How often do you need motorcycle maintenance?
The maintenance of a motorcycle goes hand in hand with owning one. We are going to take a look at how often they need to have service and some items to keep an eye on.
Just like anything with moving parts, motorcycles need routine maintenance. How much maintenance? Well, that is what we are going to look at in this article.
In short, most motorcycles require service every 4,000-6,000 miles or one year, whichever comes first. Your motorcycle service manual will lay out the specifics for your bike.
Motorcycle service is something that you can bring your bike into the local shop or do it yourself if you are the handy DIY type. We are going to dive through some tips and tricks to keeping your bike running at optimal performance.
Washing your motorcycle
Cleaning your motorcycle is great to not only keep your bike looking its best but also get familiar with each nut, bolt, and hose on your bike.
When your scrubbing your bike from the top to the bottom you are forcing yourself to get into any little nook or cranny that exists on your bike.
This provides a great opportunity to see if there is any extra build-up of oil which can indicate an oil leak. Or maybe you come across a cracked hose that leads to the airbox.
Using each time you wash your motorcycle as a checkup to ensure each part is in the best condition that it can be to ensure your future rides go smoothly.
If you want to start implementing this technique when you wash your bike but you don't know where to start. I would recommend the pre-ride checklist and keeping an eye out for these items next time you are scrubbing down your bike.
There are three different types of oil: Mineral oil (traditional), semi-synthetic, and fully synthetic. Your motorcycle owner's manual will indicate what type of oil, the weight of oil, as well as the quantity your motorcycle needs.
The amount of riding you do on your motorcycle can determine how often you should change your oil.
If you an occasional rider only taking the bike out for short trips or maybe once a month. Then it is recommended that you replace your oil once a year.
Your motorcycle needs to run for at least 30 minutes to get the oil up to operating temperature. The ideal operating temperature for motorcycle oil is between 220-250 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the oil is viscous enough to properly lubricate the inside of the engine.
The less that you use your bike the more risk of corrosion you have as your oil doesn't get up to the ideal operating temperature.
If you ride your motorcycle once a day or a couple of days a week, then I would recommend you stick to a mileage-based system of when to replace your oil.
For those users who ride their motorcycle often and stick to the mileage-based system, here are the recommendations based on oil type:
- Mineral oil (Traditional): change every 2,000 miles.
- Semi-synthetic: change every 5,000 - 6,000 miles.
- Full-synthetic: change every 7,000 - 10,000 miles.
Using the mileage-based system or the time-based system is a great way to keep up with your oil intervals for your motorcycle. We still recommend using the above as a guideline and not as a replacement for checking your oil level and oil quality regularly.
Tire Pressure & Tread
Having a proper tire pressure gauge will allow you to monitor your tires to ensure they are inflated to the recommended specs before a ride. Each tire will have the recommended PSI stamped onto the sidewall of the tire. Test and inflate the tire when it is at ambient temperature before a ride.
While you are checking the pressure of the tires perform a visual inspection of each tire. Check to make sure there is sufficient tread and there are no foreign objects embedded into the tire.
Motorcycles range from street tires to off-road tires. Their duration of use can range as well but typically you will want to replace your motorcycle tires at least every five years or 6,000 miles.
If you are wanting to know specifics on how long motorcycle tires last, you can check out my article I wrote here: how long do motorcycle tires last?.
Whether you have disk brakes or drum brakes, they are one of the most important mechanisms on your motorcycle. Brakes should be inspected before each trip out on your bike. I go over this in detail on my motorcycle pre-ride checklist.
You will want to make sure that your brakes are in spec and have at least a 2/32" deep brake pad area left to be legal. Most motorcycle manufactures recommend a brake inspection every 1,000-2,000 miles.
Brake fluid is the liquid that fills the brake lines and transfers the pressure to the brake cylinder to engage the brake pads to the brake rotor. This fluid can become contaminated if a brake job is done improperly. It is recommended by most manufacturers to replace your brake fluid every two years.
Not all motorcycles have a radiator with coolant as some are air-cooled. However, for those motorcycles that do, it is an important item to check during maintenance intervals.
Most motorcycle manufacturers recommend replacing your coolant every two years. Check your motorcycle manual to confirm your motorcycle coolant's maintenance interval.
If you are looking for some good motorcycle coolant to use, I recommend Engine Ice. It comes in a large container and it keeps your engine running a lot cooler.
Chain Drives: There are two types of motorcycle chains, the traditional metal-on-metal chains, and the O-ring chains also know as X-ring or Z-ring. These O-ring chains have a rubber O-ring that separates each chain link which aids in keeping the grease in and the road dirt out.
With traditional chains, they can be scrubbed hard with a stiff bristle chain brush (I like the Grunge Brush). Using a chain cleaner or kerosene to remove the road debris. Once the chain is dry you should apply a chain wax to keep the chain lubricated.
O-ring chains require a little more tactful approach as the silicon makes them more fragile. I would recommend that you clean your chain at least every 600 miles. It is recommended that if you ride in the rain that you clean your chain immediately afterward to prevent rust.
If you have an O-ring chain I would recommend taking a look at your manual for specifics on maintenance.
Belt Drives: These are similar to traditional chains but use a belt drive similar to the one that you would find on the front end of a car. Harley Davidson and BMW have some models that belt drive systems.
Although some drive belts can last upwards of 100,000 miles, you will want to keep an eye out for cracks, fraying edges, and other signs of damage to the belts. If there is significant damage or the belt is missing teeth, then it may need to be replaced. Adjust the tension on the bike's belt to make sure it is properly set to the manufactures recommendations.
Shaft drives: These require the least amount of maintenance compared to the other drive systems on motorcycles. BMW's are famous for their motorcycles that have shaft drives. With this type of drive system, it is important to routinely check the drive fluid as well as greasing up any fittings that are in need.
In this article, I have outlined some of the routine maintenance items that should be checked at various intervals. I would recommend that you get into a good rhythm of a pre-ride checklist. This will ensure you are actively checking each part of your bike to ensure everything is operating properly.
Each motorcycle is going to have a different maintenance interval based on the manufacturer. Your motorcycle manual will have the most accurate intervals for each maintenance item.
Making sure your bike is being properly maintained will ensure your bike is operating at its best. Working on and maintaining your bike is part of owning it. Enjoy the process as it will make riding a better experience.
I grew up working on my own cars and motorcycles and 15 years later I love still getting my hands dirty.