4 ways to DIY your motorcycle back to health

By Allstate

Last updated: January 1

If your motorcycle isn't performing the way it should be, you may not need to bring it to a mechanic. If you have a basic understanding of how a bike is put together, many issues can be relatively easy to handle. Whether you need to adjust the brakes or figure out why the bike won't start, these tips address common motorcycle problems and may help you DIY your bike back to health.

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Resuscitating a motorcycle that wasn't winterized

When spring rolls around and you can't wait to hit the road, there's nothing more disappointing than turning the key in the ignition and hearing … nothing. That's exactly what may have happened it you didn't winterize your bike before putting it in storage. Often, the problem is that the fuel has gone bad and/or the battery has died.

Inspect the fuel and replace fuel filters

Even if you left the tank full, which is a good way to help prevent rust, some of the fuel may have evaporated, says Motorcycle Cruiser. This can leave a varnish-like substance that clogs the carburetor. Motorcycle Cruiser recommends inspecting the fuel. If the fuel's consistency doesn't seem right, drain the gas tank and the float bowls. While it's empty, check the tank for rust, too. Replace the fuel filters or clean petcock screens before refueling with fresh gasoline.

Charge the battery

f you didn't have the battery hooked to a charger or battery tender during the winter, Woman Rider recommends connecting it to a tender to get it charged. Be sure to check for potential leaks and look at the terminals for signs of corrosion.

Checking the brakes

It's essential that your brakes are in good working order and are correctly positioned so you don't compromise your control of the bike.

Position the brake levers

MotorcyclistOnline.com advises sitting on your bike and extending your arms so that they form a straight line to the handle bars — similar to how you'd be positioned when braking. You should be able to easily cover the levers with two fingers without angling your wrists. If needed, loosen the pinch bolt and move the controls to a better angle, says MotorcyclistOnline.com.

Assess brake pad thickness

It's also a good idea to check your brake pads, says Matt Bochnak of How-to Motorcycle Repair. To do this, stack poster board and paper to match the thickness of the brake pad lining. You can then measure the paper to see how thick the remaining pad is. If it is below the minimum brake pad thickness in your motorcycle owner's manual, it is time to change the brake pad.

Cleaning the chain

Even if a chain is chromed and shiny, it needs to be cleaned and lubricated. If it's not chromed and aesthetics aren't really a consideration, then safety should be — dirty parts likely will not function as smoothly as when clean.

If your bike has a chain (instead of a belt drive), The Family Handyman advises getting a chain brush (typically found at auto parts stores), dipping it in degreaser and sliding it along the chain. Rotate the chain until it's free of debris and mud. Then rinse the chain with fresh degreaser and dab it dry with a rag or sponge. Next, apply a spray lubricant to the sprocket side, because that's where the chain meshes with the cogs. Then, take the bike for a ride to help spread the lubricant further into the chain's links.

Troubleshooting a bike that won't start

Few things more frustrating than a motorcycle that just won't start. Before you look for a mechanical problem, Motorcycle Cruiser recommends the following:

  • Use the correct starting procedure (it varies for different bikes)
  • Check the battery
  • Look for simple fixes, like a blown fuse. If needed, replace any blown fuse with one of the same amperage.

If you still can't get the motorcycle to start, Matt Bochnak recommends checking the compression, spark plug and fuel/air mixture. If you find any problems with this, you may have a bigger issue that requires a mechanic.

If your bike isn't running quite right, or not running at all, it may be something you can remedy yourself. Keep these tips in mind for fixing common motorcycle problems, and DIY your bike back to health.