Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Changing the Oil on a 1999 V-Star 650 Classic

I have been working from 7:00 - 3:30 this week to cover some absences at work, and in order to make it to that shift on time, I have to take the 6:20 ferry from Winslow. I had a little extra time Yesterday so I went by Burton Motorsports on my way home to pick up some oil and a filter since I hadn't changed the oil since buying the V-Star.

Changing the oil on a vehicle is nothing special, but I noticed a few quirky things about the V-Star which I found interesting.

Since the 650 doesn't come with a center stand, the oil drain plug is located on the bottom-left side of the oil pan instead of the bottom center. Because of this location, you can fit a socket on the plug, but there isn't enough space for your wrench between the plug and the frame, even trying to use a universal joint proved unsuccessful. When I inspected the plug, it was obvious that the previous owner had problems with this, since the plug showed signs of stripping and trauma. In the end, it looks like someone used vise-grips to get the plug loose and subsequently tighten it again. This wore down the edges, but also pushed the metal from the worn edges on to the flat portions, making it very difficult to fit.

In addition to the problem with sockets, crescent wrenches are too wide to fit into the space between the plug and the oil pan. This means that the only way to remove the plug is with a special short socket or a spanner.

Being a less-destructive mechanic, I went down to wal-mart and bought a set of cheap Stanley spanners, since the 3/4" spanner that I needed was one of the few that I didn't already own (most of my motorcycle tools have been metric since I've owned only Japanese motorcycles).

At first, you might think this is an odd design, but in reality, most motorcycles have a toolkit which include spanners for all of the motorcycle bolt sizes that you might need to use, and most motorcycle bolts are made to work with a spanner. The fact that sockets generally work as an alternative is just a matter of convenience.

The spanner set was only $7, I bought one for Metric and one for Standard sizes, I think I'll use them on some upcoming long trips, so I'll get my dollar's worth out of them.

Anyway, with a few gentle taps from my hammer, I was able to get the 3/4" spanner on and remove the plug without any trouble. The oil drained out quickly, and it looks like the motorcycle was just a little overfilled (3.5 quarts instead of the 3.2 it needs). The oil didn't show any signs of abuse such as extreme age, dirt or water intrusion, and while I was on the underside, I cleaned up the pan and made sure that there were no leaks.

I cleaned off the plug and took it over to my bench grinder where I was able to trim down the stripped portions of the bolt enough so that my new spanner could fit comfortably, without any hammering required. This should buy me a few uses, but eventually I will need to replace the plug with one that hasn't had such a hard life. At least for now the plug threads smoothly and evenly without any snagging, and it seals without leaking too, as you would hope for.

I flushed the oil out with a quarter of a quart of leftover motorcycle oil I had on hand and let it drain thoroughly, then went about the task of locating the oil filter.

After a little reading online, I managed to find it in a location that wasn't expected, but is at least easy to access.

In the picture below, you can see the oil filter cover. it is a round circle just above the lower exhaust pipe and right below the large, round, air filter cover. It's held in place with three allen bolts. After removing the three bolts, the round portion of the cover comes off, exposing three more bolts underneath. After you remove these three bolts, and two more on the outside, the whole cover assembly comes off and the oil filter is exposed underneath. Simply pull out the old filter and slide in the new on in it's place, then re-attach the cover.

It's not the simplest oil filter cover I've seen, but I've also seen worse. It's ridiculous to remove 8 allen bolts to get to the oil filter, but it's not a complicated task by any means, and the fact that the oil filter is well protected from rocks and road debris is a good thing. With the common modern oil filters that attach outside of the engine, there is a small risk that some projectile from the road will puncture the thin-skin and cause a leak.

Due to the proximity to the oil pump, a hole in any oil filter will deplete your oil supply very quickly, in most cases, probably so quickly that you wouldn't notice until you had already damaged your motor.

I refilled the oil, carefully measuring the 3.2 quarts specified, with Bel-Ray semi-synthetic 10w40. In the Bandit, I used to run Bel-Ray fully synthetic superbike oil, but at a retail price of $17.99 a quart (yes you read that right), the performance difference on the V-Star would be negligible. The semi-synthetic blend has made the engine noticeably smoother and quieter, and it will take more heat and time to break down. Since I hope to make at least one long road trip this year, it will be well applied, not that I need any special reasons to run semi-synthetic oil.


  1. Thank you very luch for the complete and perfect explain; it helped me a lot to find the oil filter. I own a 1998 V star 650, in France.
    Best regards,

  2. HI, Nate!
    Who knew that an oil change could be such a hassle. That's what happens when good machinery has been bodged by moronic previous owners. BTW, the home brew was pretty good!