Comprehensive Care and Maintenance Guide for Motorcycles

Matt Matasci Matt Matasci · Updated July 1, 2024

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Your motorcycle is like your baby — and unfortunately, just like small children, motorcycles need regular attention and care. The consequences of neglecting a motorcycle aren’t as dire as neglecting a child. Still, they can result in costly major repairs down the road. If you’re new to biking, keeping on top of regular maintenance can be overwhelming. To help you out, we’ve created a comprehensive  motorcycle maintenance guide.

Regular Motorcycle Maintenance Keeps Your Bike Running and Looking Like New

While maintaining your motorcycle regularly is essential to keep it looking new, what’s more important is keeping it running like new. Most items on our motorcycle maintenance checklist only take a few minutes a week, which is hardly a huge commitment. 

However, suppose you fail to regularly attend to these small tasks. In that case, it could add up to a huge bill from a professional mechanic down the road. Luckily most of these maintenance needs are easily handled at home with a simple set of tools and a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance!

Create a Maintenance Checklist (and Stick To It!)

The first step in setting up good motorcycle maintenance habits is to create a checklist. There are many different ways you can organize your maintenance checklist:

  • One option is to print out the checklist, make a copy for each month and physically check off each task as it’s complete.
  • Buy a physical calendar and mark the date each task needs to be completed.
  • If you’re more tech-savvy, you can use a Google or Outlook calendar to manage your tasks.

Tire Pressure

Not only is having the correct tire pressure level important for maintaining your motorcycle and getting good gas mileage, but it’s also a safety concern. Tires with the wrong tire pressure can lead to adverse motorcycle handling or, at worst, tire failure.

Most motorcycle manufacturers recommend you check the tire pressure once a week — but others recommend giving the tires a quick inspection each time you go for a ride.

Checking tire pressure is easy:

  1. Check the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure.
  2. Unscrew the tire valve covers.
  3. Use a tire pressure gauge to measure the PSI (pounds per square inch).
  4. If the tire pressure is too high, use the backside of the gauge to release some air.
  5. If the pressure is too low, you’ll need to add air.

If you own an air compressor, turn it on and fill up those tires. Unfortunately, most people don’t have their own compressors. If that’s the case for you, carefully drive to the nearest gas station and use their air compressor. 

Most gas stations will let you add air free of charge, while others are quarter-operated. These days there are even air compressor stations that take credit cards!

PRO TIP: Most manufacturers recommend adding 3-4 PSI to the tires when you’re carrying a heavy load.

Engine Oil Levels

Maintaining oil levels is crucial for the health of your motorcycle’s engine. Without proper oil, components in the engine may overheat due to excess friction. Oil also cools and lubricates the gearbox and clutch. In other words, engine oil is extremely important!

In the past, you’d check the bike engine oil levels just like you would with a car — using a dipstick. However, modern motorcycles have a glass or plastic viewing window at the bottom of the engine.

The viewing makes it easier to check the oil and avoids the need to make a mess with rags to wipe off the dipstick each time you check the oil level. 

  • The top line on the viewing window means full.
  • The lower line on the viewing window means “add oil.”
  • Make sure the oil levels fall between the two lines.
  • Some manufacturers recommend keeping the oil levels near the top line; others recommend it stays a little lower, halfway between the two lines.
  • If the oil is black or dark brown, it’s time for an oil change.

No matter what, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for oil changes — they’re typically advised to change oil at 3,700 miles. However, it depends on whether you use mineral-based, semi-synthetic, or fully synthetic oil.

  • Mineral-based oil: change every 2,000 miles.
  • Semi-synthetic oil: change every 5,000-6,000 miles.
  • Synthetic oil: change every 7,000-10,000 miles.

Here’s a helpful video of a motorcycle expert checking a bike’s oil levels.

Chain Slack

This is only applicable to motorcycles that don’t have a shaft drive. But bikes with a chain can get loose over miles and miles of use. Your street bike chain shouldn’t sag more than 40mm; that metric is 50mm for dirt bikes.

Experts recommend checking the chain slack every 500 miles or every 2-3 times you refuel — whichever comes first. Older motorcycles may need more frequent monitoring as their chains get looser, faster. 

Tru-Tension manufactures a unique tool that makes it easy to gauge and adjust your chain’s tension level: the Chain Monkey. It only costs about $35 on Amazon, a great value considering you’ll use it over and over again throughout the lifetime of your motorcycle. You can find instructions on using the Chain Monkey on Tru-Tensions website.

PRO TIP: Don’t forget to clean and oil your chain every 200 to 300 miles!

Brake Pads

Brake pad maintenance is an essential part of keeping your motorcycle rides safe. While brake pad failure is unlikely, even worn-down pads can be dangerous. 

Before you worry about the pads themselves, remember to stay on top of replacing brake fluid. Brake fluid takes on moisture, diluting its efficiency. It’s recommended that you replace the fluid every year or two for maximum performance.

Now, on to the pads themselves. While you should replace thinning brake pads to maintain standard braking performance, the biggest issue is preventing damage to the brake disc. If the pads wear down too much, the disc can suffer damage, much more expensive than subbing in new brake pads.

PRO TIP: If your brake pad is worn down to ⅛” or less, it’s time for a new set of brake pads!

Cleaning the air filter is a regular motorcycle maintenance task.

Air Filter

Your motorcycle’s engine needs clean air to achieve its best performance. The way it gets that clean air? An air filter!

The filter captures particulates, so they don’t get into your bike’s engine. That means you need to clean or replace the air filter after a while. 

A poorly-performing filter can let dirt and other particles into your engine, which could eventually lead to engine failure. A clogged filter allows less air into the engine, affecting performance in various ways.

How often do you need to clean or change your motorcycle’s air filter? It depends on what type of filter you’re using.

There are three main types of motorcycle air filters:

Paper pleat air filter

PROS: Inexpensive, easy to replace

CONS: Cannot be cleaned, gets clogged quickly, not great for dusty conditions

Cotton gauze air filter

PROS: Higher performing, coated in oil to capture particles, can be cleaned

CONS: More expensive than paper filters

Foam air filter

PROS: Can be cleaned, don’t need to be replaced frequently

CONS: Less efficient than other filters

If you have a cotton or foam filter, you can check and see if it needs to be cleaned. If your bike uses paper filters, you’ll need to replace it more often — which is okay because paper filters are so affordable. 

As mentioned in the video, you can find No Toil air filters and cleaning accessories on Amazon.

PRO TIP: If you’re using your bike for off-road riding, you’re will need to change the air filter much more frequently than those with street bikes. 

Oil Filter

Another crucial component that protects your motorcycle engine is the oil. You need oil to keep the engine running smoothly and prevent overheating. Dirty or low oil can lead to expensive damage to the engine. 

However, it’s not just oil that needs to be routinely changed. You should also pay close attention to the oil filter. The oil filter should be changed between 2,500 and 5,000 miles or every time you change the oil. Many manufacturers recommended changing the filter every other time you have an oil change. However, it’s not expensive to change an oil filter, and doing so every oil change will improve performance and the longevity of your engine. 

Here’s a video to walk you through changing the oil filter (yes, we’ll admit we’re big fans of MC Garage!):

PRO TIP: If you want that handy oil filter strap wrench, you can find it on Amazon! Not only that, you can also find the oil pan, latex gloves and funnel there too!

Conclusion

Sometimes you may need to transport your motorcycle long distances — perhaps you’re buying a bike from an out-of-state dealer or are planning a motorcycle-centric vacation. Instead of crating the bike or purchasing a trailer to transport the bike yourself, consider hiring a transporter.

Using a two-way marketplace like CitizenShipper can save you significantly compared with traditional transportation companies. Professional transporters use the platform every day, looking for motorcycle shipping jobs. Prices are lower on CitizenShipper because transporters compete for your business, placing competitive bids.

You can browse transporter profiles, read reviews from their previous customers and communicate with them through an internal messaging system. Every transport on CitizenShipper comes with a booking assurance guarantee, giving you refund protection, driver replacement assistance in case a transporter cancels and a dedicated support team.

It’s free to post a listing on CitizenShipper — most listings get quotes within minutes! Save money and rest assured you’re working with an experienced professional by creating a motorcycle transport listing today!

 


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