Tips for Fixing Any Motorcycle Problem

March 4th, 2012 No comments

Regardless of how well you maintain your motorcycle, something is bound to go wrong sooner or later.  There are thousands of separate parts the all make up your bike and they all need to be working in complete harmony.  Unfortunately problems with your motorcycle or any vehicle will happen, it is just a matter of time.  It is important to understand this and to not get frustrated with your motorcycle as that will not aid in rectifying the problem.  Accept that things will fail and break down over time as this is all part of owning a motorcycle.  Obviously the better you care for your bike and keep up with general maintenance the less issues you will likely have.  Listed below are some helpful tips that will help you diagnose and fix any type of motorcycle issue.

Tip #1:  Stay Logical

The worst possible thing you can do when something goes wrong with your bike is to loose your temper, get angry and emotionally react to the situation.  This solves nothing and waists your time and energy.  It also makes your ownership of your bike that much less enjoyable.  Stay calm and approach the situation systematically and logically and begin to acquire as much information as possible.

Tip #2: Acquisition of Information 

Some problems with motorcycles are very easy to diagnose and fix while others can be very complex and possibly the fix is not one singular part but a combination of a variety of parts not performing in exact harmony.  This is why approaching issues slowly and logically is your best ally.  The “devil is in the details”  especially when diagnosing complex problems.  Here are a few examples of what I mean.

Lets say for instance that your bike will not start because the starter motor is not turning over.  You may be tempted to assume that it is a dead battery and go out and buy a new battery only to find out that after installation that your starter motor has burned out.  This will obviously lead to further frustration.

Another example would be that your engine is running rough and does not appear to be getting the correct air/fuel mixture.  You make the logical assumption that it is the carburetor so you proceed to take apart and clean the carburetor  and buy new jets, ect.  You then reassemble the carburetor only the have the bike run the exact same way.  You think that you must have missed something in the carburetor so your repeat this whole process again.  Then a friend comes over and asks if you have cleaned the air filter and you reluctantly say no, and when you pull out the air filter you realize that it is full of dirt and debris.  Once reinstalled the bike now runs like a charm.  By not checking the obvious elements first and by making assumptions you put your bike a risk by taking apart elements that may not need to be taken apart.  You could have very well damaged the carburetor by removing is twice.

Acquiring detailed information about the exact symptoms of your bike is one of the most crucial steps of any motorcycle repair that unfortunately is commonly overlooked.   Be as detailed as possible, for instance write down the exact symptoms of the bike and use as many adjectives as possible to describe the issue.  Be precise and record exact measurements, take pictures, record sounds and/or take video.

Motorcycle Maintenance

Tip # 3: Always Check the Obvious First

Be sure to check the obvious elements and most non-intrusive processes first.  Most of the time if just the routine maintenance steps are performed it is enough to get your bike back in harmony with itself.  Cleaning the air filter, fuel filter, oil changes, exct. are enough to get the bike back in normal running condition.  As silly as it sounds often times bike owners spend hours troubleshooting their bikes only to realize that their fuel valve has been turned off or the kill switch is in the off position.

Tip # 4: Find Quality Information

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your bike is to simply build good relationships with local motorcycle mechanics.  Find a nearby bike shop and make friends with the mechanics, bring them doughnuts on their lunch break and just make friends.  The information that they can offer you can save you hundreds of dollars down the road.  I have found that if I can sit down with a good mechanic for 10 minutes it is equivalent to about 2 hours of online research information online.  There are a variety of good motorcycle repair forums online as well which can also be helpful, but be careful about the source of the information.  You may also consider purchasing a Clymer or other repair manual for your bike.

 

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Common Motorcycle Maintenance Tools

March 4th, 2012 No comments

Routine maintenance is essential for optimal functioning of motorcycles. You are taking unnecessary risks if you keep riding your motorcycle without performing routine maintenance. You shouldn’t wait for something bad to happen before fixing it. Although certain aspects of maintaining a motorcycle should be left to a qualified technician, there are simple tasks that can be done by you with the proper tools and preparation. This can save you a lot of money in the long term. The following are a few motorcycle maintenance tools that you will need for performing basic maintenance on your motorcycle.

Drivers

Drivers are available in a variety of sizes and shapes depending on what they are used for. Screwdrivers fit into a groove on the head of a bolt or screw, and bit-drivers are used to grab the head of a bolt to twist or turn it. Another type of drivers, impact drivers, are used with hammers to loosen stuck screws. Typically, a driver set consists of several of each of these three types of drivers. Also make sure your screwdriver set includes flat-head, Phillips-head, and various sizes of Allen and Torx screwdrivers. There should also be at least one long flat-head screwdriver which you can use for prying.

Wrench and Socket Set

You can perform most tasks with a socket set and a wrench set. By using a wrench set you will be able to avoid the hassle of stripped nuts and bolts. Make sure you use the correct size so as to have a tight grip of nuts and bolts and prevent damage to your motorcycle. A socket set is used for reaching nuts and bolts that are not easily accessible, and should come in various sizes. You can also purchase them individually, in any specific sizes you want. Most modern motorcycles use metric bolts, but find out whether your motorcycle uses SAE or metric before buying a socket or wrench set. Also be sure that your motorcycle maintenance tools kit contains some adjustable crescent wrenches which can be used for odd-sized bolts.

Pliers 

Various Tools

Pliers are versatile and useful tools to have in any tool set. You can use pliers to hold objects in place when you want to exert large amounts force. They help to increase your gripping power. You should have at least one pair of vice-grip pliers in your motorcycle maintenance tools set. If you like, you can use channel-locks instead of pliers. You can use diagonal pliers for cutting thin metal. Needle-nose pliers enable you to hold small objects in place or reach into small spaces.

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How to Properly Protect Motorcycle Leather

March 3rd, 2012 No comments

A motorcycle owner does not give a second thought to proper maintenance of their vehicle. This maintenance is essential to insure a safe ride and avoid taking a spill or becoming stranded. However, this type of maintenance also needs to extend to the leather used in the rider’s outfit.

Properly protecting motorcycle leather should be done as faithfulyl as maintenance of the machine itself. It all starts with the type of leather that is selected. The most popular type of motorcycle jacket is made of cowhide. These hides are top grain, finished split, full-grain and naked leather.

Finished split leather can look good but is not considered the best grade for riding. It is made of the lower section of a hide which is split into layers with a polymer coating applied and pressed to look like it has a grain finish.

Top grain leather has a thickness of 1.23mm which makes it exceedingly strong. This is leather which has the scars or other imperfection removed by sanding and given a uniform look by spraying or pasting.

Motorcycle Leather Maintenance

Full-grain and naked leather receive the highest ranking in motorcycle leathers. These hides are used in the jacket’s construction and no sanding has been done to remove imperfections. Other than dye, nothing else is applied to this leather. The hide is approximately 2mm thick and is incredibly soft, which makes for comfortable wear from the time of purchase. These hides wear extremely well and actually improve in appearance over the years.

After selecting the motorcycle leathers of choice it is time to think about maintaining their appearance. It must be remembered that when on the animal there are natural body oils that keep the skin soft and subtle. For proper leather maintenance the first step is knowing the type of hide involved and the tanning process that was used. Pigmented leather is much easier to care for than aniline, nubuck, or suede.

The steps for proper motorcycle leather care are as follows:

• Clean the surface carefully to remove dirt, oils, and UV damage, using a pure cleaner free of silicone oils, petroleum solvents or gloss agents
• Do not scrub. Rub softly over the outside of the entire garment
• Wipe away the dirt and body oils that will rise to the surface
• Apply an appropriate leather conditioner that is water-based and has a pH-balance
• Gently wipe off any excess conditioner

With proper care good motorcycle leathers will retain their original appearance and last approximately ten years.

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Motorcycle Maintenance Costs

March 2nd, 2012 No comments

When the decision is made to buy a motorcycle, one thing to keep in mind is routine maintenance.  Costly repairs can take the fun right out of owning a bike.  There are many things you can do to keep your bike running as good as the day you brought it home.  Bikes should be checked out often either by a mechanic or save money and do it yourself.

There is nothing worse than going down a steep hill and realizing your brakes are gone.   Be sure to inspect the brake lines at the same time as replacing the brake pads.  Ensure there are no cracks or other visual stresses found on the brake lines that are signs of failure.You may think that by skipping an oil change or stretching the life out of tires that you are saving yourself some extra money, however it is quite the contrary as you are not only jeopardizing the integrity of the bike, but you are placing you life in jeopardy as well.  Do not be penny wise and pound foolish, especially when your one life is on the line.

The average yearly cost of a properly maintained motorcycle is generally far less than the average automobile.  In most cases you will be placing far fewer miles on your motorcycle than your car or truck.  A majority of riders only ride their bikes on the weekends or at night which generally keeps the miles to a minimum.  With this being said parts do not need to be replaced as often as a high mileage vehicle.  Expect to spend at least $400 a year on the following routine maintenance items, Tires, Oil Changes, Fuses, Lights, Chrome Polish, Air Filters, Fuel Filters and State Inspections.   If you are unsure as to when to change what part refer to the article on Motorcycle Maintenance Schedule.

As stated above, do not try to stretch the life out of some of the items that need to be routinely replaced as you will be putting your life as well as the life of your bike in jeopardy.

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Motorcycle Maintenance Schedule

January 21st, 2012 No comments

Developing a schedule is very important to the life line of your motorcycle.  This will help you to ensure that all the proper elements of care are instituted at the right time.  It also will help to put you own mind at ease as it will make you feel confident that your bike is as safe to ride as possible.  Below is a schedule that you may consider using, but be sure to check your bike’s specific manual for features that your motorcycle has that may not be included in this schedule

Every Ride

  • Tires (Inspect and/or Replace)
  • Inspect turn, brake and head Lights

Every 200 Miles or 1 Month

  • Tires (Inspect and/or Replace)
  • Check Chain Tension and Lubricate

Every 400 Miles or 2 Months

  • Inspect and Adjust Control Cables
  • Steering Play

Every 2,000 Miles or 3 Months

  • Change Engine Oil and Filter
  • Clean Air Filter
  • Inspect/Clean Spark Plugs
  • Inspect Brake Fluid and Replace if Necessary
  • Inspect Brake Pads and Replace if Necessary
  • Inspect Brake Hoses and Replace if Necessary
  • Inspect Valve Clearance

Every 3,000 Miles or 5 Months

  • Inspect Front Fork Oil and Replace if Necessary
  • Leather Treatment

Every 5,000 Miles or 6 Months

  • Replace Fuel Filter
  • Polish Chrome
  • Check Battery Voltage and Replace if Necessary

Every 6,000 Miles or 8 Months

  • Replace Front Fork Oil
  • Repack Wheel Bearings
  • Replace Engine Coolant

Every 7,000 Miles or 9 Months

  • Change Air Filter
  • Replace Spark Plugs

Every 2 Years or as State Requires

  • State Inspection

 

 

How to Polish Rusty Motorcycle Chrome

January 19th, 2012 No comments

For many motorcycle enthusiasts the glint of the highly polished chrome is the icing on the cake that makes a bike really stand out.  This is why it is important to keep it as clean and polished as possible.  It also will help you to spot any potential underlying issues as any consistent buildup can indicate an oil leak or that the engine is running in a too rich condition.

I personally have had good luck with a variety of products polishing motorcycle chrome.  The name a few products that I have used, Flitz, Mothers and Killer chrome polish.  All these products work great when the chrome is already in fairly good condition.

When the chrome has been neglected for a long time and has rusted I always resort back to two household products that seem to work wonders.  These two products are Coca Cola and Tin Foil.  Yup that favorite Cola of choice also can help strip rust off of metal.  Makes you wonder doesn’t it.

Chrome Polish

The method that I have found that works best is to pour a small amount of Coke directly onto the rusty chrome and let it fizz there for a few seconds then I take a strip of aluminum foil and fold it a few times so it is fairly strong and then proceed to rub the affected area until all of the rust is gone.  I generally repeat this step a few times until the shine of the chrome begins to shine through.

Once I have completed using the Coke and Tin foil I pat it dry with a dry rag, then use a finer product like Flitz or Mothers.  Be sure to take before and after shots as you will be amazed at how much value you can bring back to your bike within just a few hours of time.

 

Finding and Replacing Motorcycle Fuses

December 29th, 2011 No comments

Replacing a broken fuse on your motorcycle may be one of the easiest repair tasks you can perform on a motorcycle.  It is important to always keep a few spare fuses on your bike at all times as you never know when a fuse will blow and you will need to replace it.  Fuses come in generally two forms on a motorcycle fuses “Cartridges” and “Blades”.  Cartridges appear to be cylindrical in shape whereas blades appear more flat and square.  Both types contain a small transparent area where you can determine if the metallic fiber or ribbon has been blown or not.

Fuses

The most common places to find fuses on a motorcycle are either underneath the LED display on the main console of the motorcycle or near the battery compartment of the bike.  Often times you will find them in both locations.  Fuses can also be found behind the head light of the bike.

Fuses are very easy to inspect as they have a transparent region in their center which if blows will show that the metallic fiber or ribbon no longer connect to the two ends of the fuse.  Fuses come in a variety of amperage’s which are placed in the appropriate electrical circuits for the function that they are designed to protect.

A fuse puller is generally present near the fuse panel which will make it very easy to extract a broken fuse.

 

How to Check a Motorcycle Battery Voltage

December 13th, 2011 No comments

Motorcycle batteries are highly susceptible to voltage loss due to their small size, exposure to the elements and excessive strain from the starter motor. Many novice riders fail to properly choke thier motorcycles or flood the engines which can cause numerous attempts to start the engine.  All of this strain puts a burden on a motorcycles small battery. It is a wise idea to check the voltage level often and replace it when you start to suspect that it is no longer holding an adequate charge.  Sometimes just a few volts makes all the difference between a successful start and no start at all.

I make it a habit to check my motorcycle batteries voltage level every 3 months.  I place my readings in my motorcycle log so I can track if I start to see a pattern of voltage loss.  Also every time I start my bike I listen for signes of a weak battery.  You can generally tell when the battery becomes weak as the rotations per minute of the starting motor becomes to slow down and become lower in pitch.

Always check your motorcycle battery in a dry and temperate location.  Place your motorcycle on its center stand turn the key off and ensure that the kill switch is in the off position.  The battery is generally located underneath the seat of your motorcycle.  On many of the Japanese bikes the battery can be found underneath the side cover on the right side of the bike.  Remove the battery cover so that both the positive and negative terminal are exposed.  Take your multi-tester and set it so that it is reading volts.  Your battery should read between 12.6 and 12.1 volts.  Anything less than that the battery is considered useless.

Honda Shadow

It is very important that you keep your battery at its full charge at all times, otherwise it will become sulfated and no longer be able to hold a charge.  There are methods to revive a battery, but I do not recommend trying any of these methods as it can be dangerous working with battery acid.  Motorcycle battery’s are cheap enough and it is worth the investment of just purchasing a new battery.

How to Change Turn Signal Lights

December 12th, 2011 No comments

Changing the a burned out light in one of your turn signals is an easy maintenance task.  You should also check the condition of all your turn signals as part of your routine motorcycle maintenance before every ride.  If you have ever changed a lightbulb in your car or your house you should find this task rather straitforward.

Before starting this task place your bike in a covered area on its center stand as you do not want to work on a motorcycle when it is just on its kickstand because thier is always the risk of it rolling forward and dropping if you happen to lean on your bike while working on it.

Changing Turn Signal LightsNever ride with a broken turn signal, brake light or headlight as many vehicles on the road often do not see motorcycles until it is too late so you want to ensure you give yourself the best chance of being noticed before it is too late.  Always use the proper guage bulbs and be sure to not touch the glass part of the bulbs while installing the new lights.  The oil on your fingers can reduce the overall life of the bulb.

Before you start this task place the bike on its center stand, turn the key off and ensure that the kill switch is in the off position.  On most bikes the process if very straitforward when replacing a lightbulb on a turn signal.  On the three bikes that I have owned you simply had to remove the orange plastic covering on the turn signal by removing the philips screws that were holding it in place.  Once the screws were removed just remove the plastic covering to expose the lightbulb.  A simple push and twist of the bulb generally released the bulb from its mount.  You may want to consider wearing gloves just in case the bulb breaks when removing it.  Never squeaze the bulb to much as they will break and you could potentially end up with glass in your finger.  Once the old bulb is removed simply install the new buld in its place by pushing and twisting it in its mount.  You can now test the new bulb by turning the key on and pushing the turn signal botton to the desired setting.  If the light does not flash then you may have a blown fuse or another electrical short in the bike.  If the light does flash  then you can turn the bike back off and replace the orange plastric covering with the three philips screws.

Click here to watch video of me changing a turn signal Light on a spare turn signal

How to Wash a Motorcycle

December 11th, 2011 No comments

Taking good care of your motorcycle includes giving it a good wash once in a while.  It is important for a variety of reasons.  It helps to spot any potential leaks or damage that are currently present on your motorcycle.  It also will remove any harmfull road salt and/or harmfull buidlup that may be present on the paint and other components of your motorcycle.

Harley Davidson

Wash your motorcycle in a cool and shady area as the hot sun can leave sun spots on your bike when the water evapratos off of the paint on your bike.  It is also a good idea to wash your bike in either the morning or late afternoon to limit its exposure to the direct sunlight.

Thier are a variety of products you can use to wash your motorcycle, but a little bit of dish soap in a 5 gallon bucket works will in most places of your motorcycle.  Be careful when using any products that may be more abrasive as it could be detramental to the paint on your motorcycle.  Always start with the least abrasive chemical as possible to do the job of removing any dirt or grime that is on your bike and only switch to more abrasive substances as needed.  The same is true for the brushes that you decide to use, always start with the least abrasive as possible and gradually use more abrasive brushes until clean.

I generally start with soap and water over the whole bike and use a very non obrasive brush around the engine components and chrome wheels.  once I rince off all the soap and thoroughly dry the bike I will use an engine cleaner on any other areas that have any persistant smudges or dirt on the motorccyle.  I will use an old toothbrush to get into the hard to reach sections and possibly a small wire brush to remove any smudges found on the frame or exchaust of the bike, but I am very carefull not to scratch the bike when using the wire brush.  Once I feel as if I have fully cleaned the bike and let it dry I will use a chrome polish on any exposed chrome and a wax and polish on the painted surfaces.

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