Oil is essential for keeping your Harley-Davidson running. It keeps the engine’s moving parts lubricated and prevents them from grinding against each other, resulting in less wear and tear on the engine and preventing serious damage.
You should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure you are using the best oil for your model. Knowing the type of oil you need is crucial to ensuring your motor has a long life.
Harley-Davidson motorcycles are premium motorcycles, and, as such, they should be treated to the best oil on the market. Using the wrong oil can lead to engine damage, which can be costly to fix and even require a complete engine replacement in the worst case scenario.
Here are our top oil options for Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Reviews of the Best Oil for Harleys
Maxima V-Twin Full Synthetic Engine Oil
Maxima’s V-Twin fully synthetic oil is premium quality at a great price.
This fully synthetic oil is produced specifically for V-twin engines. The oil has been enhanced with surface-active chemistry to actively keep the engine clean. Additionally, certain additives protect against extreme pressure and anti-wear protection maintains your engine’s life span.
The synthetic formula provides excellent viscosity and film thickness across the entire operating temperature range.
- Excellent value
- H-D approved
- Premium quality
- Additives enhance functionality
S&S Cycle Synthetic Oil Change Kit
S&S Cycle is known for producing components specifically for Harley-Davidson motorcycles, so they know a thing or two about big V-twin engines and how to keep them running in top condition.
This oil change kit has everything you need to change your oil. Most importantly, it includes a 20W50 fully synthetic oil that meets H-D standards.
Its extra additives increase resistance to engine wear and added moly-content reduces heat and friction for maximum protection.
The oil is suited to a wide range of H-D models, but be sure to use the fitment tool to be sure it is compatible with your model.
- Synthetic 20W50 oil
- Oil filter and oil drain plug included
- Enhanced for increased engine-wear resistance
- Meets H-D warranty requirements
- More expensive than a single bottle of oil
Mobil 1 V-Twin Engine Oil
The Mobil 1 V-Twin Engine Oil has been developed for V-twin engines and particularly those that have a tendency to run hotter and that are air-cooled.
Mobil has ensured that the oil is ready to face extreme heat and higher temperatures, even on longer rides.
They have developed the formula to resist thermal breakdown as well as to protect against harmful deposits in the engine.
Lubrication has been enhanced so you can get the most horsepower out of our engine.
- Air-cooled, V-twin focused
- Resistant against extreme heat for long periods of time
- Formulated to remove harmful deposits in the engine
Red Line 20W50 Motorcycle Oil
Red Line is a well-respected brand and its 20W50 oil was developed with big-twin engines in mind, including the Evo and Twin Cam motors.
This is fully synthetic oil that uses ester-base stocks, which provide excellent protection and lubrication properties.
Red Line claims there are longer drain intervals over and above other brands due to the higher quality content of its oil and the dispersant additives used. The slightly higher price tag, therefore, might be worth it if it means you can ride your Harley for longer between oil changes.
- Quality base stocks
- Developed for big-twin engines
- Excellent protective and lubrication properties
Motul Twin 20W50 Engine Oil
Roland Sands has been an instrumental character in the motorcycle world for a while, from racing GP bikes back in the 90s to the custom bikes he puts his name on.
It should be no surprise that he has his own favorites when it comes to all things two wheels — including oil. This Motul Twin 20W50 oil has taken in Roland’s own experience and design to ensure it is the best possible formula for V-twin bikes.
The oil has excellent lubrication properties and protective additives to make it a great all-round oil for your H-D, especially if it’s running extra performance parts.
- Roland Sands design
- Fully synthetic
Considerations and Cost
Oil is your Harley’s lifeblood. Not only does it lubricate moving parts, but it’s also responsible for cooling, cleaning, and flushing away the by-products of combustion.
It’s only natural for you to want the best oil for your Harley, which is why it’s important to know what to look for in motorcycle oil.
Here are some tips to remember when buying oil for your Harley.
Understand the Importance of Viscosity
Oil is categorized by how viscous it is, as well as how it then operates in certain temperature ranges. Higher temperatures can lower viscosity, while lower temperatures can raise the viscosity of oil.
Most modern oils are multi-grade, meaning they can be suitable in a wider range of temperatures and seasons, notably in both summer and winter.
The viscosity of oil is defined by weight, and that weight is depicted by two numbers. Typical numbers you will see on motorcycle oil:
The first number, followed by the W for “winter,” will be the viscosity weight in cooler temperatures, and the second number is the weight for higher temperatures.
Harley-Davidson recommends a viscosity grade of 20W50, which is satisfactory in ambient temperatures of 60°–80° F. A 20W50 oil covers the widest range of operating temperatures that you are likely to encounter. However, Harley suggests a viscosity of 60 if ambient temperatures are above 80° F.
Make Sure You Get the Correct Oil for Your Model
Always be sure to check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation when it comes to oil.
While modern Harleys will generally suit 20W50 grade oil, older bikes are likely to need different grades and some even different oil for different seasons.
If you don’t have the manual, it’s worth speaking to your local Harley-Davidson dealer, who will be able to look up your model and tell you what is recommended.
Understand the Difference Between Conventional and Synthetic Oil
Conventional motorcycle oil is petroleum-based, whereas synthetic oils are chemically produced in a lab. Synthetic lubricants are custom-formulated to have the most desired properties for specific reasons.
Petroleum-based lubricant has been around for a long time and is very effective. However, synthetic lubricant is significantly purer and can operate efficiently under a wider range of circumstances and temperatures.
Harley usually recommends synthetic oils for modern motorcycles, but you might prefer to use conventional oil in classic Harleys — just be sure it’s the right viscosity for the temperature range.
Know What Additives Are and What They Do
Oil additives help oil do its job most effectively. They clean the oil, aid its lubricating properties, and prevent the buildup of contaminants that can cause corrosion and other harm.
- Viscosity modifiers allow the oil to change its viscosity depending on the temperature, such as at start-up and when running.
- Detergents help to clean the engine.
- Dispersants suspend contaminants to carry them out to the filter.
- Buffers remove harmful acids.
- Antioxidants prevent sludge buildup as a result of oxidation.
Is Harley-Davidson Branded Oil Worth It?
Harley sells its own brand of oil, and as with all things H-D, it’s sold at a premium.
You should always refer to the manufacturer’s guide for what oil to buy for the safest bet. However, as long as you follow the instructions in terms of the type of oil, then the brand doesn’t matter too much.
How Often Should I Change My Motorcycle Oil?
Harley-Davidson recommends you change your oil at its 1,000-mile service, then at every 5,000-mile service interval thereafter.
You should also change your oil more often if you ride your motorcycle in particularly dry, dusty, or cold and wet conditions.
Lastly, your motorcycle oil should be changed before any extended periods of storage, such as if you dry-store your bike through the winter months.
Read about how to change your motorcycle oil.
What Happens If I Use the Wrong Oil?
The severity of using the wrong oil really depends on how wrong you have got it! If the viscosity is close to the grade of oil that you need, you probably won’t face anything too serious.
However, if the oil is too viscous or not viscous enough, this can be very problematic.
If the oil is too viscous, then it can be too difficult to pump, which can increase oil pressure and reduce oil flow. If the oil is too thin, it might not lubricate everything enough, which can result in catastrophic damage to metal components.
Maxima V-Twin Full Synthetic Oil is an excellent choice for your Harley. It’s full of all the good stuff your motor needs to keep running happily.
However, the S&S Cycle Synthetic Oil Kit has the added bonus of being an all-in-one solution for your oil change, including premium full synthetic oil.