Anyone who rides a motorcycle knows that taking care of your bike is just as important as taking care of yourself when it comes to motorcycling safety.
And while spending time on your bike in the garage (or paying someone to do it for you) may not be your idea of the most fun you could have with two wheels — it’s well worth the investment in the long run.
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Check out these essential motorcycle maintenance steps you should be taking below!
8 Basic Motorcycle Maintenance Steps
One of the scariest things that can happen on a motorcycle is a mechanical malfunction while you’re on it.
A lot of these can be prevented though through regular maintenance of a few key things. Any motorcycle owner should carefully follow their service manuals when it comes to motorcycle maintenance intervals and specifications for the below steps.
- Tires & Wheels
Arguably one of the most important features on your bike when it comes to safety, maintaining good tire condition is a critical part of motorcycle maintenance. According to most major manufacturers, motorcycle tires should be replaced every 5 years regardless of appearance or wear. And while age is vital to assessing tire safety, it’s definitely not the only (or even most important) factor to consider.
Tires should be inspected for issues like “dry rot,” cracks, bulges, and wear bar indicator depth. Any time you replace a tire be sure to replace your valve stems (or inner tubes) and balance the tire again. Per manufacturer recommendations, don’t ever mix tire types as performance function and capabilities vary between compounds and designs.
Your motorcycle wheels should also be assessed regularly to ensure there are no rim cracks or dents, possible missing spokes (depending on bike model), bearing issues, or seal problems.
- Oil & Filter
Depending on your motorcycle’s make and model, changing the oil and filter can be as easy as a few simple steps or as complicated as removing major components. Every motorcycle though shares a few key oil maintenance needs. Motorcycles that use mineral-based oils should be changed every 2,000 miles (3,218 km), semi-synthetic every 5,000 miles (8,046 km), and fully synthetic every 7-10,000 miles (16,093 km).
After running the bike for 3-5 minutes drain and the old oil into a pan by removing the drain plug while the bike is upright (reference your user manual for drain plug location). Replace your oil filter and drain cap, then use a funnel to pour in fresh oil to you user manual specifications.
Reference your user manual for your bike’s specific brake fluid interval requirements, with most motorcycles requiring flushing around every two years. Hard riding, or any time you might suspect that the fluid has overheated (on the track for example) warrants more frequent fluid replacement.
Flushing your coolant system is another regular maintenance step that’s key to preventing corrosion and issues within your cooling system. Reference your user manual for specifications, but most motorcycles would benefit from a semi-annual flush and radiator cap replacement.
- Air Filter
A dirty air filter can directly affect your bike’s performance by reducing engine efficiency and output. Your bike’s air filter should be completely clean of debris and dirt, with most manuals calling for replacement every 5,000 miles (8,046 km) for road bikes.
One of the easiest maintenance elements to both care for, and neglect, especially if you live in colder climates. Pending they’ve been kept on a maintenance charger and away from extreme conditions (or forgotten parking lights), most batteries will last two to five years.
Probe the lead-acid battery with a multimeter to verify 12.5 v DC. If you don’t have access to a meter then pay attention to your headlight brightness and ease of engine turnover. Clean the battery terminals and coat with dialectic grease. Check your fuse box (and spares) – the life of an average fuse varies and this isn’t something you want to be caught without!
6. Chain/Belt & Sprocket
Chain: While rolling, or with your bike on a stand (preferred) assess your chain. It should not have any seized links, excessive rust or dirt, excessive slack, be causing excessive sprocket wear, or be indicating misalignment (check with an alignment tool if you’re able to). Clean the chain with a solvent, brush, then lubricate it completely while being careful not to get any lubrication on your rear tire. Depending on maintenance, chains can typically last anywhere from 5,000-30,000 miles (8046-48280 km).
Belt: Assess your drive belt for cracks, tears, and stray cords. Check the belt for tension with a gauge and adjust as necessary. After any adjustment be sure to roll the bike or spin the tires briefly and check tension again.
Checking and maintaining your motorcycle’s brake system condition can be a lifesaving and fairly simple process (especially if you have a motorcycle stand). Check your motorcycle brake pads wear indicators for sufficient thickness throughout the season. Depending on type and riding, style motorcycle brakes can last thousands to tens of thousands of miles.
Brake lines and braking system bolts should also be monitored to ensure there are no visible cracks or leaks in the system. Some manufacturers suggest brake line replacements as often as every four years, with rubber brake lines being more susceptible to wear and degrading than steel lines.
If you’ve ridden long enough you’ve probably experienced a moment of panic-inducing control cable sticking. While cable lubrication doesn’t typically have a set maintenance schedule, it should be done any time the cable response (clutch, brake, or throttle) seems slow or stuck.
Regularly check the function and security of your mirrors, signals, any safety or auxiliary products you may have installed on your motorcycle. Shifting and brake controls should also be assessed regularly throughout the season to ensure bolts and components haven’t loosed.
When it comes to motorcycle maintenance the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” couldn’t be more true.
Maintenance at regular intervals and per factory recommended specifications can go a long way towards keeping you upright and having fun while on the road. Many riders keep a log and/or calendar of their maintenance schedule to keep them on track (and upright!).
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