycle And Car Oil The Same? (Differences Explained)

Car Oil

I always wanted to try and use motorcycle oil in a car. And vice versa. If for anything, just to see the impact of oil on the vehicle.

But after some research, I quickly realized what a blunder it would have been.

Is motorcycle and car oil the same? Motorcycle oil and car oil are not at all the same and should not be interchanged. Using a motorcycle oil in a car or a car oil in a motorcycle will damage the transmission components of the vehicle and the engine performance will reduce down.

Let us discuss the characteristics of a motorcycle oil and a car oil along with their differences and why they should not be interchanged.

Motorcycle Oil

Motorcycles use the same oil for engine lubrication and gearbox lubrication.

The motorcycle oil is used to lubricate as well as cool the engine and transmission components.

Now, since motorcycle oil is also used for lubricating the transmission components along with the engine, the oil needs to have slightly higher frictional properties.

The higher frictional properties are specially required to lubricate the wet clutch – which transfers power to the drive train.

As a result, a motorcycle oil will have higher viscosity levels when compared to a car oil.

With respect to frictional properties, if the oil has higher frictional characteristics, the clutch performance will be high, but at the cost of low fuel efficiency.

On the other hand, if the frictional characteristics of the oil is low, the fuel efficiency will be high but the clutch won’t be in its peak performance.

For a motorcycle oil, it needs to balance both since the same oil is used for engine as well as the gearbox. Car oil does not have this problem since it is used only for the engine.

That’s why motorcycle oil will have balanced friction properties as opposed to a car oil which will have low friction levels.

Car Oil

A car oil is used as a lubricant only for the engine parts.

Since this oil is not used for gearbox, unlike motorcycles, the oil contains friction modifiers to improve the mileage and fuel economy.

The car oil will have lower viscosity levels when compared to the motorcycle oil since it does not require high friction levels.

Along with friction modifiers, the car oil also contains large amounts of detergent additives in them. Adding detergent additives will increase the ash content in the oil.

While motorcycle oil contains detergent additives as well, the amount is lower than that of a car oil. Using a car oil with such high ash content in a motorcycle will hamper the bike performance.

Is Motorcycle And Car Oil The Same

Motorcycle oil and car oil are NOT at all the same. They are not interchangeable at all.

A motorcycle oil will lubricate both the engine and the gear box and also acts a coolant. The motorcycle oil will have higher viscosity, slightly higher frictional characteristics and low ash content.

The car oil, on the other hand, is only used to lubricate the engine. The car oil will have lower viscosity levels, low friction, and high ash content in it.

A motorcycle oil and a car oil are not the same and should not be used one in place of the other.

Using a motorcycle oil in a car will reduce the engine performance and fuel efficiency of the car, and can even damage the transmission.

Similarly, using a car oil in a motorcycle will damage the transmission, and the wet clutch wont function properly, thus leading to poor performance.

Difference Between A Motorcycle Oil And A Car Oil

A motorcycle oil and a car oil have entirely different characteristics.

The motorcycle oil will have higher viscosity, slightly higher frictional characteristics and low ash content.

The car oil will have lower viscosity levels, low friction, and high ash content in it.

A detailed comparison between a car oil and a motorcycle oil is described below across these parameters:

  • Lubrication
  • Cooling
  • Viscosity
  • Ash Content
  • Friction Level

Let’s discuss each of these parameters one by one.

Lubrication

This is one parameter where both the motorcycle oil and the car oil are same.

Both the oils are built to lubricate the engine parts of their respective automobiles.

However, there is one small distinction though. A motorcycle oil is used to lubricate both the engine and the gearbox. A car oil, on the other hand, is only used for the engine. It uses a separate oil for the gearbox.

Motorcycle vs Car Oil - Lubrication

Cooling

A motorcycle oil is expected to cool down the engine components along with lubrication.

This is in spite of motorcycles having a separate cooling system. The engine oil is always expected to do some cooling by taking way the heat from the engine components.

But a car oil is not expected to cool down the engine since cars have robust cooling systems in them. The oil’s function is to lubricate the engine.

Sure, car oils do help in cooling the engine parts. However, it is not necessary and the car would work just fine since it’s cooling system will cool down the engine parts thoroughly.

Motorcycle vs Car Oil - Cooling

Viscosity

This is an extremely important aspect to look for when using the engine oil in your vehicle.

Even within motorcycle and car oils there are different grades of oil based on their viscosity ratings.

For a detailed description on oil grades, check out our guide on motorcycle engine oil grades.

I still remember using a different grade oil than the recommended one in my motorcycle, and had to drain the oil completely. Then, replace it with the recommended grade oil.

Typically, motorcycle oils have greater viscosity than the car oils.

Motorcycles need higher viscosity levels to balance the wet clutch performance and transmission performance.

Car oils prefer lower viscosity to provide smoother power transmission and better engine performance.

Motorcycle vs Car Oil - Viscosity

Ash Content

Ash content in the oil is directly proportional to the amounts of detergent additives present in the oil.

Since car oils usually have higher amounts of detergent additives than the motorcycle oils, the ash content will obviously be higher in car oils.

So, a motorcycle oil will have lower ash content when compared to a car oil.

Motorcycle vs Car Oil - Ash Content

Friction Level

Motorcycle oils will have higher friction properties since they need to balance fuel efficiency and wet clutch performance.

Car oils, on the other hand, have lower friction levels to provide maximum mileage and fuel efficiency.

Overall, the friction characteristics is higher in a motorcycle oil than that of a car oil.

Motorcycle vs Car Oil - Friction

Differences – Summary

Here is a summarized differences between a motorcycle oil and a car oil.

Motorcycle Oil vs Car Oil - Infographic

Will A Motorcycle Oil Work In A Car?

Firstly, motorcycles use the same oil for both the engine and the gearbox. However, cars require completely different oils.

Second, motorcycle oils have higher viscosity and friction characteristics when compared to car oils. If motorcycle oil is used as a replacement for a car oil, the fuel efficiency of the car will drastically reduce down due to high viscosity of the motorcycle oil.

Third, using motorcycle oil in a car will reduce the transmission performance of the engine.

Due to such high friction levels in motorcycle oils, the car might face transmission lockup during its running. This will seriously hamper the car performance and can cause damage to the transmission as well.

For a more detailed post on why motorcycle should not be used in a car, check out our post here.

Will A Car Oil Work In A Motorcycle?

As a motorcycle oil cannot be used in a car, conversely, a car oil cannot be used in a motorcycle as well.

This is because, car oils have lower viscosity and therefore, low friction characteristics. This low friction will not help in lubricating the wet clutch properly as it will be too slippery for the clutch. As a result, clutch will not function as required if car oils are used in a motorcycle.

Another reason why you should not use car oil in your motorcycle is because car oils contain detergent additives which has high ash content in them. When used in a motorcycle, these additives can form deposits in the piston crown and valve train, which could again damage your motorcycle performance.

Related Questions

Is motorcycle brake fluid different from car? There is no difference in the motorcycle brake fluid and the car brake fluid. The motorcycle and the automotive fluid are one and the same. If both the car and the motorcycle have the same DOT ratings, then they essentially use the same brake fluid in them.

When to change the oil in a motorcycle? The frequency of oil change depends on the type of oil used in the motorcycle. Mineral oil should be changed every 2000 miles. For semi-synthetic oil, the frequency of oil change is every 5000 miles. And synthetic oil should be changed every 8000 miles.