Basic Motorcycle Maintenance

By Kristen Castillo

February 22, 2013 5 min read

Before heading out on your motorcycle, you need to make sure your bike is ready for the road. Some simple do-it-yourself maintenance will help keep your motorcycle revved and ready to ride.

"Read the owners manual, and get a copy of the workshop manual as well," says Mike Arman, a motorcyclist for more than 50 years who also has owned motorcycle repair shops. "Be familiar with the ?mechanics and maintenance requirements/procedures of your motorcycle. It will make you a safer rider and will save you a pile of money."

Once you're familiar with your bike and the owner's manual, you need to keep track of the following maintenance essentials:


"Proper motorcycle maintenance would begin with changing fluids at correct intervals," say Tod Davis, service manager, and Ben Blumke, shop foreman, at a Harley-Davidson dealership. "A brand-new bike should have all fluids, (engine, transmission, primary) replaced at 1,000 miles. At 1,000 miles the internal workings of the engine have meshed and broken in."

After that initial fluid change, Harley-Davidson recommends changing the oil every 5,000 miles, but Blumke and Davis note that it might be needed sooner. In Florida's humid weather for example, they advise changing the oil every 2,500 miles.

"Fresh, clean oil will help the motorcycle run cooler and smoother," explain Blumke and Davis.

Arman agrees it's a good idea to check oil often. "Motorcycles don't hold as much oil as cars, and tend to leak and/or ?burn more oil than cars," he says. "If you check the oil at 7,500 mile intervals, you're much more likely to need an engine than a half a quart of oil."


Adjust your drive belt every 5,000 miles.

"Properly adjusted belts will last the lifetime of the motorcycle," say Blumke and Davis. They go on to say, "Dry, incorrect adjustments could cause the bearings to notch, making for a rough and not so safe ride."


Maintaining your bike's battery is crucial.

"A motorcycle must operate at 2,000 rpm or higher for the charging system to charge the batter," say Blumke and Davis, noting that if you're not riding your bike for a half-hour or more twice a week, "a battery tender is recommended."

*Tire Pressure

It may seem like a hassle, but it's a good idea to check your tires before each ride.

With the wrong tire pressure, "steering, braking and handling will suffer," says Arman, who advises bike owners to replace worn or damaged tires as soon as needed.

"A tire can easily loose two PSI in a week, and underinflated tires will cut the life of the tire greatly," say Blumke and Davis. "Proper PSI will ensure you get the most mileage from your tires."

They recommend using nitrogen to keep the PSI constant, explaining nitrogen molecules are larger than air and therefore don't escape as easily. The result? Your tires won't deflate as fast as they would with air.


Your motorcycle's clutch needs regular maintenance, too.

"Proper clutch adjustment lessens engine strain, as well as prolongs the life of the clutch basket and transmission," say Blumke and Davis, explaining the clutch cable and throttle cables need to be lubricated monthly or else they'll "corrode, stick, fray and eventually break."

*Stay Clean

Whether your bike is your daily driver or simply for weekend fun, keep it clean.

"Clean bikes are easier to work on and it is easier to spot problems on a clean bike than a dirty one," says Arman, who gives this example: If your bike is dirty, you might not know about an oil leak "until the engine seizes because it is out of oil."

*Be Safe

No matter the make or model of your motorcycle, you want it to last and keep you safe.

That's why Arman suggests examining your bike every month for "anything loose, bent, leaking, hanging off or otherwise not correct."

His other suggestion? "Don't ride like a maniac. That not only wears out the machinery but reduces the margin of safety. In case something breaks or someone in a car does something stupid -- and they will -- you may not be able to avoid an accident."

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