Keeping your bike in proper working order helps keep you safe on the road. Some riders like to handle nearly all types of maintenance on their own, while others trust the big service jobs to professional mechanics. Even if you’re not mechanically inclined, there are still a handful of relatively easily routine maintenance jobs you can likely perform yourself.
These are just general suggestions. The actual proper application of each of the following maintenance suggestions may vary depending on the year, make and model of your motorcycle. Always consult your owner’s manual before performing any maintenance on your bike.
Checking Tire Pressure and Tread Depth
Hopefully, every motorist knows how to check their tire pressure. It’s generally just a matter of unscrewing the valve stem cap on a tire and pushing on a pressure gauge to measure the PSI. Your motorcycle’s owner’s manual should have the recommend PSI for your tires, which is typically between 28 to 40 PSI. There may also be a label somewhere on your bike with tire pressure info.
You should also periodically check your tires’ tread depth. You can check tread depth by inserting a penny (with Lincoln’s head pointed down) between treads. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, there’s less than 2/32 inch of tread left, and the tires should be replaced.
Checking Oil Levels
Many newer bikes have a sight glass that lets you see the level and condition of your motorcycle’s engine oil. Hold the bike level and look at the engine oil sight glass to make sure the oil level is between the two marker lines on either side of the window. You may need someone to help you hold the bike while you check.
If your motorcycle doesn’t have a sight glass it may have a dipstick. Check your owner’s manual to make sure you’re getting an accurate measurement. The oil should ideally be close to the amber color it is when first poured out of the bottle. Oil that’s dark or nearly black should be changed. Oil that appears milky may have been contaminated with coolant, which could indicate a blown head gasket or other engine problems.
If your bike is going through oil more quickly than normal you should probably schedule maintenance as it may indicate problems with a valve or piston-ring.
Changing the Air Filter
One of the many benefits of owning a motorcycle instead of a car is not having to deal with cabin air filters. Motorcycles do still have engine air filters that should be changed periodically (10,000 to 15,000 miles or once or twice a year, depending on how often you ride).
How easy an air filter is to replace depends on the bike. Some may even require removal of the gas tank to reach, which could make changing it more of a mechanic job for some riders.
Checking Brake Fluid
The ability to brake is pretty vital to any motorist, which is why it’s a good idea to check your motorcycle’s brake fluid relatively frequently if you ride a lot.
The importance of braking is also why a lot of riders, even experienced ones, trust a professional to change their brake fluid. Checking your brake fluid levels and topping them off is a lot easier than replacing the fluid or flushing the system, and it’s something every motorcycle owner should probably know how to do.
Your bike may have two separate reservoirs: one for the front brake (near or on the handlebars) and one for the rear brake (under the seat). If your bike has an engine oil sight window it may also have a sight window for the brake fluid. Some brake fluid reservoirs are also made of a light colored semi-see-through plastic, which should give you an idea of the brake fluid level and color.
Make sure the reservoir is level when checking volume; you may need to turn your handlebars for an accurate read. If the brake fluid is dark brown it should potentially be flushed.
You should be able to add brake fluid relatively easily by unscrewing the cap, pouring in brake fluid and screwing the cap back on. Brake fluid is fairly caustic so try not to get it on your bike’s paint.
Checking or Changing Coolant
Coolant prevents your motorcycle’s engine from overheating or freezing during the winter. Before checking coolant let your motorcycle run for a few minutes then cut the ignition. After your engine has cooled unscrew the radiator cap and check the coolant level with a dipstick. If the system is low (check your owner’s manual for proper levels) you can add more coolant.
Changing coolant is relatively easy for some DIYers to accomplish on their own depending on the accessibility of their motorcycle’s drain bolt and radiator cap. You may just need to:
- Remove some body work
- Unscrew the drain bolt (with a pan underneath)
- Remove the radiator cap
- Drain out the coolant
- Screw the drain bolt back in
- Use a funnel to refill the system with the appropriate level of coolant
- Screw the radiator cap back on
Cleaning Your Motorcycle’s Chain
The frequency with which you need to clean your motorcycle’s chain depends on the style and the age of your bike. Older motorcycles may have unsealed chains that require more frequent cleaning. Your motorcycle’s owner’s manual likely recommends chain cleaning frequency and procedures.
To clean your motorcycle chain:
- Elevate the motorcycle’s rear wheel
- Put the transmission in neutral
- Wipe any grime off with a soft-bristle brush
- Evenly spray the chain with chain lubricant
- Let the lubricant sit for about five minutes before wiping off any excess lubricant with a rag or paper towel
Do not let your bike idle in gear while doing this. Riders have accidently injured themselves while cleaning their chain with their motorcycle idling, so this job may be best left to a mechanic.
If you are going to attempt to clean your motorcycle chain, there are specially formulated chain cleaners you can buy online or at any auto parts store, but a lot of manufacturers just recommend using kerosene.
Get Help After a Motorcycle Accident
Keeping your bike in good working order may help prevent some single-vehicle motorcycle accidents, but it won’t protect you from other drivers on the road. If you or a loved one are everinjured in a motorcycle accident due to the negligence of a car or truck driver, the motorcycle attorneys at the Motorcycle Law Group are here to help.