10 Essential Motorcycle Maintenance Tasks
Owning a hog is one of the best investments anyone can make. Whether it is an actual Hog, a sports...
Owning a hog is one of the best investments anyone can make. Whether it is an actual Hog, a sports bike, a touring bike or even a scooter, there is a real sense of freedom when it comes to hitting the open road on a motorcycle. It can be a fun hobby if you like weekend rides, it can make the daily commute faster and easier -or of course it can do both!
But in order for your bike to remain useful and fun to ride, it needs to be kept in good working order too. Luckily there are a number of very simple pieces of essential motorcycle maintenance that anyone can perform with a little know-how and a very limited stock of tools and equipment.
In this article we’re going to take a good look at ten simple but very important motorcycle tasks that can help to keep your motorcycle in good working order.
Let’s kick off with:
1. Tire Check
Ah, the tires. This is such a key element of the safe operation of a motorcycle. And yet, so many bike owners don’t spend even a little bit of time checking out the condition of their tires. Luckily it is nice and easy to take an occasional look at the tire conditions and do some simple maintenance.
One thing we would certainly suggest checking out regularly is tire pressure. Pressure can actually drop pretty quickly, even with relatively new tires. For that reason, we would suggest that this is a task that you tackle quite regularly.
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You can look up the recommended tire pressure either in your bike manual, or on the sidewall of the tire itself. You can also pick up a tire pressure reader for just a few bucks, and it will frankly pay for itself pretty quick. An air compressor is a bigger investment, but it does save you having to go to the garage every few weeks to use theirs.
In addition to checking pressure, this can also be a good time to check out the tire itself for wear and tear and also check the tread depth.
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2. Check Chain Tension
This is another task that we would recommend that you do with some frequency. Overtime, the chain on your bike will begin to lose its correct tension. When this happens it can lead to a whole host of mechanical issues on your bike. For example, it can put extra strain on the bike gearbox, and take it from us it a far simpler (and cheaper) job to regularly adjust the chain tension than it is to buy a whole new gearbox!
Incorrect tension can also lead to damage to the chain itself. Broken chains are one of the most frequently seen motorcycle breakdowns, so if you don’t want to be stuck by the side of the road with a busted chain, check that tension!
We would recommend that you read your bike user manual, as there can be some variation from manufacturer to manufacturer in terms of how to complete a tension check and adjustment.
One insider tip we will give you right now though is to set the tension when the bike carrying weight. Get someone to sit in the saddle before you check and adjust, otherwise if you adjust tension with too light a load, you risk snapping the chain when you actually get onto the bike!
3. Battery Check
The battery is a component that many bike owners forget about. In fairness, it is the battery location that leads us to be forgetful about the old battery. In a car, when you pop the hood, there the battery is, starring right back at you and asking to be checked.
On a motorcycle though the battery is usually tucked away beneath the seat or the gas tank, so it’s not a component that you see too often. Out of sight should mean out of mind though; and checking the battery levels is a task that you should do regularly.
First of all we would suggest that when you remove the battery, you take care and you wear heavy-duty protective gloves. Just remember that there is some bad stuff in batteries, and you don’t want any of that battery acid on your skin.
Hook the battery up to a tester/charger unit and check out the readings. If the acid levels are low, you can top them up (very carefully) by adding de-ionized water. It’s generally only old-fashioned batteries that allow you to do that these days, with modern batteries being completely sealed.
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4. Check Coolant Levels
Coolant, it goes without saying, plays a very important role in engine health. It helps to transport excess heat out of the engine system, preventing overheating and stopping breakdowns. Not bad for such a simple liquid.
It can also evaporate and slowly leak out of the cooling system, meaning you should check the levels every now and then. Take a look at your vehicle manual to see if you have a coolant overflow tank. If you do, locate this usually clear plastic tank and see where the coolant level is in relation to the markings on the tank. Top up with more liquid if required.
If your bike doesn’t have an overflow tank, then instead you’ll need to pop the cap off of the radiator and check out the fluid levels inside. We really can’t stress this enough but you must ensure the engine is completely cold before you touch that radiator cap.
If you need to top up your coolant, the recipe for this fluid is very simple. Simply make a mixture of 50% de-ionized water and 50% antifreeze.
5. Oil Change
Another important fluid that needs to be looked after is engine oil. Changing oil is an important but relatively simple task. It is in fact one of those mechanical jobs that is considered something of a rite of passage when it comes to at home motorcycle maintenance.
The first thing to do is get something that is going to actually hold the oil. Don’t be like us during our first oil change and wait until the oil is glugging out onto the floor before running off to find a bucket!
Put your oil tray or whatever underneath the bike. Remove the oil filler cap first, followed by the oil sump plug. This will allow the oil to drain more easily. When the flow stops, the oil is all gone.
This is, by the way, also a good time to change your oil filter. Remove it using a filter removal wrench and replace with a new filter as per the instructions in your bikes user manual.
Replace the sump plug, before then replacing the oil to the level described in the manual.
6. Oil Your Cables
Speaking of oil, it also plays a part in the next task that we are going to set you. Take a look at your bike, and you will notice that it is crisscrossed with various cables. These cables usually help the throttle and clutch to operate. The cables will be contained within a protective sheath, usually made of a tough plastic.
During the manufacturing process, oil is added inside these to help lubricate and protect the cables and also to make them move nice and smoothly. Over time, this oil will breakdown and degrade, making it less effective at performing its job. Replace that oil and you will help your cables to work efficiently.
Now, this is one task that requires a specialist tool, namely a hydraulic cable oiler. You can though pick up one of these simple little tools for about $20 or $30 though so it’s not going to break the bank to acquire one.
However, by keeping your cables oiled, you can help to improve the performance of both your clutch and throttle, two very important elements of the bike that both require cables that are in top notch condition.
Whilst you are working on them, this can also be a good time to trim off any excess and remove any slack in the cabling. This can really help to provide a better response to commands sent through the clutch and throttle, improving ride experience.
7. Change Your Spark Plugs
Changing spark plugs is a piece of bike maintenance that we share with our car owning friends. Just like them, it is also one of the simpler tasks to perform, mainly because the plugs are usually nice and easy to get to.
Spark plugs need to be replaced regularly, as they wear out with normal use. Most plugs will come with an indicated mileage range, so take care to note that down when screwing in new plugs. For pre-existing plugs, look out for the symptoms of wear such as difficulty starting the engine and engine misfires.
Every engine will have a slightly different way to access and remove plugs. Just as with any other task we’ve talked about today, we don’t have space to go into how to remove plugs on every style of motorcycle engine out there. So can you guess what we’re going to suggest you do?
Yep, that’s right – check out the owner manual of your bike!
We’ll give you one piece of advice though – change all of the plugs at the same time.
8. Greased Lighting
No, we’re not talking about John Travolta’s best role, instead we’re talking about plain old Grease. This wonderful but totally underrated stuff can really play a big role in helping to keep your bike healthy, happy and operating to it’s best level. It’s also a task that is crazy easy to perform.
First off all you can stick to the easier things. Just run your eye over the bike and take note of any hinged joints. We’re talking foot rests, kick stands – even the hinges on any boxes, lockers or containers on your bike. Just give those hinges a good spray with liquid grease and you’ll keep them working and trouble free.
If you want to do a little deeper greasing (that sounds weird, huh?) you could try greasing more mechanical parts of the bike such as the wheel spindles. Just be careful to keep the grease away from the brakes. Speaking of which…
9. Check The Brakes
Whilst cruising on your bike is a lot of fun, and tearing it up down a highway is even better, do you know what is the best?
Being able to stop when you need to, and for that you need effective brakes.
Brake maintenance is of course crucial, but it is something that also needs to be done properly. If you are new to bike mechanics, this is certainly something that that should be performed under the watchful eye – and checked off – by someone experienced.
It’s also hard to walk you through the process of removing the pads, calipers and discs because, again, this will differ from bike to bike. Again, it would be a good idea to check out the owner manual to see the specifics of your bike. As we said though, if you are inexperienced this is one area that your work needs to be checked out.
What anyone can do though is to work in a visual inspection of the brake system into your motorcycle tasks. You can check for – and clean out – any dirt and debris that may be gumming up the brake system. You can also check the discs, calipers and pads for signs of wear so you know when it is time to get them replaced.
10. Clean the Bike
Finally, and a task that anyone can do, clean the bike! Of course, by saying that this is a task that anyone can do, we don’t mean to underestimate it’s importance. The fact is that a clean bike is one that is less likely to develop problems.
Not only does it help to keep the bike working properly, it also helps to keep it looking it’s best too. We would recommend investing in a quality bike shampoo as well as a range of sponges and soft brushes. A chain cleaner can also be a solid investment to help keep your chain clean and tidy.
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