Motorcycles collect a lot of road dirt and grime, particularly bikes that are ridden often. To keep your bike running smoothing and looking its best, give it a thorough cleaning at least twice each year. Though it typically takes more effort than hand washing a car, detailing your motorcycle on your own is easy to accomplish (plus, you can save money doing it yourself). Start by buying and gathering all the supplies you’ll need to complete the whole job.
Before turning on the hose, you’ll need a clean bucket, a mild soap (dishwashing detergent is a popular choice), a degreaser, assorted towels/cloths, assorted brushes and sponges, hand tools for partial disassembly, sandpaper/steel wool and polish. Keep your supplies in a clean, dry place and launder all towels in between washes.
Begin by removing the accessories and seat from your bike using whatever screwdrivers and wrenches are required. Some bike owners also remove the side covers. It’s also helpful to elevate the rear wheel before washing. Once ready, use a hose to soak your bike (taking care not to damage electrical components) and fill the bucket with soapy water. This step helps loosen fresh dirt and mud.
After soaking, use a commercial degreaser to remove oils and residues from grimy areas of the bike, like the wheels, engine and chain. Apply the degreaser and scrub with a rag or brush to loosen the grime. Stubborn buildup may take a bit more elbow grease, or even brake cleaner for tough buildup. Soak a rag in the degreaser and work it along the chain, rotating the elevated rear wheel so you can clean the entire chain. This also allows you to straighten out any kinks along the way.
Now it’s time for the main wash. Use the soapy water and a sponge to wash the entire bike, similar to how you would wash a car. Spend extra time on those grimy areas to clean them thoroughly and wash off the degreaser that you previously applied. Brushes are great for cleaning the underside of your bike and an old toothbrush is perfect for those hard-to-reach places. Once soaped up, rinse the bike with fresh water from the hose. Let the water drain away for a few minutes and then finish drying your bike with a chamois or microfiber towel.
Polish metal surfaces with a polishing paste and your choice of either sandpaper or steel wool. This helps remove rust and minor blemishes. Avoid using these gritty supplies on paint, plastic and chrome surfaces, which should be polished separately. To polish the bodywork, use a gentle polish on a clean rag and gingerly rub it in using small, circular motions so as not to damage the finish. Apply a wax spray or chain lube to the entire chain. Use another clean cloth to buff the entire bike and, voila, it’s all clean!
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