Want to develop a sixth sense for your bike’s condition? Learn how to maintain and repair it. Arm yourself with an owner’s manual, some parts, and a few tools, and you’ll be on your way to saving money and making your trips to the shop less frequent.
Get out your toolbox and start working. These motorcycle maintenance jobs range from simple to mildly challenging, but any newbie can do them.
1) Charging your battery
Tools/parts needed: Battery charger
A motorcycle’s battery needs charging every now and then to keep the electricals reliable. Locate the battery (usually under the seat or behind the right side cover) and remove it from the bike. Then, hook it up to the battery charger. Wait until the green light shows up and that’s it! Your battery is fully juiced.
Tip: If your bike has a lead-acid battery, we recommend switching to a maintenance-free version. These are sealed, so you don’t have to top up the water level or worry about acid leaks.
2) Changing the oil and oil filter
Tools/parts needed: Engine oil, oil filter, gasket, wrench
Regular oil changes prevent an engine from seizing and ensures it will run for years to come. If you haven’t done an oil change before, refer to your owner’s manual for the right oil grade and service intervals.
As a general rule, the engine needs to warm for about five minutes before you crack the oil drain bolt open. This allows the oil to drain faster, which should take about 10 to 15 minutes.
Engine oil isn’t the only thing you have to replace when draining your engine, however.—there’s the oil filter and gasket as well. Keep several pieces in stock, so you don’t have to think about buying them with every oil change.
Don’t forget to warm the engine again for another five minutes after the change circulate the oil.
3) Maintaining your brakes
Tools/parts needed: Brake fluid, brake cleaner, screwdriver, wrench, rags
Aside from the bleeding process, brake maintenance can be easier than changing your oil, especially if your bike has front and rear disc brakes. For discs, start with checking if there’s enough brake fluid in the reservoir. Top up if needed, then spray brake cleaner on the discs and pads as you rotate the wheel.
Drum brakes require more muscle. You have to take the wheels off the swingarm (and the forks if you still have drums up front). Once your wheels are off, spray the brake shoe and drum with brake cleaner, reassemble, then mount the wheels.
Test the brakes after cleaning to make sure they’re working. Start with gentle pressure.
4) Cleaning and lubing your chain
Tools/parts needed: Chain cleaner, chain lube
Make it a habit to clean and lube your chain every time you wash your bike. Get the rear wheel off the ground when you’re doing this to make it easy.
Spray degreaser on the chain and let it sit. After a few minutes, work in the degreaser with a nylon brush to lift off more dirt and caked oil. Rinse the dirt off, dry the chain, then spray on the lube. Wipe off the excess and admire your sparkling handiwork.
Tip: Check and adjust your chain slack once in a while. Too tight, and you’ll quickly wear out your drivetrain. Too loose, and your chain can jump off the rear sprocket and catch on the rear wheel. Neither is ideal.
5) Cleaning or changing the air filter
Tools/parts needed: Compressed air can, new air filter (for replacement), clean cloth
Motorcycles need air just as much as they do fuel. Clogged and dirty air filters make the engine work harder, which can lead to starting issues and a sluggish throttle.
Check your air filter every couple of months and blast it with compressed air to get the dirt off. Most air filters are found under the seat or on the left side of the motorcycle. Once the filter starts to look gray, replace it with a new one. Wipe the inside of the airbox, too. The better the engine can breathe, the better your bike will run.
Remember: The better you maintain your motorcycle, the more you can rely on it to take you wherever you want to go. With enough experience, you might even build the confidence to tackle more challenging repairs like rebuilding the engine or inspecting the front forks.