Basic Bike Maintenance

Motorcycles have up to two brake fluid reservoirs, one for the front, usually found on the handlebars and one for the back. Both should be checked regularly. Brake fluid absorbs moisture over time and becomes less effective. Brake fluid should be replaced every one to two years. As it tends to absorb moisture over time topping up should only be done from a new, sealed bottle. Warning – if brake fluid is spilt on paintwork it can eat right through to the bare metal.

Also check the thickness of the brake pads. If you allow them to go right down to the metal your brake disc will be damaged resulting in an unnecessary and expensive replacement. Fitting braided steel brake lines will increase the performance of your brakes by roughly 50%


Lubricate them often with a commercial chain spray every time you fill up for gas or at the end of each ride.  Spray liberally on the side of the chain that comes into contact with the sprockets. Ensure that you spray both left and the right hand side of the chain. Position a piece of newspaper so that you do not dirty the rear wheel rim as you spray. Use a second piece on the floor to catch any drips. Wait five or ten minutes before you wipe all excess oil off the chain. This whole process is a lot easier if your motorbike has a centre stand. Spinning the back tyre will ensure that the rest of the chain is lubricated when it comes into contact with the sprocket and pinion. This is a task that is best done when you return home from your ride while the chain is still warm.

Bike chains are never taut but must be able to sag between 3/4″ to 1 1/4″ at the mid-point between the two sprockets. The sag is used when the bike suspension moves up and down over uneven surfaces.

Shaft Drives

Even though shaft drives on motorcycles require little maintenance it is suggested that you replace the shaft drive oil every time you change the oil on your motorcycle.

Belt Drives

As with shaft drives, belts do not require a lot of maintenance. Every time you change the oil on your motorcycle check the belt tension and adjust if necessary. Make sure your belt is always clean.


Fuel is quite an often overlooked as a form of preventative maintenance on a motorcycle. Check the fuel filter (if you have one) to make sure it is not clogged and looks clean and clear. Replace fuel filters every 2 years. Check the fuel lines for weather damage or cracking and replace immediately if any is found.

Remember when parking your motorcycle for any length of time to turn the fuel tap to the off position. This prevents the possibility of any fuel leaking out and flooding the carburetors or the engine.


Regular oil and filter changes will keep your motorbike young and healthy.

Make sure you regularly check and keep your oil level at its HIGH or MAX level. It is best to check your oil level with the bike on a centre stand or when it is in a level position. An under filled oil level can be disastrous while too much oil over the limit may flood your air cleaner with oil.

You should also know the difference between the ‘low’ level and the ‘high’ level in ml e.g. if the difference is 300ml you cannot purchase a 500ml tin and pour the whole can in!

Here are some pointers regarding oil which are true for most motorcycles

  • The bike should be as level as possible.
  • The oil is best inspected cold and is therefore best done before you go out on a ride.
  • Be careful to not allow foreign matter and dirt to fall in during the inspection process
  • With threaded dipsticks do not screw the dipstick in when taking a reading, just allow it to rest on the lowest thread.
  • High temperatures, time, speed, heavy traffic, short trips and dust quickly destroy the quality of your oil. If you do ride in these conditions change your oil more frequently.
  • It is suggested that you change your oil every 2-4000km or 3-6 months, whichever comes first.
  • It is recommended you change your oil filter every other oil change if you are using a good quality oil filter.
  • Motorcycles can and do use the same oils as cars although special synthetic motorcycle oils are available. Always use the recommended oil weight for your motorcycle (e.g. 10w40 or 20w50). Older (15+ year old) motorcycles run best on regular (non-synthetic oil), while new bikes like either.


Unfortunately the batteries are awkward to get to and therefore do not get checked as often as they should.

A battery only requires a little monthly maintenance to perform perfectly. Keep the battery charged to 100%, recharging when the lights dim, the starter sounds weak or the battery hasn’t been used in more than two weeks. Other than that, follow this simple check list every month:

  • Check the electrolyte level
  • Top up only with distilled or de-ionized water. Wear gloves and protective glasses and top up in a well ventilated area because of the fumes.
  • Keep the top free of grime
  • Check the cables, clamps, and case for obvious damage or loose connections
  • Clean terminals and connectors as necessary
  • Check inside for excessive sediment, sulfate or mossing which is a build-up of material on top of the battery elements.
  • Make sure the exhaust tube is free of kinks and clogs
  • Replace caps firmly
  • Finish up by testing the battery with either a hydrometer or voltmeter. To extend the service life of your battery make monthly battery maintenance part of your routine.

Use only distilled or de-ionized water, NOT tap water. Tap water has minerals in it that will not do the battery any good.


Changing a chain

How to change the oil and oil filter

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