Motorcycle Repairs

Biker Lover’s Guide to Doing Basic Motorcycle Repairs

Sometimes paying a professional to do basic repairs can put a dent in your wallet. Read this biker lover’s guide to doing basic motorcycle maintenance.

Motorcycle popularity is at a record high  – at 8% of American households. For all of these people to continue to enjoy their ride, they need to perform regular motorcycle maintenance.

Are you a new motorcycle owner and not sure what needs to be done? While many tasks are similar to your car, there are a few key differences. 

Use this guide to ensure that your motorcycle is always ride-ready. 

Tires 

Never cut corners when it comes to buying and maintaining your tires. Regularly check your tire pressure to ensure your tires aren’t over or under-inflated. Both of these will cause uneven and faster wear. 

Check that your tread depth isn’t below two millimeters. If it gets below this, you need new tires. How fast your tires wear will depend on how aggressively you ride, the climate, and the road conditions. 

Generally, the front tire should last you about 3,00-4,000 miles; while the back tire will last around 1,500-2,000 miles. 

Brake Pads 

You need to check your brake pads regularly too. You will have either drum or disc brakes. If you see that your brake pads wear below a thickness of two millimeters, then it is time to replace them. 

Ignoring your brake maintenance means that you will have reduced stopping ability. You can also damage your brake discs. This will result in a much more significant expense. 

Spark Plugs 

You shouldn’t need to keep too close of an eye on your spark plugs. They should need changing about every 10,000 miles. 

You will know they need changing when you see corrosion build-up and a wide gap developing. 

Drive Chain, Shaft, and Belt 

There are three different kinds of drive systems for motorcycles, chain, shaft, and belt. Each one has different maintenance needs. The chain drive is the most demanding. 

Chain Drive

If you have a chain drive motorcycle, you’ll need to keep it lubricated and clean. Every 300 to 600 miles, you should lubricate it. Always apply lubricant after your ride, never before. 

This lets the solvents in the spray do their work and evaporate before you use your bike again. It also enables the lubricant to penetrate everywhere. 

When you lubricate the chain, check the amount of slack it has. You need 2.5 to 4 centimeters of slack between the sprockets. Too much slack and your chain will slip. Not enough slack and your chain won’t move properly. 

Be sure to check the manufacturer owner’s manual. Every bike has a specific range that the chain needs to be within. 

Shaft Drive 

If you have a shaft drive, you are in luck; they require the least amount of maintenance. There are three main things you need to look after when it comes to caring for your shaft drive, lubrication, bearings, and gear fitment. 

Periodically change the oil in your drive unit. When changing, check for metal shavings, this is a sign of damage to your gears. 

You will also need to change the bearings when they wear out periodically. If you don’t, they will cause damage to the rest of your drive system. This task will require specialized tools and a bit of experience. 

The final step is to check your gear fitments. You’ll need to measure the backlash by holding one shaft and measuring the total movement of the other. You can then adjust the range of motion by changing the shims. 

Belt Drive 

A belt drive is lower maintenance than a chain drive. A single belt can easily last 100,000 miles. 

Regularly check your belt for cracks and excessive wear. Be sure to look both on the inner and outer surfaces. 

This guide is a useful resource for helping you know how to care for your drive system. 

Oil 

Similar to your car, you need to change the oil in your motorcycle regularly. This will extend the life of your engine. You should always follow the manufacturer’s direction on how often to change the oil. 

A good general rule is about every three to four thousand miles or every year. Always perform your oil change when the engine and the oil are cool. You should also be careful not to overfill your oil.

Battery 

Most motorcycle batteries have a two-year lifespan. If you find that your motorcycle struggles on startup, then you probably need to replace your battery. 

Fork Oil 

This maintenance task is going to be a new one if you have only cared for cars. Fork oil is located in the forks. These are the tubes that connect the front wheel and axel to the mainframe. 

The fork oil works while the bike is in motion inside of the sealed tubes. The oil keeps everything lubricated while the forks absorb the shock from bumps and dips in the road. 

If you see oil leaking, you need to replace the oil immediately. Otherwise, you should replace it every 10,000 miles or once a year. 

You will need specialized tools and a bit of mechanical know how to do this task. It is best to do it with someone who is experienced the first time.

Try Your Hand at Motorcycle Maintenance

With these basic motorcycle maintenance tasks, you can be confident that your bike will run like new for years to come. You can also be confident that your bike will perform reliably and safely when you need it to. 

After all, maintenance isn’t just about taking care of your bike. It is about your safety while riding. 

Check out our automotive section for more useful articles for caring for and working on your motorcycle.