The Do’s and Don’ts of Repairing Your Motorcycle Yourself
If you own a motorcycle, you already have an independent spirit. And when your bike breaks down, as all things do over a long enough period of time, you might be tempted to fix it on your own. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do those difficult repairs yourself, especially since they could save you money. On one hand, motorcycles are simpler than cars when it comes to repairs, considering that every component is out in the open, not hidden beneath, and you can almost disassemble the entire bike with Allen keys and metric wrenches. But is that a good idea, and would you be able to put it together again? In practice, the most important thing is to make sure you know what you’re doing, and that includes reading the manual, and having proper step-by-step understanding of everything you’re doing before you do it. Here’s a few more dos and don’ts when it comes to what motorcycle repairs you can do yourself.
Before attempting any of this, read more on these procedures here: 5 Motorcycle Maintenance Tasks You Can Do Yourself, and The Total Idiot's Guide To Doing Basic Motorcycle Repairs
Do: Change your own oil
While it varies from bike to bike, you should be changing your oil after several thousand miles. It’s also easy to do yourself. First, you want to ride the bike for a few minutes to warm your oil up. Then (after shutting it off), you can take off the drain and oil fill plugs, and let the oil spill into a drain pan. After that, take out the oil filter, and once the oil’s all drained, put a new one back in. After you put back the drain plug, pour in the new oil (make sure it’s the correct type) using a funnel, replacing the oil fill cap afterwards.
Do: Replace the air filter
It’s one of the easiest things to replace, and one of the most critical, since an air filter keeps dirt and debris out of your engine. While it’s not hard, it is time-consuming, and depending on the bike, the filter may not be easy to access, and require the removal of other parts to get there. Some bikes have them located beneath the gas tank, so you need to unbolt it, and remove it to get to the filter.
Do: Check your tire pressure
It’s actually more important to check tire pressure on a bike than with other vehicles, because the consequences of a busted tire are far more severe, and even slight changes in pressure will heavily alter the way your motorcycle operates. To check that pressure, you need an air pressure gauge. Find your tire’s valve stem, take the cap off, and use the gauge to check the pressure. It usually says somewhere on the tire what that pressure should be. And if it’s too low, use an air compressor (which you usually find at a gas station) to fill it.
Don’t: Patch or replace your own tire
There’s a divide in the motorcycle community about whether or not you can repair a motorcycle tire puncture. Some say patching a tire is too dangerous, and the resulting patch job could prove deadly if you’re riding at high speed. At best, a tire patch is a brief fix strictly for getting your bike to a local repair shop. As for whether or not you can replace a motorcycle tire, everyone agrees that tire replacement is a job for a professional mechanic. It’s really, really hard to replace a motorcycle tire entirely, since it involves breaking beads and bending iron. Either way, patching is, at best, a temporary solution until you can get the pros to take care of it.
Further reading: Can you patch a motorcycle tire?
Do: Change your own coolant
The coolant, despite the name, does more than just cool a hot engine. It also stops your engine from getting too cold, as well as from corroding. It works pretty much the same as changing your oil, in that you need to remove some of the cycle’s body parts to get to it, put a drain pan under the coolant drain bolt, and remove both the bolt and radiator cap to empty it all out. Refill it with new coolant from a funnel again, then reinstall everything.
Don’t: Replace your own exhaust pipe
If your bike’s exhaust pipe has become weirdly loud, then it means you need a new one. If there’s a hole in it, you can repair the motorcycle exhaust pipe by temporarily patching it, but, like with the tires, it’s very much a “so you can get it into the shop so a pro can fix it” solution, since you can’t really repair a motorcycle exhaust pipe on your own permanently.
Further reading: How to Repair a Motorcycle Exhaust Pipe
Do: Clean your drive chains
While most modern drive chains are designed to keep cleaner than old-style ones, they still need cleaning when they get dirty, or after a certain amount of miles travelled. To do so, you need to elevate the back of the cycle so the wheel spins freely while it’s set in neutral, then use a gentle brush to clean it off and evenly re-coat it with lubrication.
Do: Maintain your brakes
There’s two important angles here: Firstly, it’s even more important to maintain your brakes on a motorbike than a car, because you have a lot less protection if they fail. Secondly, brake maintenance on a bike is pretty similar to a car, but much easier, since you can reach the break levers and bleeder screw easily to “bleed” the brakes, or replace the brake fluid.
Do: Learn how to do all of this stuff yourself
You can do a lot more than just these repairs if you properly educate yourself, and you can even turn it into a career. Centennial College’s Motorcycle and Powersports Product Repair Techniques program is more than just a motorcycle repair class, and you’ll learn more than just how to do motorcycle repair at home. You’ll also learn how to repair snowmobiles, ATVs, and other “powersports” vehicles, and be connected to a career repairing them. You’ll learn through practicing on real vehicles at our Ashtonbee campus, be taught by instructors who are also seasoned industry professionals, and finish it off with a field placement at a real repair shop. The best part? No previous experience is necessary, and the program will teach you all you need to know to launch that career of helping yourself and others take to the open road.
By Anthony Geremia