Motorcycle repairs and maintenance

What you need to know about your motorcycle

Motorcycles need regular maintenance to be safe and reliable. Keeping our bikes clean and in good mechanical order can be a challenge if we don't have a lot of knowledge, but it can be very enjoyable when you know what to do.

There are few things I enjoy more than keeping my ride in top shape. It all starts with inspecting your bike properly

Reasons to perform regular inspections on motorcycles

Every mechanical component on a motorcycle is more important to our safety than on a car, and we all know that right?

  • Bad brakes on a car are dangerous, on a motorcycle bad brakes are deadly!
  • A blown tire on a car may make you crash, on a motorcycle it is almost guaranteed!
  • The same goes for just about all parts failure of the motorcycle.
  • If a wheel locks up, you are in trouble, so an engine seize although often fatal to a car engine, is not usually fatal for the driver as it often is for a motorcyclist.
  • On a motorcycle an engine seize or even a misfire can cause you to lose control.
  • A worn chain can cause a rear wheel lock up and is easy to inspect yourself.

I always teach my customers to do what I call a "walk around" check of their bike before riding unless the bike is new.

Here is what I did with all the bikes that dropped into my shop.

Start at the front of your bike.

Front tire, brake or suspension failure can cause the worst accidents, so this is the place to start.

Full fairings can add hours to service times, and should be very carefully tensioned when replaced. This is a Honda VTR1000
Full fairings can add hours to service times, and should be very carefully tensioned when replaced. This is a Honda VTR1000

Disc pads

Front end with single disc

From in front.

  • Look for uneven wear on the tire. This indicates worn or even bent suspension.

usually a bent fork leg jamming one side of the suspension travel, or a leaking fork leg seal which will make the forks compress unevenly, or worn bushes in the outer fork leg unit. It can also indicate a loose triple clamp or head stem bearings loose or worn.

  1. Look down on the disc brake pads to ensure they still have sufficient brake pad thickness. Both pads should be worn approximately the same, and the wear should be even. If one pad is thick and the other thin, check your brake caliper mount for correct spacing and alignment.
  2. While still in front of the bike, check to see that the front wheel is pointing directly ahead when the handlebars are square to the wheel. If the bars are angled away at all, check for bent handlebar or a bent fork leg.
  3. Check for any sign of oil around or near the brake calliper. Oil here indicates that your brakes are leaking hydraulic fluid. Don't ride the bike until repaired as the brakes may suddenly fail. Motorcycles have a very small oil reserve!
  4. Check for any oil running down or sitting outside the seal on the fork legs. This indicates that your fork seals need replacement. This is a breeze on some machines with simple handlebars and instrument cluster. It can be half a day's work on some full fairing bikes, or bikes that are poorly designed. The seals are often difficult to remove after you take the retainer out. Use a workshop manual.
  5. Check the brake reserve and master cylinder (usually attached to the brake lever) for any sign of oil on the outside, or paint damage. Paint that is blistered is a sure sign that your master cylinder top or seal is cactus. It can also indicate that the master cylinder is malfunctioning because it's pump rubber is deceased. Check it thoroughly.


Honda CX
Honda CX

From the side.

Go to the side of the bike that has the gear lever.

  1. First look for any oil leaks. On a motorcycle any leak at all must be fixed immediately as the oil will be moved backwards along the bike as it travels through the air.
  2. If oil gets on a brake surface or a tire it is staggeringly dangerous!
  3. Now check the gear lever to ensure it is securely mounted. Some gear levers have another lever attached to them. Make sure both levers are anchored correctly. One shaft may have a spilt pin through it, the single type fits directly on to the gear change shaft sticking out of the gearbox with a bolt though it and a spline in the gear lever that fits tightly onto the gear change shaft. Make sure it is firmly tightened and not wobbling around.
  4. Inspect the fold-up action and the grip surface on the footrests or foot-pegs. The footrest should fold easily and have a good grip surface for your shoes. Make sure not to wear slippery shoes............. very dicey!
  5. Check for fuel leaks from tank, fuel tap (if on that side) and carburettors/ fuel injection.
  6. Check that all covers and bodywork are secure at all mounting points.

From the other side.

  1. Check for oil leaks
  2. Inspect the rear brake pedal to see it is firmly mounted.
  3. Check to see that the pedal does not travel too far before the brakes begin to work.
  4. Check for fuel leaks from the tank, fuel tap (if on this side) carburettors or fuel injection system.
  5. Check that any bodywork or covers are secured at all points. To do this I give them a gentle pull. If a rubber grommet or clasp is missing, secure it even if that means using string or wire. Never leave a body cover loose on a motorcycle. Again consequences can be dire.

From the rear of the motorcycle.

  1. Inspect the tire as for the front.
  2. Check the chain and sprockets for condition.
  3. Check the disc pads for wear.
  4. Check the differential for any leaks
  5. Look for any oil around the brake calliper.
  6. Ensure the number plate is secure.

Believe it or not, this old girl had been in a shed for twenty years, yet started straight away on fresh petroleum!
Believe it or not, this old girl had been in a shed for twenty years, yet started straight away on fresh petroleum!

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Comments 18 comments

Sa`ge profile image

Sa`ge 6 years ago from Barefoot Island

oh yea! nothing between you and that pavement! Great hub, you do such a great job teaching us all! Thanks again, you are the greatest! ~aloha~


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Great to hear from you sa'ge. Thank you for your interest in my hubs!

I actually love motorcycle maintenance!


SomewayOuttaHere profile image

SomewayOuttaHere 6 years ago from TheGreatGigInTheSky

Thanks Earnest!....yea, I've learned to look for oil or liquids that appear out of nowhere....if you keep your bike clean, and actually look at it, some things will be obvious...noticed i had a leak in my brake line this spring.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Well done to spot that brake line. The sign of a competent rider !


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

This is another great hub for my son. He is learning more and more about cars etc. Thank you.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thank you for reading my friend! I wish your son all the best in his endeavours.


Chaotic Chica profile image

Chaotic Chica 6 years ago

Great hub! Sometimes I forget that not everybody was raised to always be mindful and care for every vehicle you ride in or on....then I go to work! Sometimes what seems so obvious is the very thing that is overlooked by the person who wasn't told to look for it. Two thumbs up, as usual!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thank you kindly Chaotic! Maintenance is crucial, even on other peoples vehicle.

You make a good point.


Candie V profile image

Candie V 6 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

I've bookmarked this cuz my motorcycle needs some work.. wiring and battery to start with! Thanks Ern!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Great Candie!

Have fun with the wiring. Don't forget to tag all the wires that are not plugged!


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 6 years ago from Southern Georgia

Very informative hub, Earnest! I like the way you lay things out for the reader. Been a bike rider for over 40 years and there's nothing else to compare it to except for aerobatic flying. Rated up!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks heaps Randy.

I looked at acrobatic flying and it looks like the most fun you can have with your pants on!

Problem is, my inner ear is crud, and I get motion sickness in planes and on boats. I love sailing, so I bought an Olympic class Tornado. The other boats don't have the training wheels. :)

Do you have your own plane? I once had a 1/3rd share in a tri-pacer 182 I think it was. The one with the adjustable propeller.

One of the partners was an idiot and near killed us landing on a wet grass strip. I haven't flown in light aircraft much since! :)


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 6 years ago from Southern Georgia

No, I don't have my own plane but my relatives still do as they are in the crop spraying business. I don't have a private pilots license but have put many hours in flying over the years. Flying in a P-51 with a former WWII fighter pilot was something to remember!

Check out my "Why do they call it a Yak" hub to see how well I handle flying in a fully aerobatic airplane! It's not near as much fun as it looks! LOL!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Now the P-51 flight I am envious of. I would handle getting a bit crook to do that!

I will check out that hun Randy, thanks! :)


Nicky Smart profile image

Nicky Smart 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Very informative hub, Earnest! I like the way you lay things out for the reader.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thank you Nicky, I am pleased it was understandable. I try to write in such a way as even I can understand it!


Corentin 22 months ago

First of all there are a number of ways to build a bike. It will dpened on what you mean by building. If you want to fabricate a one off tank or wheels it will be very difficult as you will need a lot of skill and equipment and time. If you mean build like in starting with a frame you buy than sitting down with different catalogs and picking the engine, trans and parts you want to fit the frame and than assembling it and than having it painted by someone. that you should be able to do with moderate mechanical skills and normal tools. It will still take longer than you figure though and cost quite a bit.


Micheal 21 months ago

Thank God! Sonemoe with brains speaks!

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