How to Wash a Motorcycle Properly: A Comprehensive Guide
Motorcycle washing is not as easy as it sounds. Well, not unless you want to wash it just for the good looks.
Giving your motorcycle a thorough cleaning protects your bike’s paint, prevents corrosion, and allows you to check for structural or connection faults.
While many bike owners prefer commercial washing facilities washing your motorcycle yourself is highly recommended.
This is mainly because commercial washing facilities sometimes may damage bike parts, especially with the high-pressure hoses and harsh detergents used in the cleaning.
On top of it, relying on commercial washing facilities can be a bit expensive compared to doing the cleaning ritual yourself.
Maintaining the cleanliness of your motorcycle is essential for its overall performance and appearance.
In this guide, we’ll provide you with a detailed step-by-step process on how to wash a motorcycle properly, ensuring that your bike remains in top condition.
When to Wash Your Motorcycle
Before you start washing your motorcycle, it’s important to know the right time to do so.
Avoid washing your bike when the engine is still hot from use, as spraying cold water on hot engines or pipes can cause damage to metal parts or even crack engine blocks. Instead, wait for the engine to cool down before starting the cleaning process.
Also, avoid washing your motorcycle in direct sunlight, as this can cause detergents to dry on the surface before you can rinse them off, leading to water streaks that are difficult to clean.
How to Wash a Motorcycle Properly: Step-by-Step Guide
1. Get prepared
When learning how to wash a motorcycle properly, preparation is key. Gather all the necessary supplies for washing your motorcycle, including water, soap or liquid detergent, wheel cleaner, wax, sponge, brush, and a clean towel. Make sure to choose a reputable motorcycle washing detergent to avoid damaging the paint.
2. Secure sensitive components
To ensure you know how to wash a motorcycle properly, always protect sensitive components.
Before you start washing, ensure that all electrical connections, spark plug wires, bearings, and other sensitive components are secure. Use a rag or rubber glove to plug the exhaust hole to prevent water from entering the exhaust system.
How to secure electrical connections before washing your motorcycle
Before you start washing your motorcycle, it’s crucial to protect sensitive components, especially electrical connections. Ensuring that all electrical connections are secure will prevent water from causing any short circuits or corrosion, which may lead to performance issues or even damage to the motorcycle’s electrical system.
Step 1: Identify the electrical connections
First, familiarize yourself with the various electrical connections on your motorcycle. These may include connections to the battery, ignition system, lights, turn signals, horn, sensors, and other electronic components. You can refer to your motorcycle’s owner manual for guidance on locating these connections.
Step 2: Inspect each connection
Once you’ve identified the electrical connections, visually inspect each one for any signs of wear, damage, or corrosion. Look for loose wires, damaged connectors, or frayed insulation. If you spot any issues, address them before proceeding with washing your motorcycle.
Step 3: Ensure proper connection
Check that each connector is firmly attached and seated correctly. In some cases, connectors might have locking mechanisms or clips that need to be engaged to ensure a secure connection. Gently tug on the wires to confirm that they are firmly connected and won’t easily come apart during the washing process.
Step 4: Protect sensitive areas
For added protection, consider covering particularly sensitive electrical components, such as the battery terminals, ignition switch, or exposed connectors, with waterproof tape or plastic bags. This will help to prevent water from coming into contact with these areas during the washing process.
Step 5: Double-check before washing
Before you start washing your motorcycle, do a final check to make sure all electrical connections are secure and adequately protected. This extra step will give you peace of mind and help prevent any potential issues caused by water intrusion.
By following these steps to ensure all electrical connections are secure, you can prevent potential damage to your motorcycle’s electrical system during the washing process.
How to secure your motorcycle bearings before washing it
1. Avoid high-pressure water streams
When washing your motorcycle, avoid using high-pressure water streams near bearing areas, as the force can push water and dirt into the bearings. Instead, use a gentle water stream or a hose with a shower setting when rinsing around bearing areas.
2. Use a protective grease or lubricant
Applying a layer of waterproof grease or lubricant around the exposed areas of the bearings can create a barrier that helps repel water during the washing process. Make sure to choose a grease or lubricant specifically designed for motorcycle bearings to ensure compatibility.
3. Cover the bearings
For added protection, you can cover the bearing areas with plastic bags or cling wrap before washing your motorcycle. This will help to keep water and debris away from the bearings. Make sure to securely fasten the covers so they don’t come off during the washing process. Remove the covers once you’ve finished washing and drying your bike.
4. Be cautious when cleaning around bearing areas
When scrubbing and cleaning your motorcycle, be extra careful around bearing areas. Avoid using brushes or sponges that can push dirt or water into the bearings. Instead, clean these areas with a soft cloth or a gentle brush, taking care not to force any debris into the bearings.
5. Inspect and maintain bearings regularly
Regular inspection and maintenance of your motorcycle’s bearings will help to ensure their longevity and performance. After washing and drying your bike, check for any signs of water ingress, corrosion, or damage. If you notice any issues, it’s essential to address them promptly. Lubricate the bearings as recommended by your motorcycle’s manufacturer and replace them if necessary.
3. Pre-wash soak
If your motorcycle has accumulated a significant amount of dirt, mud, or road grime, a pre-wash soak can help make the cleaning process more effective. Here’s a detailed explanation of the pre-wash soak step when washing a motorcycle:
1. Assess the level of dirt and grime
Before starting the pre-wash soak, take a moment to assess the condition of your motorcycle. If it’s covered in heavy dirt, caked-on mud, or stubborn road grime, a pre-wash soak will be beneficial.
2. Wet the entire motorcycle
Using a low-pressure hose or a bucket of plain water, gently splash or spray water onto the entire motorcycle. The goal is to thoroughly wet all surfaces without using high pressure that could force water into sensitive areas like electrical connections, chains, and crevices. If you’re using a hose, choose a gentle spray setting rather than a high-pressure jet.
3. Allow the motorcycle to soak
Once the motorcycle is wet, let it sit for a few minutes, allowing the water to soak into the dirt and grime. This will help to loosen and soften the dirt, making it easier to wash off during the main cleaning process. The soaking time may vary depending on the level of dirt, but typically 5-10 minutes should be sufficient.
If your motorcycle is particularly dirty, consider splashing it with plain water and allowing it to soak for a few minutes. Be cautious when using high-pressure water, as it may force water into electrics, chains, and crevices, causing corrosion.
4. Cleaning painted surfaces
One essential aspect of how to wash a motorcycle properly is taking care of the painted surfaces. Start by cleaning these areas using a sponge. Work on small sections at a time to avoid scratching the paint.
5. Cleaning tires and spokes
Cleaning the tires and spokes on your motorcycle is an essential part of maintaining its appearance and performance. Regular cleaning helps prevent the build-up of brake dust, road grime, and debris, which can impact your bike’s handling and safety. Here’s a detailed guide on how to clean your motorcycle’s tires and spokes:
1. Gather necessary supplies
Before you begin, gather all the supplies you’ll need for cleaning your motorcycle’s tires and spokes. These may include:
- Wheel cleaner or mild liquid detergent
- A bucket of water
- Stiff-bristled brush (for tires)
- Soft-bristled brush or spoke brush (for spokes)
- Microfiber cloth or sponge
- Clean, dry towels
2. Prepare the motorcycle
Ensure your motorcycle is parked on a level surface, preferably in a shaded area. This will make it easier to work on the tires and spokes and prevent any cleaning products from drying too quickly in direct sunlight.
3. Pre-rinse the wheels
Using a low-pressure hose or a bucket of plain water, gently rinse the wheels to remove any loose dirt, grime, or debris. Be cautious not to use high-pressure water, as it may force water into sensitive areas like bearings or electrical connections.
4. Apply wheel cleaner or mild detergent
Mix the wheel cleaner or mild liquid detergent with water in a bucket, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Apply the cleaning solution to the tires and spokes using a sponge or microfiber cloth. Make sure to cover all surfaces thoroughly, including the sidewalls of the tires and the insides of the spokes.
5. Scrub the tires
Using a stiff-bristled brush, scrub the tires to remove brake dust, road grime, and debris. Pay particular attention to the tread area, where dirt and debris can become lodged. Work in small sections, applying additional cleaning solution as needed.
6. Clean the spokes
To clean the spokes, use a soft-bristled brush or a specialized spoke brush designed to reach between the spokes and around the nipples. Gently scrub the spokes to remove dirt, grime, and any signs of corrosion. If your motorcycle has wire-spoked wheels, be cautious not to damage the spoke nipples or the wheel rim.
7. Rinse and dry
Once you’ve finished cleaning the tires and spokes, rinse the wheels thoroughly with water, ensuring that all soap and cleaning products are removed. Use a clean, dry towel to dry the wheels, paying particular attention to the spokes and any areas where water may become trapped.
8. Inspect and maintain
After cleaning and drying the tires and spokes, inspect them for any signs of damage, wear, or corrosion. Check the tire tread depth and sidewall condition, and ensure that the spokes are properly tensioned and aligned. If you notice any issues, address them promptly to maintain the safety and performance of your motorcycle.
6. Cleaning hard-to-reach areas
To master how to wash a motorcycle properly, pay special attention to hard-to-reach areas. Clean sensitive parts like chrome and matte finishes, chain, and engine components using an old soft paintbrush or microfiber cloth. Use special chain cleaning products and stiff brushes to clean your bike’s chain without damaging its performance.
7. Rinsing and drying
Rinse your motorcycle immediately after washing to prevent detergents from drying on the surface. Use a leaf blower or clean towel to dry your motorcycle, then start the bike and let it run to help evaporate any residual moisture. Alternatively, take a short ride to finish off the drying process.
8. Lubricate the chain
After learning how to wash a motorcycle properly, don’t forget to lubricate the chain and other lubed parts to maintain optimal performance.
Final Tips on How to wash a motorcycle properly
Washing a motorcycle properly is crucial for maintaining its appearance, performance, and longevity. By following the right techniques and using appropriate cleaning products, you can protect your investment and ensure your motorcycle stays in top condition. Here are some final thoughts on how to wash a motorcycle properly:
- Use the right tools and products: Utilize motorcycle-specific cleaning products or mild detergents that won’t harm your bike’s paint, plastics, or metals. Use soft sponges, microfiber cloths, and brushes designed for motorcycles to avoid scratches and damage.
- Follow a methodical approach: Work systematically from top to bottom and front to back. This ensures that you cover all areas of the motorcycle, and dirt won’t drip onto already cleaned sections.
- Pre-wash soak and rinse: If your motorcycle has accumulated heavy dirt, start with a pre-wash soak to loosen the grime. Always use gentle water pressure when rinsing to prevent water intrusion into sensitive components.
- Clean tires, wheels, and spokes: Pay special attention to these areas, as they’re prone to accumulating brake dust, road grime, and debris. Use the appropriate brushes and cleaning products to remove dirt and maintain their appearance and performance.
- Take care of the chain: Clean and lubricate the chain regularly to ensure smooth operation, reduce wear, and prolong its lifespan.
- Avoid high-pressure water: High-pressure water can force its way into sensitive areas like bearings, electrical connections, and chains, causing corrosion and potential damage.
- Dry and protect: After washing, dry your motorcycle thoroughly using clean towels or a chamois cloth. Apply protective wax or polish to painted surfaces and chrome parts, and lubricate moving components as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Inspect and maintain: Regular cleaning provides an opportunity to inspect your motorcycle for any signs of wear, damage, or potential issues. Address any concerns promptly to ensure the safety and performance of your bike.
By following these final thoughts and guidelines, you can wash your motorcycle properly and keep it looking great while preserving its functionality and value. Regular cleaning also helps you stay familiar with your bike’s condition and address any concerns before they escalate into costly repairs.