Basic Motorcycle Maintenance

May 03, 2019
Motorcycles, compared to cars and trucks, are relatively small and lightweight vehicles. These characteristics make them not just fun to ride, but easier to work on when doing regular maintenance procedures like oil changes, air filter changes, and the like. Basic maintenance items like these are important to know how to perform for any rider, from the beginner to the expert. Getting to know your bike and understanding how some of these components work will result in less time and money spent if an issue is to come up in the future, too.


An oil change is a good place to start, if your bike is due for one. Consult your owner’s manual to find out the manufacturer’s recommended oil change interval. If you’ve determined that your bike is due for an oil change, begin by taking it for a 10 minute drive to warm up the motor. Alternatively, you can simply let the motor run. Regardless, warming up the engine lowers the viscosity of the oil, making it drain quicker. Next, turn off the engine and keep the bike in an upright position. Locate and remove both the drain plug and oil fill plug. Place your drain pan in the position where it will catch the most oil. After the oil is completely drained, remove the oil filter and replace it with a new one. Be sure to wet the new filter with some oil before installing. Refill with fresh oil, using the amount and type that works best for your bike—consult the owner’s manual for this step. Finally, replace the oil fill cap and recycle the used oil.


Although the process can be time consuming, changing your air filter is a crucial part of proper motorcycle maintenance. A dirty or clogged filter can bottleneck the performance of your motor by allowing debris in. Begin by locating the air filter; it may be located under the fuel tank or in a more easily accessible position near the side of the engine. If it’s under the fuel tank, remove the seat. Before removing the gas tank, ensure that the petcock is turned to the off position. Now, remove the tank by unbolting it and unplugging any wires and hoses. At this point, the process is identical regardless of where your filter’s located Clean the new filter if necessary and place it in the same orientation the old filter was in. This will ensure that the airbox can do its job and allow air to flow through it. Plug in all wires, and remember that labeling each one makes reassembly easy. Resecure the gas tank, if needed, and voila, you’re done.


It’s recommended to check your tire pressure regularly for optimal tire performance. Start by locating the valve stem on the inside of each wheel and removing the cap. Apply an air pressure gauge onto each valve stem to measure the pressure. Compare your measurement to the recommended pressure, which is typically displayed on the sidewall of the tire. If your tire doesn’t have that printed, consult your owner’s manual. Depending on your current pressure, you may need to add pressure. This can be done with an air compressor, which is commonly available at many gas stations free of charge. Add air until pressure is at the correct pounds per square inch, or PSI. To remove pressure, lightly press on the inside of the valve stem. You should hear a sharp hissing sound, which indicates air is escaping and pressure is dropping. Once correctly adjusted, replace the valve stem caps. Use this time to also check tread wear and the overall condition of your tires. Make note of any objects which may have punctured your tires and can lead to deflation over time. If the tread wear or punctures are serious enough, the best option is to replace the tire.


Basic maintenance is essential to keep your motorcycle running for many riding seasons to come. Take due diligence to ensure all maintenance items are done correctly, such as using the correct type and amount of oil, replacing air filters when necessary, and keeping tires at the correct pressure. Motorcycles offer an experience like no other vehicle on the road, but they can be just as enjoyable to work on as to ride. Take the plunge and try these three basic procedures. The end result will be rewarding, and will give you peace of mind that your motorcycle—and your journeys, will be as safe as they can be.
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