Do many motorcycle oils really meet Harley specs?

I've been reading with some interest the various threads about running Rotella and other oils in Harley Davidsons. I have an '05 Road King Classic - 88", bone stock and extended warranty. My owner's manual says to use a CF-4 diesel oil if I can't get Harley oil. OK, I know CF-4 is retired and superceded by CI-4 and others but if you look at Amsoil 20W-50 and Mobil-1 20W-50 motorcycle specific oils they have the CF rating not C?-4. Does that mean they don't meet Harley specs or is the C?-4 rating immaterial? I don't want to have an oil related problem under warranty and have Harley say that my BrandX motorcycle oil, though the correct weight, didn't have the C?-4 designation so tough luck! Thanks, but somewhat paranoid. :-)
 
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The Harley oils have been tested and analyzed and found to be mediocre at best. Most any quality brand cycle oil, and I'm sure, diesel oil as well are certainly equal to or better than those Harley oils that the factory wants you to buy.
 

Dennis_E

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 Originally Posted By: xxch4osxx
This might help you:http://www.amsoil.com/products/streetbikes/oil_chart.aspx
I stand corrected. Amsoil is CG-4. I'm not sure how I missed that. But what about Mobil-1 V-twin 20W-50? I'm sure that isn't C?-4 rated. (If someone shows me that is is too I think I'll just have a cow. :-)
 

PT1

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Harley doesn't seem to publish much in the way of API specs on anything except the mention of CF-4, CG-4, CH-4, CI-4 in my 2006 Dyna owners manual. The viscosities listed are 10w40 for below 40*F, 20w50 for above 40*F, 50w for above 60*F and 60w for above 80*F. SO you are ok with pretty much all the 15w40 HDEO oils for 3000 IMO unless you are in the deep South. Any synthetic MC 20w50 will be fine for 5000. Most of the dino 20w50's should run 3000 miles fine as well.
 

Dennis_E

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 Originally Posted By: TucsonDon
See here to go to the Mobil website with the spec sheet for that oil. Service classification: API SJ, SH, SG/CF as well as JASO-MA.
Don, This is exactly my point - API SG/CF. CF not C?-4. As told to me in another thread CF is most certainly not a C?-4 lubricant. Yet many think Mobil-1 is one of the best. I would like to think so too but I'm just having trouble not getting past the C?-4 specification. Harley put it there for a reason and I don't know enough about lubrication to understand why Mobil thinks CF is OK. Thanks all for your patience.
 

Dennis_E

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 Originally Posted By: PT1
Harley doesn't seem to publish much in the way of API specs on anything except the mention of CF-4, CG-4, CH-4, CI-4 in my 2006 Dyna owners manual. The viscosities listed are 10w40 for below 40*F, 20w50 for above 40*F, 50w for above 60*F and 60w for above 80*F.
This is what my manual has as well. The way I read it is that if you want to put non-Harley oil in your bike it must one of the listed weights AND one of the listed API categories. True? If so, it would knock Mobil-1 V-twin, and many others, out of consideration.
 
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 Originally Posted By: Dennis_E
This is exactly my point - API SG/CF. CF not C?-4. As told to me in another thread CF is most certainly not a C?-4 lubricant. Yet many think Mobil-1 is one of the best. I would like to think so too but I'm just having trouble not getting past the C?-4 specification. Harley put it there for a reason and I don't know enough about lubrication to understand why Mobil thinks CF is OK.
Hi Dennis -- The "C" portion of that designation refers to the diesel specification; the "S" portion of those other things refers to gasoline engine specifications. One of the things taking place in the diesel oil space is more and more stringent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules about diesel oil, all in an effort to lower the pollutants emitted by diesel trucks. So as time goes by -- and the "C" specifications are superseded by newer ones -- some elements of the oil are modified. For example, the "sulfated ash" levels of the newer diesel oils are reduced from earlier spec levels. Note: It's peripheral to your question, but just a trivia -- it was the sulfated ash level of the Rotella CI-4+ oil that prevented it from meeting the JASO-MA specifications. But the newer CJ-4 has reduced its sulfated ash -- as part of EPA mandates -- and thus it now meets JASO-MA. It's not certified JASO-MA because that implies money to bear the label on the jug, but by all indications the oil meets the spec. Anyway, the point being that as the diesel oils go to newer and newer spec levels, some additive proportions change. The CJ-4 has a lower ZDDP than was allowed under CI-4+, and most like CI-4+ had less than earlier oils. Now, my understanding is that newer oil specification levels are supposed to meet or exceed earlier spec performance. So a CJ-4 (newer) should exceed CI-4+, which should exceed the performance of earlier spec levels. Things get really interesting -- and I don't claim to fully understand it -- but read a bottle of Rotella Triple Protection 15W-40 ... it says, "Meets API Service CJ4, CI-4 Plus, CH-4, CG-4, CF-4/SM, SL, SJ." What that's saying is it meets the newer spec and the older specs. We can't dismiss the possibility that Harley intentionally clouds the issue to increase sale of their labeled oil. All bike manufacturers do something like that -- Yamaha calls for Yamalube 20W-40, which is difficult to find other than their brand, but in truth any good 40-weight will be just fine. My guess is Mobil 1 20W-50 will be just fine in your Harley. There's simply a bunch of people who use it. But if that'll make you lose sleep, then buy the Harley oil and rest easy.
 

PT1

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 Originally Posted By: TucsonDon
We can't dismiss the possibility that Harley intentionally clouds the issue to increase sale of their labeled oil.
+1 That is my take on the situation because they don't publish API specs on any of their branded lubricants. So, you are unable to compare other lubricants easily. Then you are left with all the statements to only use "genuine" Harley Davidson lubricants. What a crock! HD poo pooed synthetic oil with the "bearing skate" nonsense for years until they realized they were losing oil sales to the other major branded synthetics. Suddenly, Syn3 was born... Not a very good way to present technical specs to the consumer IMO. Then again...HD has always been way behind the technology curve with their motorcycles so maybe they just have always had one 89 year old "lube guy" in the back room in Milwaukee who never knew there was synthetic oil. One good example is their introduction of a six speed transmission in the Dyna series in 2006. They touted it as this great new technology (which it always has been) but my 1974 Yamaha RD350 had a six speed transmission which at that time was new to the market. As to the OP: S&S Engines specs Mobil1 Vtwin 20w50 as factory fill. So use it with 100% confidence.It exceeds the performance of Syn3 and HD360.
 
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There is no such thing as "Harley specs" when it comes to oil. Go to the dealer and pick up a bottle of HD360 or Syn3. You won't see a single API rating on the label anywhere. As far as the diesel specs listed in the manual, all Harley is saying is that if you HAVE to use oil other than genuine HD oil, it should meet the diesel specs. They do this because typically, the only oils that do meet the diesel specs are heavy duty oils with robust additive packages. In truth, with roller bearings throughout, a well-maintained Harley v-twin will go 100,000 miles on virtually any modern oil so long as it's the correct viscosity.
 

PT1

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 Originally Posted By: G-MAN
There is no such thing as "Harley specs" when it comes to oil. Go to the dealer and pick up a bottle of HD360 or Syn3. You won't see a single API rating on the label anywhere.
Exactly! How annoying...
 

Dennis_E

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 Originally Posted By: TucsonDon
[quote=Dennis_E]But if that'll make you lose sleep, then buy the Harley oil and rest easy.
Thanks for your discussion about oil categories, but how can I sleep well if I leave all my money behind at the Harley dealer?
 

Dennis_E

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 Originally Posted By: PT1
One good example is their introduction of a six speed transmission in the Dyna series in 2006. They touted it as this great new technology (which it always has been) but my 1974 Yamaha RD350 had a six speed transmission which at that time was new to the market.
Pt1, Thanks for your comments as well. I'm not a mechanic so I never did understand the bearing skate thing. You mentioned your 1974 motorcycle - I had a 1973(?) Yahmaha RD250 that went faster than the speed of light! Well, maybe not quite but you get my idea. :-) Cheers.
 
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Remember: Harley air-cooled engines use roller bearing crankshafts, roller con-rods, roller lifters, and roller rocker arms. Roller bearings need only minimal lubrication to perform well. Think of a two-stroke engine -- they also use roller cranks and rods and the oil is mixed with the gasoline and works fine. There is no oil in the crankcase of a two-stroke because the gasoline-oil mixture passes through the crankcase and lubricates the roller bearings. So with all the roller bearings in a Harley engine, any oil and I mean any oil would work fine. I would bet a paycheck that you could fill the engine with WD-40 and never have a problem. Knowing this, why do you Harley riders obsess over your oil? Because you paid so much for the motorcycle? Or because you think it is some high-tech wonder? It is a very old design as evidenced by the roller bearing design. Back in the old days of poor oil system design, plain bearings were out of the question and designers had to use roller bearings for the engine to survive. Plain bearings must have high quality, high flow lubrication systems. With the ultra-high quality oils on the market today, any decent oil would be adequate for those engines. They have large capacity, dry-sumps so even the heat of the air-cooled engine is not a factor.
 
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Because Harleys run pretty hot, and the clearances were fairly loose, a heavy oil was typically used. 50W or 60W. Of course, back in the day, Harley had their own numbering system. Today, they have tighter clearances and typically call for -40 or -50 multigrade.
 
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 Originally Posted By: ZGRider
Remember: Harley air-cooled engines use roller bearing crankshafts, roller con-rods, roller lifters, and roller rocker arms. Roller bearings need only minimal lubrication to perform well. Think of a two-stroke engine -- they also use roller cranks and rods and the oil is mixed with the gasoline and works fine. There is no oil in the crankcase of a two-stroke because the gasoline-oil mixture passes through the crankcase and lubricates the roller bearings. So with all the roller bearings in a Harley engine, any oil and I mean any oil would work fine. I would bet a paycheck that you could fill the engine with WD-40 and never have a problem. Knowing this, why do you Harley riders obsess over your oil? Because you paid so much for the motorcycle? Or because you think it is some high-tech wonder? It is a very old design as evidenced by the roller bearing design. Back in the old days of poor oil system design, plain bearings were out of the question and designers had to use roller bearings for the engine to survive. Plain bearings must have high quality, high flow lubrication systems. With the ultra-high quality oils on the market today, any decent oil would be adequate for those engines. They have large capacity, dry-sumps so even the heat of the air-cooled engine is not a factor.
I've been trying to get this across to fellow Harley riders for a long time. The basic design of a Harley v-twin goes all the way back to when these engines had a total loss oiling system. The real improvements have come with better production tolerances, improved piston design, improved ring design, etc. But from the standpoint of the bottom end, a Harley v-twin is pre-historic in its lubrication requirements. The main culprit in a modern fuel injected Harley is HEAT. Oil temps of 250F and up are not unusual, thus using not only a good quality oil, but the correct viscosity is important.
 
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Just for conversation sake and plain vs roller bearings, here is a pic of the inside of my Harley. Currently buttoning up this years engine build. Stock was 1130cc. Currently 1402cc using 105mm bore and 81 mm Falicon full circle billet crankshaft. Also using V&H race port heads (works of art) with +1mm I & E valves, Jones .500/.460 cams, oversize throttle bodies, CP pistons, K1/Carillo rods and lots of ARP hardware. The only roller bearings in the V-Rod engine are on the counter balancer and on the transmission shafts.
 
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I can't speak to the issue of roller bearings in H-D engines. But I will say this -- I admire (and envy) the skills of anyone that can tear down and rebuild an engine. Also ... that's a pretty cool picture.
 
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 Originally Posted By: o2man98
The only roller bearings in the V-Rod engine are on the counter balancer and on the transmission shafts.
Yeah, I should have made it clear I was talking about Harley Big Twins and Sportsters. The V-Rod has a modern powerplant in every sense of the word.
 
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