Everyone wants to spend as much time as possible on their ride, and summer is a prime riding season. Even in the heat, there is nothing better than taking off for roads unknown, the local watering hole, or taking a different way home on your daily commute just to spend a bit more time on the bike. With all that riding, regular maintenance is needed. There are four easy to check, simple to do things to keep you riding. These maintenance items should be done every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, and will only take about an hour of your time.
Watch as Pauly shows you how to invest an hour and ride for days.
Most of you know oil is the lifeblood of your ride. When changing your oil it’s a best practice to check all your fluids. This includes the engine, primary, and transmission oils; and the coolant for those liquid-cooled bikes.
When changing your oil, refer to your service manual for the proper amount of oil to use. One tech tip I usually give is to check your oil level as you add new oil to the engine. This will prevent you from adding too much oil. Also, after draining your oil, there is always some left over in the engine. The oil will expand when it gets hot, and if you filled your engine up to the top when reading the oil level cold, you might have a mess on your hands.
Fill your engine with a little less than the required mount of oil, button up your bike, then start it. Let it run for a few minutes, turn it off, check the oil level when the engine is hot, and add oil if it is needed.
Keeping your oil from overflowing isn’t just a good maintenance idea. There’s nothing worse than having to clean your bike when you finish servicing it.
Many people have upgraded to an aftermarket air cleaner that uses a cleanable/reusable air filter. These filters can be taken out of the air cleaner, cleaned with a service kit, like the K&N Recharger Filter Care Service Kit, oiled and reused. A couple of tech tips for the recharge kit is to use the cleaning solvent thoroughly, rinse thoroughly, and apply a light oil coat. Over oiling the filter leads to smoky exhaust and is a waste. It might even make the bike harder to start due to air restriction.
For those that have not upgraded to a reusable air filter, most stock filters must be replaced. Any tear or blockage from oil or bugs prevents the filter from doing its job for your engine, which is to only allow clean air into the engine. It is cost-effective to invest a few dollars more for a filter that can be cleaned rather than replacing a one-use filter.
Spark Plugs and Plug Wires
Without a spark your bike won’t fire. A quick check of the spark plugs will indicate the overall health of your fueling system; and whether you are running lean (not enough fuel), rich (too much fuel) or just right. A lean condition is indicated by a white powdery base; a rich condition is indicated by a black oily base; and just right is a slight brown base.
Spark plugs can accept multiple size sockets, depending on the manufacturer. The key is to get the right fitment for your ride, which is dictated by the length and pitch of the threaded part that goes into the engine.
Also, double check your spark plug gap. There are plugs that do not get gapped, such as the E3 plugs we are using in our Softail.
Checking your spark plug wires usually does not require replacement, but it still needs to be done. Over time heat will break down the insulation (the outside part of the wire that protects you from the electricity running through the core,) and this will lead to irregular spark and poor performance. A glance and feel of the wire will indicate burn spots, rough texture, or cracked insulation. These are all indications to replace your wires. Check your service manual for recommended replacement intervals. I replace mine at 20,000 miles, whether they need it or not.
There is no need to wait till your brakes are squeaking before you replace them. It’s a great practice to replace your brake pads when you change your tire. Unfortunately we don’t do this often enough. There are a couple of things to look for when checking your brakes. Is there enough pad left, or are you getting too close to the metal baking? If you do not have much pad left or are close to the metal baking, replace your pads.
On the actual pad there is usually an indicator line that lets you know when you should replace the pad. A key to looking at the pads is to check both sides of the brake. Very often one side of the set of pads will wear out quicker than the other. A slight difference is usual. When the wear difference is drastic it is an indicator that the caliper is not functioning correctly. Many calipers can be rebuilt with seal and piston kits. A caliper rebuild adds a bit of time, but is the correct way to repair your brakes if needed.
I also run my hands down the brake lines to check for any wear. Make sure to check front and back brakes. Bikes with ABS might need a service technician to properly calibrate them with your ECM. Depending on the level of maintenance, pads can be replaced without calibration, and anything more intense usually needs calibration.
These are standard tasks that should be checked regularly, and properly timed you can do them in an hour. Start with the bike warmed up, have your tools ready, and your parts ready. Don’t rush, just be prepared. This proper maintenance is rewarding, both to your bike and yourself. When you’re miles from home, riding in a group or by yourself, you’ll know that your bike will get you the rest of the way because you took the time to make it road ready.
Thanks, and keep em rollin’