Owning a dirt bike is much like having a child, it requires a lot of love and attention.
Unlike cars, where you can ride for thousands of miles without doing much in the way of maintenance, dirt bikes require constant maintenance. Those thinking of jumping into the sport should know that after every ride some type of maintenance is required to ensure the longevity of the bike.
Many riders embrace this aspect of ownership others find the detail work a hassle. Whatever camp you lie in, we can all agree we'd much rather be out riding then stuck in a garage fixing a broken down machine. The best way to ensure your dirt bike operates effectively and starts every time you take it for a day on the track is to perform routine maintenance.
This guide covers the routine maintenance needs of the 2-stroke dirt bike to help you move quickly and efficiently through the process so you can get out of the garage and back on the track or trail. We cover the following sections:
- Cleaning and Lubing Cables
- Chain and Sprocket Care
- Air Filter Maintenance
- Pipe Maintenance
- Spoke Maintenance and Tightening
- Carburetor Care and Maintenance
- Reed Maintenance
- Additional Maintenance Suggestions
Before we begin: start with a clean bike.
Cleaning and Lubing Cables
Cables represent the lifeline to most of the controls on your dirt bike. Throttle and clutch cables and the front brake line all need to be cleaned after a ride and routinely lubricated. For more information on cables, check out our Dirt Bike Handlebars and Controls Guide.
Carefully disconnect the cables from the perch and lever (for throttle cables disconnect the carburetor end) to clean any build-up around the connections. Add some lubrication, reconnect and tighten the connections. The lubrication not only protects the cables from wear and tear but acts as a barrier to dust and debris.
Chain and Sprocket Care
Never ride with dry chains and sprockets. A lubricated chain is a happy chain that rewards you with long life. Always clean the chains and sprockets after a ride and then follow that with good dousing of lubrication. In the event you see significant wear and tear on your chain OR sprockets, replace the whole drive train. See our Ultimate Dirt Bike Gearing Guide for additional information.
Air Filter Maintenance
A dirty air filter sucks the life out of your engine so it's crucial to ensure the air filter and properly cleaned and maintained. It's a dirty job for sure but imagine if all that dirt got inside the engine! Clean your air filter thoroughly with cleaner, dry it well and then soak it with air filter oil. Let it get real tacky before you install it and ride again.
Air Filter Oil
The obvious here is to clean the outside of your pipe to prevent rust and corrosion but an overlooked bit of maintenance here is the rubber O-ring between the cylinder and exhaust spigot. Always inspect this seal for cracks or other imperfections. If in doubt, replace your old ring. If you find the new ring fits oddly, use some silicone (make sure it withstands high temperatures) to help secure the seal. Additionally, if have an after-market factory/works raw pipe wipe it down with WD-40 after cleaning to prevent rust and corrosion.
While you're back there, check out the muffler packing. The oil/fuel mix 2-strokes use can cake oil all over the muffler packing which results in a loss of power and oil leaks.
Price: $9.99 - $11.99
Dirt Bike Exhaust Packing
Spoke Maintenance and Tightening
First get yourself a spoke wrench if you don't already have one. The key to tightening your spokes starts with patience. You can't just haphazardly start tightening your spokes; there's a technique involved to ensure the best outcome.
We suggest tightening every third spoke which means you'll go around your tire a minimum of three times. Don't over tighten either. Tighten every third spoke until a light snug is reached and if necessary go back around checking every third spoke again. Check out our How to: Wheel Truing and Lacing video and our Dirt Bike Tires & Wheels Explained guide for additional tips.
Carburetor Care and Maintenance
If left un-checked the carburetor is the most likely part of your machine to fail first. Even not riding is cause to check on the carburetor’s condition as evaporated gas leaves residue that can plug your jets. Routine maintenance also determines whether you need to jet your carburetor. Check out our Simple Guide to Jetting Your Carb.
There's a reason why you have fenders, mud guards and side paneling. Plastics protect you and your bike from dirt, debris and roost kicked up by your own riding and others around you. Plus you'll be thankful for them in the event of a crash.
If you're like most riders, you can't stand un-kept plastic that looks dull and faded well past its prime. Regular cleaning and upkeep prevents plastic from fading and looking old. Check out our guide on How to Make You Dirt Bike Plastic Look New Again.
Specific to 2-stroke bikes, reed maintenance becomes evident when the bike is hard to start or the exhaust opening cakes up with carbon deposits. You'll need to inspect the outer corners of the reed petals located inside of the reed cage. If you see any abnormalities like chips or fraying replace the reed pedals.
Additional Maintenance Suggestions
Keep an eye on your transmission or gear oil. This oil needs changing often and when in doubt it's always best to ride with fresh oil. See our guide to Dirt Bike Oils for more information. A great way to determine maintenance intervals is to invest in an hour meter so you know how much time has passed since the last time you rebuilt the top end of your machine. Check your owner's manual on recommended maintenance intervals.
Two-stroke bikes wear out the clutch more than 4-strokes so it's especially essential for 2-stroke owners to keep an eye on the clutch. Taking care of the clutch cable (see above) is a good place to start. Two-stroke bikes also like to eat spark plugs so check your spark plug often and bring along a spare supply just in case.
See our guide on bleeding your dirt bike brakes. Bleeding your brakes is a part of maintenance however you won't need to address it as often as other needs and keeping an eye on the brake fluid level is your primary concern.