Motorcycle Extremist
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Motorcycle Engine "Break-in" Procedures

The "Motorcycle Extremist" Way!

by Sentinel

The question of proper engine break-in procedure is raised on a regular basis on many forums. People needlessly create new threads in an attempt to gain information on this topic, and without even thinking to use the forum search function and a general internet search tool first. Because of this, and to assist anyone that may need this information, I'm making this document in the hopes to create a place where people can gain a good general understanding for this subject. I will be describing two of the most popular methods of the break-in procedure you are likely to come across. The first I will call "Method A", which is the method provided by your engine manufacturer, and is usually found in the owner's manual for your specific vehicle. The second method discussed and outlined in this document will be referred to as "Method B", and has over recent years become a more widely accepted method for the proper "break-in" of the modern combustion engine. I have been studying about and working with engines for over 30 years, and I have paid especially close attention to the area of engine break-in. I've taken this experience and created this article and break-in procedure to assist anyone that my need this information. I have deliberately left out any extraneous technical details in order to keep this article concise and to the point. If you'd like to study this topic more in-depth just to quench your curiosity, a simple search on the net should get you what you need. I will include a rather well defined set of instructions in this article for what I consider to be proper break-in procedure for the modern motorcycle engine.

 

You may be wondering why proper break-in is so important, and why you should be interested in doing it correctly. In order to answer these questions and to help you gain a better understanding of the what, why, and how of engine break-in, I'll provide a little background information to give you a basic and fundamental understanding on the topic.

 

The What:

Every new engine has internal components that must be "worn-in". This "wearing-in" of components is what's known as "break-in". The main components that need to be broken-in/worn-in are the valves, the cylinder bore, and the piston rings. These components must be worn-in so that they mate properly with the surfaces they will interact with over the life of the engine.

 

The Valves -

If the valves are not worn-in correctly, they will not seat correctly against the combustion chamber of the cylinder head, which will lead to a loss of compression and proper combustion, allowing blow-by of gases, which causes a loss of power, efficiency, reliability, and longevity.

 

The Cylinder Bore and Piston Rings -

The cylinder bore of a new engine is somewhat rough, and the piston rings are not properly mated to the cylinder bore. Some of the cylinder bore roughness must be worn down and smoothed out in order to create just the right amount of seal between the bore and the piston rings. Also the rings must be worn in correctly to mate with the cylinder bores. This process must happen properly in order to create the right kind of seal that will keep the combustion gases separated from the engine oil, and vice versa. Furthermore, if this wearing-in process does not happen correctly, the cylinder bore walls can glaze over, which will cause a lack of lubrication between the cylinder bore and piston rings, leading to overheating, a loss of performance, premature wear, and a loss of reliability. If this glazing does occur, the only way this problem can be corrected is for the engine to be torn down, the cylinder bores re-honed, and new piston rings installed, after which they must of course be broken in correctly, or it must be done all over again until it is. So you see how crucial proper break-in of these components actually is.

 

The Why:

Quite simply, these engine components must be properly "worn-in" to ensure good performance, reliability, and longevity; it's really just that simple. If these parts are not worn-in correctly there will be a loss of performance in every way. There will be a loss of power, poor fuel efficiency, increased oil consumption (burning oil), among other problems.

 

The How:

Now this is the proverbial million dollar question. Furthermore, this is where the majority of the controversy on this topic comes into play.

 

In short, there are two main philosophies, or methods regarding what's considered to be the proper engine break-in procedure. One I will simply call "Method A", the other I will refer to as "Method B".

 

Method A:

By the Book -

Follow the manufacturer's recommendations found in your bike's owner's manual.

 

Method B:

The "Other" Method (more aggressive) -

Break-in the engine using a wider range of varying engine speeds, including intervals of short duration high RPM runs.

 

 

Method "A" Example:

The following is an excerpt taken from page 50 of the Triumph Daytona 675 owner's manual, which stands out among others I've reviewed as being one of the more reasonable and functionally beneficial manufacturer recommendations I've come across,

"Breaking-In:


Breaking-In is the name given to the process that occurs during the first hours of a new vehicle's operation. In particular, internal friction in the engine will be higher when components are new. Later on, when continued operation of the engine has ensured that the components have 'bedded in', this internal friction will be greatly reduced. A period of careful breaking-in will ensure lower exhaust emissions, and will optimize performance, fuel economy and longevity of the engine and other motorcycle components. During the first 500 miles (800kilometers):

• Do not use full throttle.

• Avoid high engine speeds at all times.

• Avoid riding at one constant engine speed, whether fast or slow, for a long period of time.

• Avoid aggressive starts, stops, and rapid accelerations, except in an emergency.

• Do not ride at speeds greater than 3/4 of maximum engine speed. From 500 to 1000 miles (800 to 1500 kilometers):

• Engine speed can gradually be increased to the rev limit for short periods. Both during and after breaking in has been completed:

• Do not over-rev the engine when cold.

• Do not lug engine. Always downshift before the engine begins to 'struggle'.

• Do not ride with engine speeds unnecessarily high. Shifting up a gear helps reduce fuel consumption, reduces noise and helps to protect the environment."

 

 

Method "B" Example:

Break-in the engine using a wider range of varying engine speeds, including intervals of short duration high RPM runs.

 

I think the two best places to do this break-in is either the canyons or the race track. If you live near some canyons, go straight there for your break-in. If you can haul your bike to a race track, that's a great option as well. Do not "lug" the engine around at low RPM at all, and don't cruise around at the same RPM for any real length of time, but rather you should be fluctuating the RPM consistently. Don't even bother riding on the freeway at all for your first 500 miles, unless it's basically just on and right back off. One of the worse things you can do is baby the engine too much during break-in, along with running too hard too fast. You have to find a kind of happy medium between the two.

 

Oil and Oil Filter Change Schedule Summary -  

Make sure no synthetic oil is used during the first 1500 miles. Use only regular motorcycle specific SAE 10W – 40 mineral (petroleum) oil that meets or exceeds the API SG and JASO MA2 standards. If you're not sure what oil is in your new bike, change it immediately to this oil, and change the filter as well. While 10w - 40 is best for most, if your particular climate or engine requires something different, then by all means use it.

 

50 Miles - Change oil and oil filter (Mineral Oil)

200 Miles - Change oil and oil filter (Mineral Oil)

500 Miles - Change oil and oil filter (Mineral Oil)

1500 Miles - Change oil and oil filter (Mineral Oil or Synthetic Oil as Desired)

 

 

The following is my own interpretation and idea of what I consider to be a good example and set of guidelines for using Method B.

 

Method B: Using the 2009 Triumph Daytona 675 as an Example

 

If you're breaking in a different bike than the Triumph Daytona 675 used in this example, simply use the initial RPM calculations for the max RPM of your bike, and raise them by the same amounts as our example here.

 

1.) Before Riding -

Ensure that the break-in oil of your choice is in your engine, and double check to make sure that the oil level is correct. Start the engine and allow it to reach proper operating temperature before actually riding the bike. Once the engine is properly warmed up, it's time to take it out for your first break-in ride.

 

2.) Your First Ride -

Make sure you can get the bike out on the road with the lightest traffic possible, and some place where you can open the bike up a bit, at least in the lower gears. Be sure to ride the bike and vary the engine speed from the low-midrange to upper-midrange area your power band while driving for a round-trip total of 20 miles.

 

During the first 10 miles you should be fluctuating between the upper-low to the middle-midrange area of your power band. Basically you'll want to stay in the 1/3 to 1/2 area of your max RPM range. For the 2009 - 2010 Triumph Daytona 675, that has a "real" max RPM of 13,900, which is an indicated 15,000 on the tachometer, this range is from about 4500 to 7500 RPM. Be sure to fluctuate the RPM between these ranges, and use engine breaking as much as reasonably possible.   

 

After you've completed your first 10 miles, park the bike and turn off the engine. Let the bike sit for 20 minutes, and then start it back up. Make sure that the engine as at normal operating temperature, and then proceed on with the last 10 miles of this 20 mile ride in the manor described in the following paragraph. Please note that the reason for this brief cool down is not for the purpose of what would be referred to as "heat cycling", but rather it is an attempt to allow the friction points inside the engine, where there may be a few how spots, to even out their temperatures with the surrounding metal.

 

During the last 10 miles of this 20 mile ride you'll be fluctuating the engine speed as before, but this time raise the top RPM by 1000 to 8,500 RPM. So, you should be keeping the engine between 4500 and 8500 RPM. Remember to use engine breaking as much as reasonably possible during this ride.

 

3.) Your First Oil and Oil Filter Change -

At 20 miles, change the oil and oil filter while the engine is still warm. Inspect the used oil and oil filter for any metal debris. Some metal flakes and or shavings are often found in the used oil and oil filter during this initial break-in stage. Don't be alarmed if there are some, as this is perfectly normal and acceptable.

 

4.) Your Second Ride -

Before starting the engine, first check the oil level and make sure it's where it should be. Now it's time for your second break-in run. After warming the engine up to the proper operating temperature, take the bike out for a 30 mile roundtrip ride. You'll be fluctuating the engine speed regularly as before.

 

During the first 15 miles of this 30 mile ride you'll be varying the engine speed from the mid-midrange to the upper-midrange. So were adding 1000 RPM to our bottom and top RPM range, which brings us to the 5,500 to 9,500 range.

 

After you've completed your first 15 miles, park the bike, turn off the engine, and let the bike sit for 20 minutes. Now start it back up, and make sure that the engine is at normal operating temperature before riding on. Proceed on with the last 15 miles of this 30 mile ride in the manor described in the following paragraph.

 

During the last 15 miles of your 30 mile ride, you'll be fluctuating the engine speed as before. However, this time raise the top RPM by 1000 to 10,500 RPM. So, you should be keeping the engine between 5500 and 10,500 RPM. Remember to use engine breaking as much as reasonably possible during this ride.

 

5.) Your Second Oil and Oil Filter Change -

At 50 miles, change the oil and oil filter while the engine is still warm. Inspect the used oil and oil filter for any metal debris. Some metal flakes and or shavings are often found in the used oil and oil filter during this second stage of the break-in period. Don't be alarmed if there are some, as this is perfectly normal and acceptable.

 

6.) Riding out the Rest of your Break-in Miles -

The remaining break-in miles should continue to be put on with varying engine speeds applied, including brief trips up near redline on occasion.

 

7.) Your Third Oil and Oil Filter Change -

At 200 miles, change the oil and oil filter while the engine is still warm. Inspect the used oil and oil filter for any metal debris. Some metal flakes may be found in the used oil and oil filter during this third stage of the break-in period. Don't be alarmed if there are some, as this is perfectly normal and acceptable.

 

8.) Continue varying the engine speeds while riding the bike as before.

 

9.) Your Forth Oil and Oil Filter Change -

At 500 miles, change the oil and oil filter while the engine is still warm. Inspect the oil and oil filter for any metal debris. Again, some metal flakes may be found in the oil and oil filter during this forth stage of the break-in period, so don't be alarmed if there are some, as this is perfectly normal.

 

10.) Continue to vary the engine speeds while you ride as before. At this point you can incorporate some short stints on the freeway if you want to, but keep mixing it up with plenty of street riding.

 

11.) Your Fifth Oil and Oil Filter Change -

At 1,500 miles, change the oil and oil filter while the engine is still warm. Now would be a good time to switch to a full synthetic motorcycle oil if you so desire. Otherwise, just make sure that you use a good quality motorcycle oil; appropriate for your particular engine and circumstances. As always; inspect the used oil and oil filter for any metal debris that may appear. Metal flakes are sometimes found in the used oil and oil filter during this portion of the break-in period. Don't be alarmed if there are some, as this is perfectly normal and acceptable.

 

12.) For all intents and purposes, your new engine should be considered as fully broken-in at this point, and you may ride the bike as you wish from this time forward. Always be sure to perform the required and appropriate routine maintenance required for your bike.

 

 

Conclusion:

So that's about all there is to it. I hope this article has helped you to understand the break-in process better, and will serve as a good general guideline to use when it's time for you to break-in your new engine.

 

 

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