Guide To Motorbike Maintenance
Maintaining a motorbike is important not only for riders who use their vehicle as a primary mode of transport but also for motorcycle riders who only use their bikes more seasonally in the Spring and Summer months.
Motorcycle maintenance requires more than just the scheduled service plan. On-going maintenance will not only keep a motorbike in good condition and minimise the chance of breaking down but will it will also help to keep the bike much safer on the roads too.
Some motorcycles can require more maintenance than cars due to the mechanics of the vehicle and the higher “revs” that it regularly generates. This is particularly the case when dealing with high performance bikes where the tensions are higher (e.g. tyres, brakes, chain, belt).
We have created this guide to motorbike maintenance so that riders can check the condition of their bike regularly, avoid higher servicing and potential repair costs and can stay safe.
Keeping tyres at the correct pressure is essential. Under-inflated tyres generate more heat than normal and can therefore wear out much more quickly. If tyres heat up too much the risk of having a tyre blow-out is increased. Motorbike tyres can be properly maintained by:
- Checking the tread on regular occasions – a visual inspection of tyres should be second nature. Try visually checking your tyres every time you fill up with fuel.
- Buy a pencil tyre gauge – a relatively cheap way of checking your tyre pressure accurately.
- Replace tyres on a regular basis – use the best tyres you can afford as it is the tyres on your bike that keep the bike attached to the road. If the tread depth is down to 1-2mm, it is time to change the tyres.
For obvious reasons, maintaining motorbike brakes is very important. Letting brake pads wear down too much can cause damage to the discs and lead to an expensive repair bill. Checking brake fluid levels and brake pad thicknesses regularly can save money in the long run.
- Motorbikes have brake fluid canisters on the front and rear of the vehicle. Check brake fluid levels regularly and look to top them up every 1 or 2 years. Always top up from a new bottle of brake fluid that has not been previously opened.
- Check brake pads regularly and do not allow them to wear too low – check for uneven wear as well as this could be caused by debris becoming lodged in-between the pad and the disc.
Chain Drive/Shaft Drive/Belt Drive
Whether the motorbike works with a chain, shaft drive or belt drive, the maintenance of this particular component is essential.
- Chain drive – It is a good idea to use chain sprays regularly. Make sure to spray the left and the right hand side of the chain liberally. The best time to do this is after finishing a ride when the chain is still warm and the lubricant will absorb better. Once applied, spin the back wheel manually to help distribute the lubricant evenly over the entire chain. No chain should be too taut - the chain should sag between ¾” to 1¼” between the two sprockets.
- Shaft drive – The wear and tear associated with a shaft drive system is less in comparison to a chain drive. However, it is advisable to replace the shaft drive oil at regular intervals. When changing the engine oil on is a good time to change the shaft drive oil as well.
- Belt drive - The wear and tear associated with a belt drive system is again less when compared with a chain drive. However, it is advisable to check the belt tension and condition at regular intervals. Again, when changing the engine oil is a good time to check the belt drive.
Changing the oil and oil filter regularly will go a long way to keeping a motorbike running efficiently. It is important to get into the habit of checking oil levels at regular intervals and it is recommended that oil levels are kept at the maximum level.
Running a motorcycle with low oil levels could lead to overheating and damage to certain components. If oil levels are dangerously low then it is possible that the motorcycle could grind to a complete halt. However, having too much oil can also be dangerous. Always keep oil levels close to the maximum but never over the recommended level.
The way a motorcycle is used will influence the amount of oil that is consumed and therefore how regularly the oli level may need topping up and changed. The following conditions would warrant more frequent oil checks:
- If riding on long journeys at relatively high revs, such as on motorways
- Riding in humid or dusty road conditions
- Riding in built up areas in stop-start traffic
Always follow the manufactur’s recommendations for oil change intervals - these can be found in the motorbike manual.
Keeping the battery fully charged will go a long way to preventing breakdown, particularly if the bike is used as a second vehicle or used infrequently. Following just a few checks it is possible to ensure that the battery is in full working order:
- Top up the battery with distilled or deionised water. Do not use tap water!
- Check electrolyte levels
- Check cables and clamps for loose connections
- Try and keep the battery as clean as possible
- Replace caps firmly
Hopefully these checks will help to maintain the motorbike well, whether it is ridden regularly or if it is only used in milder weather.
With a well maintained bike and cheap motorbike insurance you will be able to save money and enjoy your bike rides without encountering any nasty surprises on the roads!