This controversial topic has plagued motorcycle forums since the beginning of the Internet. SSB did some research, called qualified sources and uncovered how you can get the most out of your new motorcycle’s engine.
There are multiple schools of thought on the best ways of breaking in a new motor, but no matter how you do it, the more meticulous you are, the less handicapped your engine will end up being. The first 20 miles 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 engines 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 to 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
** Recommended Break-In Time: 1,000 miles
OEMs such as Kawasaki and Suzuki vary slightly with break-in procedures according to the owner’s manual and what we were told. Both require a 1000-mile break-in period, but Kawasaki requires a maximum recommended engine speed or RPM of 4,000 for the first 500 miles whereas Suzuki is more forgiving with a ceiling of 7,500 RPM. Past the 500-mile mark, Kawasaki recommends nothing greater than 6,000 RPM until 1000 miles whereas Suzuki allows up to 11,000 RPM. Both 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
** Recommended Break-In Time: 20-30 minutes
If you’re willing to spend the cash, you can cut the break-in process short by visiting a dyno tuner. “It takes about 20-30 minutes on the dyno to get the rings to seat without grazing the cylinder wall,” said Andy, Owner of West Coast GP Cycles. Andy uses moderate 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,” he said, meanwhile monitoring engine temperature with a temperature gun on the exhaust header approximately six-inches away from the cylinder while also cooling the bike with fans. High temperatures (over 200 degrees) can cause damage to the engine and null the break-in process.
**What happens when you don’t break-in properly?
** When the rings are not sealing properly, blow-by gasses contaminate the oil with acids and other harmful combustion 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.
**5 Things To Always Do When Breaking-In A Bike. **
1. Always warm-up the engine completely to allow the oil to reach all the moving parts.
2. Always ride the bike under load (no revving in neutral) as the piston rings require combustion pressure in order to fully seal to the cylinder wall.
3. Avoid a busy freeway, as you will need to be on and off the throttle while shifting frequently.
4. 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.
5. Change your oil after the first 20-100 miles. 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.