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Basic Motorcycle Maintenance Checklist and Tools

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Basic Maintenance For Your Motorcycle

Not all motorcyclists are complete petrol heads, and some may even have trouble identifying one end of the bike from the other.  Whatever you level of expertise when it comes to your beloved bike, there are still some basic bits of maintenance that anyone can get a handle on, that can help lead to years of happy and safe riding.

Get your kit together

Before you start tinkering with your motorcycle, you should gather together a basic maintenance kit.  This should include at the very least:

  • A 3/8in-drive metric socket set
  • Metric combination spanners
  • Screwdrivers – a mix of flat-bladed, Phillips and Pozidriv would be best

Other useful bits of kit could include:

  • A rear-wheel spindle nut
  • Hex-head T-handle drivers
  • A tool for undoing your bike’s oil filter
  • A foot pump and pressure gauge
  • Lubricants including WD40
  • Some bike specific cleaning products and brushes for hard reach places

Once you are organised and ready, start with the following:

Check your tyres

Ideally, you should aim to check the general condition of your tyres on a weekly basis and check the tyre pressure at least every two weeks.

While you are giving them a once over you should check for the tyre tread depth, signs of unusual or uneven wear as well as any impact damage, cuts or items lodged in the tyres themselves.

When it comes to the depth, there are legal requirements that you must adhere to:

  • For motorcycles over 50 cc, the legal tyre tread depth is no less than 1mm around the entire circumference of the tyre and across the centre three quarters width of the tread pattern of the tyre.
  • For motorcycles up to 50 cc the law requires that all the grooves of the original tread pattern must be clearly visible.

Fail to meet these minimum requirements and you could face a fine up to £2,5000 and 3 points on your licence, per tyre.

Check your oil

Your bike needs oil to lubricate and cool the internal components.  When there is not enough oil in the tank, this can lead to major engine failure – not what any rider wants to deal with.  Checking you oil is easy enough to do, but you should familiarise yourself with your owner’s manual to see which oil is recommended, and how best to top it up.

Change your oil and filter

This may sound like something only a mechanic could do, but actually is it a simple enough DIY job for most riders to be able to do from home.

The design of some bikes might make it more tricky to reach the oil filter than others, and you may even need a special kind of oil filter removal tool to help you, but the fundamentals of an oil change are the same across all motorcycles.

  1. Ensure the engine is warm
  2. Drain any remaining oil from the tank
  3. Remove and replace the filter
  4. Refit the sump plug
  5. Refill with fresh oil

When you are done, take the old oil to your local council tip so they can get rid of it in a responsible way.

Check your air filter

Another easy filter job that you can do at home is changing the air filter to enable you bike to breathe more easily.  You should only need to unscrew or remove the filter and clean and re-oil or replace.

Check your fluid levels

Motorcycles need a variety of different types of lubricants and liquid to keep them running smoothly.  Brake fluid, clutch fluid and engine coolant will all need to be topped up from time to time.

Change your brake pads

Effective breaking is vital for safe riding.  Changing the brake pads is quite involved, but not impossible to do at home.  You will need to use fitting tools to remove both the brake caliper itself and the pad retaining pins – these could include a socket set and a torque wrench.

While you are there, it is also worth giving your brakes a good clean every now and then too.  Using an old toothbrush, and some brake cleaner, you can give everything a good going over while the pads are out.

Finally, remember to keep an eye on the brake fluid level in the master cylinder as you push the pads back in; if it gets too high, you might need to remove some.

Check your battery

Motorcycle batteries don’t fare well when left uncharged for long periods of time. Visually inspect the battery at regular intervals to check for loose terminal connections and signs of corrosion. If you aren’t lucky enough to ride your bike every day, a battery charger is a good investment if you are able to store it inside and close to a power supply. This will supply a trickle charge that will keep the voltage topped up at all times.

Check your chain tension

Lots of motorbikes have chains, and like all bikes, sooner or later you will need to adjust it.  This is a simply task that shouldn’t take too long, provided you have the knack to getting it right. Familiarise yourself with the adjusters and their calibration marks on each side of the rear wheel spindle, then use a spanner on the adjusters’ locking nuts.  Check your owner’s manual for the exact instructions for your individual model, then try this:

  • Loosen the rear wheel nut
  • Loosen the adjuster locknuts
  • Adjust the rear wheel position to take up the slack
  • Then finally tighten up the locknuts and wheel spindle back up

Remember also to keep the chain well lubricated in between adjustments. You should do this when the chain is still warm, so immediately after riding is best.

Keep it clean

Keeping your bike clean is not only a great way to show how beautiful it is to other road users, but also an important part of looking after it.   Dirt can get lodged in the moving parts to prevent them from working properly. You may also want to wipe it down well after every outing, as rain and water can lead to rust if it stored when damp. Use specialty cleaning products where necessary.

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