Basic Maintenance

To avoid potentially dangerous situations your bike needs regular maintenance and you need to do the following checks every time you go out: Remember POWDERS!

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This is a guide how to use P.O.W.D.E.R.S as your checklist.

  • Petrol. Not only check if you have enough fuel for your journey but also consider the following. If you decide to lay your bike up for a long period of time, “brim” your tank to the top with fuel. Petrol unlike other fuels is extremely cold; when it sits in a metal container (your tank) it will generate condensation which in turn will mix with the petrol. As everyone knows water mixed with petrol is a very bad thing and will seriously damage your engine. A lot of people lay up their bikes over the winter period in a cold garage and leave just a small amount of fuel in the bike’s tank, a very bad thing to do.
  • Oil. Check the oil level to make sure it is at the correct height either by a dipstick or a spy glass in the side of the engine casing. Some engines may have a bolt in the cases which when removed the oil level should sit just below the horizontal line when you have removed the bolt or dribble out a little. Check with a dealer how to do the check for your particular bike. Remember to have the bike on its centre stand, use a paddock stand or get someone to sit on the bike to keep it vertical. Remember over filling an engine with oil is much worse than letting the level drop below the minimum mark. An over filled engine will blow oil seals everywhere around the engine and will cost loads to rectify.
  • Water. If you have a water cooled engine check the level of the coolant again with the bike on its centre stand or with the bike totally vertical. If the level is low remember not to use tap water. Always top up with a mix of distilled water and antifreeze. Antifreeze not only keeps the coolant from freezing in the winter but also helps to stop your bike from over heating in the summer. Don’t only check the water level but also check the antifreeze mix. You can buy a handy little tester from Halfords that measures the amount of antifreeze present in the coolant mix; the gadget only costs a few pounds.
  • Damage. Check over your bike totally for damage not only to fairings but also light lenses, brake and coolant hoses, cracks to the bike’s frame, missing fairing bolts, dents to the wheel rims from pot holes, loose brake caliper bolts from vibration, cuts or brakes to the wiring harness and most importantly damage to your crash helmet. If you accidentally drop your lid or if it falls off your seat then don’t wear it until you have a specialist examine the helmet. Most bike clothing retailers will examine your crash helmet for you. I know for a fact Shoei will examine their helmets for a small fee. Whilst focusing on helmet security, always try and take your lid with you when away from your bike, you never know what can happen to it!  When you do leave your helmet with your bike place it between the clip on handle bars, it won’t roll off the bike and the bike’s screen will protect it from the rain. The other option is to place your gloves on the floor with the palms facing down and put the helmet on top, that’s the way I was taught during my advanced Police course.
  • Electrics. Complete a full lights check before a ride remember to check both the foot and hand brake switches (some older bikes only have 1 brake switch fitted on either the front or rear brake). Give the horn a quick blip and if you are planning to lay the bike up for a while, it’ll be worth buying a trickle charger. Also check the battery terminals and also the fuses for any corrosion every few weeks.
  • Rubber. Your hoops keep you in contact with the road so make sure you look after them. Check the tyre pressures when the tyres are cold because the pressure will read higher when the tyres are hot. Also place a bit of spit on your finger and smear it into the valve to ensure the valve is not leaking air bubbles. Obviously check the tread depth of both tyres and clear out any small stones from between the tread pattern. The minimum tread depth for motorcycle tyres in the UK is 1.0mm. Visually check both walls of each tyre to make sure there are no cracks starting to form due to lack of use or age. If you are going to lay the bike up for more than a month on a cold concrete floor, place a piece of carpet under both tyres because cold concrete with draw silica oil out of the rubber of the tyres and reduce the performance on the tyre.
  • Steering.  Check no wires or cables are getting in the way of the steering or the operation isn’t limited by mechanical problems. Usually the best way to do this is turn the handlebars lock-to-lock a few times so they hit the stops on either side, check for any notch or rough feel as you swing the bars from side to side which could indicate bearing problems. Also if you feel a clunk or limited movement this may be simply down to a cable snatching or a mechanical problem – if for example when you turn the bars, the revs increase the throttle cable could be to tight or may need to be replaced for a longer cable.  Check the electrical wiring and cables are slack so they don’t restrict the movement and that all electrical cables are still in reasonably safe areas as not to get caught on the moving parts or kept away enough so the cables don’t become worn or damaged.

Regular Maintenance

There are many items that need to be checked on your moped or motorcycle. If in doubt always ensure you consult an expert.

Spark Plugs – Spark plugs must be clean and must be replaced at the first sign of wear. If the electrode is white then it could signal that your engine is running an air/fuel mixture is too lean. If the electrode is black it could mean that it is getting clogged up with carbon or oil.

Air Filter – The air filter is used to clean the air going into the engine. You can generally remove your air filter easily enough; if it’s dirty or clogged up you can wash it, just make sure it’s dry before you put it back in place. In some circumstances the air filter needs replacing.

Fuel Filter – Check the fuel filter regularly to ensure it’s clean and not clogged. Replace the fuel filter every two years.

Oil Change – Make sure you check your oil level whilst cold. If you replace your oil and filter regularly you will keep motorcycle healthy. It is recommended that you change your oil and filter every 3-6 months or about every 2500 kms.

Carburetor – The carburetor is for pumping the fuel and air mix into your engine. If you have problems with the running of your bike and you suspect the carburetor, any maintenance should only be done by an experienced motorcycle mechanic.

Brakes – Inspect brake discs and pads for wear, and replace if necessary. Check your brake fluid reservoir level and top up if lo; beware brake fluid is corrosive and will burn the paint on your bike.

Chain – Lubricate the chain often. All chains sag and should never be taut; this allows for movement through the suspension.

Battery – Batteries are often difficult to access so are often forgotten. The battery should be fully charged and you’ll know if your lights begin to go dim it’s time to get the battery checked.

  • Remember
    Regularly cleaning your bike means you can check the various problems or faults at the same time.
    Taking the bike to a dealer for checks on Tyres or Brakes is usually free as is asking for advice, so don’t be afraid to ask. Most motorcycle dealers are always interested in you, not your money.
    Your bike will last you longer if you look after it so don’t be put off by getting your hands dirty once in a while to check the levels or wear and tear of the various parts of the bike.
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