Ever get the feeling that your motorcycle’s performance isn’t up to par? Did your bike cough this morning when you turned the key in the ignition? Is it slow to respond when you want to slow down or stop? Does the chain rattle when it shouldn’t even hum?
If you answered ‘yes,’ then your bike needs some TLC.
If the thought of bringing your bike into the shop and leaving it there for a couple of hours gives you separation anxiety, take a deep breath and read on. Many motorcycle riders enjoy maintaining and repairing their own bikes. If you have a basic understanding of how a bike is put together, most issues can be relatively easy to handle. Consider this list of common motorcycle problems and our tips on how to DIY your bike back to health.
Resuscitating a stored motorcycle that wasn’t winterized: Of course, we know you weren’t the one to forget to winterize your bike. Or if you were, you probably had a very valid reason. Whatever the back-story, when spring rolls around and you can’t wait to hit the road, there’s nothing more disappointing than turning the key in the ignition and hearing… nothing. Often, the problem is that the fuel has gone bad and/or the battery has gone dead.
To fix this, first drain the tank. If any brown grit comes out with the old fuel, it’s an indication that the inside of the tank has rusted, so you need to flush it with an acid remover. Next, remove your old battery and install a new one.
Start the bike and let the engine idle for a couple of minutes to make sure there are no further problems. Then inspect the chain and sprockets to make sure they’re clean and functioning properly. If all looks good, take your bike out for your first ride of the year.
Adjust the front brake: Stopping is one of the most important aspects of riding a motorcycle. It’s essential that your brakes are in good working order and are correctly positioned so you don’t compromise your control of the bike. DoItYourself.com advises sitting on your bike and checking that the hand brake level rests on the front knuckles of your fingers. If this isn’t the case, use the lever span adjustment knob to correct it. You should also check your brake pads: remove the calipers from the bike’s fork and carefully slide off both brake discs. Inspect them for wear and tear, and make sure their padding is a minimum of 1/8 inch thick. Replace broken or worn brake pads immediately.
Clean and lube the chain [Assuming your bike doesn't have a belt drive]: You know those bikes with ultra shiny chains that sparkle in the sun? Well, it’s not by accident. Even if a chain is chromed (and looks clean and shiny), it needs to be cleaned and lubricated. If it’s not chromed and aesthetics aren’t really a consideration, then safety should be — dirty parts likely will not function as smoothly as when clean. The Family Handyman advises getting a wire brush, dipping it in degreaser and sliding it along the chain. Rotate the chain until it’s completely free of debris and mud. Then rinse it with fresh degreaser and dab it dry with a rag or sponge. Next, apply lubricant by spraying the sprocket side, because that’s where the chain meshes with the cogs. Then go for a ride to spin the lube deeper into the mechanism.
Troubleshoot the ignition: Again, one of the most frustrating issues is when the ignition doesn’t even respond. If you want to fix this yourself, you’re going to need your owner’s manual. Using that as a reference, check the fuses and replace any that are blown out. Then inspect the ignition system parts: a source coil, trigger coil and black box. If any of these are damaged, replace them. If you still don’t get a peep out of your bike, the spark plugs may be worn or the ignition switch itself may be malfunctioning. Time to take your machine to the pros.
Stop unwanted vibrations: If you wanted a bumpy ride, you would have bought a horse instead of an iron steed, right? But there’s more to unwanted vibrations than discomfort: they can pose a balance problem, especially at higher speeds. More often than not, unwanted vibrations are a sign that the bolts under the seat need to be tightened. Simply get an appropriate-sized wrench and screw the bolts tightly in place. If this doesn’t help, the source of the issue could be in a number of areas, including the motor mounts, swingarm, axle or steering head fasteners, the wheel balance, suspension or shock absorbers. For these more involved adjustments, or if you have any doubt, you should consider taking your bike to a licensed mechanic.
Home remedies can be the right cure, and when it comes to motorcycle maintenance, they can also be a lot of fun. Keep these tips in mind, and kick off the riding season right!