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MikeG
MikeG
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Hello... And thanks in advance to anyone that can offer me any guidance with my questions

Recently purchased a 1970 BSA Lightning and I wanted to double-check on the oil types and quantities I should fill it with. I found an old Manual online and it said to use S.A.E. 40 (Summer use) for the engine... S.A.E. 50 for the gearbox and S.A.E. 20 for both the forks and chaincase.

The Manual doesn't specify the quantity to use though. There's a dipstick with levels for the engine oil so I'm not too concerned with that... But I can't figure out how much oil the gearbox or the chaincase hold, an the Manual I found doesn't specify this. I have a plastic dipstick for the gearbox but there are no markings on it and I'm unsure if I should fill it 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, etc

Plus just to make sure I'm not upside down on what's what... The gearbox oil is put in through a hole on the right side of the engine, near the kick starter? And the chaincase is a plug on the left side on the motor? Does this sound correct?

Once again... Thanks for any help anyone can offer me!

Last edited by Chitown guy; 07/16/20 11:07 pm.
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Here's what I use
Castrol Go 20w/50 motorcycle oil in the engine year round. But any good quality 20W/50 motorcycle oil rated JASO MA and API SG and above should work.
Royal Purple 75w/90 gear oil in the gearbox. Again any good quality 75w/90 gear oil GL4 compatible will work.
ATF Ford automatic trans fluid in the primary.
Belray 10w Fork oil
There should be a page in the front part of the Manual that lists fluid capacities. If you can't find it, I'll look them up tomorrow.


1978 Bonneville T140E
1974 Trident
1970 BSA Thunderbolt
1971 Norton Commando
1972 Norton Commando
1973 Norton Commando
1974 Norton Commando
2018 Kawasaki Z900RS


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What Htown says, except I just use ATF in the forks.

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Thanks for the reply!

I found the fluid capacities in front as you said. It lists them as engine = 110 fl oz, gearbox = 17 fl oz, and primary chaincase = 4 fl oz

I do have a couple more questions if you don't mind. Now I know what the capacities for the individual systems are, I'm unsure how to tell when the gearbox and primary chaincase are full. The Manual isn't that clear how to tell when the gearbox is full and only references, when "surplus" flows from the screw hole. I'm not sure where this screw hole is. I never found any reference about how to tell when the chaincase is full. So any additional help you can offer me would be greatly appreciated!

Once again... Thanks!

Last edited by Chitown guy; 07/17/20 5:24 am.
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On some bikes BSA used a special gearbox drain plug which incorporated a overflow pipe so when the gearbox is full any excess drains down the overflow pipe. If you have this feature its identified by a small bolt in the middle of the gearbox drain plug. Undo the small bolt and fill the gearbox until oil flows from the bolt hole overflow, then replace the bolt using a fibre washer to seal. I'm not sure all A65;s had this feature and if not you will just have to fill with the recommended quantity and use the dipstick. According to the Manual, capacity is 1 US Pint, 7/8 UK Pint or 500cc.

Usually the chaincase level is determined by unscrewing the chaincase level screw and filling until oil comes out. This screw is located towards the front of the chaincase and is the second screw before the rotor cover. There is also a drain screw 2 screws behind the level screw. According to the Manual, capacity is 1/3 US pint, 1/4 UK Pint or 140cc.


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On the gearbox plastic dipstick; it shows about an inch of fluid on stick when level is correct. Next time you drain it, refill with specified amount and note where it shows on the stick. That fluid collects moisture and turns milky, good to change it about every year. On the chaincase, I've gotten to where I just stick a wire down in there and make sure there is some. Saves messing with those screws until you have to pull the cover for something else. Gearbox oil just goes in the dipstick hole.

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Thanks for everyone's help... I was hoping you guys would entertain one more question

I'm still unsure where to find the gearbox drain plug or the overflow screw. I've found it mentioned in the Manual but I'm not sure where this is located on the bike... could I ask you to direct me where to find this at,

Once agian... thank you very much for your patience!

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No over flow on the drain plug after 67, just the drain plug. You can’t miss it, look under neath the motor, there’s only one plug at the bottom, from memory the head is about 3/4 AF.

the forks in my 68 are the damper rod type, I use 20wt with them and they handle great! I’ve used atf in the primary but if I was still using a wet clutch I’d go back to a SAE 20.

There’s 2 screws on the chain case for level and drain. Big Philips head type.


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68’ A65 Lightning “clubman”
71’ A65 823 Thunderbolt (undergoing restoration)
67’ D10 sportsman (undergoing restoration)
68’ D14 trials (undergoing transformation)


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