Maintaining Your Motorcycle
A motorcycle requires a lot of maintenance. Motorcycles are different from automobiles because you only have two wheels to take you down the road, and one loose bolt on a bike can mean the difference between an enjoyable Sunday afternoon ride or a breakdown -- or worse yet, a crash. We will discuss routine motorcycle maintenance, what to look for, and how to accomplish it.
Keep It Clean
While routine cleaning will make sure your bike to always looks its best, the simple act of washing and detailing a bike can help you spot areas of concern. During cleaning, you may find components that are loose, or that need to be replaced. By drying the bike by hand, you will have the opportunity to see problem areas.
Change The Oil
Motorcycles are a lot like cars. They need an oil change at regular intervals to keep them healthy. The recommended intervals are every 3 months or every 3,000 miles -- whichever comes first. There has been a lot of controversy about using automotive engine oils in motorcycles. BMW, the German motorcycle manufacturer, expressly specifies using a non-synthetic oil until the bike is broken in. Motorcycle Consumer News reports that the difference between motorcycle specific oils and auto oils is next to nothing. Your best bet? Follow manufacturer's instructions.
Check The Chain
Chain tension is very important on a bike, as is lubrication. Many riders will lube their chain before every ride. This is a good thing - you can inspect the chain rollers for cracker rollers and can examine the sprocket at the same time for "hooked" teeth. Use either spray wax chain lubricant or pour some gear oil on the chain. Don't overdo it unless you want a nice oil stripe down your back. Tension is important, because if the chain is too tight, it will cause undue wear of both the chain and sprockets. A chain that is too loose can "grab," causing poor performance or a breakdown. Plan to check chain tension at the minimum of 600 miles. Follow manufacturer instructions to adjust it properly. Be very careful here - you don't want the rear wheel to get cocked from improper adjustment.
Give Your Tires Lots of Love
Inspecting your tires and maintaining proper tire pressure is extremely important on a bike. Before each ride, make it a habit to inspect the tires for cuts or abrasions, or uneven wear, indicating improper tire pressure. While you're at it, check the spokes to see if any are damaged or loose. Inspect the rim to insure there are no dents or cracks. If you buy only one tool for motorcycle maintenance, make it a high quality air pressure gauge. Always check tires when cold, and add air as needed. You can buy a cheap air compressor at Lowe's or Menards for under $75.00. The investment might well save your life.
Check Those Cables
Always make it a habit to check cables and controls to ensure smooth and proper movement. Look for frayed cables, and replace them immediately. A frayed clutch cable that breaks in heavy traffic can make for an interesting ride, indeed. Lubricate those cables per manufacturer instructions on a regular basis.
Hardware Maintenance is Important
Make it a habit to regularly check nuts, bolts and cotter pins for tightness and security. Make a habit of going around the bike with the proper wrenches to ensure they are tight. Don't rely on a looky-loo. Because motorcycles are prone to vibration, a nut can work loose or a bolt can back itself out. One old riders trick is to coat every important bolt with bathroom caulk, and retighten. This reduces the effect of vibration on the bolt. If you decide to use Lock-Tite on certain bolts, be sure you use the non-hardening variety.
Taking Care of the Battery
Typically, a battery on a motorcycle should be checked at each oil change. Ensure electrolytes are up to the proper level, and inspect for cracks or problems from vibration. Many riders like to add accessory lights to their motorcycle, either for safety or aesthetic appeal. Remember that the charging system on your bike is designed to run the bike, not a Christmas tree. If installing after market lights, look into alternatives for the installation.
Maintaining a motorcycle sounds like a daunting task. Yes, it is labor intensive. By doing the proper maintenance, though, you are ensuring that your motorcycle is safe to ride. Nothing is more important than that.
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Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.