How to Maintain your Motorcycle

It’s important to check the condition of your motorcycle on a regular basis to ensure that a potential problem doesn’t escalate. Most checks take no longer than 10 minutes and they’re simple to do.

If you enjoy regular ride outs or tend to cover a large amount of miles on a regular basis it’s a good idea to carry out weekly checks; however some checks may be required after every ride. It’s a good idea to refer to your motorcycle manual for guidance.

Here we have created a handy guide to explain which checks you can carry out yourself in order to maintain your bike.

Oil level:

  • Never let the oil level drop below the minimum marking – this can lead to engine component failure
  • Check your oil frequently – refer to your manual for specific timings
  • Refer to the owner’s manual for advice on how to check the oil level – models can vary
  • Keep your engine in good condition, this way it will use less oil
  • Ensure you have the correct oil when topping up, refer to the manual for the correct grade of oil
  • Gradually top up the oil, be patient and add a small amount at a time
  • Use a funnel if required to avoid oil spillage
  • Use good quality oil

Tips when checking your bikes oil level:

Motorcycles vary when it comes to checking oil levels. Some bikes will use a dipstick, some have an inspection window and in some cases a level hole can be found.

  • When using a dipstick:
    • Ensure your bike is in an upright position and on level ground
    • Refer to the owner’s manual to see whether the dipstick should rest on the top or if it should be screwed into place
    • Take notice of where the oil reaches in relation to the maximum and minimum markings on the dip stick – remember it should be somewhere in-between
    • Always wipe the dipstick clean with fluff-free material before and after each use

The video below gives a handy demonstration of how to check the oil level with a dipstick.

  • When using an inspection window:
    • Ensure your bike is upright and the engine is cool before checking the oil level
    • Check the oil level is between the maximum and minimum markings

The clip below demonstrates how to check the oil on your motorcycle through an inspection window.

Steering and suspension:

  • Ensure the handlebars and grips are completely secure
  • Ensure the steering of the motorcycle is smooth when the handlebars are turned
  • When turning the motorcycle handlebars there should be no roughness or tightness
  • The suspension springs on your motorcycles should not be loose, badly corroded or cracked as this will weaken the suspension

Below is a handy clip which outlines the main tasks that are involved in checking the steering and suspension on a motorcycle.

Coolant:

  • Before you check the coolant, ensure the radiator has completely cooled
  • Refer to the owner’s manual in order to locate the reservoir
  • You should be able to see the high and low levels marked on the translucent tank
  • The coolant level should be between the two level marks on the reservoir
  • Should you need to top up, use a mixture of one part distilled water and one part antifreeze

Tyres:

  • Never check the tyre pressure just after a ride, the rubber will be too hot and the pressure increases when the tyres are hot
  • Take a look at the tyres, are they damaged, can you see any signs of bead damage, do they look as though they’re balding?
  • To measure the pressure of the tyres use a tyre pressure gauge
  • The ideal pressure for the tyres can usually be found on the rear mudguard or attached to the chainguard

In the following clip we’re shown how to carry out the simple task of checking your motorcycles tyre pressure.

Lights:

It’s extremely important to regularly check the lights on your motorcycle, one broken light and your bike is at risk of failing its MOT.  So, before you take your bike in for an MOT have a quick check over of the lights, just to be sure your bike won’t fail over something that is so easily prevented.

  • Ensure your headlights and tail lights are not chipped
  • Check the headlight is working on main and dip beam
  • Ensure the hazard lights are working and flashing at a constant and steady rate
  • Make sure the indicators are functioning at a steady rate
  • Check the brake lights are working, you can do this by asking a friend to check while you apply the brake, or alternatively, look in the refection of a car or garage door
  • Ensure the horn is also working as it should be

Brakes:

  • Check your brakes individually
  • Both the front and rear brakes should be strong before the lever or pedal are applied fully
  • Check the brakes free off once the lever and pedal are released
  • Replace the brake fluid every one to two years to insure your brakes perform to their best ability
  • Always use brake fluid from a new sealed bottle
  • Check your brake pads are not wearing thin. Be sure they have not worn down to the metal; this could damage your brake disks which are expensive to replace!

In the clip below we are shown how to check the brake pads, comparing warn pads to new pads.

Drive Chain:

Most bikes have a drive chain and it is very important to frequently check the chains functionality, keeping it lubricated and clean.

  • Clean the chain with an approved drive chain cleaner, get a soft sponge or brush in there to get rid of any dirt, then wipe the chain dry
  • Lubricate the chain but please remember to put a guard up to cover the wheels, for example card board or newspaper
  • To evenly coat the chain with the lubricant, rotate the wheel, this is where your centerstand comes in handy…if you have one!
  • Try to lubricate your chain after every ride and clean it after every few rides
  • A well maintained drive chain means you won’t be forking out a hefty sum to replace this expensive motorcycle part

The clip below demonstrates how to properly clean and lubricate a motorcycle chain.

Now it’s time to prepare for your journey!