Moto Guzzi California oil change

December 2nd, 20098 Comments »

Moto Guzzi Oil FilterRiders that never owned a Moto Guzzi often ask what’s it like to do routine service on a Moto Guzzi.  The usual questions are:  How do you do an oil change? Where is the oil filter?  How easy is it to get to the air filter?

Here in part one of a special series on Moto Guzzi California maintenance, we explain how to change the engine oil and oil filter on a late model Moto Guzzi California with a 1064cc v-twin engine. The engine is very similar to the engine in the Moto Guzzi Breva 1100.

On some types of motorcycles, everything is hanging out there in plain site with easy access.  Moto Guzzi motorcycles, in general, are often described as “quirky”.  That description might, at least partially, come from the not-so-obvious locations and methods for servicing oil, oil filter and air filter.

Changing the oil and filter on the Guzzi California is a bit more involved than on some other brands of motorcycles.  This is nothing to be afraid of, but it may scare away some non-mechanical types from doing it themselves.  The issue is that the oil filter is actually located inside the oil pan.  Yes, inside it.

After the first 300-1000 miles, and then every 6000 miles per the owner’s manual, you must change the oil and oil filter.  Before you start, get yourself  a new oil pan gasket and filter.  The engine oil is specified in my 2007 California Vintage user and maintenance book is 3 liters of Agip 4T Racing SAE 10W60.

According to American Agip, 4T Racing is 100% synthetic oil and meets API SG; ACEA A3; JASO MA standards.  Agip describes this four-stroke engine oil as “specially designed for use in highly modified multi-valve engines”.  This may seem a bit extreme for use in the California’s 2 valve pushrod v-twin, but keep in mind that the Guzzi engine is air cooled and has no oil cooler.oil filter and oil pan gasket for Moto Guzzi California


In the US, it is practically impossible to find the factory- specified Agip oil.    You should be able to buy it or an equivalent from your local Guzzi dealer when you buy your new oil pan gasket and oil filter.

Because Agip 10w60 oil is not the easiest to find in USA where I live, I often use Motorex 4T 10w60 fully synthetic oil because it is sometimes available at motorcycle parts stores and can be ordered on Amazon. This Motorex  Power Synthetic 4T oil meets JASO MA, API SG and other specs as the Agip brand does.

UFI brand filters are normally used in Moto Guzzi motorcycles.  The HiFloFiltro HF-551 oil filter is interchangeable with the UFI.  They go for around $10 USD depending where you buy.  A local motorcycle dealer once charged me $20.  I try to support my local Guzzi dealer as much as I can, within reason and I encourage others to do the same.

Moto Guzzi California Oil Pan

If you don’t have a local Guzzi dealer, you can order Moto Guzzi gaskets and filters online from places such as MG Cycle.  Another popular place to order Moto Guzzi parts from is Harper’s.

The photos and the basic technique described here are from the Moto Guzzi California workshop manual.  Thanks to Gregory Bendor for his helpful site.

To change the oil, get a pan to drain the old oil into it.  The same as you would use for your car.  The engine is supposed to be warm (not running) when you do this, to allow the oil to drain more efficiently.

Moto Guzzi California oil sump front two bolts to removeLoosen the dipstick (unscrew).  Loosen the drain plug located at rear wall of the pan.  Remove the drain plug to drain the oil.  There are 4 bolts on the bottom (2 near front and 2 near rear) that need to be removed. See photos below.

Unscrew the 14 socket head cap screws that fasten the oil sump pan to the engine.  Carefully lower the sump pan and set it aside.

Inside the oil sump pan you will see three things.  The oil filter, the mesh screen, and the oil pressure regulator valve.  Don’t touch the valve, but do unscrew the oil filter.  Install your new filter hand tight as you would when you change your car’s oil.

Next, unscrew the mesh screen from the sump pan.  Set it in a separate clean container and wash it “in a bath of gasoline”.  Moto Guzzi California oil sump drain and rear two bolts to removeI generally don’t use gasoline for cleaning parts, but this is what the Moto Guzzi workshop manual and the Moto Guzzi user and maintenance book say to do.

After cleaning the mesh screen, next dry the screen using compressed air, and also use compressed air to blow out any debris in the ports of the oil sump pan.  It would be wise to wear safety glasses or a face shield for this part to avoid getting oil spray or gas in your eyes.

While you are cleaning, you also need to clean off the gasket surfaces of the engine and the oil pan to prepare it for your new gasket.

Moto Guzzi oil drain plug removalRe-install the cleaned mesh screen to the sump pan.  It is time now to go ahead and install your new gasket and then re-install your oil sump pan with the 14 socket head cap screws.  Tighten the screws evenly and gradually in a criss-cross or star pattern to make for a nice even torque and for a better sump gasket sealing.  Unfortunately, the manuals don’t clearly specify the required torque for the oil sump pan screws or for the drain plug.

Pour your 3 new liters of oil into the dip stick hole using a funnel.  Tighten the dipstick and your done doing your Moto Guzzi California oil change.

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About John Clay

John Clay is the author of MotoGuzziCalifornia.Com. He and his family reside in North Carolina in the United States. A graduate of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Experienced Rider Course, he enjoys riding and maintaining his Moto Guzzi California Vintage.

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  1. Peter Ramsbottom says:

    Paragraph 3, “plain sight” is the term you’re looking for.., easily seen.

  2. Jim says:

    Have 2000 Jackell. Break lights mentioned in your commentary, but I need to know how to fix them. Any info will be appreciated. Thank you.

  3. murdock says:

    No doubt that I lost <2" of ground clearance – can't argue that physics issue – but they're tall on the bottom anyway. This is from someone who grew up on "choppers" that hugged the ground w/96" wheelbases and "jockey shifts" with no front brakes. Think about that on a hill with a stoplight! Anyway, the only issue I ever had with the exposed filter stemmed from operator error; came off a sidewalk onto the street a little quick and put a dent in the filter that produced a small leak. The contact point was at the rear of the filter. Wipe oil off w/rag, apply duct tape and put to the nearest O'Reilly's. I've been in the saddle 45+ years so my left Hepco & Becker bag carries plugs, bulbs, fuses, an oil change, a first aid kit (large/complete), tool bag (SAE & metric), and the essential duct tape. I have wrenched on way more HD's on the side of the road than I have my Goose, but you never know. I still have two HD's: 120" Blockhead Softail and a Shovelhead Hardtail with a 92" balanced motor. Balancing a HD makes it sit idling like a Honda, instead of some jack in the box. If I want to go a long way in a short time it will always be the Goose that gets the nod; and I love it more every time I ride it. Nothing is perfect, but it will flat haul the mail. Shiny side up!!!

  4. John says:

    I did consider installing an outsider when I bought my bike new, but changed my mind about it. I like the idea; however, I decided that the additional potential leak points, the lower ground clearance (not that I am doing any off-roading) and positioning the oil filter in front of the rear tire were just not worth the added convenience that it would provide once a year for me. Not knocking the product, it is very clever and I am sure many enjoy having it on their Guzzi.

  5. murdock says:

    I have a 2000 Jackal w/151k on it right now. Contact Harper’s Moto Guzzi on the net (they’ve been at this 40+ yrs.) and buy a “outsider” for your v-11. Spendy – but you now have an outside, spin-on, oil filter. Forget 14 bolts; that’s dumb. The piece comes complete with gaskets and is machined from stainless if I remember right – mines worked for 10+ yrs. and 140k without a hitch. Also pays to buy their replacement “dipstick” that bolts right into the stock fill plug; idiot lights will fail – that’s why they’re called such names. I run 50# Valvoline Racing oil from the start – always will. If it works on the dragstrip it’ll do what I need. Shiny side up!!!!!!

  6. John says:

    Randy, no different pan, I just failed to mention those 4 bolts, thanks for pointing that out. The article is now updated and I added 2 new photos taken from underneath my California Vintage to show the front pair and rear pair of bolts that also must be removed. It is time for me to change my oil again, your comment is perfectly timed!

  7. Randy Hooker says:

    There is a different oil pan on some CaVins. My 2007 has 4 9mm bolts on the bottom that must be removed, in addition to the 14 hex bolts. Another Guzzi gotcha…

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  9. […] you read Moto Guzzi California maintenance  part 1, you learned how to change the oil and oil filter on a late model Guzzi California.  Here in part […]