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Old 11-20-2017, 06:48 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Transmission Oil Winter Riding

Hi all,

I try to stay away from talking about oil types as it is similar to talking religion or politics in the workplace but I just have this nagging question that I have been wondering for a while. I am running a 2005 Ultra classic and I normally ride well into the cold season, for example it was 25degF on my way to work this morning. In the HD manual I see that for temps under 40deg I should run 10W40. This summer I ran SYN3 20W50 in all three holes. Now for winter time I changed my engine to 10W40 as recommended but I am left wondering what should be in the transmission. Should the transmission still be at 20W-50, or is gear oil still good at such low temps, or should I be putting 10W40 in it as well?

thanks in advance and ride safe!
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Old 11-20-2017, 07:22 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Personally I prefer gear oil in a gearbox.If you are happy with how the 20W-50 has been working for you then there is no need to switch to a lighter weight oil for the colder months.
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Old 11-20-2017, 11:36 AM   #3 (permalink)
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+1 on what Autoworker said.
A thick trans oil will not stop your bike from starting on a cold morning.
So... if it is running fine now.. then leave it be.
It wont take but a few hundred yards before its all loosened up anyways.

I ride in the cold temps as well. 0 degC on Thursday
The only issue is the morning start-up. And that's all about the motor oil and has nothing to do with the trans oil..

Fact is, I don't even change the motor oil either..... hehehehheh
Actually I am often surprised that the engine running temp is still at 85-95 C even on COLD days.
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Last edited by Expat in CH; 11-20-2017 at 11:38 AM.
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Old 11-20-2017, 12:26 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Expat in CH View Post
+1 on what Autoworker said.
A thick trans oil will not stop your bike from starting on a cold morning.
So... if it is running fine now.. then leave it be.
It wont take but a few hundred yards before its all loosened up anyways.

I ride in the cold temps as well. 0 degC on Thursday
The only issue is the morning start-up. And that's all about the motor oil and has nothing to do with the trans oil..

Fact is, I don't even change the motor oil either..... hehehehheh
Actually I am often surprised that the engine running temp is still at 85-95 C even on COLD days.
Thanks Expat and Autoworker. I was thinking along the same lines. I noticed at around freezing the starter motor would have a little more trouble turning over the engine with 20W50 oil in it. I found turning off the front light bar helped get more power to the starter motor which helped on cold starts. It also points to less capability in the battery at cold temps so maybe I might be buying a new battery soon. When I changed the oil to 10W40 this week in the engine case I noticed (1 start so far) the engine cranked over easier. I agree with what you guys stated though the transmission has nothing to do with starting torque since it is only engaged once the back wheel moves. I'll probably keep the transmission at 20W50 as it does not effect startup. Thanks for your thoughts
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Old 11-20-2017, 05:03 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by kc2mfp View Post
Thanks Expat and Autoworker. I was thinking along the same lines. I noticed at around freezing the starter motor would have a little more trouble turning over the engine with 20W50 oil in it. I found turning off the front light bar helped get more power to the starter motor which helped on cold starts. It also points to less capability in the battery at cold temps so maybe I might be buying a new battery soon. When I changed the oil to 10W40 this week in the engine case I noticed (1 start so far) the engine cranked over easier. I agree with what you guys stated though the transmission has nothing to do with starting torque since it is only engaged once the back wheel moves. I'll probably keep the transmission at 20W50 as it does not effect startup. Thanks for your thoughts
The transmission does affect the drag on the starter in cold weather unless you start with holding the clutch in. If the tranny fluid is real thick due to cold weather the idle gear is still turning. Not talking about a lot of drag but it could make a difference on a weak battery combined with thick fluid.
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Old 11-22-2017, 06:48 AM   #6 (permalink)
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George,

You bring up a good point that I was not thinking about. The Idler gear is turning when the engine is turning over unless you have the clutch pulled in, which would then turn the oil in the primary. My guess would be that most of the starting torque drag comes from the main engine oil. Since I've dropped oil weight to 10W40 I've had no problems cranking over the engine in cold weather (~25degF). I'm going to leave the 20W50 in the transmission case since it seems to be doing fine. My only concern was whether it could become too viscous that it would harm the transmission before it has time to warmup. Looking at the SYN3 specs though I do not think that will be a problem.

thanks all
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Old 11-23-2017, 06:16 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Define winter riding. What is winter to some is a spring day to others. SYN 75 -140 gear lubes are pretty close to the same as 20/50 engine. They use different ways to rate them is why the numbers are different. Living in Wisconsin winter riding is cold. 20 degree riding is not uncommon and a lot lower at times. The gear lube will be fine as would a 20/50 syn engine oil.
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Old 11-23-2017, 09:44 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by georgedouglas View Post
The transmission does affect the drag on the starter in cold weather unless you start with holding the clutch in. If the tranny fluid is real thick due to cold weather the idle gear is still turning. Not talking about a lot of drag but it could make a difference on a weak battery combined with thick fluid.
george
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George,

You bring up a good point that I was not thinking about. The Idler gear is turning when the engine is turning over unless you have the clutch pulled in, which would then turn the oil in the primary. My guess would be that most of the starting torque drag comes from the main engine oil. Since I've dropped oil weight to 10W40 I've had no problems cranking over the engine in cold weather (~25degF). I'm going to leave the 20W50 in the transmission case since it seems to be doing fine. My only concern was whether it could become too viscous that it would harm the transmission before it has time to warmup. Looking at the SYN3 specs though I do not think that will be a problem.

thanks all
If its cold enough to matter, then all the fluids impact how a Harley starts. Pulling the clutch doesn't really stop the input shaft from spinning when its that cold. Ever drop it in gear after it sat out in 20f weather? Better have a hand full of brake too. That cold primary oil prevents the clutch from fully releasing. And it takes forever to warm the primary up.
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Old 11-23-2017, 10:00 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smitty901 View Post
Define winter riding. What is winter to some is a spring day to others. SYN 75 -140 gear lubes are pretty close to the same as 20/50 engine. They use different ways to rate them is why the numbers are different. Living in Wisconsin winter riding is cold. 20 degree riding is not uncommon and a lot lower at times. The gear lube will be fine as would a 20/50 syn engine oil.
Gear lube has additives that aren't allowed in motor oil. Even GL-1 has some additives that are not compatible with catalysts.

You have to get to GL-4 to really get the benefit of the high pressure additives. And with there being no brass in a Harley trans, you can run them without issue.

Synthetic motor oil is not the same as gear oil. In the Case of the MoCo, they recommend it because they don't call for gear oil in the trans. Syn-3 or Formula+ are the recommended fluids. Basically they don't feel that the sheer loads are great enough to require more protection than is provided by the motor oil.

Only issue I have with that is how long does the MoCo consider the life of a transmission to be.
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Old 11-30-2017, 07:42 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Hey smitty I consider winter riding at around freezing temps 32degF. If the roads are dry I'll go down to around 25degF but thats about my limit. I was trying to make sure the viscosity of my oil at that temp was not going to cause harm to my transmission.

Thermodyne, thanks for the detailed information. I have been reading up on the gear oil specs and you make some really good points. Regular motor oil does not have the additives to withstand large shear forces in the transmission case. You opened up some quantitative information for me so thanks.
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Old 11-30-2017, 08:20 AM   #11 (permalink)
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I never worried about this in a heated garage. And it most often would warm up for a return trip....day rides anyway.
Never did touring distances in any serious cold.
Something to think about in the future.
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Old 12-02-2017, 06:36 PM   #12 (permalink)
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If its cold enough to matter, then all the fluids impact how a Harley starts. Pulling the clutch doesn't really stop the input shaft from spinning when its that cold. Ever drop it in gear after it sat out in 20f weather? Better have a hand full of brake too. That cold primary oil prevents the clutch from fully releasing. And it takes forever to warm the primary up.
When I ran the ATF supershift fluid by Amsoil in my last road king the clutch plates released immediately no matter how cold it was. This fluid is close to a 10 weight viscosity so the clutch operates better no matter what the temp.
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Old 12-02-2017, 06:52 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Gear lube has additives that aren't allowed in motor oil. Even GL-1 has some additives that are not compatible with catalysts.

You have to get to GL-4 to really get the benefit of the high pressure additives. And with there being no brass in a Harley trans, you can run them without issue.

Synthetic motor oil is not the same as gear oil. In the Case of the MoCo, they recommend it because they don't call for gear oil in the trans. Syn-3 or Formula+ are the recommended fluids. Basically they don't feel that the sheer loads are great enough to require more protection than is provided by the motor oil.

Only issue I have with that is how long does the MoCo consider the life of a transmission to be.
I think you had a typo on the gearlube GL-4, as this spec doesn't have extreme pressure additives like the GL-5 does. As far as the HD tranny the design of the gears dictate what type of fluid is required as you pointed out and since they are straight cut and helical gears they do not require a gearlube, but many of us still feel better with a gearlube. Formula + is basically a straight 40 weight mineral oil with some anti-wear additives in it. The GL-1 spec that was mentioned is an obsolete spec and I believe it addressed anti-foaming.

Years ago I took two identical road kings and ran both for 5,000 miles and then performed a UOA to compare one using 20w 50 motorcycle oil and the other used 75w 90 gearlube. The wear, or I should say, "no wear" was identical in both tranny's. So it really boils down to a persons comfort level on what fluid to use.
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Old 12-27-2017, 05:22 AM   #14 (permalink)
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25 degrees is not cold. That is cooler weather riding. gear lube and engine oil are rated in a different way there is not a lot of differences in 20/50 engine oil and 75w90 gear lube. Someone is always going to try and sell a magic product. SYN are you friend in extreme heat and cold.
20\50 SYN in all 3 will keep you riding in the 20's . The only real issue comes when the bike is cold getting it started . Some bikes start harder than others.
When you start riding at 4 below that is cold.
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Old 12-30-2017, 09:14 AM   #15 (permalink)
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8 below this morning. The sidecar is not put away yet, think this calls for a ride.
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