Do it yourself motorcycle maintenance

man performing motorcycle maintenance on a bike

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As gray, gloomy days give way to blue skies and sunshine, you might find yourself looking longingly at that motorcycle gathering dust in your garage. Beautiful weather just has a way of making you want to bring your bike back out on the road. And we don’t blame you! But before you do, it’s important to make sure your ride is really road-ready with some motorcycle maintenance.

If you’re newer to motorcycle maintenance, this might sound a bit strange — if your bike has been biding its time in your garage, out of the weather and off of the road, how much maintenance can it really need? While we understand the thought (or perhaps the wishful thinking) that your motorcycle will be ready to ride right away, there are actually a few fairly basic motorcycle maintenance tasks you need to complete before you jump back behind the handlebars. So, before you take the rubber to the road, make sure you have proper motorcycle insurance, and read through this quick DIY motorcycle maintenance guide to make sure your bike is safe, functional, and ready to ride.

First, give your bike a once-over

Before you get into any more involved maintenance, make sure to give your motorcycle a quick visual check-up. You know how your bike should look: make a note of any new problem areas like dents in the exhaust header, scrapes or cracks in the frame, bumps on the fork tube, and any sprocket teeth that are leaning, hooked, pointed, or chipped.

Change your oil

Just as with your other vehicles, it’s important to keep your motorcycle up to date on oil changes. If your bike uses mineral oil, it will need an oil change about once every 2,000 to 3,000 miles. Synthetic oil lasts significantly longer and will only need a change every 7,000 to 10,000 miles. Regardless of what type of oil you use, your motorcycle will need an oil change at least once a year. If you’ve been keeping your bike cooped up in your garage, it’s safe to say it’s time for an oil change before you get back on the road.

To change your motorcycle’s oil, you’ll need:

  • A stand to keep your bike upright
  • Gloves and rags
  • A funnel
  • A drain pan
  • A torque wrench
  • A strap wrench

Your owner’s manual should have more detailed instructions on changing the oil on your specific bike, but in general, the steps are as follows:

  • Warm up your engine. It’s easier to change your oil once your engine is warm, so plan to let the engine run for a little while before you get started.
  • Wipe down the engine area. Once your bike is stable on a stand, use a rag to wipe down the areas around the oil filter and the drain plug.
  • Drain the old oil. Open the drain plug into the drain pan and wait until all the old oil has drained into the pan.
  • Remove the old oil filter. Once all the old oil has drained, use your strap wrench to loosen the filter, and then finish unscrewing it by hand. Pour any oil in the oil filter out into the drain pan.
  • Install the new oil filter. Apply a small amount of oil from the drain pan to the O-ring of the new filter to help ensure a good seal.
  • Check the sealing washer. Inspect the sealing washer to see if it needs replacing. If not, you can likely flip it over and reuse it.
  • Replace the drain plug. Put the drain plug back in place by hand first, and then tighten it with your wrench.
  • Add the oil. Follow your owner’s manual instructions on what kind of oil and how much to use.
  • Check your work. Let your engine idle and check the oil filter and drain plug for any leaks.

Check your battery

The lead-acid battery in your motorcycle needs a little more maintenance than your car’s battery, as, when left uncharged, it will go through a discharging process. Use a voltmeter to check your battery’s voltage. If the voltage drops below 9.5 while starting the engine, your battery will need to be replaced.

Change your air filters

Without proper air filtration, your motorcycle engine won’t last too long. Your motorcycle’s air filter needs to be replaced every 10,000 to 15,000 miles. When selecting a new filter, you can choose between OEM paper, oiled cotton gauze, and oiled foam, depending on your bike.

Take a look at your tires

Correct tire pressure is important in preventing problems like sluggish handling, heavy steering, and tires that start to separate from the rims. Sufficient tread depth is essential to keeping you safe on the road. Check that both your tire pressure and tread depth are correct according to your owner’s manual before you take your bike out on the road.

Check your brake pads

When you should replace your brake pads depends on various factors, such as how often and where you ride. A good rule of thumb is that, once the pad is worn down to roughly two millimeters, it’s time for a new set.

Look at your liquids

There are a few different liquids your bike needs to run smoothly. Before you head out of the garage, make sure the following liquids are at the correct levels:

  • Brake fluid. Experts recommend visually checking your brake fluid levels at least once a week and topping it off if it falls below the fill mark. If the fluid looks at all dirty, it’s time to change it out entirely. If you choose to do this yourself, be very careful to properly bleed the air out of your system.
  • Coolant. Depending on your bike model, you’ll need to change your coolant either every 16,000 miles, or every two years. It’s also important to make sure to use the same type of coolant when topping up as was originally used.
  • Chain lubricant. To keep your bike chain in good condition, it’s important to clean and lubricate your motorcycle chain every 300-600 miles.

Check your lights, cables, and controls

Before you’re ready to ride, check your headlight, taillights, turn signals, and all of your bike’s various warning lights. Finally, make sure to reacquaint yourself with all of your motorcycle’s controls. You should be comfortable with and able to identify your speedometer, odometer, trip meter, tachometer, light switches, ignition switch, turn signal switches, horn button, fuel supply valve, choke control, throttle, clutch lever, front brake lever, rear brake pedal, gear selector pedal, started, engine kill switch, stand, and your oil level window or dipstick.

Conclusion

Once you’ve gone through the motorcycle maintenance steps in this article, refreshed your knowledge of motorcycle safety and rules of the road, and made sure your motorcycle insurance is up to date and covers everything you need, you’re ready to get back out on the road! For more motorcycle questions, or for your motorcycle insurance needs, visit us at Elephant.com or get a quote today.



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