You don’t have to be a mechanic to do routine maintenance checks on your motorcycle. Routine checks all start with your MOM. That’s right, your Motorcycle Owners Manual! If you don’t have one you can probably buy one at your local dealership or download a copy.
Tires are the most important check. Under-inflation is a common problem that leads to accelerated and uneven wear. In order to check your tire pressure you should have a tire gauge and a pump or source of compressed air. Your Motorcycle Owners Manual should explain the procedure and the pressure range. It is important to note that the pressure indicated on the tires sidewall is the recommended pressure with the maximum load on the bike.
As you work your way up the bike your next stop should be the brakes. Most of the time the pads are pretty hidden from the untrained eye. If you can’t confirm that there is brake pad material left at least confirm that the discs have a uniform wear pattern without deep groves or uneven markings. The pads should contact the entire surface of the disc area. It’s best to check the brakes before a ride to avoid getting burnt on hot brake discs.
You will probably find a whole section on checking your fluids in your MOM. Engine oils generally start out honey coloured. If it’s now black it’s probably time for a change. Generally there are two ways to check the level or quantity of your motorcycle oil. One is an oil sight window, the other is a dip stick. Both methods require the motorcycle to be vertical when checking the level. This can be done while the bike is on a centre stand or when its being held vertical. This is a great two person job. The oil sight window is pretty straight forward, the oil level should be in the middle of the window. A dip stick is to be dipped in the hole, not threaded in. Wipe it off, dip it in, pull it out and read the level. Remember to thread it back in before riding!
Antifreeze is generally checked in the coolant reservoir. Keep it between the lines and add motorcycle approved coolant if required. Never loosen the rad cap when the motorcycle is hot.
Control fluids like brake and clutch fluids are rated by DOT value. The top of the reservoir should specify the grade. When its fresh it is a golden colour and when it’s black it needs to be flushed. It’s important to know that DOT4 brake fluid can ruin paint. Have brake cleaner handy and immediately clean off any spilled fluid. As you know, brakes are really important. If you’re not sure what you’re doing have a licensed mechanic service your brakes.
Brake levers, clutch levers and throttle should all snap back when released. If any controls hesitate or release slowly it is a sign that maintenance is required.
A quick circle of the bike when it’s running will confirm that all lights are functional. A dab of the turn signal, brake lever and brake pedal will confirm that the lights are working.
All of the periodic maintenance listed above is best done on a clean bike. Washing and polishing your bike is a great way to identify any loose parts or potential problems that might need the attention of a mechanic.
A clean and maintained bike is a safe bike to ride!