When it comes to Motorcycle Maintenance, we find most riders are at extreme and only a small percentage knows their stuff. New motorcycle owners don’t even know how or when they have to maintain their motorcycles.
They think their motorcycle doesn’t need maintenance and it will keep running smoothly. Similarly, other people think it’s too difficult to maintain a bike.
Sadly, both are wrong here. Maintenance of motorcycles is a must for every kind of motorcycle whether it’s new or used. Secondly, maintaining a motorcycle is way more simple than a car.
You think of it as an extraordinary thing, but it is instead straightforward.
Only a few things are technically different or difficult than a car, but overall it’s an easy thing.
In this motorcycle maintenance guide, we have provided a complete breakdown of checklists and tasks you should do for your motorcycle.
Motorcycle Maintenance Guide:
1. Take A Look
The very first checklist is way more simpler than you might think. Even a school-going kid or a college teen can do it since there’s no engineering involved in this step.
All you need to do is open your garage shutter, unwrap your motorcycle by removing its protector, and take a look at it.
Take a look at your motorcycle from every angle especially if it’s been standing there for several months. If you have not taken a look since last summer and due to winter in the meantime, it’s very important to physically examine your motorcycle.
Start by focusing on its engine first, move your motorcycle a little, and check for any signs of leaks and damages.
By doing this, you need to examine every single part and component of your motorcycle to see any noticeable thing that is subjected to any kind of problem or issue.
You should always take a look at your motorcycle at least every week, once a month, once in three months, a minimum of six months, or at least annually.
It all depends on your ease and the nature of the work you do. Because, if a motorcycle sits too long, it starts having issues even if they are invisible.
If anything unusual draws your attention, it might need a fixation right away.
2. Change The Gas
If you have taken a look (I know you’ve) and everything seems to be fine and perfect, it’s time for your first move. You need to change the gas for some reason, however not every time.
It applies to your motorcycle only if you don’t ride it this winter and now summer is calling you.
It’s not just limited to the winter season only, it applies to every case if your motorcycle is sitting for more than a month and remains untouched.
You need to change the gasoline although it can last for up to six months before it starts degrading due to a long chemical reaction.
If you don’t change the gas and continue to use the old gas, it may not burn properly and affect the engine’s health.
Sometimes, the degradation is bad enough that the motorcycle starts indicating a check engine light because it’s affecting the combustion process in the engine.
Now, if you don’t change it and don’t get any check engine light, it does not mean the gas is safe. It is still unsafe and the malfunctioning may continue to occur in other forms, such as stalling, idling, and loss of power.
If you start a motorcycle that is sitting for too long, it stalls and the old gas is one of the major reasons. Instead, you should drain the old gas with its valves or through a pump and put it in a container.
Then, add fresh gas to it but make sure it’s clean. Use a filter to clean any particles.
3. Change The Oil(s)
As you have changed the gas and you think you are Robin Hood, you are not my friend. There are a lot of things left before you start thinking about taking your motorcycle on the road.
The next step is to change the oil on your motorcycle, almost similar to how you changed the gasoline.
The oil change is not specific to engine oil, it also covers the transmission oil as well as the fork oil. When you drain the old and burned oil with fresh oil, it helps in improving the performance of your engine and enhances its reliability.
Old oil has carbon contamination in it which dilutes the oil and affects every part of the engine it goes through and reduces the lifespan.
By changing the oil, components in your engine will get perfect lubrication and help you achieve the best possible MPG.
Not just the engine oil, but also the transmission and fork oil. The transmission and gear oil helps soothe the transmission of your clutch and gearbox.
As a result, you will not experience any hard to shift problems and the gears will not stuck anytime sooner.
4. Change The Fluid(s)
If you have taken down the old oil and gas, the next liquid you will be changing should contain all other fluids applicable and used in your motorcycle. It mainly includes the brake fluid, hydraulic fluid, and coolant if you have a liquid cool machine in your garage.
Just like the other mechanical oils and lubricants, there is fluid in brakes and hydraulic fluids in the steering, handlebars, and transmission of your motorcycle.
They are loaded to help smoothen the point of contact in two or more components inside an engine and improve their function, as well as life and efficiency.
The brake fluid helps in enhancing the braking force and also helps in the lubrication of braking components. Brake fluid is used in hydraulic because it is not compressible.
The coolant is one of the most important fluids in your motorcycle because it helps reduce the overheating of the engine by enhancing the functioning of the radiator and cooling fan.
The rest of the fluids in a motorcycle helps in self maintenance of the motorcycle as long as the oil stays alive.
If your engine stays dry and lacks proper lubrication, the parts will wear and tear. As a result, the engine will not stand out longer and it will require a build up anytime, sooner or later.
Once you have loaded all the fluids and oils in your motorcycle, you should now maintain the oil levels safely for efficient working.
Also, the fluids and oil may leak, so you need to be aware of any kind of leak. If you notice any, start working on it right away by troubleshooting it.
5. Check Your Tires And Wheels
Other than oil, gas, fluids, and all kinds of liquids, it’s time to look into the solids of the motorcycle. First of all, you should check your tires and then your wheels.
Wheels are metallic but tires are not. They are made up of rubber and rubber deteriorates with time.
The very first thing that is worth maintaining on your motorcycle is the tire. You need to check for the tire pressure first to see if the air is still inside or not. Most probably, the air must have leaked already and tire pressure will not be right in there.
So, you will need to refill the air and maintain the required pressure on both tires. Generally, the tire pressure sits 32 to 40 PSI for front and rear tires for added grip on the road and a good life.
To monitor the pressure, you need a tire pressure monitoring gauge and an air pump to refill the tire every time you need it. Otherwise, you may need to visit a refilling station.
If your tire is worn out and its tread is minimal, it will not provide a proper grip on the road. It may frequently slip due to traction issues and might cause an accident. So, if the tire is worn out, you need to replace it for everyone’s safety.
Make sure the tube is fine and there are no punctures if the old tire still has tread on it. Once you have dealt with the tires, make sure to take a look at the wheel as well.
Start by examining its spokes and see if they are in the right condition.
Make sure they are straight and not twisted. Similarly, check for wheel balancing, so you end up running on a straight lane without penalizing.
6. Check The Battery Life
Well, it should be first to check the battery and its condition, but let’s just assume it’s fine. The motorcycle runs a lot of electronics and several electrical things on it.
The starting of a motorcycle engine is also incomplete without electrical contribution.
To power all of the electrical components on a motorcycle, there’s a battery installed in it. If the motorcycle is sitting for too long, the battery must be faulty now due to chemical reactions and the nature of its design. Unless you have disconnected the terminals.
Even if you have removed it, the battery might still have lost some of its charge and volts which means it’s not efficient anymore.
Even if you keep running your motorcycle, the battery can malfunction in that case as well. So, it’s completely obvious for a battery to fail over time.
You need to check the battery life by taking a look at it. First, make sure the terminals are doing good and they are properly connected. Remove any signs of rust if you find any portion of patina on them. Now, get a voltmeter and check for its voltage, it must be at least 12 volts.
If the volts are not sufficient, you might try charging your battery and jump start it.
However, it’s likely to be weak and not enough to power the electrical needs of your motorcycle, especially if you have installed several aftermarket electronics on it. It’s not reliable anymore.
If the battery is not doing well and the voltage is not enough, it’s better to replace the battery right there. Because a battery is sometimes the very first component on a motorcycle to fail.
7. Inspect Your Chain
The very first mechanical thing you need to look at in a motorcycle should be its chain and sprockets set.
Because it is one of the most vulnerable mechanical components in a motorcycle which often fails and falls apart even if the motorcycle is regularly on a run.
Unless your motorcycle has a belt drive transmission mechanism, you will always be on a run with chain related issues.
Belts are comparatively reliable but chains can also be, only if you have the best one out there. Cars use belt drive instead of chains and that’s why motorcycles are more problematic in this department.
The chain is a critical component on a motorcycle that stays in contact with environmental factors such as dust and debris or mud sort of things.
These things eventually deteriorate your chain and reduce its lifespan.
Although this deterioration might take a long time to happen, chains can still be at risk due to wear and tear, as well as corrosion. It is a metallic component and metal is prone to rust. To prevent that, you need to ensure smoothness and lubrication of the chain through oiling.
Make sure the chain is clean. If its links are clogged, carefully clean these links through a wire brush without applying too much pressure.
After cleaning, don’t forget to lubricate these links with hydraulic oil. Also, make sure these links are tight so they don’t break.
Maintain a perfect chain tension for good transmission and a long life of transmission sprocket and chain.
8. Inspect Your Cables
There are various kinds of cables installed in a motorcycle to support and provide ease in the functioning of components. But, most people don’t take it seriously as they don’t maintain or look after these cables.
And, just like any other component, these cables can also fail to work.
Motorcycles have cables in a lot of positions and places. Each of its cables has a separate function and they are crucial for the overall functioning of the motorcycle. The main cables might include throttle cable, clutch cable, and cables in the braking system.
These cables work mechanically and perform various jobs in a motorcycle. But, they need proper lubrication, cleanliness, and greasing also.
When a motorcycle is standing for months and years, the layer of grease or oil freezes out which sometimes becomes a reason for deterioration.
If you pull the clutch lever and find its movement is hard, the grease is expired and it needs fresh greasing or lubrication. Not just for the clutch, but also for braking and throttle response.
The cables are made up of rubber and rubber stretches sometimes, increasing the length of the cables as well.
As a result, you might experience free play if that happens. Similarly, these cables may shrink in cold weather, however, it is a rear case and does not affect the functioning pretty much.
In any case, you need to adjust its pull and push to provide a proper cable routing for your motorcycle.
9. Clean Your Motorcycle
See, another easy job from the checklist and it’s not a big deal. Even a school going kid can wash or clean the motorcycle just like we used to do in our childhood. It isn’t just fun, it is also beneficial for the motorcycle’s health and performance.
When a motorcycle is dirty and is loaded with mud, most of its components get clogged. And, due to these clogged components, the functioning of motorcycles affects over time.
Oftentimes, these clogged parts are invisible and riders have no idea about the mess it is containing.
So, cleaning and washing your motorcycle should be on your checklist for better maintenance of the motorcycle. There are several ways to clean your motorcycle.
Firstly, you can simply dry clean your motorcycle with a clean cloth to clean dust and debris.
Otherwise, you can simply wash it with water but you need to be careful. Do not jet wash with a pressure washer as it might be harmful to some fragile components in motorcycles such as air filters and exhaust. The water can get into the gas tank and block the exhaust.
Also, there are many other problems when you pressure wash your machine. Instead, you should wash your motorcycle with foam and water in a bucket.
Do not use heavy detergents and hot water. It might affect the chassis and chrome garnishings.
Whenever you clean it, always use a protective cover for the motorcycle and carry it everywhere.
So, if the motorcycle is standing still for a long time, it has no purpose to be under sunshine or storms. Instead, put it inside a shelter and try your best to keep it clean.
10. Check For Rusting
Another motorcycle cleaning-related task is to check for any possible corrosion or signs of rusting. Look, a motorcycle is a giant metallic structure and almost 80% of its components are made up of metals, primarily iron or steel and its alloys. We all know iron or steel is used to rust.
When a part of your motorcycle rusts, it’s a sign of improper maintenance which leads to its failure. Sometimes, you can ignore them as they might not cause harm to the engine such as chrome garnish on your motorcycle. But, these parts look bad when they rust.
The other time, the rusting is not ignorable as it can damage the engine and lead to its catastrophic failure. Fixing it back might become a nightmare for you.
If your motorcycle is sitting for long, it’s normal to build rust on its components, however, it’s not good either.
The chain, engine body, braking components, and a few more things on the motorcycle catch rust more quickly. You have two options to deal with it.
First is when the rust is just building, it’s controllable by cleaning with WD40, lubricating with oil, and painting that part.
However, when the part is full of rust, it’s not easy to get rid of. Instead, you should replace that thing so it can keep working effectively.
For example, the links of chains rust frequently and sometimes they are not cleanable. So, in that case, you need to replace that chain entirely.
11. Check Your Suspension
Once you have done all the cleaning or washing jobs on your motorcycle and it is now shining brighter than the Sirius star in the sky, it’s time to move on to other important components.
And, your first attempt should be at its suspension, and the rest comes later.
You need to check your suspension and the very first job is to check its linkage. Because most people neglect this part and it causes damage to the whole suspension department. Some of these damages become irreversible and replacement is the only choice left then.
At these linkages, you need to check if there’s any play in them and the probability of rust in between them. If there’s any play, you need to adjust them wisely and clean the corrosion. Repeat the job both for front and rear suspension.
Examine both suspensions and check if they are perfect in condition and look normal. Identify the areas where servicing is crucial and check for the fork oil.
It must be changed so the forks can keep working smoothly. Otherwise, it is likely to leak and cause a mess, as well as the failure of forks.
Replacing the fork oil is mandatory because oil can burn or deteriorate over time. There’s a likely chance that even if you see the oil in there, it’s most likely worn out and ineffective due to heat and friction.
The fork seals should also be replaced as they are the first ones to fail.
12. Check For Blown Fuses And Gaskets
In fuses and gaskets, one is an electrical component while the other is mechanical. However, both these parts are very crucial for the effective working of a motorcycle and the health of its engine.
You need to first look into the gaskets since it’s a mechanical component and an important one.
The gasket is a mechanical seal placed in between two surfaces, primarily at the engine block and the head of the cylinder. It helps control the leakage caused by the compression process of the engine and allows the effective transportation of coolant and oil through them.
It not only protects the engine, but it also makes it internally cool as much as it can. However, this component can fail due to wear and tear. Once it fails, there’s no gasket working and it causes leakage of coolant as well as oil and heat.
When it blows out, the engine is in trouble. You can take control of it by reinstalling the new and effective seal right at the moment for a solution.
Coming to the fuses, are electrical safety equipment designed and installed to protect the engine wiring and other components from overcurrent produced by the battery.
Just like the gaskets, these fuses can also be blown due to an overloading of current.
13. Look For Wear and Tear
Wear and tear are two words but there is a complete novel in them. It is a natural process between two surfaces of metals. In wear and tear, the two surfaces deteriorate each other or a particular component due to excessive friction, heat, and energy.
Most components on the engine and motorcycle are metallic and they are prone to wear and tear when you don’t maintain or excessively use them.
To prevent this damage, you need to use oil and emphasize more on lubrication. And there are many components which can wear out.
The most common ones to wear out contain chains and sprockets, belt drive mechanisms, gears and clutch, tires and wheels, pivots, links, and a few components in the engine chamber.
If you find anything worn out already, it must be replaced because it’s going to be useless anytime soon.
14. Look At the Overall Transmission
Even if you have taken a look at the gears and sprockets of your motorcycle, the job is still not completed. You have a little more to do so you can cover all of its transmission.
Because the chain is not the only component in transmission, there are several others.
The first of the major components is clutch and overseeing it can be problematic. You need to validate if the clutch is doing great and it’s in fine condition. If you see any wear and tear in this thing or any kind of abnormal note here, the clutch might need maintenance.
This maintenance includes clutch adjustment and primarily the clutch plates. Check for any breakage or rust in its clutch plates. If you notice some kind of play or clutch slipping issue, there is nothing fixable and you would need to replace the clutch entirely.
Other than the clutch, you must take a look at the gearbox and examine its condition. Make sure it has enough lubricant so it can provide ample smoothness.
However, you might face hard to shift gear issues on several drive trains. All these issues can seriously damage the edges of gears.
15. Look For Brakes
When it comes to safety, we can’t skip the brakes. Brakes have a lot of importance in motorcycles since they are fast and lightweight compared to other vehicles on the road.
It’s always better to check the brakes every time before you take your motorcycle on a long ride.
Without decent brakes, you are just one step away from an accident. A few motorcycles feature conventional braking however most motorcycles have ABS installed on them for advanced safety of the machine and rider on it. Again, there are a lot of things to check.
First of all, you need to check for its brake pads. These pads stop your motorcycle finally and they can wear out quickly.
If your motorcycle is resting in the garage for a long time, these pads are already worn out, and replacing them is a must for everyone’s safety.
Similarly, you need to check its cylinder, braking fluids, and calipers as well. The master cylinder is a major component but it can fail too.
If you see any rust or if the braking lacks lubrication, the brakes will not be efficient but risky.
16. How Are Its Filters
There are several filters installed on a motorcycle. Each of these filters is installed at different locations and they have different functions.
You need to check the condition of every filter installed in your machine so it can make the working of the engine pretty efficient and error free.
First, take a look at its air filter. The air filter acts as a firewall to prevent dust and debris from the air or environment from getting into the engine.
If the air filter is clogged because it was not replaced shortly, you need to replace it as soon as possible.
Otherwise, the dust can enter the engine and cause trouble. There are several air filters in the market but mainly there are two types. Paper and oil filters.
Paper filters are most common and found in road motorcycles however oil filters are meant for off road motorcycles instead.
Similarly, there’s a fuel filter that is used to filter the gasoline you fill in the tank. When you refill from any station, there are particles present in the fuel which can collect in the motorcycle tank and block the fuel supply to the engine.
It’s crucial to have a fuel filter in your motorcycle and you also need to maintain it regularly by replacing it.
Air filters are mostly universal but fuel filters can be different sometimes.
17. How Is Its Spark Plug
The spark plug, another important figure in the motorcycle components, does half of the job in starting your engine.
Without a spark plug, the engine can never get any spark which is crucial for the ignition process. It is an electrical component connected and integrated into an engine.
The spark plugs can build up carbon contamination and clog out. In that case, the functioning is affected and the engine will not be started.
Failure of spark plugs is one of the common reasons for stalling problems in motorcycles. Unless you replace it, the motorcycle will not be started.
However, installing, removing, and replacing a spark plug is not complicated. It’s a DIY task and you don’t need a professional or high tech mechanic to fix it.
18. How Are Its Carburetor And Valves
Similar to a spark plug, the carburetor is another very important figure in motorcycle components which is worth taking a look at every time or at least once a week if you are having a bad experience with it.
There are many issues with the carburetor and they all affect the engine.
It commonly floods and asks for a tuning. The carburetor is used to clog and sometimes you need to replace it since it has a life of around 2 years.
If the motorcycle is not being used commonly or sitting in the garage for several months, the carburetor could be faulty as well.
Similar to the carburetor, the valves can also be at fault and every motorcycle needs a valve clearance for every 40 to 60,000 miles. It is one of the few tasks that you can’t do yourself due to technicalities and risks of damaging the system.
A professional and qualified mechanic should do it and it costs you. The total cost of this task could be $ 700 to $1500 sometimes.
19. How Is Its Pump Doing
To power the fluid mechanics of the engine, a motorcycle comes equipped with several kinds of pumps designated for different jobs. Primarily, there are three major pumps you will find in a motorcycle. These include pumps for oil, coolant, and a fuel pump which is the most important.
The most vulnerable and commonly failed pump on any motorcycle is usually its fuel pump. The job of a fuel pump is to transport the fuel from the tank to the engine and other destinations with a specific rate of pressure for the effective working of the motorcycle and to get the best performance.
Fuel pumps can fail due to a variety of reasons but two are the most common. Firstly, it can fail due to electrical issues and problems with the fuses causing overcurrent and blowing it.
Secondly, the deterioration of rubber fuel lines and the quality of gasoline can cause malfunctioning.
If a fuel pump malfunctions, it can not be repaired since the damage is irreversible most of the time. As a result, you need to replace it with a new and better pump.
However, fuel pumps are generally inexpensive so that’s not a major issue with them.
Similar to fuel pumps, the coolant and oil pump can fail too. Oil pumps do not fail frequently however, coolant pumps can fail commonly, especially in motorcycles with liquid cooled engines.
These pumps are also not meant for repair so replacement is the only solution.
20. Adjust Its Mirrors And Indicators
Well, this might sound silly or foolish to some people as they don’t think of adjusting mirrors on their motorcycles as part of maintenance. It is not a part of maintenance but it should be under the checklist anyway.
These mirrors are installed not just as a dressing source for riders, they are also meant for checking the status of traffic for a bypass and overtake on a busy highway.
Over time, these mirrors loosen up themselves and become vulnerable if they fall due to wind turbulence on highways.
To counter this and especially if you have not ridden your machine for a couple of months, it’s best to adjust the position of the mirror as well as the screws for the safety of everyone around you.
Make sure to properly clean them as well so you can have a better viewing window.
Other than its mirror, there’s also a need for checking and validating the functioning of both indicators and lights.
The headlight and tail lights on your motorcycles should be working fine because it’s very important to be visible while driving at night.
Do not skip checking the health of its indicator at all. Make sure they are working fine and in physically perfect condition.
20. Tighten All Its Fasteners
The motorcycle has several fasteners assembled into its various components.
The job of these fasteners such as washers, seals, screws, and bolts is to keep two or more components assembled and in contact. However, with time and due to wear and tear, they can lose.
Once they become loose, these fasteners can cause chaos both for the motorcycle and people moving around you.
It’s always recommended to tighten all the fasteners on your motorcycles to keep a good formation all around the assembly.
22. Check Its Horn And Overall Wiring
Motorcycles have a lot of electrical and electronic things in them designed to provide the rider with ease and safety as well.
All these components are connected and the ECU. They communicate and operate with the series of wirings placed inside the motorcycle.
With time, these wirings can go bad and if you don’t maintain them, they will surely be gone.
However, instead of panicking, you should keep a regular eye on these machines instead of knowing them after the flood. Make sure the health of the wiring is fine and free from errors.
Other than wiring, make sure to check its horn and fix it right away if there are any issues with it.
23. Inspect Electronics And Handlebar Switches
Other than wirings and horns, there are various other electronics installed and placed on a motorcycle to assist you whether you are on a ride or not.
Electronically, there are several functions but primarily there are switches placed on the handlebar so you can reach them at your fingertips.
The most important ones are the cruise control, indicators, gauges, and traction control. Inspect them all and you are good to go with your rides.
24. Inspect Bearings And Side Stand
The very last technical thing you need to do is to inspect all the bearings and washers on it. These bearings are pretty helpful in functioning on the engine and overall motorcycle. There are several bearings at various positions on a motorcycle, but you need to check the primary bearings.
The primary bearings contain the bearings connecting the connecting rod in the engine and the bearings in the wheels and handlebars.
They all must be in perfect condition, they all should be greased and lubricated well enough and they all should be working fine before you go on a ride.
The last important thing is to make sure the side stand is working fine. Sometimes, the spring does not work and motorcycles cannot be docked on it.
The other times, there is a play in the side stand which affects the positioning and working of the side stand.
Also, make sure the safety indication for the side stand is working fine so you don’t crash it somewhere by overseeing it.
25. Check its Exhaust Sound and Power
The very last thing before you ride your motorcycle is to start it. By starting it, you need to check how well is it starting and if there is any difference in the exhaust noise.
Check if the engine is running calm and it’s not running hot.
Make sure there are no vibrations in the engine and the engine sounds pretty normal. If these things are okay, now sit on it and take a test ride to check the power and output.
Do you feel it is normal or is the power less? This way, you can make sure to get the best performance out of it.
There are many tools that you may require but the following are the most important ones to have in your motorcycle maintenance tools kit:
- Wrench Set
- Allen Keys
- Screwdrivers Set
- Inspection Light
- Pressure Gauges
- Spark plug Key
Usama Ansari is a passionate writer interested in bikes and automotive vehicles. With years of experience and expertise in the field, he is quite familiar with many vehicles. His knowledge and love for everything related to bikes and automobiles have shaped his career, making him a trusted source of information and insights. Twitter | Facebook