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I have purchased a new motor bike recently. What are the critical maintenance items that I should focus on? For example:

  1. Is it true that we should not run new bikes on high rpm for some time?
  2. What are the basic pieces that I should keep an eye on?
  3. How should I maintain my bike to give good fuel economy?
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

this is two questions really;

The answer to the first is yes - all engines - whether bikes, cars, tractors etc have a "run in period" where you should limit the RPM and speed of acceleration until all the parts are fully bedded in. Each manufacturer will have their own run in period.

The answer to the second is you should learn the following:

  1. Chain/Belt drive tension: ensure you are able to correctly check and adjust the tension of the chain/belt drive - a loose chain/belt can cause excessive wear and/or break
  2. Chain lubrication: ensure you know how to clean and lubricate a chain (if fitted)
  3. Oil level and maintenance - some bikes require you to check when the oil is warm, others cold, some on the side stand some vertical. Check your manual for details
  4. Brakes: check there is no debris in the brakes and that they operate smoothly.
  5. Lights: regularly test all your lights, preferrably before each ride
  6. Tyres: inspect them for cuts, debris in the tread and wear before each ride
  7. Keep your bike clean: its easier to notice things that are not right if its clean; secondly if you regularly clean it you will have to look at all the bits up close regularly and be able to spot any leaks/breaks/wear more easily.
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Check the rewrite - I rephrased the original to match up more closely with your answer. – Bob Cross Apr 11 '12 at 11:26

Motorcycle Maintenance Tasks

These tasks occur differently based upon the requirements of each manufacturer, find out what the intervals are for particular make/model/year.

  • Cable lubrication - A graphite based lubricant, no oil based lubricants as they tend to have the hydrocarbons evaporate under heat and leave a sticky gummy feel to the cable and it's operation. Clutch cable, throttle cable, rear brake cable if it has one

  • Lubricate Kickstand - Oil based OK

  • Valve Adjustment - Check your valve clearance with a feeler gauge and remediate as necessary. If you have a shim and bucket valve train you need the appropriate sized shims to perform this task. If you have rocker arms you will adjust clearance with a pin and lock nut. Depending on whether you have a paper or rubber valve cover gasket you may need to procure one.

  • Chain Lubrication and Tension adjustment - Most motorcycles have similar mechanisms for pulling the rear wheel back and markers to align and adjust the rear wheel. This is a regular event and chain throw should typically be between 1" and 1.5" inches. Sorry for my stone age measurement reference but hey, I live in the States so this form of measurement is better than the entire rest of the world. If you have an O-ring chain, just lubricate it. Cleaning them with kerosene or any other obscene petrochemical will penetrate the O-ring seal and get inside of the chain and liquefy the grease inside. Purchase a specialized cleaner for O-ring chains, it's worth it. If it's a non-O-ring chain, clean it with whattever you want, You can scrub it with a wire brush too. Be sure you use compressed air or let it sit and get hot in the sun to evaporate whattever horrible product your using that's destroying our planet. Check the chain for kinking and or any grinding feeling. Move it around, don't be shy. If it's grinding, that's probably particular matter the earth is kicking up disable your vehicle. If it's grinding now it will accelerate wear. DO NOT USE SOLVENTS, THEY WILL DESTROY O-RINGS. Once your cleaning product is completely gone, use a special chain lubricant. It will stick better to the chain. Oil will just fling off and get everywhere, possibly even on your tire. Lube it up good. It likes it.

  • Tire Pressure/Tire wear/Tire damage - Check it and remediate. Consult the website of the tire manufacturer to determine service limits of your tires. Replace as necessary. Check for damage, cuts, knurls, etc.

  • Change the Spark Plugs - Goto your local MC shop and request the appropriate plug for you bike. You don't need anything fancy, just the OEM replacement. Before you remove the plugs make sure there is no debris in the plug hole, when you remove the plug the debris will fall in and well, that will suck. We don't want to suck so we will use compressed air to assist the debris is getting gone. Make the debris go away in the plug hole. THEN remove the plug.

  • Brakes - Check your pads, if the visible vertical groove cannot be seen, replace them. Be careful, when you push the piston in on the caliper it will displace fluid in the reservoir on your handlebar for the fronts and the side for the rear. You can use an old lint free towel to absorb some of the fluid before you depress the caliper pucks so it doesn't get on your gas tank or any other painted component. Brake fluid eats paint. Brake fluid is also water miscible so keep a bottle of water handy in case you get brake fluid on your bike. Just splash water on it, lots of it and rub it away. Be sure to validate the type of brake fluid you need. Probably DOT 3 or 4. Check your brake discs for grooves and/or bluing. If they have a rainbow bluish hue to them they are glazed. I've taken sandpaper and extended the life of discs. 600 grit. I was broke kid when I did that, you should probably replace. MC discs or too thin the resurface and the machine cutting bit will chatter across the disc and destroy it more. Don't waste your time on that. Throw it away and buy new. Don't buy used. It seems every unethical freak on the planet is selling his destroyed brake discs after replacement, they are consistently NOT GOOD.

  • Battery - Check the level of water. Use distilled if you need to top it off. No minerals in distilled. If you use tap water. Just throw your battery away. It'll crap out soon enough. Check your vent hose, two grooves where it joins the battery are apart of the backup venting. If the bottom of the hose, close to the ground, get's melted together from the exhaust pipe or some other inane incident. Make sure the bottom of the vent isn't clogged with road grime or asphalt buildup..tar..or whattever. If it, cut the end off. Fixed. Test the battery with a multi-meter, it should be 12.6 volts. If you topped it off with distilled, you may want to run it for a few miles or charge it for a bit. After you charge it, start it, drive it, stop it, then test. You want to take the surface charge off it after the removal of the battery tender. If it's not 12.6 volts, give it back to the planet through an appropriate recycling location because we care and our responsible members of humanity.

  • Lights - Test your high and low beam with the bike running. Test the turn signals, tail light and brake light. You SHOULD test your brake light, front and rear brake, every single time you get on it and start because you have self esteem and care about your family and yourself. Replace any light bulbs as necessary and never ride it with a low or high beam out or tail/brake light out. We don't do that because we always look out for number one. Replace bulbs as necessary.

  • Bolt Check - Go around the entire bike and ensure that all essential and safety related bolts, nuts and screws are properly torqued down. You wouldn't want a wheel to fall off and get yourself killed. Use locktite or a similar threadlocker all over the place especially if you have twin or single cylinder. Bikes rattle themselves apart. Check everything. BE ANAL. Lock it down. Check, double check. Your safety is paramount and you are a beautiful slave to the planet. We need you to keep the production numbers up.

  • Oil Change - Change the filter every other oil change. use the recommended oil. Look at the magnet on your drainbolt after your drain the case. Does it have metal shavings on it. Why? Figure it out. Usually you will have something and usually it's of no consequence but if you have a chunky gritty mess you will need to do some thinking and research. BE SURE you put that drainbolt in and use a torque wrench to tighten it down. I used to work in a shop and in my first year we had 8 customers that lost drainbolts after friggin shop did maintenance. Imagine that. Granted, the shop was a crap show, they hired me as teenager, and that my friend was dumb. Why? Because I was teenager. Luckily I never crapped on anyone but c'mon...it seems ridiculous but that is one that could really kill you when you hit the rear brake on a panic stop and that rear wheel is covered in oil and starts to come around on you.....exhale. Seriously...be mindful, it's easy to get disorganized and lose track of where you are in the project and what you were/are/going to do. Always double check. Always double check.

  • Air Filter - Clean it, replace it, inspect it. Get the crap out of it. Make sure any debris that comes off doesn't fall in the airbox. If some does, get a vacuum and get the debris gone. It must go away. You know why. If you have a foam air filter, wash it with warm soapy water. If you have a paper one, you can bang it out and blow it with compressed air but it will only last so long. At some point you will need to toss it. Oil the air filter (paper or foam) as stated by the manufacture. Most paper filters do not get oil. Look in your airbox. Do you have a bunch of oil in there. If you do, you probably have a PVC issue and are getting the result of too much blow by on your rings maybe. If you've got a grip of oil in the airbox you have problems. You will always have a little film though. Spray some horrible hydrocarbon crap on a rag and wipe it down or use some earth friendly soapy thing and moisten a towel with it to wipe it out. Check your oil drain hose. It has an X on the end cut into it so it can drain oil. Is it full of oil? Why. Is the reed valve on your valve cover for you PVC crapping on you, it might be. Pull it out and inspect it. Clean it. Do the reeds snap shut? If not, R&R. That's fancy for Remove and Replace.

  • Suspension. Check your fork seals, if you have any oil coming out, you need to replace them. That simple. Dry good, wet bad. If it's dry, then the level hasn't changed in the fork so you don't need to pop the top of the fork to measure it unless it feels super springy because the last guy that touched it jammed you up and did crap work. This one is up to you. Springy, pop it and measure. Your manual will tell you how deep. Rear shock, same....wet is bad, dry is good. If your rear is wet, you will need to have the shop rebuild it if it's OEM because you don't have a nitrogen charger. Watch a youtube video on suspension adjustment and properly setup your dampening for rebound and compression. As well, adjust your springs per the youtube. You will know the credible video when you see it. The guy won't slobbering on himself and cursing at his wife while drunkenly holds a jiggling cam.

  • Frame - Visually inspect for cracks. key locations...steering head, swing arm mount. That's where all the magic forces are and frames to tend to fail in those locations if there going to. That isn't to say you shouldn't look everywhere. If you have a painted frame look for paint that is separating from the frame and for cracks in the paint. Tell tale signs that something is amiss.

  • Fuel Filter - Inspect and change. If you use the ethanol because your country hates poor people eating corn you should probably change it pretty regular. Ethanol is the beast and it makes everything fail. Your fuel filter might not be an inline filter, it might be in your gas tank and apart of your fuel pump. It's not that bad, read the directions in your hand OEM Shop Manual (not Haynes) and get to it and clean it. If it's an inline, replace it.

  • Carburetor - This get's tricky. Too much information for you already and my fingers are jammed up. Adjust the air and fuel screw as necessary or not at all. It's going to be your judgement and no amount typing is going to effect it. If you have two carbs then you will need to get vacuum gauges and synchronize the carbs. Never synch carbs before valve adjustment. Only after. Check vacuum lines and make sure the rubber and nice and pliable. If it's heat baked and hard, toss it and replace it. Or R&R, if you will. No debate. Not worth it, too cheap. Away the hardened vacuum line.

  • FI - At some point maintenance would call for cleaning the injectors and replacing the O-rings or whatever sealing mechanism your bike uses. Do it per the maintenance schedule. When they begin to fail you get tiny air leaks that become worse over time. The added oxygen increases combustion temp and can fry your exhaust valves in the summer. There's no ODBII fanciness with bikes, each one is friggin snowflake with it's own unique way of getting error codes. If you have an FI light on, look in the fancy shop manual (not the haynes, the official shop manual for the manufacture with all the good information that's accurate) and follow the instructions on how to pull the error codes, it's usually very simple and will typically involve removing a rubber cover off a loom connector and using a piece of wire to jump two leads together then all this magical information like error codes pops up on your display. You can then reference your error codes in your fancy shop manual and take appropriate action.

Well, that's all I got off the top of my head. I'm sure I missed something like an oil drain bolt but hey, I'm only human. I hope this is helpful. Enjoy maintaining your bike. It's empowering and awesome and makes us all more self reliant which more than it is less. Please excuse the bounty of typo's that I'm sure are everywhere.

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The simplest answer is to follow the manufacturers guidlines in the owners manual.

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