Motorcycle maintenance: spring checklist
Consider these tips to help get your bike in top shape for riding season.
Is the warmer weather filling your head with fantasies of revving up your motorcycle? To help you have a smooth and safe ride, mark off these tasks from your motorcycle checklist before hitting the road.
Take a walk around your bike
Start by walking around your bike and looking at every part.
- Look for leaks on the ground and smell for gasoline or other fluids.
- Examine pivot points — are any of the moving parts showing wear and tear?
- Turn the key to test the lights and honk the horn.
Drain and refill fluids
Don't start a new riding season with old gas. Before starting up your bike, drain the gas tank and any fuel from carburetor that's more than six weeks old. Gasoline can evaporate and turn thick when left to sit, which can plug up the carburetor jets and passageways.
And remember to check the oil, even if you topped it off in the fall. Generally, you should change your oil at least once a year. If you put a lot of miles on your bike, you'll probably want to change it more often. Run your bike for about five minutes to warm up the fluids. Turn off the engine and park your bike. Now you can drain the oil a little easier. Once the oil has completely drained, use a funnel to fill it with the correct type and amount specified in the owner’s manual.
Check the brakes
Check brake pads, brake lines and brake fluid before setting out on your first ride. Replace worn pads or cracked lines. Also, test front and rear brakes separately to see that they're in working order and free from scraping or squealing.
Clean or replace the air filter
Clean your air filter regularly by using compressed air or simply replace the filter if it's too hard to clean. A dirty filter may cause your engine to work harder.
Charge the battery
A drained battery is a common issue with a bike that's been sitting in storage all winter. Many riders remove their batteries during the winter and keep them powered up with tender or trickle chargers. If you do not remove the battery, there is a good chance it will drain all its power and will require charging before you can start up your bike. Use the correct type of charger and follow the owner’s manual instructions for connecting and recharging.
Inspect the tires
Nothing stops a ride faster than a flat, so think about checking the air pressure in both tires. Low pressure can make motorcycles difficult to handle while also increasing wear and tear on the tires. Also, check for signs of damage such as cracks or dry rot. Replace the tires if needed.
Clean the chain
Many chains are now O-ring chains requiring less cleaning than the older unsealed chains. Clean the chain when it gets dirty or according to your owner's manual. Complete a thorough check to see that your chain isn’t sagging too much. Your owner’s manual will often provide the measurements for allowable chain slack and how to adjust it.
Wash your motorcycle
Give your bike a good wash and dry when you bring it out of storage. Perform a close inspection and pay attention to the details as this can help spot small issues early on.
Brush up your riding skills
It may have been a while since you’ve been on the bike, so start slowly. Take a spin around the neighborhood to see that everything is in working order. Also, check that your riding gear — your helmet, jacket and gloves — is in good condition. You might also want to review these motorcycle safety tips as a refresher, especially if you are riding double. A little upfront time and effort is a small price to pay for a safer season on the open road!
Before each ride, think about completing a quick inspection of your bike. In addition to a quick visual inspection, consider checking your fluid levels, tire inflation/condition, operation of the controls and lamp functions. Consult your owner's manual, and take your bike to a mechanic for more extensive motorcycle service.