We're now into the third week of the government lockdown and we bet that a lot of you have already maximized your free time either by cleaning the house, tending the garden, or even finishing a couple of home projects that you promised your wife a few months (or even years) ago that you simply hadn't had the time to do before the coronavirus crisis.
For those motorcycle riders out there that are running out of things to do, you don't need to look far to keep yourselves busy and make time run a little faster. Just look at your own motorcycle and you'll notice that your ride may require a little TLC (tender loving care) from you. Don't worry. It's very easy.
Keep your motorcycle clean
First things first. Before doing any TLC on your motorcycle, start with a clean bike. That means, washing your motorcycle to clean off dirt, mud, and oil residue. You can also wash your riding gear to keep them clean and COVID-19 free. For how-to tips, please read our story Disinfecting 101: Protect yourself and your gear.
1. Prepare a small bucket with water, preferably, about ¾ full.
2. Using a tabo, rinse off your whole bike first (without wiping) to wash off soil and sand debris. This is important, as washing your bike with a sponge, microfiber towel, or rag before rinsing off dirt could scratch the paint or the decals.
3. After rinsing, refill the bucket with 1/3 water and apply your motorcycle or car-specific washing liquid until it foams. Use the sponge to clean off dirt and oil. Pro tip: Professionals start wiping off mud, dirt, and oil from the bottom of the bike. Start with the wheels and the engine bay, which are the dirtiest parts. Then, using a different sponge, wipe the top parts like side mirrors, handlebar, seat, and fairings in a circular motion. By using separate sponges or chamois, you can avoid scratching your motorcycle's paint job or decals.
4. Rinse and wipe off any excess water using a clean piece of cloth or preferably a microfiber towel (chamois). Pro tip: Use an air blower if you have one to blow away excess water from the hard-to-reach areas of the motorcycle.
Before getting intimate with your motorcycle, we suggest that you take this free time to read your motorcycle owner's manual. Focus especially on the maintenance section. These detail the maintenance schedules and recommended specifications for a lot of of replacement parts. The manual details everything from the right kind of oils and lubricants to use, the recommended battery size, and even the tire pressure. It certainly saves you a lot of asking around.
It is especially essential these days with a lot of fake news on how to take care of your motorcycle. Don't trust everything you see in social media. You may be surprised to find that 99% of what your friend or kanto mechanic advise are not entirely true nor recommended by the motorcycle manufacturer. If you have misplaced or lost your motorcycle's owner's manual, most models have a PDF version online, and can be found with a simple search.
After internalizing what you've learned from your motorcycle's owner's manual, it's time for some motorcycle TLC.
An example of a preventive maintenance schedule (PMS) in the owner's manual of a Honda BeAT scooter. Take note of the inspect (I), replacement (R) and clean (C) intervals.
Check throttle, brake, and clutch for cable slack
Part of what you've learned from the motorcycle owner's manual is to check the cable slack for clutch, throttle and brakes and adjust accordingly. Adjusting it usually only requires size 8 or 10 wrenches that are included with the tools that came with the motorcycle from the showroom.
If your motorcycle is 5 years or older, most manufacturers recommend that you do preventive maintenance by this time and replace your clutch cable, including the brake and throttle cables. These are done so that they won't fail you while in the middle of a ride with your buddies.
Check oil level
Working your way down, it is time to check for the oil level. While most motorcycles have a dipstick to check for the oil level (refer to owner's manual to locate it), some newer models, however, have an oil level window on the side of the engine. These make it easier to check on the oil level by just looking.
Follow these steps below (this is also listed on your motorcycle's owner's manual):
1. If the motorcycle is cold, start the engine and let it idle for at least 3 minutes so that the engine oil can circulate around the engine. Turn the engine off after 3 minutes and let it cool.
2. After another 3 minutes, remove the oil fill cap / dipstick and wipe it clean with an old newspaper or rag.
3. Reinsert the dipstick until it sits. Do not screw the dipstick closed.
4. Pull out the dipstick once again to check. This is the more accurate level. Check if the oil level is in the middle of the upper and lower notch or bend on the stick. If the oil level is on the lower end of the dipstick and may need a top-up.
Pro tip: If you can't remember when you had your last oil change or your motorcycle has already been running for a few thousand kilometers, it might be best to just change the oil already. Follow the owner's manual on how to change your motorcycle's engine oil.
5. Once done, securely reinstall the oil fill cap/ dipstick.
Clean air filter
Your motorcycle's engine uses the oxygen from the air as part of the combustion process. To ensure the air entering the intake and engine is clean, your motorcycle has an air cleaner/ filter that makes traps dirt and minute particles that may contaminate the combustion process. As such, making sure your air filter is clean will keep your motorcycle running efficiently and without any loss of power.
Most OEM (original equipment manufacturer) air filters are disposable. These must be replaced at particularl intervals anywhere between 18,000 kilometers up to 20,000 kilometers. Your owner's manual will indicate exactly when it is recommended to replace this.
To remove the air filter, follow the instructions in your owner's manual. This may differ with each bike. Once removed, please follow these steps below:
1. If there is a thick layer of dirt on the filter element, consider replacing it with a new one.
2. If there is just a light layer of dirt, you can use an air compressor to blow it off or a carpet brush to scrape it off.
Pro tip: before reinstalling the air filter, spray a generous amount of air filter-specific oil or WD40. This will attract fine dirt, trap it, and prevent it from entering the combustion chamber. Dab a little grease on the rubber sides of the air filter. It will help perfectly seal the airbox.
3. Close and secure the air filter cover according to the owner's manual instructions.
Clean and lubricate chain (or check drive belt)
Motorcycle chains are pretty tough and should last up to 20,000 kilometers before needing replacement. But if neglected, this lifespan can be drastically shortened and may even cause problems during an out of town ride. Checking and maintaining the chain is quite easy, and normally require just a quick look.
Look for these obvious signs: if it's dirty, clean it with a chain-specific cleaner and toothbrush. If a chain-specific cleaner is not available, kerosene or diesel are good alternatives. You can also use a strong solution of dishwashing liquid and water.
Pro tip: If you have a chain breaker tool or if your motorcycle chain has a chain lock, you can break the chain and soak it in diesel fuel overnight. This will effectively degrease it and make cleaning much easier the next morning. It will also reach the insides of the chain links. Don't forget to lubricate the chain with the recommended lube after reinstalling it.
While you're there, check for slack. The rule of thumb is, there should be enough slack to fit two fingers between the front and rear sprocket for underbones and other small bikes. For dirt bikes, it should be enough to fit three fingers. Again, these are just rough guides. The owner's manual will have more precise measurements.
Where to check for chain slack on a dirt bike (bikebandit.com)
For scooters, you can check for signs of belt wear and tear by removing the engine side cover. This step, however, may require a few special tools depending on the scooter model. Scooter drive belts typically need replacement every 24,000 kilometers. Again, we recommend you follow what's written in the manual. To check for signs of problems, read our past story: What to do: When your drive belt snaps.
Check tire pressure and wear
Checking for tire pressure requires a tire pressure gauge. We hope you have one as it's a very indispensable tool. Usually, scooters and small underbones have a recommended tire pressure of 29psi for the front and 32psi for the rear. If you're not sure, you can locate the recommended tire pressure sticker on the swingarm for standard bikes and underbones, or under the underneath the seat/utility box cover. It is also indicated in the owner's manual.
As for the tire tread thickness, there's a handy guide to check tread depth. Find a one peso coin and stick it into the tread. If the tread covers the wave groove near the edge of the coin, the tire is still good. If you can see part of the wavy groove, it's time to replace your tire.
While you're inspecting, check for cracks or unusual wear patterns. If you see some cracks on the tires, immediately replace them after the Luzon-wide lockdown.
Pro tip: Knowing a tire's age can also help you determine if they need to be replaced. The video above shows you how to read the markings and find out the tire's age based on the manufacturing date. If it is 5 or more years old, consider replacing them.
Check for brake pads/ brake shoe wear
After checking for tire tread thickness and wear, it is also good to take a quick look at the brake pads if your motorcycle is equipped with a disc brake, or the brake shoe indicator if your motorcycle is equipped with a drum brake.
An example of a brake pad for a disc brake-equipped motorcycle
The rule of thumb is that if the brake pads are only as thick or less than the thickness of a 1-peso coin, you need to replace them as soon as the lockdown is over or have it replaced DIY-style (do-it-yourself) if you have the tools and the replacement brake pads available. Most motorcycle calipers (where the brake pads are installed) only need an allen wrench to remove the screw that locks the pads in place.
Brake shoe indicator for motorcycles equipped with a drum brake, like this scooter above (cyclepedia.com)
As for the motorcycles with a drum brake(s) installed, there is usually an indicator that would tell you if the brake shoe needs to be replaced. Depending on your riding habits, the front or rear brake shoes should last quite a while, but, it is also crucial that you check these from time to time. Most manufacturers recommend inspecting these every 6,000 kilometers of riding.
The maintenance schedules and specifics for your motorcycle braking system can also be found in the owner's manual, including on how to adjust them.
Keep the battery charged
Almost a month of no motorcycle rides could cause your battery to drain. Even if the bike is off, some of your motorcycle's components still use a tiny amount of electricity. Without regular starting, these could slowly drain the battery if stocked in the garage for too long.
To avoid this, we recommend starting your motorcycle every two weeks for at least 5-minutes to keep the battery charged. Also, consider investing on a smart battery charger / tender available online, in automotive accessory shops, or even some motorcycle shops. A smart battery charger or tender keeps the battery charged at an optimal level, without overcharging it. Some of these can also be used to revive a completely drained battery. We also tackle how to use them in this story.
If the battery is dead, you can push start (kadyot in Filipino) the motorcycle with the help of your friends (not recommended during quarantine). Once the engine is started, let it idle for a few minutes so it can recharge the battery. If you have spare jumper cables, you can hook it up to another motorcycle or car to recharge it.
There you have it. We hope that giving your motorcycle a well-deserved TLC keeps you busy during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).