With the summer rally season now in full swing, we thought it would good to discuss renewing the oil and oil filter on your Gold Wing. (First run in the July 2007 issue, p. 50.) We’ve used a GL1500 for illustrative purposes, but the procedure is almost identical for all Gold Wing models produced since 1975.The GL1500’s oil drain plug is on the bottom right side of the engine (Photo A), while all other Wing models have the drain plug on the lower front of the engine. All Gold Wing models have the oil filter located on the front of the engine (Photo B), though GL1200 and earlier models do not use the convenient, disposable spin-on filter of the GL1500 and 1800. (We’ll discuss those filters separately.)
Finally, there are minor differences in the recommended oil quantities and torque values between the various Wing models. We’ll list those specs for you at the end of this article, but we also encourage you to consult the owner’s manual and/or service manual for your particular Wing; more information is usually preferable to less.
Preparing for the Task
Let’s tool up first. Before beginning, you’ll need an oil drain pan capable of holding at least 4 quarts. You’ll also need a 17mm box wrench or socket/ratchet combination to remove the drain plug. To remove the spin-on type oil filter, we suggest using a cup-style attachment (Photo C), though an adjustable band-type filter wrench or strap wrench will suffice. For reinstallation of the spin-on filter, you’ll need a torque wrench and a cup-style attachment sized correctly for the filter and torque wrench. What other tools you’ll need depends on the model you’re working on.
On the GL1500, we need a #2 Phillips screwdriver to remove the three screws retaining the front lower cowling (Photo D) (a stubby driver is useful for the center screw). Yes, we’re aware that many folks don’t bother to remove the lower cowl if they can get away without doing it. But if you’re using a cup-style filter wrench, you may find it impossible to use with the cowling in place. That comment applies to the GL1800 as well. For lower cowl removal on the GL1800, you’ll need a 5mm Allen wrench or Allen bit attachment for your ratchet. Owners of four-cylinder Wings will require a 12mm box wrench or socket/ratchet combo to remove the oil filter canister. I personally recommend that you do not attempt to use the tools in either the GL1500 or 1800 tool kit for this work; they’re not up to the task, in my opinion.
Parts you’ll need include a filter appropriate for your model, and 4 quarts of the oil of your choice (follow guidelines in your owner’s manual). Unless you know that it’s in acceptable condition, I recommend using a new drain plug crush washer (available from your Honda dealer). Last but not least, get yourself a pair of latex or nitrile gloves as I’m wearing in the photos. Used motor oil is hazardous stuff. It can leach dangerous chemicals right through the skin and into the bloodstream.
Let’s Get Busy
The first step is to place the motorcycle on its center stand on a level surface. On the GL1500, remove the fairing front center section and lower cowl to provide access to the filter (Photo B). On GL1800, only the lower cowl need be removed to access both the filter and drain plug. The filter and drain plug are readily accessible on most four-cylinder models. If yours isn’t, remove whatever body parts are obstructing access. Position a drain pan under the drain plug.
Using a 17mm box wrench or socket/ratchet, loosen the drain plug, then remove it by hand (Photo A). Use caution if the engine has recently been run because the oil may be hot enough to scald you. Now inspect the crush washer on the drain plug, and replace it if it’s deeply gouged or has expanded larger than the diameter of the head on the drain plug (Photo E).
Allow the oil to drain until it slows to a drip, then for at least an additional five minutes. Reinstall the drain plug with crush washer, and tighten it using a torque wrench (Photo F) to the torque value shown at the end of this article. You say you don’t have a torque wrench? Then I strongly suggest that you beg, borrow, or purchase one (stealing is a no-no). Otherwise, you run the risk of under-tightening for fear of stripping threads or over-tightening for fear of losing the drain plug. Either way, could create major problems eventually, if not immediately. End of sermon.
Using an appropriate filter wrench (Photo C), unscrew and remove the spin-on filter cartridge on GL1500 or GL1800. On four-cylinder models, remove the center bolt from the filter canister with an appropriate 12mm tool discussed earlier. Then separate the filter element, spring, and large washer from the canister. Note that the washer often sticks firmly to the side of the filter and is often discarded unintentionally as a result. The washer is important. If yours is missing, get a new one.
Before installing a new spin-on filter cartridge, wipe the filter mounting base on the engine clean. Smear a bit of oil on the filter’s sealing O-ring, and spin it on by hand until the filter seal contacts the mounting base on the engine (Photo G). Finish the job by tightening the filter to the specification shown at the end of this article using a cup-style attachment and torque wrench (Photo H). If you have no torque wrench (see “sermon” earlier), I suggest tightening an additional 360 degrees after the filter contacts the engine, either by hand or with a cup attachment and ratchet.
To install a new filter element on a four-cylinder Wing, thoroughly clean the canister and center bolt, then install a new O-ring on the bolt and into the groove in the canister’s mounting flange. A bit of chassis grease smeared into the groove will assist in retaining the O-ring. Install the center bolt into the canister, then drop the spring and large washer over the bolt. This bolt doubles as the filter’s differential pressure valve, so the washer must be placed between filter and spring to prevent the spring from dislodging the rubber grommet from the filter.
Slide the new filter element over the bolt threads and, after wiping clean the filter base on the engine, position the canister so that the tabs on its outer surface will be on either side of the water pump cover boss when the bolt is tightened.
Carefully engage the bolt threads in the engine, then tighten the bolt to 22 foot-pounds for all four-cylinder models, making sure that the tabs have located properly.
Refilling the Engine
Each GL model has a certain amount of oil recommended as a refill capacity. Does this mean that we should now just pour in the recommended amount and call it good to go? No way. Due to manufacturing tolerances, non-level work surfaces, insufficient drain time, or other factors, pouring in “the recommended amount” may overfill the engine.
What’s the harm in that? Probably nothing if the overfill is only an ounce or two. Much more than that, and the oil level in the crankcase may be high enough that the crankshaft and connecting rods beat it into foam as they rotate. Foam is mostly air. Your engine is lubricated by oil, not air. Introducing foam into the oil galleys can compromise oil pressure—not a good thing. Rotating parts repeatedly dipping into the oil can also create unwanted drag and reduced fuel economy. To obtain the correct oil level, determine the recommended refill quantity for your bike, and pour in 1/2 quart (500cc) less than that amount (Photo I).
Reinstall the dip stick (if the bike has one) and the filler cap, then start the engine. Watch for the oil pressure light to extinguish within a few seconds—stop the engine and investigate if it doesn’t. Allow the engine to idle for a minute or so, then shut it down and wait at least 5 minutes before checking the oil level.
On bikes with an oil level sight glass, oil level checking is easy and self-explanatory. Wings with an oil dipstick are a bit unusual in that the oil level often seems to be much different on one side of the stick than the other. This is due to the angle at which the dipstick is positioned in the engine. To get around this issue, insert the dipstick with the flat portions facing front and rear. Lower the dipstick until its cap touches the engine—don’t screw it in. Remove it and note the oil level (Photo J).
If it’s low, pour in an additional small amount and wait a minute or so before checking the level again. It’s much easier to pour oil in than to remove a small amount, so patience pays dividends here. The GL1500 used for this article required only 3.6 quarts to bring the level to the full mark, while the refill capacity shown in the service manual is 3.9 quarts. Had we simply poured in the entire 4 quarts we purchased, as many folks do, the overfill would have been significant. The correct level on the dipstick is at the raised mark in the center of the stick’s flat portion, but slightly below that is fine, also. The level will be higher when the oil is at operating temperature.
Finally, reinstall any removed bodywork, and you’ve now completed your oil and filter change.
Oil drain plug torque
All four-cylinder – 27 foot pounds
GL1500 and GL1800 – 25 foot pounds
Oil filter torque
Four-cylinder (bolt) – 22 foot pounds
GL1500 – 7 foot pounds
GL1800 – 20 foot pounds
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