How To Break-In your New Motorcycle

The best way to break in a motorcycle, this controversial topic has plagues motorcycle forums since the beginning of the Internet. Motorcycle Thailand did some research, called qualified sources and uncovered how you can get the most of of your new motorcycle's engine.

There are multiple schools of thought on the best ways of breaking in a new engine, but no matter how you do it, the more meticulous you are, the less handicapped your engine will end up being. The first 35 kilometers can determine how well your engine is going to perform, how much oil it's going to consume and how much fuel it's going to drink. The corporate manufacturer's opinion on sufficient break-in practices conflicts with that of race tuners and dyno tuners alike, but the goal is the same.

We found that there is a clear difference of break-in procedure between race engines and stock engines from the factory. Race engines may require heat cycles or periodic running and stopping of the engine to 'heat-treat' parts, whereas factory engiens are already pre-heat-treated and do not necessarily require heat cycles. So let's just get that out of the way.

OEM break-in or an 'easy' break-in isn't necessarily the best way to go, which is why some prefer to use a dyno instead. Regardless of conflicting opinions, all processes have one thing in common: in order for the engine to properly break-in, the piston rings must fully seal the cylinder wall under combustion pressure or 'load' without warping or becoming out of round thus causing oil consumption or 'blow-by'.
The OEM route to break-in is between 1500 to 2000 kilometers. OEMs such as Kawasaki and Suzuki vary slightly with break-in procesdures according to the owner's manual and what we were told. Both require a 1500 kilometer break-in preiod, but Kawasaki requires a maximum recommended engine speed or RPM of 4,000 for the first 800 kilometers whereas Suzuki is more forgiving with a ceiling of 7,500rpm. Past the 800 kilometer mark, Kawasaki recommends nothing greater than 6,000rpm until 1700 kilometers whereas Suzuki allows up to 11,000rpm.

Both motorcycle manufacturers have different warnings for initial break-in. Kawasaki insists you 'run the engine and let it idle for two to three minutes before 'racing' the engine or 'giving it throttle' but Suzuki states to 'vary the engine speed during the break-in period in order to load parts to help rings seal and unload parts to allow them to cool.' Although they differ, both warnings are valid.

The dyno shortcut to engine break-in. With a break-in time of about 30 minutes to an hour. If you're willing to spend the cash, you can cut the engine break-in process short by visiting a dyno tuner. 'It takes about 30 minutes on the dyno to get the rings to seat withhout grazing the cylinder wall.' Again, most dyno tuners have different tactics. But most use modetate to full throttle throughout the rev range during repetitive and consistent pulls on the dyno to make sure the rings are fully seated to the cylinder while under a load. 'On the dyno, you want to be on the gas and do long, consistent pulls,' said one of the dyno tuners we spoke to, meanwhile monitoring engine temperature with a temperature gun on the exhaust header approximately 15 centimeters away from the cylinder while also cooling the motorcycle with ventilators. High temperatures can cause damage to the engine and null the break-in process.

Some of you maybe wonder what happens when you don't break-in an engine properly. When the rings are not sealing properly, blow-by gasses contaminate the oil with acids and other harmful conbustion derivatives, causing your engine to lose horsepower, fuel economy and to consume oil. How you treat brand new piston rings will determine whether your engine is healthy or handicapped.

Things to always do when breaking-in a motorcycle engine.
  • Always warm-up the engine completely to allow the oil to reach all the moving parts.
  • Always ride the motorcycle under load (no revving in neutral) as the piston rings require combustion pressure in order to fully seal to the cylinder wall.
  • Avoid a busy roads, as you will need to be on and off the throttle while shifting frequently.
  • Avoid using synthetic oil until the motorcycle is fully broken-in. Synthetic oil can stall the break-in process as thin oil inhibits the piston rings from sealing.
  • Change your oil after the first 400 kilometers. The earlier you get rid of the initial engine metal shavings and debris in the oil, the less likely your engine and transmission will sustain premature wear or consume oil.
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