How to Wash a Motorcycle
Written by Carolyn Jackson
Washing your motorcycle isn’t only to make it squeaky clean and shiny. It also is a maintenance method to remove dirt, grime, bug guts, and other corrosive materials from paint, metal, and chrome surfaces. Properly cleaning your motorcycle regularly will prolong its life and make your rides all the more enjoyable.
This article will detail how to wash your motorcycle, including the chain, carburetor, gas tank, rust removal, air filter, and more. Keep reading to learn how simple it is to clean your motorcycle.
Are you looking for more resources? We’ve got everything you need to know about how to ride a motorcycle.
- Making a habit of routinely cleaning your motorcycle is the best way to ensure longevity
- Cleaning your motorcycle chain yourself is surprisingly easy and cost-effective
- Frequently checking your motorcycle’s air filter is an important step in engine maintenance
Overview of Cleaning a Motorcycle
Although washing your motorcycle is fairly straightforward, there are quite a few components that go into doing it “right.” As a rule of thumb, professionals usually recommend washing your motorcycle once every two weeks, but washing more frequently is fine, too. When and how often you wash your motorcycle depends largely on usage. If you ride your motorcycle daily, you might want to wash more often to get rid of the daily dirt, rain, bug guts, etc., that comes with frequent use. On the other hand, even if you do not ride as frequently, but if you ride in more abrasive surfaces like gravel, dirt, rain, or mud, you might want to wash more frequently as well.,
As mentioned above, washing your motorcycle has benefits far greater than just making it look great. A dirty motorcycle can lead to erosion, rust, and other damaging occurrences that will cost time and money in repairs.
Fortunately, washing your motorcycle is pretty easy and cost-effective. You can purchase all the recommended materials for less than $100 total, and they can be used over and over again.
How to Clean a Motorcycle Chain
Chains are extremely prone to dirt and debris and can even get rusty quickly, a recipe for disaster. To prevent any serious issues from occurring with your bike, you can easily clean your chain in just a few steps. Yes, you can pay a mechanic to clean your chain, but why spend money when it is super easy and quick.
An important factor before getting started is to determine what kind of chain your motorcycle has. There are two common chain types: sealed chain and plain chain.
Sealed Chain: Newer type of chain, requires less lube and less abrasive brush when cleaning
Plain Chain: Older type of chain, requires more lube and can handle more abrasive brushes during cleaning
Steps to Clean Your Motorcycle Chain:
- Use a center kickstand, if you can, to prop up your bike, so it is level
- Find a dry, shady spot to work
- Inspect the chain and sprocket to assess their condition
- As you turn the wheel to move the chain, generously soak it in kerosene using a spray bottle
- The kerosene will help dissolve old lubricant and loosen dirt for removal
- Using either a microfiber rag, a grunge brush, a brass brush, or a silicone brush (choose depending on the level of build-up + the delicacy of your chain), scrub your chain to remove dirt and debris on all sides of the chain
- Spray it one more time with the Kerosene
- Dry the entire chain off with a rag
- Use Chain Wax to lubricate all four sides of the motorcycle’s chain (inside, outside, top, bottom)
- If sealed chain, use a clean rag to wipe some excess Chain Wax off
- All done!
How to Clean a Motorcycle Carburetor
The carburetor on your motorcycle is designed to deliver air and fuel to your engine to create combustion and make your bike move. Cleaning your carburetor is an important part of motorcycle maintenance. You’ll know when it’s time to clean your carburetor because you’ll notice stalling in your intake or black smoke from the exhaust, or your engine may simply not start at all. We recommend cleaning your carburetor every six months or so to avoid running into any of these issues.
- Aerosol Solvent
- Compressed Air
- Phillips Head and Flat Head Screw Drivers
- An old toothbrush
- Wires from an old brass brush
How to Clean a Motorcycle Carburetor:
- Drain the carburetor and remove it from the motorcycle
- Clean the exterior of the carburetor with the Aerosol Solvent and the old toothbrush
- Unscrew the carburetor top and remove the piston
- On the bottom side, remove the bolts so you can open up and see the inside of the carburetor
- Use the Aerosol Solvent and toothbrush to clean the inside of the carburetor
- Remove the float by removing the float bowl hinge pin and take a close look at the float needle. If the needle has a ring worn into the tip, you will need to replace this piece
- Inside the carburetor are the jets (main jet, pilot jet, and needle jet)
- Remove each of the jets one at a time, and use the Aerosol Solvent and Compressed Air to clean them out and make sure all the holes are open. If there is stubborn buildup, use the bristles from an old brass brush to clean out the jets
- Now, remove the mixture screw, noting it usually has an o-ring, spring, and washer inside as well. Keep all these pieces together
- At this point, the carburetor is fully disassembled. Take the Aerosol Solvent and Compressed Air to the entire carburetor, getting in every opening to thoroughly clean it
- Wait for the parts to dry and then re-assemble the pieces fully
- All Done!
Pro Tip: Use a fuel stabilizer to maintain your carburetor and prevent build-up that causes problems naturally. </p
How to Clean a Motorcycle Gas Tank
You’ll know when you need to clean your gas tank if you are struggling to get your bike up to speed or you have stuttering in acceleration/surging in the engine. The main offender for tanks is rust, which builds up over long periods without using the bike or if the bike is not stored properly. Usually, you will not have to regularly perform this maintenance, as most bikes that are taken care of do not build up excessive rust. You can also use a fuel stabilizer during those periods where use is low to prevent rust build-up.
Steps to Clean a Motorcycle Gas Tank:
- Remove the Gas Tank from the motorcycle
- Remove the petcock and inspect for rust, dirt, and other debris and clean with Aerosol Solvent and a wire brush or rag
- Siphon the gas from the tank using a siphon hose and a bucket to store the gas safely
- Fill the tank about halfway full with the distilled vinegar
- Add in the agitant (the BBs or Pellets)
- Vigorously shake the tank to help remove rust and dirt
- Let the tank set anywhere from 3-24 hours so the vinegar can continue breaking down the rust and dirt
- Repeat steps 4-7 until you are satisfied with the level of cleanliness inside the gas tank
- Once clean, flush the tank with some gasoline
How to Remove Rust from a Motorcycle
Rust is caused when exposed metal encounters moisture. Even chrome surfaces can appear to rust. Rocks or other abrasive materials can chip away at the chrome, exposing the metal underneath, which can easily rust. The best prevention for rust is to keep your bike stored in a dry place.
Steps to Remove Rust from a Motorcycle
- Rinse and soap down the motorcycle on the rusty areas, drying with a microfiber rag
- Using an abrasive tool such as steel wool, gently go over the rusted parts to flake off any extensive rusting
a. Then, go over the same areas with a gentler material like Aluminum Foil, Scotch Brite, or Sandpaper
Pro Tip: Some people report using Coke or Diet Coke on rusted areas, which can help loosen and remove the rust
- Use Chrome Polish to get rid of remaining surface rust and to buff out any scratches
- Cover the affected area in a coat of wax to prevent future rusting
Pro Tip: Chrome is a delicate material; if the area you are removing rust from is chrome, utilize the less abrasive tools first and work up, always using a gentle hand, so you do not remove the chrome surfaces.
How to Clean a Motorcycle Air Filter
The air filter on your motorcycle ensures no dirt, dust, or debris makes it into your engine, causing major problems. The more clean air that your engine receives, the better it runs — so having a clean air filter is paramount in motorcycle engine maintenance.
One option is to replace your air filter, then no cleaning is necessary! Professionals recommend changing your air filter after about ten cleaning cycles. There are three types of air filters in motorcycles: foam filters, cotton filters, and paper filters.
How to Clean a Paper Air Filter
Step 1: Don’t! You cannot clean a paper air filter. Simply replace them when they are dirty enough that air is not fully passing through to the engine.
How to Clean a Cotton or Foam Air Filter
Step 1: Remove the air filter and assess its state. Does it need to be replaced, or can you simply clean it?
Step 2: Remove dirt and dust from the air filter and wipe it down with an air filter solvent
Step 3: Wash with soapy water and let fully fry
Step 4: If the filter is a wet/oiled filter, re-oil it with the type and amount of oil suggested by the manufacturer, let it soak for 10 minutes.
Step 5: Replace the filter in the bike
How to Clean Motorcycle Accessories
This one’s easy! The rule of thumb for cleaning any motorcycle accessories is to wipe it clean. Let’s look at the best cleaning methods for the most common motorcycle accessories:
Clean the outside of the helmet after every few rides (or every ride if it rains or gets muddy) and even use a polish on the outside to keep it looking brand new and shiny. Make sure you always wash the helmet liner by hand with soap and water, or in the washing machine. You can also put baking soda inside the helmet to deodorize it as well.
Most riding jackets are leather, which means no machine washing. Seriously, do not put your leather jacket in the washing machine. So you have two options: 1) take it to the dry cleaner or 2) spot clean it yourself. To spot clean a leather jacket, use a neutral detergent made for leather and scrub with a gentle brush or microfiber rag and rinse with water. Then, finish the cleaning process with a leather conditioner, protecting from future scratches and moisture. Let the jacket air dry, and voila, you’re done!
Other materials are usually machine washable, but be sure to check the instructions on the tag. If they are not machine washable, follow the tag instructions closely to clean.
The main takeaway is dry and clean. Dry and clean motorcycles are happy motorcycles, and happy motorcycles last much longer. Making these cleaning steps a habit built into your riding routine is a great way to continually stay on top of maintaining your bike, so it lasts for years.
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