Basic Care of Your Motorcycle

Owning a motorcycle is not only fun but can also be expensive when you consider the purchase price and insurance costs. Then lets not forget the add-ons like chrome and those little doodads that make that bike your own. Doing a daily walk around and then a major weekly inspection of your bike can save you a ton of money and prevent down time. Just getting into the habit of doing it will not only keep you out on the road but will keep you from pulling out your wallet and helping your mechanic pay for his new ride. The best way to do this is use your owners manual that came with your bike. All the recommendations you need to follow are in there.

Below are some highlights of what you may find in your manual. These are just generalizations and it is best to always refer to your own manual. Daily/Weekly Walk Around: First thing to check are your tires. Motorcycles don't turn like cars do, they lean into a turn and with that said they are the most important item on your bike.

Tires that are improperly inflated, squared off, cupped, cracked or have weather checking on the sidewalls is not a good thing. If you hate the idea of kissing the pavement or sliding through an intersection then make sure you have the proper tire pressure set. Your owners manual will tell you what they suggest for a pressure for the tires that came with your bike, but if you have replaced your tires it is best to set the pressure to what is on the sidewall of the new tire. You'll need a pressure gauge and they can be had pretty cheap at any auto parts store. You'll also want to roll your bike forward to look at the tread to see if there are any small pebbles or gravel stuck between them.

If there are some you can remove them with your key or a blunt tool to prevent puncturing the tire. This should be a daily check. Look under your motorcycle for any fluid leaks.

Fluid leaks are the cause of most down times. Your bike needs all of its fluids and when it leaks the leaking part can cause another system to fail which means more money to your mechanic and him closer to getting his new ride paid off. If you spot a puddle of fluid under your motorcycle the next thing to do is look from where the puddle is and move your eyes up towards the top end of the bike.

With a keen eye you should be able to locate the source of the leak and then be able to determine if the leak is an in shop repair or a D.I.Y. fix.

Next you are going to want to check your lights. With the ignition on you can do a walk around checking both right and left turn signals, emergency flashers, tail light and low and high beam operation of the headlight. Depending on the size of your bike and location of the tail light will determine whether or not you can see if the brake light is working off the foot and hand brake lever.

If you don't have someone handy that can look at your tail light you can simple aim the rear of the bike towards a closed garage door or place something reflective behind your bike so you can see that flash of red when you apply the brakes. Bike on kick or centerstand engine off: Here is a good time to check engine, transmission and brake fluids. Each bike has different locations for checking these fluids and it is best to refer to the owners manual for the proper way to check them. Add the proper amount of fluid if needed. You will also want to check the drive chain or with some bikes the final drive belt for proper tension and any defects. This should be done on a weekly basis.

Some of today's bikes are shaft driven as well as having a cooling system. So you will want to check those levels and any cooling lines for leakage or cracking in the hoses. Power On - Your Battery: Most batteries are maintenance free and do not provide for fluid level top off. If you are still using a non maintenance free battery then you can remove the small caps (usually yellow) and check to make sure there is enough water in each cell. Put distilled water in batteries, never use tap water unless that is all that is available.

Also check the connections for tightness and corrosion. If they are corroded or loose take them off and clean them and tighten them up. This should be done weekly. Whoa Nellie - Your Brakes: Depending on the model of the bike you have, master cylinder location varies. Use your owners manual to find the location and proper way to inspect and fill if needed. It is also important to use the brake fluid that is recommended by the manufacture.

Brake fluids come with different DOT ratings. Never mix brake fluids, the incorrect rating can cause severe brake failure. Make sure your brake fluid is kept full and if you have to keep topping it off then check your brake lines and calipers for wetness. One other place that is always forgotten is at the brake light switch that works the rear brake light. It is usually inline with a "T" fitting and they have been known to leak. Maintained and working brakes are very important they keep you from becoming a hood ornament on someone's car.

They should be checked daily. Go Juice - Your Fuel System: Check the fuel lines from the gas tank to the carburetor for loose clamps, cracks and hardness. Also check the gasket on the bottom of the gas cap for cracks. If you have any doubts about what is acceptable always refer to your owners manual or ask your mechanic. This should be checked daily.

Bike on kick or centerstand engine running: Before starting your bike always make sure it is in neutral and it doesn't hurt to pull the clutch lever in to be on the safe side. With ignition on look at the dash to make sure the neutral indicator light is showing green and that the oil light is on if you have one. When you see the oil pressure light on this is a good indicator that the oil pressure switch hasn't failed and is doing its job. Now you can hit the starter button to turn the motor over. Listen for any strange grinding noises which would indicate improper meshing of the starter gear and flywheel. Once the bike has started and is idling set it back on its kick stand and visually look at the motor.

Any serious shaking could mean a busted front, top or rear engine mount. Listen to the exhaust system at the heads and where the muffler connects to the head pipe for leaks. Give the motor a once over for any fluid leaks especially from the fuel system. Leaking gas on a hot engine means fire and not only damage to the bike but injury to yourself. Besides a BBQ is suppose to be fun and not require a fire extinguisher.

By taking the time to do a daily and weekly walk around before going on a ride can make the difference between the wind in your face and the sun on your back or taking the bus.

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