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An Idiots guide


Theres probably already a Topic somewhere which I havent found but until now I've taken the lazy route and had my 1957 Model 30 International's oil changed for me but as I do my other bikes I thought it was about time I did it myself!

Anyway, when I removed the crank case drain plug very little oil came out, probably only 50 to 100ml at most.... is this correct?  I have a tap on my oil tank to stop sumping as my Inter isnt used as often as it should be (and yes I always turn it on as I use a luminous Disk Lock reminder cable to the handle bars). 

If the small amount of oil in the crank case is correct, do I need to put some oil back into the crank case on refilling or will it take the correct amount of oil in from the tank as its running?

Many thanks in advance for any guidance.



If you don't know whats been done previously I would consider taking the tank off ,removing the fittings and giving it a thorough clean Parafin and pressure washer . A few magnets  placed in the bottom to catch swarf.. Install fill up ,but leave the return pipe off., run the motor,catch the oil  until it runs clean. Time to get some Norton dirt under those nails.!! Could have been many years since the job done properly ?.

Agree with Robert if your competence is up there. But if your doing your first oil change, maybe some preliminary checks.  I trust all is running well and the oil chained is routine maintenance.

your engine is what’s described as a“dry sump” type. Oil is delivered from the tank to the pump, delivered to rotating parts of the engine and then sucked from the engine by the second and third part of the pump and returned to the tank. Suction capability is greater than delivery therefore oil is never left in the sump of the engine.   What you released from the drain plug is what has drained out of the oil galleries and internal surfaces of the engine whilst it’s been stood.

The oil returned to the tank can be seen when you open the cap on the tank.  If you started it with the 100 ml in there it would produce a healthy stream of oil.  After that is cleared it is more sporadic and aerated flow.  A handy check to know all is well .

 If you know the servicing has been done well  no problem but as Robert says if you don’t know it’s worth finding out.  Oil is the life giver to these machines 





Don't worry about the small amount of oil in the sump, this will naturally occur after a run when you stop the engine and the hot oil drains down. Turning your anti drain valve should then keep the rest of the oil in the tank untill the next run.                               

Motorcycle engines with seperate oil tanks are refered to as "dry sump engines" and they are kept this way by the action of the oil pump, the scavenge side of which continually clears the sump and returns the oil to the tank. It is perfectly normal for a small ammount of oil to collect in the sump after a run but it will be returned to the tank on next startup.


Of course the corollary of having a dry sump is you have an oil tank full of old oil. If you have a drain plug you are lucky! Mine does not have one. I wonder if a long time previous owner raced it (mine) and didn't want to run the risk of losing the drain plug? Does that make sense? Do you have a drain plug, Andrew?

When draining my Nortons I use an old lemonade PET bottle with its bottom cut off and trimmed to shape, giving me a bespoke funnel to get (most of) the oil into the container where I want it.


Thank you Robert, Jonathan, Ian, and David for your replies.

This is my first British classic bike, and as I have always serviced my other bikes I was surprised at the amount of oil (or lack of it) that came out of the engine compared to my modern bikes and 2 strokes.

I inherited my Inter from my Godfather just over four years ago and when I received it, it had been sitting for a few years with Castrol R in it so it went straight to Loch Ness Restorations for a professional strip, clean and rebuild where the bike has also returned to for any maintenance but I know my godfather would be disappointed in me if I didn’t maintain the bike myself especially as when I was a teenager I was never far away from his bikes when they were being worked on.

Now I know that everything is ok (and yes my oil tank has a drain plug) I can continue with my oil change. I know that my tank was properly cleaned and as my bike has only done a few hundred miles every year and the oil will still be in a reasonable condition but it gets changed regardless as I will not take any chances with looking after the engine.

After sitting over the winter she was hard to start even with a nice clean (gapped) plug so my next lesson will be to learn how to check the timing!!



Starting an Inter that has NOT  been stored can be a bit of a rigmarole. Any high comp single with a TT carb would be a challenge to a newcomer.  Getting the settings and technique spot on is the aim. The 500 Rudge demands plenty of fuel sloshing around and there is always a fire risk with a kickback. Retarding the ignition enough to ensure no kickback also ensures a weak spark. So its interesting!.I would percevere with the practise before altering anything.The optimum settings may already be there.


This is now a topic very close to me. I have a prewar rigid Inter, recently acquired, but I've had the fun of using it occasionally for over 10 years. And starting is still a big problem. Every time I think I have finally got all the settings spot on so it starts after a couple of kicks, it disgraces itself. Yesterday I got it going...fuel on, push the air lever forward, retard to a paint mark on the lever which is as near to full advance as previous experience has painfully proved will probably not kick back, flood it, small throttle (very small...), take past compression, kick and pray. The instant it fires, advance the lever, and very gently open the throttle. Not too quick or it will go lean and die.

Ride off feeling joyful.

Then trouble begins. I see a friend and then (fool that I am) wave. Engine stalls and absolutely refuses to restart. Change joy. Push 100 yards home, stick it in the garage and have a beer.

Today I'll start by seeing if the mag will spark over 4mm gap (old plug with side electrode removed). If it  refuses, it looks like a big bill and lost time. If it does, the carb is coming off to check all the little passages. I'll try a new unused plug also. The plugs that have been used are black and shiny. I might turn off the oil to the back of the cylinder entirely.

Hopefully you will be more fortunate.


Being old and lazy I prefer the first start to be a bump, Off down the hill. Now and again a failure. No chance of pushing back home. Plan B , coast  half a mile  and a walk to Son's house. park up round the back. If all else fails walk home  and return sometime with Van and ramp. Usually after plug/points attention I get it going again. Never happens with the Honda,very rare with the Norton,Its usually something a bit special I'm working on ,and also totally unsuited for riding on the road.


Last October(?) I planned to go early to Ardingley show.  That plan came to nought as it decided to sulk.  It only started when confronted by my son later in the day.

I then played with the mixture screw.  It's a TT carb.  Found it best when unscrewed much further, and I was then optimistic.  It's been fairly well behaves since then: but yesterday it had a relapse.  I checked the mag spark - seems to give a huge spark over a plug with side electrode missing.  I might try a much bigger plug gap.  I wonder if that might help?  Then the carb is coming off to be cleaned.  I might end up with a Monoblock - the 276 'standard' would look better, but does not come in the right size.  I refuse to fit a Mikuni... naturally I shall blame ethanol.  It has Esso top grade at present.  If I leave some of that in a jar to evaporate, it leaves a filthy brown residue.  I wonder?  Also I suspect my fuel hoses..clutching at straws.  Sorry Andrew: hijacking your thread.  Keep us posted as to how you get on!



As we are experiencing high winds and driving rain I cant have the door open to work on the Norton so I've disconnected the oil feed and return pipes and taken the drain plug out of the oil tank and left everything to drain down.

From what I'm reading on other threads it doesnt appear that the timing has a habit of moving once set so I was thinking that I would give the points a wee rub with some very fine paper to freshen the faces and check the gap, but I was also wondering if I should change my plug as it appears some people dont have much faith in Champion plugs (although they dont say what they do use), and I'm running a Champion OE068-N3C which is the same as what was in it when I received the bike. I'm thinking I should maybe change to an NGK as its what I run in everything else both 2 and 4 strokes.

I know I will be forever learning about running an Inter, but I'm running a TT carb which I obviously still need to find the correct position for the handle bar lever but my plug is always black as though I'm running far too rich so I always clean my plug before going on a run and carry a spare, it will be another lesson but could my carb settings need altering?  I will need to get its exact model number and try and find a setup manual unline.

A couple of you gents have mentioned checking the 'Mag spark', how do you perform this?

Have a good weekend gents and I'll return next week..... no doubt with more questions.



Much of the running is done on the needle jet,so its worth dropping the needle a notch .to see. Also if the slow running screw is half a turn too rich it can blacken the plug.  Not sure in or out on a TT ,think its the opposite to a 376 so in?? Try one thing at a time or you will be chasing your tail.A too cold plug will get black. N3 sounds cold for doodling around?.May be good for 110mph down Bray hill though!.

Thanks Robert,

As we're still in lockdown in Inverness it might be a while before I get to go for a run (weather permitting) but do you think I should try an N5 as I think thats hotter or try an NGK B6ES?

I'm guessing too much fuel will also hider starting!




I think I would try an N4 first,then if no better an N5, Always good to have a few spare plugs .I have a box of about 50  ,none worn, all different grades and ages from 1950's onwards. My 99 runs best on a modern fine wire electrode plug. But if anything its too good and allows me to run whatever the carb is doing. That's not good long term.


So if a tap is fitted on the oil tank to stop a dry sump engine wet sumping , how much oil is left on critical surfaces to facilitate start-up? Also are OHC engine more prone to cam wear than pushrod through heavier loads?

On the Imp engines I have, which are wet sump, little weirs were cast in the camshaft areas to facilitate drainage when running, but also to pool a slight bit of oil so the engine cylinder head , camshaft/, valves e.t.c. never operated dry.

On car engines without wet multi-plate clutches, you always could/can add additives to help lubrication and now Active 8, say their new formulas can be added to bike engines, but I haven't tried to do this as yet.




I think one of the alleged benefits of castor oil is there very fact that it sticks to everything  so surfaces don't dry out. Note I said "think" and "alleged". But they do have high cam loads and that's why castor was used because of it's very high film strength. I'm pretty sure modern synthetic will  be better though. They won't smell as nice  but buying oil because you like the smell isn't very logical.


Also Andrew: PLUGS!  As fare as my bikes are concerned, a new plug is far more important than its maker.  I've had a torrid time with starting my Inter - which I'm still getting used to - (and posted another mail on 'lessons' today), and if the thing doesn't start easily - change the plug!  Never go out without a spare plug (preferably new) and plug spanner in your pocket - so it's quickly available and you aren't tempted to fight the machine - because you will not win.  Or, at least, I can't defeat mine!  When it's properly fed with a clean plug, it submits gracefully.


I am currently experiencing good results with NGK BP7ES [gapped as the manual suggests at 20 thou].  My machine came with a plug that looked as if it was the one that was fitted when it was made in 1955.  When I fitted the BP7ES [and also a borrowed 389 monobloc] it started [and continues to start] first kick, even on full advance.

Ironically, if you carry a spare plug it can just mask the problem which may be the carburettor.

Good luck!


There is a saying in the Morini club that "If you have an ignition issue, it is probably the carburettors and that carburettor fault is to do with the ignition"! Sounds familiar?

Regarding oil for highly loaded cams, one of the best available is a 5W40 synthetic that meets VW 505.01 spec. It is for the 1.9 and 2.0L PD Diesels which have cam driven fuel injectors. 

Not sure how bad wet sumping would be with the 5W oil though, but it would get to where it is needed quickly.

Additional oil additives, loved by some, I believe are a total waste of money. Some (not all) are known to get no farther than the cars oil filter which then gets blocked up. I know this as I tested several of them years ago as part of my job. About the only claim that stood up was when conducting a 'death rattle' test where the sump was drained, the engine run and time to seizure noted. And who in their right mind would want to do that!

Enjoy tinkering 



George, although those car oils are expensive, there are also specific oils for each engine.  The chances of that particular oil being suitable for an old Norton engine without a full-flow filter seem pretty low to me.  Having said that, maybe you have some specific research confirming its suitability?  


Hi Christopher,

I hope Charles Bovington will be able to answer this better than me, but I know there are oils about that meet the VW spec that are also recommended for petrol engines. Ford Formula S/SD does (I used to have a Galaxy that used it) and that was also the 'official' oil for Cosworth Sierras and other fast Fords. I believe it may be the same as Mobil 1 full synthetic, but don't quote me on that.

As to its suitability in our old bikes, the low viscosity  of 5W will certainly test the oil pump for wet sumping, but equally it will get to where it is needed very quickly. Is it worth it? I guess that depends on whether your bike is low on leaks and low on oil consumption. If it does drip or burn it, then it might be expensive to use. Certainly full synthetics can handle very high oil temperatures better than cheaper 'traditional' oils, which is good for air cooled engines.

Obviously it would be best to be used with an oil filter in the system, and if you had then the oil change periods could safely be extended.





Edgar Franks wrote..around 1949 "...with all engine components in good condition a consumption, (oil*), of between 1,600 to 2,000 miles  per GALLON, should be obtained! WHAT! I thought it might be a typo!

That's 200 to 250 miles per pint @ best,  my average journey to Lancashire and returning to home, with some running about would find me consuming  a minimum of 4-6 pints of oil at that rate, inconceivable!

In,,Speed and How To Obtain It...First Published 1925,1962 my Edition... "a high rate of consumption is a safeguard against engine wear. For this reason, some manufacturers deliberately refrain from making their engines too economical.  One manufacturer told the author, that he once turned out engines doing 8,000 miles per gallon. But two years later, he increased the oil consumption to 3,000 miles per gallon, because his clients did not change their oil with disastrous results."

Further, he talks about two oil changes in 3,000 miles.... " if an engine has half a gallon in circulation and overall consumes 1.500 mpg it is a very small proportion of running costs"!


The oil companies must have loved these guys! My Kawasaki never needs top-ups between 6,000 miles oil changes, I can't remember my BSA needing top ups in 4,000 mile oil changes. BMW never, 6,000 miles, And I hope the 99 engine rebuilt perhaps does better than 200  250 miles per pint. A pint per 4,000 miles,  roughly a gallon of oil every 30,000 miles would be a more acceptable figure.

A fellow who recently passed away a a local garage and in the trade for over half a century, told me that some manufacturers can make engine tolerances so close, that the oil film is virtually in single figure molecules thick between surfaces. He also told me piston rings were not needed anymore, but due to consumer prejudice, this hadsn't happened as Engineers and Manufacturers feared a backlash!


George is right, modern synthetic oils have amazing, properties, but I do wonder at all the oil types that now abound, specific to different types of engines can be somewhat explained by marketing and avoiding warranty claims.

It happened to me with a new Honda and Honda Britain denied the warranty claim, even though there was an Engineer's report contrary to their waffle, so simple fact was I have never owed or ridden a Honda since that bike, stuff ya! I thought and still do.








After spending the weekend draining, apart from being dirty I found no swarf or metal filings in the old oil or on the drain plug magnets, or to the fine metal gauze filter fitted to the top of the outlet adaptor screwed into the bottom of the oil tank.

When I darined the crank cases I had about 100ml of oil come out, but as soon as she runs the oil pressure is up immedoiatly and I use Silkolene SAE Classic 40 oil, and unfortunatly oil loss through the exposed cambox gets pretty messy on a run but its reasuring that I have good oil flow so its definately a double edged sword!

I have always carried a spare (new) plug but fortunatly never needed to change a plug on a run but I'll order an N4 and an N5 plug before I shut the laptop down tonight and hope that they arrive before the weekend and then I can maybe start making small adjustments to the fuel mixture. Unfortunatly with the TT carb the bike doesnt sit ticking over unless the clamp screw on the throttle is used otherwise it could be adjusted and I'd hear straight away if something was good or bad... should my bike be able to tick over naturally??

I would still like to learn how to go about checking the spark at the Mag if someone could share the knowledge, as I'm sure it will prove to be a useful test to know?

Unfortunatly being in Inverness I'm far too far away from other NOC members as it would be nice to have a mentor nearby, but thank you to everyone who's taken the time to post to my thread.



If you want a regular tickover, I suggest you have a look at my nearby post. They wanted the engine to die as soon as the rider fell off in a race, so the slide closes the throttle. 

As for my machine's hunger for plugs, it used to be commonplace to start up using one plug ('hot' or 'soft') to stop oiling up when cold or running to the race, and change to 'cold' or 'hard' for the race. As referred to above, because oils were not as good as they are today, they compensated by using a lot of it. Even so, I have a nasty suspicion that the oil control ring is faulty..perhaps broken after a kick back. I need to take careful note of exactly under what conditions it smokes. I don't have a rear view mirror at present (must fit one a.s.a.p) so instant observation is not as easy as it might be.



A proper set of mag checks needs it off the bike. Check 'Brightspark' web site for everything you might ever wish to know about magnetos. A simple check is to remove the side electrode from a plug and rest the plug against the crank case. Kick over  and a decent mag will give a fat spark. That doesn't prove it will work at all temperatures and all the time, but if it won't spark then there's something badly wrong somewhere.


Hi David, I have been through a few mirrors and you cannot do better than the Halcyon range.Fit 2 if you want to feel safe passing motorway slip roads.And twice as easy to spot that smoke screen.!.


Hi, Andrew, what a lucky person you are living in that part of the World, it is/was  so beautiful up there The last tour of Scotland I did was up the east to relatives and friends in Aberdeen and back down the West coast , my Wife had never been there before, we did a tour of the battlefield at Culloden and the guides were great, what a  amazing beautiful spot for such a sad, dramatic event, it was the most beautiful weather and the views were spectacular.

Don't feel too isolated, I am now in coastal Kent, Isle of Thanet and apart from contacting the area Rep', no NOC member has come forward as living round here as yet, Covid-19 isn't helping of course..

A guy in Ramsgate  I have known for a number of years, has a 1930, I think, International engine in a Feather-bed frame, (Wide-line), built by him and his brother, Peter and friends many years ago.

I heard some crazy story that a develope,r wanted to build  houses on the battlefield site!

Here In Kent, they all use to belong to the Invicta Motorcycle Club and Ramsgate has a fantastic Sprint history with George Brown sprinting his Vincent's here, on many occasions in the 1960s.


To help shed light on a couple of points.Oil consution on old brit bikes was, with few exceptions, verging on the ridiculous. This was due to the absence of valve oil seals, wide clearances between pistons and liners, poor understanding of the role of liner surface finish on oil consumption and poor engine breathing.

Modern understanding of the role of the various processes used to generate liner finish mean that a properly relinered or rebored engine should be better than original.

With regard to oils, were I lucky enough to have a Model 30, I would opt for a synthetic, 15W50 or 20W50, such as that offered by Exxonmobil  as Mobil Racing 4T.

OIls are qualified against a set of standards in tests controlled by a number of bodies, the Americaln Petroleum Institute is the oldest an is used world wide, European Manufactureres being unhappy that American test and driving habits are not severe enough for Europe, developed their own sequences under Assosiation Constructures European  d'Automobiles, and Japanese manufacturers will also often demand the oil meets the Japanese Automabile Standards Organisation requirements.

In addition, some more up-market  manufacturers demand even more testing in their own tests. Honda do this and approve a small number of oils for Factory fill and Service fill. These products are not necessarily superior to unapproved ones but non use is a let out in the event of warranty claims..


to say that oil consumption was "ridiculous". We're talking about machines that were essentially designed only 2 or 3 decades after the internal combustion engine first found its way on to a vehicle. To apply the standards of a century or so later is itself ridiculous in my opinion.

However, I agree that modern methods and oils can improve matters significantly. Just don't expect several thousand miles with no oil being used.


Thanks for all this information, I certainly have a lot to learn about my Inter!!

And this is thre firsyt time I've heard anyone reccomend using synthetic oils, I run my modern Triumph on Mobil 1 and had never considered running my Inter on it too?

And yes John Hall, planning permossion was granted for buildng houses along side the Battlefield.



Evening all,

I've finally had time to get back to my fettling, and I've installed a Hotter N4 plug but my bike is still a devil to start with popping and kicking back even with the hotter plug, so I might have to try the N5?

My Pilot screw was only a 1/2 a turn out, so I wound it in a quarter turn to see what the difference was and after a running for over 10 minutes the plug was still black but not quite as bad and sooty as the N3 was. As she obviously doesnt tick over, after a throttle blip she pops as the reves fall which probably isnt good so I might drop the needle its last notch as suggested by Robert Tuck on Sat, 23/05/2020?

I have added to the  "TT carb.. today's lesson"  topic to widen my chance for advise but basically my carb is built up with the following components: 320 Jet, No. 5 Throttle Valve, 109 Choke Jet, Jet Needle appears to be a porely stamped '5' (or possibly a 6) and is clipped 2nd notch down out of 7 notches and looks to have always been there with the wear, my Pilot Needle is 10 notches out (about a 1/4 turn from 1/2 turn out).



Popping and banging in the exhaust can be caused by a too rich mixture ,but its not usual ,more likely its an air leak into the pipe joint. An intermittent spark is another culprit. Running the motor on small throttle openings but not getting it hot will produce a sooty plug ,even if its a correct plug,as its not getting up to self cleaning temps. A TT or SSI carb  is a bit of an annomaly as its features are opposite to normal , The choke is not there to help starting and has no effect at low air speed anyway, the mixture screw is out for richer , no throttle stop. Endless fun!!.Be carefull if you drop the needle not to seize the motor with too much "testing" . I recently had a close call after fitting a new needle  jet to replace a well worn one and forgot to raise the needle back to std position, Ran so weak the plug went incandesant and made the motor run like a diesel ,would not turn off!.


hello Now Better spark plugs are made by Champion and you need N9YC OR N9BYC for ethanol fuels  these plugs are self-shielding and are the same heat value as the Champion N5  And I am not a Great Fan Of NKG as When I had Japanese fours  and the odd triple I was always going through Spark Plugs  NGK at an alarming rate They never seemed to last very long  I found that Bosch lasted twice as long, with the Norton  I tried NGK   They did not last that long only a few months So Then tried Bosch  these were five times better  then Had a talk with  Greens Spark plugs that put me on to these Champion N9YC Or N9BYC  And so far  No trouble  for the last 4 years  they bee very good plugs  and  Fitted Champion In my car as well they're a lot better than the NGK ones  But you pays you money and takes your choice,  Yours  Anna J  


I stopped using Champion plugs altogether around 1985.  I have had good results with Bosch and NGK.  My 828 Commando uses the iridium equivalent of NGK BP6ES; starts and runs well.  My 490cc single has the same plug and also starts and runs well.  Your Sparks May Vary...


Spark plugs will always cause a debate, as everyone has their own experiences and preferences.

For me I have Champion in my Model 30 which once started runs like a dream, but I have NGK in my 1972 H2 triple and modern Speed Triple both of which have never missed a beat either.


hello I Have had NGK in my car and Suzukis I had  and Had nothing but trouble with NGK and So I now buy Spark plugs From Green Spark Plugs  Now Champions and Had no more Plug trouble  So the answer is in the trying different plugs to your satisfaction it's maybe the suppler  or a bad batch of plugs  or even fake NGK plugs  China is making Fake Plugs  and you cannot tell if there for the real makers or not,   And  do not forget people  there are two types of Spark plugs ones with resistors fitted inside the sparkplug and ones without Resistors  For Magnetos ignition   Now Champion mark there with an R in their making on the plug  Like N5CR   N is for the length of plug 5 is the heat rate C is copper core and R is Resistor  fitted               yourS   Anna j


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