How Much Do You Know About Motorcycle Maintenance?

Susan McDonald

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

So, you bought a motorcycle. Do you know how to maintain it? Take this quiz to find out if you know everything you need to know to maintain your bike.

Motorcycle enthusiasts come in multiple kinds, from those who ride for fun to those who are deeply immersed in the culture. No matter your reason for riding, you'll need to know the basics of motorcycle maintenance to ensure that you don't end up sitting on the side of the road one night waiting for your friend to load your bike into the bed of his pickup truck because you blew your engine... hey, it happens. 

Just like basic automobile maintenance, the smart rider needs to know a few basics. Leave the big stuff to the professionals, but make sure you can do the bare minimum. So, if you know when to begin your motorcycle maintenance program (on the first day), how often to change your oil and filter (every 12 months), and whether or not you should base your maintenance schedule on distance or time (whichever one comes first), then you're not only ready for this quiz, but you're also a responsible motorcycle owner.

Let's get ready to ride. Get started with this quiz to find out if you know the basics of motorcycle maintenance.

When you get a bike, when should you begin your maintenance program?

Whether your bike is new or used, start thinking about how you'll maintain it as soon as it's yours. Read the owner's manual thoroughly, know what kind of fuel, oil, and other products it needs, and set up a system for tracking mileage and maintenance tasks.

Most owner's manuals contain charts advising you of maintenance tasks that need to be performed. What does "I" usually mean?

"I" usually means inspect. For example, your manual might advise you to inspect your bike's spark plugs or shocks.

How often do manufacturers typically suggest that you change your oil and filter?

Most manufacturers suggest replacing your oil and filter once a year, or every 6,000 to 8,000 miles.

When is the best time to take your bike to the dealer to have maintenance or other work done?

Dealers' maintenance shops are usually less busy during winter months, so they have more time to devote to your bike and they might even offer financial incentives. Besides, you're off the road for the most part anyway, right?

How often should you inspect and lubricate your steering head bearings?

Most manufacturers recommend conducting this task every other year. However, depending on how much you use your bike, you can stretch it a bit longer.

Should you base your maintenance schedule on distance or time?

Like with an automobile, many motorcycle maintenance tasks are based on either time or distance, whichever comes first. This ensures proper care, whether you use your bike a lot or a little.

In what situation might you want to step up maintenance tasks to a more frequent timetable?

The manufacturer's guidelines are really a general suggestion that you might need to vary based on your own situation. For example, if you ride all winter in a cold, snowy climate, or if you take your bike through rough terrain on a regular basis, you might consider performing certain tasks more often.

What does it mean if your bike has a wet clutch?

Some motorcycles have what is called a wet clutch, meaning that the engine oil also serves as transmission fluid. This makes it extra important to choose the right oil for your bike, not just whatever you put into your car.

When changing the oil, why should you let your bike run for a few minutes first?

Obviously you must drain the old oil before replacing it, and it helps to warm up the engine for about five minutes first. This warms the oil, enabling it to drain faster and empty the tank more completely.

How often should you change your bike's brake fluid?

Most manufacturers recommend that you change your brake fluid every other year. Take a look at it once a month or so though.

What is a sight glass?

Many bikes have a sight glass, or a little window through which you can view the oil level. This eliminates the need for a dipstick, as you can simply look to see if the oil is at the proper level according to the hash marks.

What common kitchen tool can be handy for motorcycle maintenance?

An ordinary turkey baster is a favorite tool of many DIY bike owners. They use it to remove the existing brake fluid before replacing it.

Why should you put a bit of oil onto a new filter's o-ring before installing it?

Before installing a new oil filter, many people recommend dipping a finger into the new oil and rubbing a bit on the new filter's o-ring. This provides a tighter, more secure seal when the new filter is installed.

What is the first step to take before checking or changing your brake fluid?

It's essential to make sure the reservoir is as level as possible. Otherwise the fluid can come pouring out when you remove the cap, and it can be dangerous both to your skin and your bike's paint.

Why is tire maintenance even more important on a motorcycle than on a car?

Proper tire maintenance is critically important on a bike because the tires are so small, and there are only two of them. That means far fewer points of contact with the road, so they can wear out faster.

What is a simple tool you can use to check the tread on your tires?

It's easy to check tire wear by inserting a penny into the tread with the top of Lincoln's head facing down. If part of Lincoln's hair is still covered, you're OK, but if you can see all of his head, it's time to get a new tire.

What does "L" stand for on a maintenance chart?

"L" typically stands for lubricate. For example, your chain needs to be lubricated periodically.

How often should you inspect your steering head bearings?

Steering head bearings should be inspected once a year or every 6,000 miles, according to most manufacturers. Every two years, they should be repacked with fresh grease.

Which of these should you consider doing every four years or 24,000 miles?

Every four years, most manufacturers recommend inspecting and probably replacing your brake and fuel lines. Take a look at the radiator hoses at the same time.

When should you consider using a battery tender?

A battery tender keeps your battery fully charged when you're not using it. If you don't plan to ride for a couple of weeks or longer, it's a good idea to use one to avoid battery drainage.

What does "R" stand for on a typical maintenance chart?

"R" usually stands for replace. An example of this directive might be changing your oil or other fluids.

When is a good time to change your bike's spark plugs?

Having good spark plugs is key to keeping your bike's engine running smoothly. Many mechanics recommend switching them out each time you change your oil.

Why is it a good idea to have someone sit on your bike while you adjust the chain?

No matter how you adjust the chain, it will tighten once a rider is on board. That's why it's helpful to have some kind of load on the bike, preferably a person sitting on it, so you can adjust it properly.

In your chart of maintenance tasks, what does "C" usually mean?

"C" typically stands for clean, but not always. It might mean change, so think before you act.

Under what conditions should you change your bike's coolant?

Usually you just need to top off your coolant once a year or whenever it gets a bit low, but sometimes you might want to change it completely. In that case, do it with a completely cold engine.

How often should you inspect your brake pads?

Brake performance is something you don't want to mess with. Check your pads once a year or every 6,000 miles and replace them if they are wearing close to the metal.

When you change your spark plugs, why should you carefully inspect the old ones before tossing them out?

Regardless of age, the old spark plugs should be clean and dry. If they are covered in oil, are pitted, or have other damage, your bike might be experiencing other unseen problems and need a tune-up.

What should you look for when inspecting your clutch cable?

It's important to take a look at your clutch cable once a year or so. If you see nicks or cuts in the housing that could allow water or debris to reach the cable itself, replace the cable.

When replacing your bike's battery, why should you grease the terminals before putting in the new battery?

Adding a bit of grease to the terminals before installing a new battery will help avoid corrosion, which can lead to other issues.

After changing your bike's oil, why should you wait a few minutes before taking it out for a ride?

After changing the oil, it's a good idea to start the engine, check for leaks, and then turn it off again. Wait a few minutes for the oil to settle, then check the level again, adding more or removing some with a turkey baster or syringe if necessary.

Why should you use a dedicated motorcycle cleaning product for cleaning your bike, rather than household products?

Household products, such as dish soap, will do an adequate job of cleaning a bike, but they can be corrosive to aluminum surfaces and can also be tough on a wax job. It's better to invest in a product specifically designed for cleaning motorcycles.

How often should you replace your bike's air filter?

Check your air filter once a year or every 6,000 miles or so. If you have a pleated paper filter and it's not terribly dirty, you can clean it with compressed air, but if you're in doubt, replace it.

If your spark plugs are older but not yet ready to be replaced, how can you lengthen their life?

If you want to get a little more life out of your spark plugs, some sandpaper can do the trick. Make sure it's a fine grain though, and clean off every bit of grit.

What does "A" stand for in your owner's manual maintenance guide?

The "A" on your maintenance chart usually stands for Adjust. You might need to adjust valves, for example.

What's the cardinal rule of motorcycle maintenance?

Whether you work on your bike yourself or take it to a mechanic, it's important to stay on top of inspections and routine maintenance. Even if everything seems to be working fine, you don't want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire or dead battery, do you?

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