Washing Your Motorcycle

Riding Time for Cache Valley!

Motorcycle

Photo by Sourav Mishra

Spring is finally at full go in Cache Valley.  The snow is gone, the weather’s warming up, and the roads are clear.  It’s time to bring out your motorcycle.  Before you get started, though, you ought to wash your bike first.  It isn’t just about looking good; cleaning your motorcycle is essential to keeping it in good working condition.  Dirt and grime can corrode the paint and cause the parts to rust.  It can also clog up the engine, or add friction to the moving parts.  So, before you get started, make sure it’s in ready to go.

What You Need to Know

It’s tempting to use household cleaners and power washers to clean it quickly.  This is an amateur mistake.  The pressure of power washers can force water into the electrical components, causing damage.  Household cleaners may be cheap, but they have chemicals in them that can damage the paint, stain the chrome, or even corrode the metal, which is exactly what you’re trying to prevent by cleaning it in the first place.   Before you start, you should go out and purchase some cleaners specifically for use on motorcycles.

Avoid washing in the middle of the day.  The sun can dry out the soaps before you can rinse them off, which will leave stains.  When you do wash it, be sure to leave yourself some time for the engine to cool down.  If you put cold water on hot metal, it can cause serious damage.  On top of that, minerals and contaminants in water will do more damage if they’re warm.

Using the right tool for the right job is very important.  You’ll want to use both a sponge and a brush.  Sponges can be used for larger surfaces, while brushes will more efficiently clean the nooks and crannies out and are easier on the delicate parts.

Steps to Cleaning

1. Light Wash

First, remove the seat and any leather on the bike.  Cover the battery with plastic sheeting and seal off the exhaust pipe with plastic wrap and a rubber band.  This will help keep water out of the electronics and the engine.

Next, use plain water to remove the surface grit.  A simple hose with a nozzle that allows you to control the pressure will work great here.  Use gentle streams around the hub and wheels and other delicate parts, but apply a little bit more pressure for the broad surfaces.

Follow the rinse with a pre-wash.  Use soft soap, a microfiber wash mitt, and separate the soap and rinse buckets.  This is just to remove the lighter dirt, so don’t go scrubbing too hard here, and don’t dirty your mitt on the greasy areas.  Rinse off the suds immediately to prevent spots.  A power blower is preferable to rubbing it down with a cloth.

2. Clean the Tires

Spray the wheels and spokes with wheel cleaner and let it soak for 30 seconds.  Using a boar-bristle brush, scrub the rim and spokes.  Rinse it with water and dry it with a blower and towel.

3. Polish the Dashboard

Do not put any cleaners directly onto your dashboard.  Instead, squirt a dollop of polish onto a microfiber towel and work it over using a circular motion.  Continue wiping until the haze is gone, then wipe it all off with a clean towel.

4. Clean the Engine and Drivetrain

motorcycle engine                  Spray some cleaner onto the engine and drivetrain components.  Let it sit for about one minute to penetrate the outer layer of dust.  Brush the greasy areas, then rinse them off with clean water and blow it dry.  You may need to do this more than once to get it fully cleaned.  As tempting as it might be to use pressure from a hose or power washer to speed it up, this is a bad idea.  The pressure would force water into the engine, where it will rust the internal parts of your motorcycle.

5. Shine the Chrome

To clean the chrome, use a 100% cotton rag.  The rag must be smooth to avoid scratching it.  An old t-shirt or dishtowel might work, but cut off any seams first.  This will prevent scratching.

Apply polish to the cotton rag and polish the chrome until the haze almost disappears.  Use a clean rag to wipe away the rest.

6. Clean the Leather

Using a sponge, apply leather cleaner to the seat and any other leather parts.  Once done, wipe it dry and apply the condition using a different sponge.  Then wipe it all dry with a clean rag.

7. Full Rinse

Give your motorcycle one last full rinse, then blow it dry.  Starting at the top, blow the water down and to the front of the bike.  Wipe off any remaining water drops to prevent spotting.

Nice and Clean!

Washing the motorcycle isn’t very hard, but it’s an important part of keeping it in good working order.  After your bike’s been in storage all winter, you’ll definitely need to clean it before riding it again.  All that time sitting probably gathered a lot of dust.  It’s also a good idea to clean it regularly, as riding it will pick up dirt from the road and squashed insects can cause your radiator to overheat.  Regular washing will also help you discover other problems, such as fluid leaks, before they become serious.  Just be sure you don’t overdo it.  While a serious riding trip that muddies up your motorcycle should be followed by another wash as soon as possible, casual rides don’t gather enough dust to require immediate washing.  Generally, once every couple of weeks is a good guideline.

Get In Touch

While it’s easy to clean a motorcycle, there are other problems you might discover that aren’t do-it-yourself issues.  If you happen to come across a problem while cleaning, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.  We’ll take care of it right away.  The sooner you get it taken care of, the easier it will be to fix and the less it will cost you.

And if you have any other motorcycle maintenance needs, we’ll be here to help.