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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
From the side.
Go to the side of the bike that has the gear lever.
- 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.
- If oil gets on a brake surface or a tire it is staggeringly dangerous!
- 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.
- 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!
- Check for fuel leaks from tank, fuel tap (if on that side) and carburettors/ fuel injection.
- Check that all covers and bodywork are secure at all mounting points.
From the other side.
- Check for oil leaks
- Inspect the rear brake pedal to see it is firmly mounted.
- Check to see that the pedal does not travel too far before the brakes begin to work.
- Check for fuel leaks from the tank, fuel tap (if on this side) carburettors or fuel injection system.
- 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.
- Inspect the tire as for the front.
- Check the chain and sprockets for condition.
- Check the disc pads for wear.
- Check the differential for any leaks
- Look for any oil around the brake calliper.
- Ensure the number plate is secure.