Basic motorcycle maintenance is an important part of safe and enjoyable riding but, unfortunately, is often overlooked. Ignoring motorcycle care can in the worst case be deadly and at best ruin a great ride with friends. If you’ve found yourself with some down time during the COVID-19 stay at home order, now is a great time to practice this motorcycle maintenance checklist. There are some great resources available so with a little research and some basic tools, you can learn how to service a bike yourself.
Quarantine won’t last forever. Get ready for the road with these basic motorcycle maintenance tips.
Being cooped up in the house is hard for most people. But, for those of us who ride, it’s almost unbearable! While it may seem that the lock down will never be over, at some point it will be – and maybe even sooner than you think!
Don’t get caught with your chaps down. Make sure you have your bike ready to roll so you can hit the open road when the ban is lifted. Why not use this time to perform some routine maintenance on your bike or if you live in the snow belt, de-winterize your bike.
10 Tips for Performing Routine Bike Maintenance
Some folks may ask, “What is routine maintenance?” or “How often should you service a motorcycle?” The best place to find that information is the motorcycle preventive maintenance checklist located in the owner’s manual for your bike. Dig it out, read through it and decide what you are both capable of and feel comfortable doing.
Be honest with yourself, if there is something you’re not sure on, get help from someone with more experience. Afterall, improper maintenance can be worse than none at all.
Before you get started, take a moment to make sure you have everything you need. You’ll need some basic tools and maintenance items such as oil, filters, spark plugs and clean up supplies. You’ll also probably end up with some used engine oil you’ll need to dispose of, so make sure you have a plan for that. Some cities will pick it up with recyclables on trash day.
Once you have your gear ready, follow the steps below for helpful tips on how to service a motorcycle at home.
Motorcycle Maintenance Checklist
The first six tips on this motorcycle maintenance guide need to be done on a pretty regular basis, as often as every time you ride. Don’t worry though – the more often you perform these steps, the more proficient you will become. After a while it will become second nature and take very little time.
Inspect Your Tires
The first step in proper bike maintenance is inspecting your tires. When you go to check them out, you’ll want to roll the bike and look at the entire circumference of your front and rear tires. Ask yourself, “Are they in good condition?” Or are your tires cracked, dry rotted, or cut somewhere?
Next you’ll want to inspect the tread and find your tires wear indicator. Oftentimes the rear wheel will wear faster than the front one. Don’t forget to check the pressures. Your owner’s manual will tell you the correct tire pressure for your bike.
Check Your Controls
If you’re wondering how to keep your bike in good condition, an important maintenance step is checking your controls regularly. Inspect your brake lever, pedal, clutch, throttle, and grips to see if they are worn, loose or out of adjustment. Also look to see if the wires are routed correctly or if they are pinched or rubbing anywhere.
This is also a good time to think about your brake pads and brake fluid. Make sure you’re changing these regularly so that everything stays in good working condition.
Test Your Lights
The next step in routine bike maintenance is to test your lights. Make sure your headlight is working on both the high and low beam settings, do a quick check on the tail light, and test your turn signals or marker lights. If your bike is equipped with hazards, don’t forget to check those out also.
When you go to test your brake lights, make sure that your front lever and rear pedal activate them independently. You don’t want to run into any issues when you’re out on the road.
Check your oil
A best practice in general road bike maintenance is to check your oil regularly. If you ride your bike pretty frequently, check it once a week. If you ride less often, do it before every ride. Your owner’s manual will tell you the correct procedure for monitoring your oil fluid level.
You’ll want to start by warming the bike up to its operating temperature. Then you can check the oil level with either the site glass or a dipstick. If your bike has a site glass, you can look and clearly see how much oil you have when you hold the bike level. Other bikes are equipped with a dipstick that might require you to look a little closer.
Make sure you also check out the color of the oil. You want an amber color like when it comes out of the bottle. Darker oil means it’s time to be changed. Milky white oil means that coolant has mixed with the oil and could indicate a blown head gasket or a problem with the engine.
Inspect your chassis
One thing people often forget when they think about how to maintain a motorcycle is to inspect the frame of the bike. Take a peek at the forks and make sure the fasteners are tight, there’s no leaking oil and that the wheel is mounted correctly. You’ll also want to check out the swingarm and make sure it’s not bent anywhere, and again that the fasteners are tight and the wheel is mounted correctly.
Test the shocks to make sure they aren’t leaking oil, are securely mounted and if you have air shocks, that they have the correct pressure. Also look at the chain, belt and drive shaft to make sure all are adjusted correctly and that there’s no wear or damage.
Check your side stand
Don’t forget to look at the side stand as part of your proper road bike maintenance. Is it still in good condition or is cracked or bent somewhere? Make sure it’s securely mounted so that it stays up when riding. Some bikes will not run if the kickstand is down, but on others it can drop while riding and kill the engine!
How to Service Your Bike at Home
These next four tips are an important part of basic motorcycle maintenance but don’t need to be done quite as often. If you’re wondering, “how often should you service your motorcycle?” just check your manual. There will be a recommendation for the service intervals.
Change your oil
One of the most important steps in how to take care of a motorcycle engine is to change the oil regularly. You’ll start by draining out the old oil. Don’t forget to make sure you have a plan to dispose of it properly. Next, you’ll replace the oil filter and then fill with new oil.
When you put in the new oil you’ll want to add most, but not all, of the oil you think you’ll, then run the bike to warm it up. Shut off the bike and check the oil level, then adjust as needed. Remember, you can add a little oil easier than you can take it out!
Freshen up your air filter
Another important motorcycle engine maintenance tip is to service or change your air filter. This filter traps dirt and particles so they don’t get into your engine. If the filter is dirty or clogged, it can affect your engine’s performance and worsen your bike’s fuel economy.
Change your spark plugs
Changing your spark plugs is another important step in proper road bike maintenance. If you don’t keep this part maintained, you run the risk of them burning out and then you won’t be going anywhere.
When you go to put on your new spark plug, you’ll need to make sure it’s properly gapped. A gap tool makes this super easy. You can pick one up at any auto parts store.
Check or replace your battery
Nothing kills a ride faster than a dead battery. You’ll want to check yours regularly to make sure it’s charged between 12.6 to 12.7 volts when the bike’s not running. If you do need to replace the battery, make sure the connections are clean and tight and that the battery is securely mounted.
Ready to Ride
Of course, this is by no means a comprehensive list of how to maintain your motorcycle; just some general motorcycle repair tips to help you keep your bike in tip top shape. Make sure you always refer to your bike’s service literature for specific maintenance items.
Remember, If you don’t feel comfortable doing something, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Bikers love to lend a hand and share their experience. Check out the Law Tigers Community on Facebook to connect with other riders.
Once you learn how to do bike maintenance at home, you’ll understand and appreciate your bike more than ever. Take pride in your ride! Be safe, I’ll see you on the road!