The sight of a car pulled off the side of the road with hood up and a plume of steam billowing out thanks to an overheated engine seems more like a problem of the past especially with today's technology.
OK then, when was the last time you saw a motorcycle stranded on the shoulder of the freeway, with the telltale signs of white smoke flowing forth from the engine, coolant pooling underneath and an exasperated rider off to the side, helmet off? Probably never.
In many respects, overheating a motorcycle takes a bit of effort but it does happen and almost always from neglect. An overheated motorcycle engine usually requires a rebuild, possibly a radiator replacement and the need to check other vital parts. In short, expect to pay a lot of money and time off the bike to get back up to speed.
But sometimes it happens even to the best of riders. So to help keep you from ever riding aground from the road we have some tips you can follow to help prevent your ride from overheating.
Motorcycle Overheating Troubleshooting
Totally obvious and probably the #1 reason why the engine on your motorcycle overheats: old coolant or lack of coolant. Keep up on general maintenance and follow the manufacturer's recommended intervals. Top off, if necessary, and though low coolant doesn't necessarily mean you have a leak it gives cause to check because...
The most obvious sign of a coolant leak comes from the puddle of coolant sitting under your motorcycle. Radiator hoses like to leak because of old age, punctures or loose/bad fasteners. But not all leaks give themselves away so easily. A small leak somewhere in the radiator system might quickly burn off during the ride and remain hidden after the motor shuts off and cools down. Keep an eye on the coolant level and if it continuously requires a refill then grab some tools and an afternoon in the garage or make an appointment with a mechanic.
Yes, little warms our heart and gets us ready for the day then to rev it to redline. The neighbors maybe not so much but it's just something we like to do. Unfortunately, over revving the bike upon start-up sets things in motion for the rest of the day including an overheated engine. Relax a bit before heading out and do a proper warm-up by letting the engine idle for a few minutes.
Engine Idle Setting
If the engine's idle setting on your motorcycle is too high this proves similar to rolling the throttle on start-up. A high-idle prevents proper warm-up and adequately dispersing the engine oil into vital engine parts before those parts can handle higher RPMs. Keep the engine idle around 1000 RPMs for the initial start-up.
Check Engine Oil
A lack of engine oil or old engine oil makes the engine work harder and causes unnecessary friction which in turns produces heat. In these circumstances, no amount of the bestest and freshest coolant available can prevent an overheated engine. So, change the oil according to manufacturer's recommendation and address any frequent low oil issues.
Faulty Radiators and Radiator Fan
All things work in conjunction with one another, therefore the right amount of fresh engine oil and the right amount of fresh coolant does little if the radiator doesn't actually work correctly to keep the engine cool. A bad radiator usually results from clogs in the system or dirty fins preventing inadequate air and/or coolant flow to properly cool off the engine. If the radiator fan doesn't work to keep the coolant cool which keeps the engine cool then you basically get high-priced water that boils over.
Stop-n-Go Traffic in High Temperatures
Sometimes we do everything right but the weather has the last laugh. Riding in hot weather normally affects the rider more than the motorcycle but when the mercury hits triple digits and you race from one red light to the next or sit in stop-n-go freeway traffic on the ride home you do yourself no favors or your bike. Maybe take the cage if you know what to expect and the weather calls for unseasonably warm temperatures.
Routine proper maintenance goes a long way towards preventing overheating and other mechanical breakdowns on your motorcycle. Keep your maintenance records straight and always follow the manufacturer's recommendations for the make and model of your motorcycle to keep you on two wheels for years to come.