The spring signals the beginning of riding season for many of us in the Northern Hemisphere, which means bike inspections and tune-ups!
Remember- maintaining your bike is key for smooth operation and a well-taken care of motorcycle is a safe motorcycle!
If you’re like us and like to keep that machine in tip-top shape, follow these tips and instructions on how to make your motorcycle run smoother. It will help you learn your bike’s insides and outs.
1. Maintain the Battery
Most newer motorcycles run on a battery system to start the bike and keep it running while it is on. Batteries are just like any other part on your bike and will need to be tended to in periods of disuse.
If you want to make sure your battery doesn’t die during the long months of winter, or if you won’t be riding for a while for any reason, pick up a cheap battery tender. This device will trickle charge your motorcycle while it safely sits in the garage.
These electrical lifelines will need to be replaced every two years, but factors such as cold or faulty wiring/voltage drains can render your battery useless.
Pick up a cheap automotive volt reader at the local parts store for usually under $20! It will allow you to read the battery’s voltage and tell you if it is working at the proper levels or if it needs to be replaced.
2. Change Your Oil As Often As Recommended
It is recommended to change your oil every 500 to 1,000 miles. As oil ages, while lubricating the engine, it accumulates carbon and microscopic particulate. These added elements actually work against the oil’s ability to properly lubricate and cool the engine.
Dirty oil that hasn’t been changed will eventually burn up in the engine and cause catastrophic engine failure.
Fresh, clean motor oil can really make a big difference in how smoothly your bike runs. It allows for the proper operating conditions inside your engine.
That being said, make sure to check your motorcycle’s owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations on oil change timelines.
Be sure to replace the oil filter every time you change your oil, as carbon and tiny particulate build up in the filter’s cavity and can clog with overuse.
If you ride long distances or if you run your bike at higher RPMs, look into augmented service timelines for oil changes. Chances are you’ll need to change your oil and oil filter more often than the service manual recommends to keep your motorcycle running smoothly.
3. Clean the Brakes on Your Bike
Your brake system is integral to your safety and the safety of those around you on the road.
Outside dirt and oil can cause your brake pads, master cylinder, brake lines, and calipers to malfunction. Outside elements will be responsible for gumming up the works, blocking hydraulic lines and brake fluid ports, or causing your calipers to seize up while in the garage or riding.
There are several things you can do to clean the brake system on your bike:
- Bleed the old, degraded brake fluid out of your bike’s brake lines. This is recommended every two years.
- Replace your brake pads when they are worn down. Fresh, clean brake pads help your brakes operate smoothly.
- Clean the calipers and caliper pistons on your bike. If you have fully or partially seized brake calipers, your bike won’t run smoothly at all.
4. Make Sure Your Chain Is Tensioned Correctly and Lubricated
The tension on your chain is very important for the smooth operation of your motorcycle. If your chain is too loose or too tight, it can cause the chain to slide off the sprocket or seize up. Both of these options are dangerous.
One very easy thing a beginner home mechanic can do is adjust their chain tension. We recommend checking in on your chain tension every 500 miles or so. If you’re rippin’ it up on the dirt tracks and your motorcycle is taking a beating, check the chain tension more often.
Lubricating the chain is an important and easy step to take to make sure your motorcycle is running smoothly.
In general, all your bike’s lubricated elements need upkeep to maintain proper function. If you don’t lube up your chain from time to time, rust can weaken the chain and it might just bust-up at a very inopportune time.
5. Alignment Adjustments for Smooth Riding
Rough roads and the occasional unavoidable pothole can mess up or tweak the alignment of a motorcycle’s wheels. If this happens, you can end up with death wobbles at best, or difficult, dangerous scenarios when turning.
Alignment adjustments can leave the beginner shade tree mechanic pulling out their hair from frustration. Fortunately, a quick trip to the motorcycle mechanic can have you out the door in no time with a smooth-running, well-adjusted alignment.
If you notice the slightest waver in your bike, take it in to get the alignment adjusted!
6. Blow Out Your Air Filter
This one’s a no-brainer! Your air filter keeps particulate, dust, and outside elements from entering your engine. It’s the first line of defense against anything but air getting into the engine’s combustion chamber and causing some major problems.
Your air filter can get clogged over time with all the little bits of matter that it’s effectively keeping out of your air intake system. Old air filters can account for stuttering while accelerating, loss of acceleration, improper air-to-fuel ratio, or misfiring.
To keep your motorcycle running smoothly, use compressed air to blow out all the dust that has collected in the filter material.
It’s not a bad idea to blow out the dust every couple of weeks to make sure the engine is getting the appropriate amount of air at all times, leaving you with a smoother ride.
If you notice the dust and gunk accumulating in a way that blocks air from entering the air intake, replace the filter! It’s as easy as simply removing the old one and replacing it.
Pro tip: when replacing an air filter with a rubber boot, rub a little engine oil on the rubber so that it seals well to the metal of the air intake when you tighten the bolts.
7. Adjust Your Air/Fuel Ratio
As we’ve all heard, you need the spark, air, and fuel for a motorcycle to run properly. The spark created in the combustion chamber ignites a vaporized mixture of air and fuel, firing the pistons!
If you notice your engine misfiring or if your motorcycle bogs down, you need to adjust the air/fuel ratio.
An improperly adjusted air/fuel ratio can lead to a chunky, stuttering ride. This means you either have too much air or too much fuel mixing.
Finding the air/fuel adjuster screw on your motorcycle, turn the screw either clockwise or counterclockwise to adjust the ratio. This will lead to better operation while riding, and a smoother overall feel to your motorcycle.
8. Check for Vacuum Or Fuel Leaks
Air or fuel can be leaking from the vacuum hoses and fuel lines that deliver the mixture of both for combustion.
In the case of a leak in either, you will get a jolty, stuttering ride when trying to accelerate at higher RPMs, or your bike can stutter out completely and die on the side of the road.
As all parts will eventually degrade, so too will any rubber or mesh-covered fuel lines and vacuum hoses.
If you suspect that, you have some kind of air or fuel leak, do a visual inspection of the bike. Check for any cracking rubber or frayed mesh.
You’ll be able to smell the powerful odor of gas from a fuel leak before you see it. But if you smell gasoline, make sure to find the source.
Even small leaks can cause big problems. So, if you feel that stutter, especially at high RPMs, or if your bike dies suddenly, investigate.
Tightly sealed fuel lines and vacuum hoses are essential to the smooth operation of your bike, so seek them out before they become monster problems!
9. Tire Pressure
Tire pressure ratings not only save the integrity of the tire but also determine how your motorcycle sits on the road. Because all tires are different, check the manufacturer’s recommendation for how inflated the tire should be.
The pressure in your tire is measured in PSI, or pounds per square inch. All motorcycle tires have a range of PSI that are acceptable for the proper function of the tire.
If you are more inflated, closer to, or at the max inflation, your bike might ride a little jolty. Conversely, if your tires are less inflated and closer to minimum safe inflation, you might have a more spongy, soft ride.
Tires that are too inflated risk the danger of popping, while tires that aren’t inflated enough can lose their seal.
I’d suggest keeping your tires inflated to the median PSI recommended for your specific tires. But keep them safely inflated how you like.
Good tire pressure maintenance is as easy as checking the PSI every couple of weeks at a gas station. It also keeps your MPG high, and your fuel costs low.
10. Clean Your Bike More Often Than You Think
Hopefully, your bike is your pride and joy (even if it can be fickle and finicky to maintain, sometimes), so we’ll assume you clean your bike. It keeps it happy, and you look good astride your meticulously painted street racer or hog.
Cleaning your motorcycle also helps it to run smoothly-no joke! Because motorcycles have so many exposed, greased, or friction-inducing parts, it is a good idea to keep the exterior components clean!
Dirt, dust, and fluids can accumulate and adversely affect the operation of your brakes, clutch, and drive chain/shaft. Built up over time, these foreign elements will also scratch your paint, crack your seat material, and tarnish your beautiful, shiny chrome or sleek paneling.
Spray it down once a week or so, and wipe it down every couple of days.
Remember to re-grease or lubricate any exposed areas like the bike’s chain to keep it running smoothly, as well.