Life gets busy, time passes by and so much escapes us we forget to do the simple things.
And as long as the engine on your motorcycle fires up, it's all good, right? Sure, at least until things go south.
Only two times in the day do we remember to check the oil level on our motorcycle: In the middle of the night and when flying out of the house trying to get somewhere. You promise yourself to check it in the morning but you forget or have no time and then you promise yourself to check it later when you get home and, of course, you forget.
The cycle repeats and before long all those routine maintenance needs add up. Therefore, once a week or so, set aside some time (usually the weekend depending on your work schedule) and spend 15 minutes giving your motorcycle the once over to ensure an all systems go checkup to keep your ride running at optimum levels. We have identified 10 components on your motorcycle you have probably overlooked and should check as part of routine maintenance and upkeep:
Motorcycle Maintenance Tips
Check the tire pressure when cold and adjust accordingly. Inspect the sidewalls for cracking, bulges and weathering, check tread depth and look for objects like glass or thorns stuck in the tires.
A quick visual check of the front and rear brakes offers a pretty good indication to whether you might need new pads or discs in the near future. Also, turn the key to "on" and pull in the brake lever or push on the brake pedal - check that the brake light activates properly.
Check engine oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, hydraulic fluid and coolant for proper levels and as a way to catch leaks early. Slow leaks emanating from gaskets, hoses and/or seals might not show right away but observing a drop in fluid levels over time often points to something faulty.
If you notice dirt and road grim routinely sticking to a specific area of the engine that could indicate a leak.
Check all lights for proper functioning, working bulbs and intact casings:
- Headlight - should always be operating
- High beams - check for proper function
- Tail light - check for proper function
- Brake light - see above under "Brakes"
- Turn signals - check for proper functions
- License plate light - differs by state but usually needs a white light the illuminates whole plate
We had to throw this one in here because so many times you forget to check the fuel gauge and get stuck in a much needed gas station situation. Keep an eye on the fuel gauge anytime you ride and fill up as needed.
If you only occasionally ride, and since most fuel blends use ethanol, you might want to rock the bike back and forth to mix the fuel in case of separation.
Drive Chain or Belt
Check belt tension and lubricate chain as recommended by the owner's manual especially if the bike has sat for a long time. Clean if excessively dirty before heading out. Check the sprockets, too, for any signs of wear or chipped teeth.
Inspect the belt as you do the tires and look for damage, discoloration and/or cracking. Time to replace if you notice any of the signs.
A dirty air filter prevents your motorcycle from running at peak performance and contributes to a dirty engine. You probably haven't checked your car's air filter in a while either, so why not check both at the same time. You just might be surprised at how dirty these things get.
Check for missing bolts, screws and nuts. While looking for any missing hardware, tighten to torque spec all that keep your two-wheeled machine in one piece.
The controls in this case refer to everything that helps you ride, steer and stop your motorcycle:
- Handlebars - Check for straightness, free movement and fastened securely
- Levers - Check for proper functioning and lubricate pivots
- Pedals - Check for proper functioning and lubricate pivots
- Cables - Check for frayed ends or stretching and no interference with the general control and operation of the bike
- Throttle - Should move easily and snap back when released
If you ride regularly then you will have little problem with battery drain until it becomes old and no longer holds a charge. If you take extended breaks off your motorcycle or only ride seasonally, keep your battery on a tender to keep it fully charged and prevent premature aging. In any case, check the battery terminals for acid leaks and, if not sealed, ensure the water level remains acceptable.
We could add a few more to this list like ensuring your tags are up-to-date but that should get sent by mail from your state's DMV. Some motorcycles have spokes, some don't, so that's another if applicable. Washing your motorcycle offers a perfect time to perform these checks and keeps you up to speed on the condition and shape of your ride.