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Best Oil For Clutch Fade?

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Doing a little research, and I'm not suggesting that it's not out there somewhere, but I can't seem to find a lot of information about a recommended oil to combat "clutch fade" with dirt bikes. And by "clutch fade" I mean as the transmission and clutch get hotter and hotter, I get a lot of play in my clutch cable that needs to be adjusted out. I rode and raced 2-smokes when I was younger, I used either ATF or an 85W gear oil like Belray Gear Saver, and I don't remember clutch fade being as big of an issue as I do now with my XRs and my CRFX using regular engine oil riding on tight, steep single-track trails. Has anyone else experienced this? I haven't tried gear oil in the transmission side of my CRFX yet, and I was wondering if anyone has an opinion as to whether or not it's even worth spending the extra bucks? Any input I can get would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance. Cheers!

Edited by DustyDissenter

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I have had a few XRs over the years and I have a CRF250X. The frictions expand with heat and push the pressure plate away from the release mechanism. The fix would be frictions that don't expand with heat.  I seldom have that problem with my XRs or the X, but I try not to abuse the clutch and on my XRs I always shim the springs for more engagement pressure, and I run Honda frictions.

 

If you use the wrong oil you will have clutch slip, I've only had that happen twice and both required new frictions. One was my my fault for using Mobil 1 car oil and the other was caused by the PO.  Switching back to good oil did not fix my problems.

Safest thing is to use only JASO-MA approved oil, ATF, or an oil that has been tested by others, do not use hypoid gear oil.

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I switched to Amsoil dirt bike synthetic a year ago in my XR, absolutely no problems with clutch fade.  My sons use it also in their CRFs.

Edited by cjjeepercreeper

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I have had a few XRs over the years and I have a CRF250X. The frictions expand with heat and push the pressure plate away from the release mechanism. The fix would be frictions that don't expand with heat.  I seldom have that problem with my XRs or the X, but I try not to abuse the clutch and on my XRs I always shim the springs for more engagement pressure, and I run Honda frictions.

 

If you use the wrong oil you will have clutch slip, I've only had that happen twice and both required new frictions. One was my my fault for using Mobil 1 car oil and the other was caused by the PO.  Switching back to good oil did not fix my problems.

Safest thing is to use only JASO-MA approved oil, ATF, or an oil that has been tested by others, do not use hypoid gear oil.

I had a similar experience using Mobil 1 in my DRZ, I used the stuff for higher mileage vehicles [for some reason]. I used it for 2 oil changes before I started to notice my clutch lever freeplay was disappearing. Right around the time my clutch cable was almost maxed in, I went back to conventional oil, and the cable shrinking stopped. Over the last 2 summers, I've been able to adjust the cable the other way now to adjust my freeplay

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Your root cause is heat. No matter what oil it will still get hot. I have experienced the same thing. If it's slippage stiffer springs and a fresh clutch will help. If it's heating up due to using/slipping the clutch with your left hand. Then it will need constant adjustment as it heats up/cools down.

Either adjust it manually, find a neutral adjustment and leave it, or invest in a hydraulic clutch that will self adjust.

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On my 05 CFR250R I've been changing tranny fluid every time I do my engine oil/filter. I'm running an hour meter and check engine oil before ever ride. MAX 10 hours or when the engine oil starts looking really dark which can be as little as 3-4hrs.

 

I've also been using Maxima MTL 80wt and IMO do not experience clutch fade and seems to improve the life clutch components

 

Also ride at LOT of tight technical single track and have a Sunline V1 lever. I check free play before every ride and MIGHT occasionally adjust free play during a ride.

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Wow! Thanks for all the feedback, my friends. Very helpful. I ride single track and I abuse the hell out of the clutch. But what I didn't understand is how I could experience less clutch fade while racing motocross using ATF or Belray Gear Saver, and more while trail riding using conventional engine oil. I have an easy adjust perch, so adjusting it while riding really isn't a big deal, but I was wondering if using a different oil might significantly reduce my clutch fade problem. I am going to try some ATF Type F in the 250X transmission this weekend, and I will let you know how it works out. Thanks again. Cheers!

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Clutch fade in my experience is the lack of oil inside the clutch assembly. Either drill holes on the clutch basket fins or make slots on them witch would be better and add additional holes to the inner basket as well. Look at most aftermarket basket designs and you'll see what I'm talking about. That with some petroleum based oil, I run maxima in mine and I have close to eliminated my fade. I ride a lot of single track, tight stuff, hill climb, desert and from when my bike was new to when I did it- it's a night and day difference. Have not adjusted my clutch since the mod. I had pictures of my baskets but don't have acces to them right now. I'll post them up later.

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stiffer clutch springs and jaso ma-2 fluid,  oem clutch plates usually the best, but there are some good aftermarket.Not the cheapies, but they work fine if you don't mind cable adjustments when they are hot

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Okay, my friends. Here's the deal. Conventional oil causes more clutch fade than Type F ATF. Confirmed it two days ago. Rode the bike on the same trails in the same area, but had to do a LOT less clutch lever cable slack adjustment running cheap Type F ATF instead of 15/40 Rotella-T in the transmission side of my CRF250X. Could be that, like KillerK & Chuck suggested, that the Rotella oil gets hotter than the ATF and was causing the fade. Or maybe because the ATF is kind of "thinner" than the Rotella oil it can work it's way into the clutch pack easier and do a better job of lubricating, sort of like what Dexter was referring to. Either way I'm a happy camper now that I am having to adjust and abuse my clutch a LOT less using ATF instead of Rotella. I will still use Rotella in the engine, because I have had years of experience with the stuff and I know it is excellent oil. But from now on I will be running Type F ATF in the transmission. Give it a go if you're having issues with clutch fade. It works! Cheers, all!

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used f and dextron in a x,  works fine. Shifting gets a little notchy after a few rides compared to motor oil from my experience. Found a non energy conserving 5w30 worked the best in mine, compromise of clutch and shifting feel. Defy and Maxlife were the brands I used. They may be EC now, read the lables. My ktms 300 and 530 hate atf. Notchy shifting even with fresh fluid.

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Everyones gonna have their favorite.  I noticed you said you tried Rotella.  Curious if you ran the conventional (white bottle), blend (gray/silver bottle), or full synthetic (blue bottle with the T6 on it) in there.  I have been running the full synthetic T6 on both sides for well over 100 hours now without any clutch or engine issues.  Synthetic is supposed to be more consistent and break down less than conventional, so I am wondering if that may play a part.  I happen to use in in my other vehicles and it is relatively cheap at Walmart compared to other synthetics so it's just easier for me.  I think I pay around $22 to 26 for a gallon, depending upon where I am at when picking it up.

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Everyones gonna have their favorite.  I noticed you said you tried Rotella.  Curious if you ran the conventional (white bottle), blend (gray/silver bottle), or full synthetic (blue bottle with the T6 on it) in there.  I have been running the full synthetic T6 on both sides for well over 100 hours now without any clutch or engine issues.  Synthetic is supposed to be more consistent and break down less than conventional, so I am wondering if that may play a part.  I happen to use in in my other vehicles and it is relatively cheap at Walmart compared to other synthetics so it's just easier for me.  I think I pay around $22 to 26 for a gallon, depending upon where I am at when picking it up.

I have tried both the non-synthetic and the synthetic Rotella oils. I had some clutch slippage issues using the synthetic in my dirt bikes, but not with the petroleum. I did, however, have clutch fade problems with the petroleum, but other than that it has proven to be a good solid engine oil. I use it in everything from my lawn mower to my 2013 F150. I have had REALLY good luck using type F ATF in my older two strokes transmissions, and now in the transmission side of my CRFX. I highly recommend it, and you can find it just about anywhere for a fairy low price. And I don't care how cheap MalWart sells anything, I won't set foot in that place. Ever. Cheers, mate!

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