Basic Motorcycle Inspection

    • 5420 posts
    March 5, 2009 4:47 AM PST

    Whether you motorcycle has been stored for the winter or you have been riding on a regular basis, it is always a good idea to do a periodic inspection of your entire motorcycle. It is also a really good idea to thoroughly inspect a used bike you have just purchased.  This will ensure you bike is safe to ride as well as reliable (so you don't spend your day for riding sitting on the curb waiting for a friend with a trailer).

    Every bike will vary slightly in how to inspect certain items and you should have a service or maintenance manual handy to know what the specific specifications are for your motorcycle.

    Here are some general tips to check out the basic systems of most motorcycles:




    • Check head light high/low beam, tail/brake light, turn signals, horn, instrument and driving lights.
    • Test Kill button/switch
    • Inspect overall wiring for chafe. Use wire ties to secure loose wires. A shot of WD-40 will keep switches & locks healthy.
    • Check battery levels and clean terminals. Baking soda & water will clean corrosion from the post (Don't get it inside the battery!), a little petroleum jelly or grease helps prevent future corrosion.  Check the ground (-) cable at both ends to ensure it is tight and clean.
    • Inspect starter connections & mounting bolts. Check shaft for excessive wear if noisy. *If your bike has a fuse box, check 'em and get spares.


    Engine Fluids


    • Check levels. If engine/trans. oil is very dark or black, smells burnt, change oil & filter. Inspect fuel filter & screens for crud and check lines for chafe and dry rot.
    • Water cooled Engines: Check coolant/anti-freeze level, and check flow/pump/hoses.




    • Check and adjust lever & pedal travel. Refer to your owners/shop manual for specs.
    • Check master cylinders for clean brake fluid & proper fluid levels.
    • Check all brake lines for wear, cracking & leaks. Any brake fluid on the lines or around any of the connections means the brake system is leaking and REQUIRES attention.
    • Irregular or "jerky" stopping may mean a warped rotor or drum.
    • Inspect pads/liners and replace if needed. Don't let a front brake grab on wet pavement.
    • Brakes are possibly the most important component on a bike. If you are not sure on how to correctly inspect the brakes & brake system, take your bike to an authorized service center!


    Tires & Wheels


    • Inspect tires for even wear, tread depth and dry rot (cracking) or cuts in side walls.
    • Inspect valve stems for dry rot (and rim cuts on tube stems).
    • Check air pressure. Do not over inflate especially in Hot conditions/climate.
    • Inspect rims for dents, cracks (alloy) and Carefully tighten loose spokes.
    • Check axles, axle nuts & hardware for tightness & wear and lube the bearings.
    • Inspect drive chain(& lube) or belt for excessive wear and adjust/replace as needed.


    Engine & Transmission


    • Check spark plugs. Brown to grayish-tan is good. Black is probably from burning oil or a rich fuel/air mix., light gray or whitish can mean a lean fuel/air mix or an intake leak.
    • Check carb(s), adjust float level(s) & idle/fuel/air. Clean carbs are happy carbs... Aerosol Carb/Injector cleaner can work wonders on carburetor or fuel injected motors.
    • Inspect/adjust ignition components & replace old spark plugs & wires.
    • About every 500 miles, check nuts, bolts & screws for tightness.
    • Inspect oil lines for leaks, cracks or chafe & look for oil leaks from the engine/trans. case(s).
    • Inspect air filter(s) and if dirty, replace or clean depending on type.
    • Inspect exhaust for leaks (especially at the manifold) and check mounting brackets.
    • Adjust clutch, replace plates if slipping or dragging. Check primary drive chain/belt.

    Frame & Suspension


    • Check/tighten/torque all nuts & bolts, & engine/trans. mounting hardware.
    • Look for hair line cracks around engine/transmission mounting brackets.
    • Check steering head/fork assembly for looseness/tightness and adjust if needed.
    • Lube steering(tree) bearings.
    • Check fork fluid level (refer to owners manual, use only approved hydraulic fluid).
    • Inspect rear shock(s), (replace if worn or soft) and check fender mounting brackets/hardware.
    • Inspect handle bars for cracks, check mounts and oil all cables.
    • 1 posts
    March 30, 2009 5:05 AM PDT

    Really important to CHECK YOUR TIRE PRESSURE.


    Just heard about one of our local riders that got on his bike for the first time since last fall.  Went to turn in the intersection right by his house, the bike got all wobbly and ran ran right into an oncoming car. Luckily he wasn't hurt that bad, but when they got his bike at the shop there was only 6lbs of pressure in the rear tire!

  • g
    September 19, 2009 6:19 AM PDT
    done mine the day ,haven't been out on it for a few weeks ,so i had a wee look over it ,all was fine ,but its beter to be safe .also got her running and got the temp up to 100 then heard the fan come on the switched her off ,dont know about u guys but i like to warm her up every now n again if shes been sitting around .
  • September 19, 2009 11:14 PM PDT
    already had to put a new rear tire on mine and have kept up the services. I check the screws on the windshield before every ride. They tend to work loose I have found. Brakes are starting to squeak a little bit I am gonna take it in and have them checked. they work fine but gonna have it checked just to make sure. It will go into storage after the toy run in December.
  • September 25, 2009 3:43 PM PDT
    I was told in my MSC that you should check lights, tires, brakes every ride. Check fluids and pressure every
    weak. One other thing was anybody can ride fast, a good rider can ride slow.
    • 834 posts
    December 30, 2009 9:28 AM PST
    Nice list Lucky. I try to check the basics - tire wear, loose hardware, hoses, etc - every time I clean the bike.
  • February 5, 2010 1:43 AM PST
    Excellent post, one does not need alot of tools OR experience to do these things, I have give my bikes the once over every couple thousand miles for years now.

    The main advantage other than the obvious financial one is that this makes you feel like one with your bike, you develope a clear mental picture of every part on it and what it looks like in operating condition. If something becomes loose or wore chances are you will spot it before it runs your day.

    • 601 posts
    February 12, 2010 9:21 AM PST
    Every Sunday morning without fail I clean my bike, not for the shine but it gives me the chance to find all the things that need doing..loose bolts, slack chain the usual stuff. But one thing I will always do because of a previous bad blow-out, is i will run my hand over the tyres, if theres a nail or screw in there it may cut my hand but it may also save my life.
    • 190 posts
    March 2, 2010 12:09 PM PST
    Good post Lucky. I appreciate it. You're a good host. and a good brother.
    • 844 posts
    March 19, 2010 5:54 AM PDT
    Just gave my bike the once over. Good list Lucky. I would have forgotten some of the most obvious stuff.
    • 5420 posts
    March 18, 2011 4:06 AM PDT
    Just a reminder to everyone to give your bike a once over before you get into the heavy spring riding.
    • 6 posts
    March 18, 2011 4:28 AM PDT
    Well another season comin' up and I hope everyone has a safe great yr. riding. I just took my bike out of storage and tuned her up ..w/ new tires and all is well. So I'm ready and waiting for the warm weather. See ya-all on the open road...
    • 0 posts
    March 19, 2011 10:22 AM PDT
    Tyres are the only contact you have with the bloody road.We fit tyres at my work and every service do the pressures ..Its friggin unreal how many blokes ride around on bald tyres..We;ve had sports bikes with canvas patches on front tyres..To think I'm out there riding around with these dickheads is a bit bloody scary..Scooter riders are the same coz they cant really see their back tyres you can bet their always rooted..Its dangerous enough out there dont make it bloody worse by being cheap or ignorant and riding on shit tyres..If you aint sure ask someone...CHEERS BOOF
    • 467 posts
    March 11, 2012 4:27 AM PDT
    Thanks Lucky. Just thought that this would be a great reminder and that I should post a link to my local ABATE chapter's fb page since we seem to have a lot of young and newbies this year!
    • 1855 posts
    March 11, 2012 4:41 AM PDT
    driver47 wrote...
    We are lucky here in Arkansas . We can ride all year long with proper dress . Not much snow or ice , just enjoy and ride safe . The day this picture was made , my wife and i just finished about 350 miles . High temp was about 45 degrees . Enjoy.

    Pretty much the reason I want to move to Alabama.

  • March 11, 2012 4:45 AM PDT

    Very Good Message Lucky mate.....Mine is done and done again all year round as soon as I hear anything or feel anything I do a complete once over and check EVERYTHING before taking it out again, Have already done the first major checkup this year.....

    Also, If you have an engineer that you trust somewhere close to you, usually a biker too, take any NEW ride for a once over by him, I do this even though I am good at what I do I ALWAYS take it to my local engineer for inspection prior to taking it any distance, and that goes for my other rides that I have had for years too...Just imagine how bad it would be to miss something.....ANYTHING.....Always get it double checked.....It aint down to luck.....its all about good judgement.....he may find something I missed.....And it HAS happened in the past...

  • March 11, 2012 2:51 PM PDT
    I still get shivers over the time I found my, "oh my gosh" nut (front axle) finger tight.
    It was found while I was doing a regular inspection.
    • 5420 posts
    March 7, 2013 5:14 AM PST
    Getting about that time to give your bike a good looking over.
    • 1855 posts
    March 7, 2013 6:39 AM PST
    Getting older makes me worry a lot more about a lot of stuff I never, ever worried about before. Oh yeah, I still check out the bike thoroughly; nuts, bolts, tire pressure fluids, lights, etc. But suddenly, developing a flat spot on my tires cuz the bike has been stored all winter (yet moved occasionally) keeps crossing my mind. Don't believe I "EVER" concerned myself with that. And...............I'm going ignore that bit of craziness meandering around my brain; just because
    • Moderator
    • 19067 posts
    March 7, 2013 9:11 AM PST
    Took Rex for a short run today down here in Ole' Miss. Was AWESOME!
    • 5420 posts
    March 14, 2013 5:20 AM PDT
    Just gave my bike its spring inspection before hitting the road for a really busy rally season. Glad I did because I found a slight leak in the rear brake fluid reservoir seal.
    • 5420 posts
    March 14, 2013 5:22 AM PDT
    rory1 wrote...
    Every Sunday morning without fail I clean my bike, not for the shine but it gives me the chance to find all the things that need doing..loose bolts, slack chain the usual stuff. But one thing I will always do because of a previous bad blow-out, is i will run my hand over the tyres, if theres a nail or screw in there it may cut my hand but it may also save my life.

    Cleaning your own bike is a great way to check your bike over.  You are already down there in all those areas of the bike you don't normally see, so pay attention when shining those parts!

    • 3006 posts
    March 14, 2013 2:07 PM PDT
    This is something that I think almost all riders at some point or another need reminding of.Usually I am one of those people who check things daily.Lately tho I have been slammed w/some family hassles and been riding here n there w/out my usual look see,today I almost paid the price for my negilence.Front brake pad wore down badly,and had to replaced.When I took my bike off the kickstand,I forgot to put it back down after doing a roll test stop test,first time ever for me,fortunately I caught a break n she settled off on my floorboard and didnt go completely over.
    Every one who rides should do these checks !!!