Our friends at Klotz Synthetic Lubricants used a joking tone, but what they said was true nonetheless: In the United States, you have many freedoms. And one of them is that you get to choose which motor oil to use.

That applies to any vehicle, whether it’s a daily driver, race car, or our focus today—your powersports machine.

Here are the basics for choosing the right motor oil for your ATV, UTV, or dirt bike:

Motor Oil Types 
There are three main types of motor oil: Conventional, fully synthetic, and semi-synthetic.

Conventional motor oil: Formulated from all-natural mineral base stocks.

Synthetic motor oil: Formulated entirely of man-made, chemically modified compounds. Designed to withstand rigorous conditions. Synthetics are easier to customize in the lab because the base stock is always consistent.

Semi-synthetic motor oil: A blend of conventional and synthetic oil, typically comprised of about 30 percent synthetic.

Fundamentally, motor oils for your ATV, UTV, or dirt bike are designed with mostly the same principles as that of your car or truck.

They’re all rated by the Society of Automotive Engineers according to their viscosity.

Chart courtesy of fluidmasters.au

SAE viscosity grades are as follows: 0, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, and 60.

Grades 0, 5, 10, 15, 25, and sometimes 20 are followed by the letter W, which signifies “winter,” not “weight.”

Let’s use 10W30 as an example.

The number 10 refers to the oil’s flow rate cold, or less than 100 degrees Celsius. The number 30 is the oil’s flow rate hot, or greater than 100 degrees Celsius. The chart at left gives you an idea of where viscosity grades typically fall in relation to temperature ranges.

“The hotter it is, the higher viscosity you’re going to need,” said Rob Chalk, sales representative and product tech and sponsorship coordinator at Klotz.

That raises Chalk’s most-important point of all when discussing motor oils.

“The number-one job of a lubricant is to reduce heat,” he said. “Friction causes heat. If you’re not lubricating, you’re creating heat.”

The primary reason lubricants fail, he said, is because of contamination.

“It’s going to get contaminated if you run [the motor oil] above what it’s designed to do,” he said. “So the warmer it is outside, the heavier the viscosity needs to be.”

Dirt Bike/Motorcycle
“You can physically take a motorcycle engine and put it in an ATV in certain scenarios,” Chalk said. “They’re similar.”

But the vehicles aren’t similar.

Because the engine is mostly exposed on dirt bikes and motorcycles, power-robbing heat is less of a factor, Chalk said.

“Motorcycles are wide open,” he said. “You can get some air to them very easily.”

One of the primary differentiators in motor oil for ATVs and UTVs are the heat dissipater additives.

Quad engines are “all covered up with plastic,” so getting 65 horsepower requires a motor oil that can deal with the hotter temperature conditions of a covered engine.

In ATV and UTV motor oils, you will find more Viscosity Index improvers, friction modifiers, and rust inhibitors.

“You’re going to be running similar terrain,” Chalk said. “So it always tends to lean back to climate.”

Choosing Poorly
Putting the wrong oil into your machine is not going to end well.

Here’s what you can expect if you do: Premature clutch wear in a wet clutch application, bearing failure, overheating problems, scuffing on cylinder walls, stuck piston rings, extensive cam wear, poor throttle response, and poor fuel mileage.

“Those are just some of the downfalls,” Chalk said.

Consult your owner’s manual for the recommended motor oil specs for your engine.

And use premium aftermarket synthetics if you want to squeeze the best performance out of your engine.

It’s really as simple as that.

Klotz Motor Oils
Klotz Synthetic BeNOL Racing Castor Oil – The ultimate in two-stroke racing lubrication. This oil features an extreme load-carrying capacity, virtually no wear, cylinder wall scuff protection and a racy castor odor that just smells fast. Clean Burn Technology reduces carbon and residue buildup.

Klotz Synthetic MX4 TechniPlate Lubricant – Designed for use in new-generation four-stroke motorcycle and ATV engines, MX4 TechniPlate lubricant meets and exceeds API and JASO MA specifications for manufacturer’s warranty compliance. This oil protects engine components from molecular shearing and extreme heat by reducing friction. Prevents formation of sludge and carbon deposits.

Klotz Synthetic Racing Estorline Lubricants – These lubricants are API-certified for complete warranty compliance and protection. They are 100-perent fully synthetic high-performance lubricants backed by decades of racing.

Klotz Synthetic Motorcycle TechniPlate Lubricant – This 100-percent pure synthetic high performance motor oil is designed for use in all four-stroke motorcycle and ATV engines with or without a wet clutch or integrated transmission. Provides smoother, quieter clutch and transmission operations and is thermally stable at high rpm for increased horsepower.

Author: Matt Griswold

After a 10-year newspaper journalism career, Matt Griswold spent another decade writing about the automotive aftermarket and motorsports. He was part of the original OnAllCylinders editorial team when it launched in 2012.