The Most Common Motorcycle Repairs And How To Handle Them - SUV VEHICLE

The Most Common Motorcycle Repairs And How To Handle Them

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Working on your motorcycle is part therapy, part education, and part needing to save money because you’ve now gone down the rabbit hole of doing things yourself. Spoiler alert: you’re probably never going to be financially stable again. Before you deep dive into these things, though, there are a few repairs and maintenance items that you should know how to do on your lonesome first. These are things every biker should know, not just the adventure tourer or enduro rider who might likely find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere. Put the long winter months to good use by keeping yourself in touch with your motorcycle, so it rolls out of the garage as soon as the sun shines, with no unwanted surprises.




What are these things, you ask? Lucky for you, we’ve sorted out a list of five items that you can do on your own with minimal specialist tools. Simple tasks that you won’t be able to mess up so much that you can’t try and redo them and get things back to normal. If you’re still scared, just ask a DIY specialist friend to overlook things.

In order to bring you the most up-to-date information, the data used to compile this article was sourced from the various manufacturers featured here, as well as other authoritative sources, such as Motorcyclenews.com, and Cycle World. We’ve arranged them in increasing order of difficulty to give some order to the proceedings.

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5 Tubeless Tire Puncture Repair

Difficulty level: 2/10

Royal Enfield Shotgun 650 Tire
Jared Solomon / TopSpeed


Punctures are an integral part of the automotive life. If it has wheels, they will fizz out air from time to time. So learning to deal with them will only make your life easier. In an ideal situation, you’d have a spare wheel and an old tire to practice on. If you do, here’s your opportunity to let your intrusive thoughts win and put a nail through the tire. Now, time to fix the mess you’ve made.

Use a pair of needle nose pliers to remove the offending nail, then use a tubeless puncture repair kit to smooth the edges of the hole and plug it. A little rubber adhesive applied to the plug will ensure a better seal to any jagged edges, and a hand/foot pump (the kind one uses to inflate a bicycle tire) will be good enough to inflate your tire. If it isn’t, an electric pump or a double barrel foot pump (with its higher pressure) will be needed. Use a tire pressure gauge to check that the pressure is right before packing everything away and riding off. If there is a big sidewall cut, you might be better off inserting a tube, which is why you should always carry one along on long trips. Even if you have tubeless tires.


4 Check Engine Oil

Difficulty level: 2/10

Motorcycle engine oil dipstick
www.mobil.com

Things can go bad in a hurry without the right level of oil, so checking the engine oil level is a necessity. There are different ways to do this, so consult your owner’s manual for the correct way for your motorcycle. One way is to check the level when the engine has cooled after a ride. This could mean waiting for up to 20 minutes in summer for the engine to cool and the oil to drain into the sump. The other way is to run the engine at idle for a few minutes (not more than five) to warm it up (especially if you haven’t ridden it for a while), and then proceed to check the oil level. The motorcycle needs to be upright for correct reading, so you’ll either need a center stand, a paddock stand, or someone to hold the motorcycle.


But how do you check? Some motorcycles have a transparent viewing window in the crankcase that allows you to see the oil level. It needs to be between high and low marks. These motorcycles usually don’t have a dipstick. If your motorcycle has neither a center stand nor a paddock stand, you would do well to invest in a telescopic mirror (literally a mirror on a stick) which will allow you to straddle the motorcycle, keep it upright, and look at the oil level through the viewing window.

Royal Enfield Shotgun 650 Engine
Jared Solomon / TopSpeed


For those without a viewing window, you need to use a dipstick. You unscrew the cap, wipe the dipstick, then reinsert it without screwing it in. Take it out again and look at the oil level. It needs to be between the high and low marks on the dipstick. Too much oil is also a problem, so do drain some if that’s the case. Remember that your motorcycle needs to be upright when you do your inspection of the oil level just like the viewing window.

In case your oil is milky, black, smells like gas, or is extremely low well, it is indicative of problems in the engine, and you should get it checked by a professional. Again, do consult your owner’s manual. Some companies suggest their own ways to measure engine oil levels. In some cases, the viewing glass could be dirty too, so keep an eye out.

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3 Draining The Fuel Tank

Difficulty level: 3/10

Honda NSF 250 fuel tank underside


Draining the tank is an annual exercise when winters get too cold for motorcycle use. Gas can go bad in just a month, and even stabilized gas will start going bad from six months onwards. Remember to drain your fuel tank in a well-ventilated area, as you don’t want to get high on gasoline fumes, or light a match with them in the air! If you have a carbureted motorcycle, the solution is simple – disconnect the fuel line from the fuel tap, set the tap to ‘reserve’, and let it drain. This takes up a lot of time but is extremely simple to do. Don’t forget to drain your carb while you’re at it; there is a drain screw right at the bottom of the carb. Tighten the screw once you’re finished draining it.


If you have fuel injection, the process is a little more complex. You can use a suction pump to siphon the gas out from the filler itself. Old school riders will use a single tube and start the siphoning by sucking on the pipe, but that’s 100 percent a recipe for a mouthful of gas. We wouldn’t recommend it. Another way to do it is to remove the fuel tank. You’ll have to disconnect the electrical supply for the fuel pump and other hoses while at it.

You can then upend the tank, and any residual fuel can be taken out by removing the fuel pump from the access at the bottom. You can also wipe down the inside of the tank to remove gummy deposits. Remember, the bad gas is environmentally harmful, and you can’t pour it down the drain. You need to dispose of it in much the same way as engine oil – contact your friendly neighborhood mechanic, and they will take it off your hands.

2 Changing Brake Pads And Bleeding Lines

Difficulty level: 5/10

Brembo brake calipers
www.brembo.com


This isn’t difficult per se, but get it wrong and there are some major safety issues waiting for you down the road. Your brake pads will give you a consistent metallic screeching noise when they’re at the end of their life, so all you need to do is get the correct replacement set, unbolt the caliper, push the old cylinders apart (the new ones need more space) with your screwdriver, install the new pads, and put back the caliper. Remember to bed in the pads before you try to extract maximum performance from them.

Bleeding the lines is complicated, meanwhile. But it needs to be done once every few years or when you feel your brakes getting spongy. There’s a small bleed nipple on the calipers that you need to connect to a bleed line (a clear one) to collect the excess brake fluid. Drain all the old fluid by opening the system and pumping the lever until nothing but air comes out of the bleed nipple. Then clean and fill the reservoir with fresh brake fluid and pump the lever. If no fluid comes out of the bleed nipple, go ahead and close it, pump the lever a few times to build pressure in the line, hold the lever in/down, and then loosen the bleed nipple.


A closeup picture showing the front tire, wheel, and brakes of the 2024 Indian Roadmaster Elite.
Indian

If this doesn’t help then try holding the caliper as high as possible to let the air move upward toward the bleed nipple. This might take a while, so remember to be patient – and never let the reservoir get empty. Or else you’ll end up pumping air into the line. A vacuum pump can do this job as well, but it seems like an unnecessary cost for something that you might have to do once every few years. Remember that any paint will get damaged by brake fluid, so cover all the areas beforehand. Beware of the ABS sensors, too.

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1 Changing A Tire Tube

Difficulty level: 6/10

2024 MV Agusta Enduro Veloce Takasago Excel spoked wheels
MV Agusta

A lot of offroad-biased motorcycles run spoked rims and tires with tubes, so changing a tube becomes a necessary skill. This is quite difficult compared to tubeless puncture repair because of the necessity of removing the tube. You’ll need a jack stand if you don’t have a center stand, a toolkit that will help you remove the wheel, and another to help you get the tire off the rim. You might need extensions to help loosen and tighten the axle nuts, too.

Finally, you’ll require an air pump and tire pressure gauge. You can choose from a manual pump, a compressed CO2 pump, or an electric pump – since it is a tube, it doesn’t matter if it fills up slowly. Removing the offending nail and replacing the tube is the shortest and easiest solution, although if you ride a lot of hard trails, learning to patch a tube will be a valuable skill as well. Riders with tubeless tires who ride a lot of enduro will also do well to learn this skill–after all, a large hole in a tire will need a patch and a tube to ride on.


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