On average, a motorcycle will cost about $1,000 a year to maintain in the U.S., but this does fluctuate depending on whether you do the work yourself.
If you want to skip the garage and do most of your minor and preventative repairs and maintenance then you need to know some general guidelines.
Start with these 7 motorcycle maintenance tips for keeping your bike running smoothly and being prepared for an emergency.
1. Check the Oil
Oil is the lifeblood of any engine, so it is essential to check it often and get it changed as part of regular motorcycle maintenance.
To check the oil put your bike on a stand and center it. Then look under the engine at the oil glass viewer to see how full the oil reserve is. If your bike doesn’t have a gas viewer then use the dipstick.
To use the dipstick to measure your oil level take it out and wipe it on a clean cloth. Check the color of the oil on the cloth to see how dirty it is. Then put the stick back in and remove it once again to see an accurate reading. The oil should be between the two dash marks.
If your engine oil is low then top it off until it reaches the fill lines. Change your oil if it looks dirty or if you drove your bike past the recommended mileage found in your manual. Be sure to also change the oil filter when replacing the oil.
2. Gauge the Tire Pressure
One of the most important motorcycle parts is the tires. If the tire pressure is wrong then it could lead to a flat tire or blow out with too little air and bad handling if the air level is too high. Any of these situations are extremely dangerous when driving a motorcycle.
Check your tire pressure often either each time you go for a ride or at least once a week because weather conditions or a leak can drastically alter the pressure quickly.
3. Monitor/Change Brake Pads
Monitoring your brake pads is an essential part of a motorcycle maintenance schedule. Break pads wear down fast on motorcycles so they should be checked often.
Look inside the brake calipers to see if the pads are below 2mm or if you see any metal shining through them. This is a clear sign that you need new brake pads.
4. Replace Air Filter
Air filters keep debris from reaching your engine so a clogged or dirty filter can cause it to overheat. This is why air filters for motorcycle maintenance are a large part of how your bike runs during long distances.
Checking your filter and replacing it when it is dirty will improve the gas mileage and power efficiency of your bike.
Open up the airbox on your motorcycle to see the air filter. You can take it off to inspect it for dirt and debris. If it looks really dirty then try to clean it. But, if it is filthy and old, it is better to replace it with a new one.
5. Get a Repair Kit
Performing routine motorcycle maintenance at home requires a handful of tools. You won’t be able to service your bike if you don’t have the following:
- Wrench Set
- Screw Driver Set or Various Sizes (Including Philips and Flathead Styles)
- Tire Pressure Gauge and Air Pump
- Allen Key Wrenches
- Spark Plug Key
- Tire Irons
These tools allow you to change tires, add air, remove spark plugs, and replace filters. You should also have a small emergency repair kit on your bike for if you break down far from home or a repair shop.
6. Post-Ride Tests
To stay safe while on the road the most important motorcycle maintenance tips include ones that prevent accidents. That is why you need to have a regular checklist of the items to review before going on a ride.
A few were already mentioned like checking your oil level, air pressure, brake pads, and air filters. In addition, look at the chain, headlights, battery, nuts, screws, and bolts, and other fluids like coolant and brake fluid.
You should also test moving parts all the way down to the kickstand to see if they are mobile or need some oil.
Take your bike for a test drive around the block to check the brakes and engine.
7. Use Your Senses
As you take your bike for a test drive or while on your main route be sure to pay attention to changes in your bike.
You can tell if something is wrong before your bike breaks down by listening to the engine, smelling any odd odors, or feeling like the acceleration or handling is off.
If you think something is wrong with your bike then pull over somewhere safe and do an inspection. This procedure is better than waiting for your engine to overheat or a tire to burst.
Getting Help With Your Motorcycle Maintenance
DIY motorcycle maintenance can be difficult because it takes time, routine, and knowledge to keep up with it. Repairs also vary greatly depending on the type of bike you have and the availability of parts.
If you don’t know what to do or want an expert’s opinion then get help from a motorcycle mechanic. This may save you from making the wrong repair or doing it incorrectly.
Be sure to read more of our motorcycle tips and recommendations on our blog.