Changing the Oil in Your Vulcan

One of the most important maintenance items for your motorcycle is changing its oil at the recommended interval. You can check on this site for a variety of articles about oil types, weights, filters, etc, but the important thing to remember is that oil starts losing its lubricating property as soon as it's placed into service. Don't neglect it!

The method described here is the simplest, does not involve levelling the bike, and has the advantage of performing related maintenace that's often neglected.

First, a note about the oil. Your Vulcan has one oil reservoir which serves the engine, transmission and clutch. For this reason, it's important to use oil that does not have friction modifiers, or that is labeled as "fuel efficient", etc. Diesel oil works well, Shell Rotella T is popular as is Mobile Delvac 1300. Check this Gadget page for lots of links to information about oil.

Also pay attention to the ratings on the oil container. Check your owner's or service manual for particulars, this is the information found in mine:

  • Type: API SE, SF or SG class, API SH or SJ class with JASO MA
  • Viscosity: SAE 10W-40
  • Amount:
    • 2.9 L (3.1 US qt, when filter is not removed)
    • 3.1 L (3.3 US qt, when filter is removed)
    • 3.5 L (3.7 US qt, when engine is completely disassembled and dry)


What You Need

  • New Oil. Check your owner's manual, service manual, or the sticker next to the oil filler for the proper quantity and type information.
  • New Oil Filter. This should be replaced every other oil change but it doesn't hurt to replace it more often. See Oil Filter Options, A Worthy Assortment. I normally use the Bosch 3300.
  • The slotted Vulcan oil cap
    A way to get your oil cap off. The slotted oil cap is inconvenient, but a very large washer (about 1-1/4&quotWink or big screwdriver blade can do it.
  • 17mm wrench.
  • Measuring Device. I use a 500ml measuring cup.
  • Funnel
  • Rags
  • Drain pan

How to Do It

  1. Leave the bike on its side stand and locate the Vulcan Oil Screen. It'll be on the left side of the engine, up behind the frame.
  2. Put your drain pan under the screen plug.
  3. Using your 17mm wrench, remove the plug and watch the oil drain (or go do something else for a few minutes).
  4. Remove the screen and check it for debris. Here's the bonus- you should do this every other oil change anyway.
    1. You might be able to get the screen out with your fingers, or something small and pointy can be used to nudge it out. If you do use some tool BE CAREFUL not to damage the screen. It's not held in by anything and should just slide out.
    2. Clean the screen with a high flash-point solvent. Realistically you can also use gasoline, but exercise caution. If you start a fire it's your own fault.
    3. Don't panic if you see a bit of crud in there, especially if this is the first time the screen has been checked. After the first time there should be little to no debris caught in the screen.
  5. Remove and replace your oil filter
    1. Move the drain pan so it covers both your oil screen and oil filter, if possible. If not, wait until the oil has all drained from the screen and reinstall the screen first.
    2. Remove the filter located at the right rear of the engine. If you have difficulty getting to it, such as a hotbox in the way, a rubber strap wrench from Harbor Freight makes a great filter wrench. A couple of other options:  and The filter is fairly small and an automotive filter wrench is likely to be too large.
    3. Replace the filter with a new one.
      1. Dip your finger in your old oil and wipe a thin film onto the rubber gasket on the new filter.
      2. Hand-tighten the filter, turning only about 1/2 turn after it first contacts the engine. The filter should not be tightened with a wrench.
  6. If not done already, put your oil screen back in. Make sure the pieces go in the same way they came out! Put the metal washer over the end so it sits on the rubber ring, and put the rubber ring into the engine first. The closed metal cap on the filter will fit into the plug when you screw it back in. Torque the screen plug to 15 ft-lb.
  7. Remove the oil filler cap on the right side of the engine. A large washer or screwdriver works well here. Like the filter, it should not be too tight.
  8. Using your funnel and measuring device, add the prescribed amount of oil. Tip: wrap a rag around your measuring cup as if you're serving wine to avoid drips.
  9. Close the filler cap. This is not the time to show off your strength, just make it a little snug. The torque spec for this is only 13 in-lb.

Now go ride. Let the engine warm up a bit to be sure the oil is pumped back up to the rocker boxes, and make sure your idle is set properly at around 950 RPM.

Tag: oil

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Those little black plastic bits that you find in the filter, are from your cam chain tensioner. Panic not. They all do that. Honestly.