Triumph Thunderbird Sport Oil Change
I've changed the oil in may motorcycles, but the first oil
change in the Triumph Thunderbird Sport was a real
adventure! I felt like a rookie again. Changing the
oil and filter in a motorcycle shouldn't be this hard.
Here are some observations and tips that may help owners of the
Thunderbird Sport and other Triumph motorcycle
The Saga of the TBird's First Oil Change
The owner's manual, the Haynes manual and the official Triumph
manual all call for 4.00 liters of oil with an oil and filter change in
a Triumph Thunderbird Sport.
After I bought a 4-liter jug of the super expensive Mobil
1 "4T" Racing Oil as specified by Triumph (more on that topic below), I
situated the bike as level as possible,
and I opened up the Haynes manual and followed the instructions: open the
8mm Allen key drain plug and drain the oil (per the photo on their page 1-14); then loosen the 17mm hex
nut on the oil filter cover and let that drain also.
I went in the house for a while to give the oil some time to
drain. A little while later I went back in the garage, and everything's done
draining. I put in a new filter, buttoned everything up and start
pouring in the new liquid gold. Exactly 2.5 liters later, the
sight glass shows that it's full!! How can this be?! The book says
it takes 4 liters!
I started up the bike up and everything seemed fine (by the way, a
good tip is to shut off the fuel on your ride home prior to changing the
oil, then let the bike die in the garage from lack of fuel. This
will allow you to turn over the engine with the starter after the oil
change to build up oil pressure prior to starting it up).
decided to search for some answers. I learned some interesting things from
various sources: the site glass is
wrong (probably true; see below); and a guy with a Triumph who works at the local
Harley dealer told me that the bike only
takes 3 quarts (2.8 liters) of oil. How can this be, when the owner's
manual, the Haynes manual and the Triumph shop manual all say it takes 4 liters?
So I figured the only thing to do would be to drain out all the now wasted $50
oil to start again with an empty engine. Out came the 8mm Allen screw;
I opened up the filter cover and drained everything once
This time I measured it with a 500cc graduated cylinder.
Oil pan from right
side: blue arrow = oil filter cover
(17mm hex); red arrow = center
8mm Allen bolt;
white arrow is the other (correct) 17mm hex drain plug.
Oil pan, left side:
yellow arrow indicates the correct
17mm hex drain plug.
All I got was the 2.5 liters!!! What's going on here??!!
Either there HAS to
be another oil drain plug, or I've got a serious problem with 1.5 liters
of old oil hiding somewhere! So I looked under the bike and
noticed the 17mm hex bolt on the left side of the oil pan near the
sidestand. That HAS to be another drain plug! But they don't say
anything in any of the books about it!
Slowly, slowly, I loosen the bolt. It looks like it's never been
opened before -- I see no traces of oil or grime. I slowly turn it
out until almost the very last threads and... OIL!! There's
another friggin' oil drain plug on this bike that the book didn't tell me about!
I let it drain, measure it in the graduated cylinder, and guess what??
Yep, it all adds up to 4.0 liters exactly.
Moral of the story? There are TWO oil drain plugs, at least on my
T-Bird Sport. When I go back and look closely at the Haynes photos, I
see they're definitely opening an Allen bolt drain plug, and now that I
know what's up, I can see that it does
appear to be on the left hand side of the oil pan, which I never noticed
after looking at the very poor photograph many times.
On my bike, the Allen bolt was
in the center hole, so not knowing any better, and this being my first
oil change, it's the first one I saw and the it's the one I removed, following the lead of
the Haynes photo. Perhaps someone got them switched? Maybe
you're never supposed to open the center hole? What does the plug for
the center hole in the oil pan do?
Now that I realize what is going on, I discovered that you should only
drain the oil by unscrewing the drain plug on the
left hand side, because it's lower than the central drain plug. If
you do it carefully, and only use the drain plug on the left hand side,
you'll eventually get all four liters out of the bike.
What are the correct torque values for the oil drain plug and/or oil
filter housing bolt? The
Triumph shop manual advises "...tighten to 48 Nm for M22
drain plugs and 28 Nm for M14 drain plugs.", while the Haynes
manual advises 48Nm for the oil drain plug and 18Nm for the oil
filter center bolt. Note that the Haynes manual does not
distinguish between the M14 and M22 drain plugs.
Honda replacement plug
original Triumph plug (right).
Since my Thunderbird Sport has an M14, 17mm hex plug, I'm sticking with the
28Nm for the oil filter
drain plug. I first tried about 38Nm, and it felt like the bolt
started to slip, the first sign of stripped threads! It doesn't take much to strip the threads in
aluminum, so be really careful!
Now I needed a new oil drain plug, and of course, the dealer didn't
stock one! BUT - I found out that the Honda automobile plug will work by looking at
the information on the
CG Enterprises website.
If you ever need an oil drain plug, or the crush washers for your
bike, they have zillions of them in all different shapes and
sizes! They also have a cool magnetic-tipped
drain plug of the correct size that I've ordered and will install
at the next oil change.
I needed a drain plug RIGHT NOW though, so after I realized from
comparing drain plug sizes on the CG Enterprises site, I went down to the local Honda
car dealer and purchased a Honda (car) part number 90009PH1000 (oil
drain plug) and a crush washer, part number 9410914000I.
$2.16 for the plug, $0.60 for the washer! The Honda part has
4mm shorter threads than the original Triumph, so it's not exactly
the same, but so far it has worked for me without any problems. The Honda crush washer is 14mm
inside diameter, and 24mm outside diameter, just like the original
If you want the exact replacement Triumph
motorcycle oil drain plug, you can order one from
Enterprises (see photo below) For the record, the
Triumph oil drain plug dimensions are:
Threads are 14mm outside diameter (called an
It has a 1.5 thread pitch, which
is how metric screw threads are identified;
It has a 15mm thread length from
the shoulder to the end of the threads;
It has a 17mm hex head with a
round shoulder under it that measures about 21mm diameter.
Here are the CG Enterprises dimensions and part numbers for
the matching plug; apparently, this is an almost identical
CG Enterprises part number 1085
is an M14, 14mm x 1.5 thread pitch drain plug, with a thread length of 14.85mm, a
17mm hex head and a shoulder diameter of 24.8mm.
The CG Enterprises part number 1085M
is the same plug with a magnet which adds 4.8mm to the overall
length. I'm going to try this one next time, but it may
be too long, as the original equipment Triumph part has a
total of 15mm thread length, and I want to make sure the extra
4.8mm doesn't bang into the crank or something. (Update:
it works; I've had it in now for over one year.)
Finally, don't forget the aluminum
crush washer! The shop manuals recommend that these are
replaced each time the drain plug is removed. I believe that my not
replacing this was the major factor for stripping the Allen-headed
drain plug. The Triumph aluminum crush washer dimensions are
1.5mm thick by 24mm outside diameter, to fit over the 14mm
threads. The CG Enterprises part is an identical
replacement; their part number for the aluminum crush washer is 2402
is a 14mm aluminum gasket with a 23.85 O.D. and 1.53mm thick.
For more information, contact Gary
Grave, C.G. Enterprises
Automotive Inc., Quality Products for the Fast Lube
Industry. Phone 1-800-565-9743; Fax 1-866-645-5823
UPDATE: My order arrived
from CG Enterprises - here's a photo of their magnetic
oil drain plug, part number 1085M (left side of
I'll install it at the next oil change but will make sure
there's enough clearance over the magnet -- I'm 99.9% sure it
will be OK.
At the right is the standard replacement drain plug, part
In the center are the 20 aluminum crush
washers I ordered. Neither the local Triumph dealer or
hardware store had the proper aluminum crush washers, so as
long as I was placing an order, I bought a handful. I guess this should hold me for a
Level and the Triumph Thunderbird Sport Sight Glass
Both manuals claim that the oil level should be half-way up the
sight glass when the bike has the full complement of 4.0 liters of
oil. But with the 4 quarts (3.784 liters), the oil level is already over the top of the sight
glass when the bike is exactly level. However, when I place a 2x4
flat on the ground under the side stand, so that the bike is
"almost" level, the oil is exactly half-way up the sight
glass. It doesn't take much to move the oil level around in the
sight glass. This is
|Once More on
the Third Oil Drain Plug...
visitor "G.G." writes:
"Rick, That third bolt got me to wondering what the
heck is that for. In my approximately 10 oil/filter
changes I have never removed that one.
If you look in the Triumph
Manual (mine is issue 7, 10/97) on page 2.17 (Maintenance
2) you will see the drawing showing the sump drain plug
and oil filter bolt that are to be removed during an
oil/filter change. The third bolt, positioned between the
two has a pipe coming from it. Now look at page 8.3
(Lubrication 8) and notice the drawing on the lower right
hand corner that has got to be an oil cooling system. My
guess is that the third bolt is for that system.
The Haynes Manual only
lists the torque spec for the M22 drain plug (48Nm) while
the Owner's Manual and Triumph Manual list torque for the
M14 drain plug (28Nm). The two specs are mentioned in the
text of the Maintenance section, on the torque spec charts
in the General Information section and in the drawings in
the Lubrication section of the Triumph Manual.
to* photos and drawings show the M22 drain plug which is
not on the TBS engines AFAIK. My parts catalogue (Issue 7,
07/00) does show three sump part numbers but only one
number for the M14 drain plug. It does not help us that
Triumph and Haynes refers (correctly I found out) to
fasteners by the size of the hole they fit into, not the
tool that goes in/on them.
On other T3 lists I have
read about owners who have broken the head off the M14
drain plug tightening it to 48Nm and can remember only one
who stripped the threads in the sump."
"G.G."! I sure hope we can save someone
else a headache with this article!
By the way, I received another note
stating that a TBird Sport owner had an M14 drain plug with a 13mm
hex head that was installed OEM with left-handed threads!
So be careful -- if your plug is not unscrewing, don't overdo
it! It's hard to believe, I know, but there may be some
TBirds out there with left-handed threads!
Type of Oil to Use? Triumph Thunderbird Sport Oil Types -
Now about that oil...
There are as many opinions about oil as
there are people that use it. Everyone has their
favorite. Someone will say "I used Acme brand 10W30 in
my bike and it ran for 300,000 miles!". The question to
ask is "compared to what?"
Who knows if that same
person used a different brand or weight of oil if the bike still
would have gone 300,000 -- or maybe 400,000 miles? The point
is, until someone does some very scientific study comparing oils,
a good bet is to use whatever the owner's manual recommends.
The market is so competitive nowadays that most oil is of excellent
quality anyway (and probably made by same manufacturer), so it would be hard
to go wrong with any name brand oil.
In the case of the Thunderbird Sport, oil type is a bit confusing, but easy to
resolve. The owner's manual and the shop
manual call for either 10W40 semi-synthetic or 15W50 full
synthetic motorcycle oil. The shop manual on page 1.34 calls for 10W40
semi-synthetic with an API grade of SG. On page 2.16 of the
shop manual, and in the owner's manual, either 10W40
semi-synthetic or 15W50 full synthetic "which must meet or
exceed API SG specification" is specified.
There's a difference here, and to make things more confusing,
the Haynes manual calls for "fully synthetic 5W40 or
semi-synthetic 10W40 motorcycle oil". My advice is to
disregard the Haynes manual (I bet they dropped a "1"
in front of the "5" in the 5W40 during printing or
something), and go with the Triumph shop manual's
specification for 10W40 semi-synthetic or 15W50 full synthetic
"which must meet or exceed API SG specification".
The Mobil 1 " 4T" racing oil that is recommended by
Triumph doesn't list an API specification or a
weight on the 4.0 liter jug. It's a European specification
oil and I've confirmed with Mobil that 4T is only sold in the U.S.
under the Triumph label in those mucho expensive 4.0 liter jugs. It's $49.95 for 4 liters,
which is completely outrageous.
As of the date of publication, Mobil1 does not offer motorcycle oil
weight in the U.S.A.; and Mobil U.S.A. recommended to me in an
email to use their 20W40 synthetic as
a replacement, but then that doesn't meet Triumph's specs for oil
So you pay your money and you take your chances: I plan on using 15W50 full synthetic motorcycle oil (do not use
automobile oil, as it may be too slippery for the wet clutch
lubrication in any motorcycle that has them). 15W50 is not
that easy to find, although that grade is made as a motorcycle oil
by Amsoil, Spectro,
and others, and can usually be found at your local motorcycle
dealer, albeit for anywhere from $6.50 to over $12.00 per quart.
I have been using BMW 15W50 fully synthetic, API SH rated.
This oil has been very highly rated in several tests, the most
exhaustive being the tests conducted by
Motorcycle Consumer News
in the August and October 2000 issues. By the way, this is a
great monthly magazine that does not accept advertising, and runs
detailed tests on motorcycles and motorcycle products.
The BMW oil is always readily available at my local BMW dealer for
about $6.00 per
quart; still very high-priced, but about 50% less than the Triumph
stuff, and it costs just about the same as the Mobil1 motorcycle oil.
Update: I've also used Golden Spectro
10W40 semi-synthetic, which now comes in 1 liter
containers and meets API specification SL (2005).
By the way, 4 quarts of oil is only 3.784 (3,784
cc's), not the 4.0 liters that the bike should take when
empty. This means if you put in 4 quarts, you will be short
roughly 5.4% of the total theoretical oil capacity. This
shouldn't make a difference, but you may want to buy a 5th quart
to have around and measure out the exact amount when filling the
empty engine with a 500cc graduated cylinder.
I don't know
why the Thunderbird owner at the Harley dealer (they used to sell
Triumphs) said that he only puts 3.0 quarts in at an oil change --
that would only be 2.84 liters, which would be leaving his bike
approximately 29% short of the correct amount of oil; I think this
is dangerous. Perhaps he's only using the central drain plug
and only getting the 2.5 liters out, always leaving 1.5 in the
for Triumph Motorcycle Parts
NOTE: Use at your own risk!
Listing here does not mean that these parts are direct
replacements; I have no idea whether or not they meet the same
specifications as original Triumph parts.
Oil Filters: Yamaha makes an oil
filter that looks identical to the Triumph part. I'll add the official
Yamaha part number when I get it, but here's a photo of it on the
oil filters page, it's their part number YC04
Performance carries stainless steel
lifetime oil filters that filter down to 35 microns; available for the
Thunderbird Sport and other Hinckley Triumphs
Here's a list of what are claimed to be
replacement oil filters that will fit the Thunderbird
but are produced by various manufacturers. I have
no idea if this list is correct or not, I recommend
spending the money and getting the correct Triumph part,
so use at your own risk:
Potential Replacement Oil Filters
for the Triumph Thunderbird Sport
|Amsoil: SMF 101
||STP: SMO-12 or SMO-09
|| Yamaha: 36Y-13441-00
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