Washing your bike is the first step before performing any motorcycle maintenance. Doing it the right way will not only make it easier to work on your machine, but it will make your pride and joy look better and last longer. But just like any mechanical task, there is a right and a wrong way to scrub down your motorcycle. Follow these easy steps for problem-free motorcycle cleaning.
You Are Going To Need…
- Pressure washer
- Wash bucket
- Bike stand
- Soft brush
- Exhaust pipe plug/s
- Duct tape
- Rubber mallet
- Soap solution (dishwashing liquids work well;
bike washes work best)
- Spray bottle
- Compressed air
- Scotch-Brite pads
- S.O.S. pads
- WD-40 or other penetrating lube
- Dielectric grease
- Airbox cover
- Wire brush
- Clean towels
- Microfiber towels
- Contact cleaner
- Spray polish
Where To Start
Do yourself a favor and get a pressure washer; you can wash a bike with a hose and spray nozzle, but you won’t do nearly as good of a job. Remember, you’re cleaning a dirt bike—not the family car.
To leave the seat on or leave the seat off, that is the question. Seat foam will break down and deteriorate if it is exposed to a lot of water. That being said, you can leave it on if you’re careful with the water. Most professional mechanics take them off and most consumers leave them on.
If you so choose, remove your seat, then the air filter, and install an airbox cover. Reinstall your seat bolts so the shrouds don’t flop around. Seal any overflow hoses that could catch water with a spare bolt plugged into the end. Install a wash plug in your muffler or cover the end with duct tape so water can’t enter your engine or break down your packing. If you’re going to leave the seat on (and the air filter in), seal the airbox holes with duct tape. Note: Don’t forget to remove these things afterward!
Knock off any excess dirt with a rubber mallet before you start. Don’t use a mud scraper unless the dirt is wet because it will scratch the plastic. Clean your chain with a wire brush to remove most of the grease and dirt before you spray, and remove the handlebar pad.
Time to wash the bike like a pro! Lay the machine on its side with the handlebar on a bike stand. Laying the bike on its side allows you to get to those hard-to-clean areas underneath the cases, fenders, and tank. Supporting the bike by the handlebar is preferable to laying it on the triple clamp as the weight of the bike will put pressure on the thin fork tube.
Lightly spray the bike with water to loosen and soften the dirt. Let it sit for a minute or two then begin power-washing the bike clean. Use common sense, and don’t direct a lot of spray to bearings and seals. Electrical components on modern bikes are considerably better than Bultaco-era machines, but some restraint should be given here as well.
Lay the bike on the other side. If you have a skid plate, now is the time to remove it. Clean this side thoroughly, removing any dirt with the pressure washer. Scrub the underside of the frame while it’s on its side. If your frame is aluminum, scrub the frame and the under-side of the motor using an S.O.S. pad. You can also use a Scotch-Brite pad with some penetrating lubricant to remove any stubborn dirt and mineral deposits. Hose the bike off when you’re done.
Now put the bike upright on the stand and spray the bike with your soap solution or bike wash. Let the solution sit for a few minutes then scrub the bike with a soft brush. Hose the bike off from top to bottom. Scrub the swingarm, spokes, and frame if it is aluminum with the S.O.S. or Scotch-Brite pad. Hose off the remainder of the bike.
Dry the bike with a clean towel and use compressed air to dry hard-to-reach areas. Electrical fittings can be dried with compressed air, and dielectric grease can be applied to the connectors to keep out water in the future. Use the compressed air on the radiator fins, blowing only from the front of the bike back. Clean and dry the lower fork legs with a microfiber cloth and make sure there are no water spots. Mineral deposits have very sharp edges and can damage fork seals. Use compressed air and penetrating lubricant to remove water from the chain before you apply chain lube. Check that cables are free of water and lubricate if necessary.
Remove any black marks on the plastic with contact cleaner. Spray bike polish directly on a microfiber cloth when you detail the bike so you don’t overspray on the brake discs or make the seat slippery. When you’re done, it will look like a factory bike! Now go get it dirty again…
Key Areas To Clean Like A Professional
Forks adjusters: So you can get a screwdriver in there.
Footpegs, shift lever: Move the pegs and lever tip to clean all the dirt out of the springs.
Chain guide: Built-up dirt will wear out your chain.
Radiator fins: Your bike will run cooler if the fins aren’t clogged (just be careful, as strong power washers can actually bend the fins).
Under the tank: You will thank us the next time you remove your spark plug or check your valves.
Shock bumper: Built-up dirt will break down the bumper and scratch the shock shaft.