Have you forgotten to service your motorcycle and now dealing with the consequences? Maybe you hear some screeching whenever you start your bike or see some leaks?
Regular maintenance and servicing your motorcycle are crucial to extending its life and keeping it running smoothly. Basic motorcycle maintenance is not just something you do because you have to – you do it to keep your machine healthy and avoid surprises while on the road. You don’t want your bike to rattle when you’re five minutes into a road trip you’ve been planning for months, do you?
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, motorcycles required more motorcycle maintenance tasks than they do today due to the use of technology. But they still require more attention than an average car, for example. You should be able to enjoy your ride and do it with style, but you should also be knowledgeable enough to perform basic maintenance tasks and stick to a maintenance schedule. Here is MX PowerPlay’s ultimate 2020 guide on how to do motorcycle maintenance.
We begin by discussing a few key reasons why you should maintain your machine regularly and keep a basic motorcycle maintenance checklist. Knowing the potential consequences and aftermath will help you grasp the importance of regular maintenance.
Why Do You Need to Maintain Your Motorcycle?
Improved ride quality
The less your machine vibrates and rattles while you ride it, the better your ride is going to be. Still, many motorcycle lovers out there ride regardless of the rattles. Taking your bike to a trusted mechanic for quick service will give you confidence that your bike is ready for a safe and comfortable ride and that it would last longer. As for the time and money you are going to invest, think about it this way – the time and money it takes for motorcycle service is nothing compared to the time and money you might spend on major repair bills (or health-related problems that you may face if your bike breaks down while riding it).
Prevent problems on the road
You don’t want your machine to break down on the road. Of course, unpredictable things can happen, but many of the problems you’ll face can be detected before you take your motorcycle for a ride. Just by checking your bike regularly, even if it’s as simple as inspecting the engine oil and filter or using a pressure gauge to check your motorcycle tires, regular maintenance can save you from encountering problems when it’s least convenient.
Some problems on the road lead to breakdowns, but others can lead to serious accidents. For example, if your tires and wheels are poorly kept, they can blow out while riding at 100 mph on the highway, causing injury to you and others on the road. Check tire air pressure, foot controls, brake pads, brake pedals, drive chain, front and rear wheels, and clutch often. This will make you feel safe before putting the keys into the ignition.
Regular servicing and maintenance keep your bike protected and help improve the mileage of your motorcycle and alert you to any issues that could cause failure to your machine. A filter and oil change can do wonders for your mileage.
Unless you bought your motorcycle to exhibit it in your living room, it will encounter wear and tear. It’s not enough to visually inspect the bike because while it still looks as beautiful as the day you bought it, there may already be internal problems. Therefore, do more than just clean your bike on the outside, check your manual to understand the inner workings of your machine.
Detect problems before they cause serious damage. For example, changing the oil is easy to do and is cheap, but neglecting this practice can lead to bigger issues that will cost you more along the way.
How to Do Motorcycle Maintenance
First, you perform what is called a walkaround. This may sound silly, but when was the last time you looked or inspected each part of your motorcycle? Every single part on your bike gradually wears, and that also means for components that are difficult to notice. You have to know your vehicle, and just by training your mindset to spot anything unusual can help you detect problems that should be immediately addressed. Otherwise, they will turn into severe issues that will send your bike to the shop for days, weeks, or even months. Before you know it, the riding season went by before you got your bike fixed and ready.
Examine moving parts and pivot points for signs of interference or wear. For example, swing arm and suspension linkages and kickstand pivots are almost universally neglected. Check the battery, brake rotors, and spark plugs. Hit fittings with a grease gun until clean grease begins to squeeze out on the other end of the cavity. See if there are any bearings or bushings due for further investigation. Look for leaks and drips under the bike. If there are any, that must be investigated.
For example, streaks of dirt and oil down the fork will tell you that your fork seals have malfunctioned. Is that fuel, oil, or coolant? Give it a quick sniff and then backtrack the source. If your bike was stored in the garage and has been leaking for a while, you will probably need to de-gunk a part of your bike to find the origin.
Next, start the engine. Test your horn and lights and check if your motorcycle insurance and registration are current. If you have trouble starting the engine, your battery is either weak or dead.
The components that require a regular motorcycle repair and check-up include:
The oils and fluids are your motorcycle’s blood and lymph. Change them regularly to keep your bike healthy and young at all times. Check the oil level before every ride, especially when it is cold and when you notice the level is not as high as it should be. Fill it up before you go on a ride because a motorcycle running on an under- or over-filled oil level can affect your bike’s performance. Also, choose a high-quality oil, don’t forget to clean around the fill plug or dipstick, and don’t overtighten the oil filter. When maintaining your bike for oil, you need to adhere to certain rules:
- Inspect the oil before you go out and inspect it while it is cold
- Level your bike before an inspection
- Make sure dirt doesn’t fall in during the inspection
- Riding in heavy traffic, high speed, or high temperatures affects both the quantity and quality of your oil. If you ride in these conditions often, you should change your oil often, as well
- Use a good oil filter
- When taking a reading, use a threaded dipstick and allow it to rest on the lowest thread
- Change oil every 2,000-4,000 km or 3-6 months (whichever comes first)
There are two brake fluid reservoirs on every bike – one for the front brake and the other for the back. You should inspect both regularly because they are critical to your safety and the sound functioning of the motorcycle. Disc and drum brakes are the two main categories in motorcycle brakes. Most machines come with 2 disc brakes, which are fairly easy to work with and don’t heat up as drum brakes do.
The brake issue that occurs most often is that brake fluid absorbs moisture during use. This makes the brakes less effective over time, so it’s advisable to replace your brakes once in every 2 years to have them perform optimally. Before replacing them, you should top the fluid once in a while during use, but only from a new and sealed bottle.
Also, don’t forget to check the thickness of the brake pads. Consult your owner’s manual to see the specs and know at what point your brake pads need to be changed. Some pads have an indicator (vertical groove) that alerts you on when to replace the pads.
One of the most common causes of motorcycle breakdowns on the highway is the battery. They are placed in an awkward location on the bike and are difficult to get to, so riders don’t check them as often as they do other components. To have a perfectly-working battery, you should inspect it and the battery chargers at least once a month. Always keep it fully charged and recharge it when the starter sounds weak, lights dim, or haven’t ridden the bike for two weeks or more.
To check on your battery, follow this simple checklist:
- Keep the top of the battery free of dirt
- Check the electrolyte level (when you charge the battery, this level rises, and vice versa)
- Check inside for excessive sediment
- Clean the connectors and terminals
- Top the battery up with deionized or distilled water if the water quantity of the lead cells in it is low Use protective gloves and glasses while doing this. Never use tap water because it will cause more damage to your battery
- The exhaust tube should be free of clogs
- Check if the cables and clamps connected to the battery aren’t damaged and have no loose connection
- Replace the caps and re-check the clamps
After you have done all this, connect the battery to a hydrometer or voltmeter to test it.
You should make sure to stay on top of the air filter and fuel filter replacement or recharging. Always use a new oil filter and service your air filter every time you make an oil change. Change your fuel filter every 25,000 miles. For the right details, check the owner’s manual because your bike may have other recommendations. Also, repack your muffler whenever you replace the air filter.
Keep your tires properly inflated at all times in order to maintain them. Get yourself a low-pressure tire gauge to be able to check your tire pressure (you can also find a gauge at every gas pump). Tire damage is among the most common causes of motorcycle breakdowns. If your tires are under-inflated, they will generate heat during uses, which will cause blow out. If they don’t blow due to the distance covered or speed, they will wear out pretty quickly. When you notice that your tires get worn out, replace them as soon as possible.
6. Coolant change
The purpose of coolant is to prevent the engine from freezing or overheating in winter and summer. But as it is the case with the battery, the tricky part with replacing the coolant is getting to the place where to do it. The coolant receptacle is located behind the radiator, and you will need to remove it in order to fill in the liquid. There is a draining bolt for coolant, just like there is for the oil.
After you completely drain the coolant, remove the radiator cap and put the drain bolt back in its place. Then, pour in the fresh coolant liquid. Use a funnel to avoid making a big mess when pouring. Check your owner’s manual for the correct coolant that your motorcycle needs.
After you have poured the liquid in, it’s time to put things back together. Start the engine and let it run for a few minutes. When the engine warms up, cut the ignition and remove the radiator. If the coolant is at the recommended level, you’re all done; if it is not, pour in some more.
7. Clean the chain
A clean chain is an essential aspect of motorcycle maintenance because it’s not an everyday routine. However, chains need to be cleaned when it gets dirty with dirt or mud. The new chains are called O-ring chains and are not quite exposed. Check your owner’s manual to find out what is the correct mileage to perform this task. A clean chain will make your bike run at optimal performance for a long time.
Cleaning the chain is a straightforward task; it’s much easier than the other tasks on this list. Start by lifting the back wheel and setting the gears in neutral to make it easier to work on the chain. If there is any grime and grit piled up in the chain, clean that first with a gentle bristle brush that can wipe the grime but won’t damage the chain.
Once you clean it completely, proceed with the lubrication. That process is crucial for motorcycle maintenance because it creates a coat cover over your bike’s chain to protect it. If your chain has O-rings, you should pay attention to put the oil in a way that reaches the joints. After you lube the chain, leave it to rest for a few minutes and then wipe the excess lube with a paper towel.
Check your fuel filter to make sure it is clean, clear, and unclogged. It is often an overlooked component in motorcycle maintenance. The fuel filter should be replaced every two years. In the case of crack or weather damage, you should immediately replace your fuel filter.
Check your throttle and clutch for adjustment and smooth operation. Unstick your throttle and clutch cables with cable lube and adjust the push and pull cables until there is a bit of slack before the throttle begins to open and returns to its idle position. If your sticky throttle and hard clutch pull cannot be adjusted out and lubricated away, look if there’s any interference on the lever and throttle tube. If you notice that the cables are worn out, replace them.
Next, sit on the motorcycle and make sure that your mirrors aren’t loose. Turn the bike’s handlebar lock-to-lock and check for wiring and cable strain or interference as well as a feel for notchiness in the steering head bearings. Double-check if your brake and shifter pedal are shifted in where you want them because you might have gotten used to a certain position that was less ideal last year. Adjust these before your muscle memory builds up again.
Cultivating Motorcycle Knowledge Takes Time
Take the time to read through your motorcycle’s owner’s manual because the more you know about motorcycles (and your particular bike), the better you will be able to notice and diagnose potential problems. Every bit of information you absorb matters and can be helpful at a certain point. Joining a motor club and socializing with other bike lovers can broaden your horizons. Fellow bike enthusiasts and owners can be a useful resource of information and help for diagnosing issues. Also, get to know the tools you need for maintaining every bike component.
Following the recommendations in your owner’s manual, as well as commonsense procedures, will help you go a long way towards extending your bike’s life and maximizing its condition and performance over the years. Be vigilant about your road bike and don’t take it for granted. Whenever you notice a change in your motorcycle’s behavior (e.g., how the engine sounds), don’t ignore the sounds. That may be a warning sign of a potential problem, so try to detect it yourself or take it to a trusted mechanic right away.
Do you have issues with your bike’s exhaust systems, brake lines, motorcycle batteries, brake calipers, or master cylinders? If the time has come to replace a certain part on your motorcycle, we strongly recommend you do your research and get yourself a high-quality part. Today’s market for motorcycle parts is quite competitive, and besides OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts, many aftermarket manufacturers offer quality parts (even better quality than OEMs).
Feel free to visit the MX PowerPlay website to find out more about the products we offer and contact us for more information. We sell parts that are comparable to OEMs for a better price. Also, you’ll get a wider range of products that can be sent to you the same day you placed the order.