It’s time to roll your sleeves up, and get your suds on. Learn how to wash a Motorcycle and what products to use.
The world of motorcycling creates a myriad of opportunities to get ‘hands-on’ from oil changes, brake pad replacement or a soapy wash and wax.
However it’s the later point which arguably gives people more pleasure, and the feeling of achievement, and will be the topic of conversation today.
Heading out on the open road, especially in the summer time is what all motorcyclist live for. Tearing up the tarmac and going full throttle on their favourite roads is enthralling.
What isn’t though is the build up fuel, dust, dirt and oil that can play havoc with your bike. Not only is all that filth hard to look at but it is also damaging too. Road salt deterioration and other grime can wreak havoc on the inner workings of your bike, especially rubber gaskets and wiring connections. So spending time on good maintenance keeps your paint work and fairings in pristine condition.
Cleaning a motorcycle with all its exposed parts such as instrumentation, switchgear, and other electronics can make a bike very daunting to clean. So, we’ve put together this handy guide on how to wash a motorcycle to help ensure your maxi-scooter or motorcycle stays spick and span — and that you don’t accidentally harm any parts when washing your two-wheeled pride and joy.
So to assist you we’ll cover everything from basic washing and drying, to wiping individual parts like brakes or suspension, to buffing and polishing metals, plus we’ve thrown in some useful hints and also the best washing products available in the market.
Photo Credit: Arai Helmets
Get your motorcycle cleaning products ready
The best way to wash your motorcycle is always to ensure that you have what you need to get the job done. There is nothing more irritating as clearing your calendar, rolling your motorcycle into place, cracking a beer open, and then remembering that you may not have the right supplies to get going.
There are plenty of motorcycle products on the market, and it’s imperative that you use them in the correct way. Products such as detailing spray which allows for less washing. Other pieces of kit include:
Great for smooth removal of stuck-on grime without damaging finishes, but be sure that they do not pick up dirt in the process or scratch your paint. So we would recommend that you rinse any dirt off first before getting to work on tough grime.
Mainly built for areas such as spoked wheels that can withstand a bit of hard work, but should be used in a very limited capacity, and only when other dirt cleaning products fall short. This is because when used on paint work or plastic fairing, it could scratch very easily.
Cloths and flannels:
These work great for the post-wash of the initial drying pass.
Made from leather fabric that is ultra-absorbent and suitable on all surfaces. These will remove any streaks or residual water left on the bike after the initial cleaning.
Best for final stages of cleaning when using spray on cleaning products. Microfiber does a great job of trapping residual dust, lint, and so on.
Prepare the area where you want to wash your motorcycle
When you have everything you need to clean your motorcycle properly, you will want to make sure both your motorcycle and your work area are ready to go.
First, make sure the motorcycle is safe before you start. It’s probably a good idea to ensure that your bike hasn’t been used and is still hot, as introducing cold products or water could cause damage.
Secondly, You will also want to choose an area to clean in which isn’t in direct sunlight as this will make the soap dry faster, making it much harder to do a good job washing your motorcycle by increasing the likelihood of streaks and water spots.
Thirdly, sweep up and remove any debris or dust that could cause damage or find its way back onto the bike during cleaning.
Clean Plastic Parts and Fairings
If your motorcycle has plastic parts on the body, it’s important to use an approved detergent for motorcycles. Plastic fairing may have decals on them so it’s important that you don’t use household products that could inadvertently remove stickers. You will also want to take care when using sponges, again because it may damage the fairings.
If you choose to use a jet wash to clean your motorcycle we advise that you approach this with an air of caution. Yes it will work wonders if you have dirt bikes, because such bikes are designed to accommodate everything Mother Nature can throw at them. However on sports bikes or cruisers exposed cabling and wiring may not be able to tolerate anything more than a good hose down.
How to clean a Motorcycles final drive system
The final drive system of a motorbike is immensely important, and should be regularly cleaned and lubed. To do this, you want to look at getting a toothbrush (or a chain-specific cleaning brush for a motorcycle), and clean the grime out of and between links of the chain. To clean the entire chain, which is necessary again — you will have to rotate the back tire, requiring your bike to be on a rear track or center stand. If you do not have access to a race stands and your bike is not fitted with a center stand, you can still use your kickstand, and then roll the bike forward a small bit at a time cleaning as it goes, allowing access to the entire chain as it loops over the front and rear sprockets. It is also a good time to clean the rear sprocket out too. Next up is chain lubing and or waxing. In fact, this part of the process is rather easy and consists of simply dousing the chain with a spray-on lube or wax.
How to clean the brakes and suspension
Up next for a little bit of elbow grease is cleaning the brakes and suspension which require regular cleaning attention. By cleaning the uppers and lowers of a fork, a bike can ride smoother across its travel range and is less likely to experience leaks, this prolonging the life of your bike.
The same applies to rear suspension systems, be it dual-sprung or mono-shocks. The method is relatively straight forward and only requires a suspension specific cleaning product which is applied/sprayed and wiped down.
Cleaning your brakes to remove any build up or debris is made simpler if your have access to a jet wash. Taking care not to have too high pressure, a jet wash will clean brakes very affectively especially in the hard to reach areas. Once this process has been completed you can use a brake specific cleaning product which will finish the job off.
A toothbrush – or some other tiny brush with bristles soft enough not to scratch the finish of your wheel – is also super useful when it comes to washing a wheel. This will allow you to access and clean small, hard-to-reach nooks and crannies like around the arms or spokes of the wheel, between cooling fins, around shocks, footpads, etc.
Drying and final finish
Once you have put in the hard yards and cleaned your bike top to bottom, drying your motorcycle off immediately after is imperative.
Residual soap and water leftover in the creases and crevices can lead to corrosion over time. Not to mention you will end up with streak lines. A popular approach is to use a dry towel or chamois leather. Alternatively for the more adventurous you could use an air/leaf blower which will work out any remaining moisture.
Also and important point to consider is that your brakes may perform slightly differently when riding your motorcycle for the first time after the wash, as they work off all the excess water.
One widely ignored area when a motorcycle is being washed is the seat. Apply a dedicated leather cleaner and/or conditioner post wash if you are riding on a leather saddle. Not only does this help keep it clean but it will also extend the lifetime of a seat and avoid cracking. Such materials can also typically be used on leather riding equipment such as gloves or jackets.
And finally turn your attention to the body work. Purchasing some high quality polish, waxes and sealants will go a long way to protecting the paintwork preventing moisture build up and worst of all rust.
So there you have it, a comprehensive guide to cleaning your motorcycle. If you have the urge to roll up your sleeves and get to work with you sponge and bucket we wish you luck.
While we have you here and this last part is really for the motorcycle enthusiasts that love a piece of kit or gadget. we have pooled together a selection of must have gadgets and pieces of equipment which we think you will love.
The Best Motorcycle Cleaning Products and Stuff
Here is a selection of must have pieces of motorcycle kit to help prep, clean and polish your beloved two wheels.
MUC-OFF BIKE PRESSURE WASHER BUNDLE
Muc-off is the first pressure washer specifically designed for motorcycles. There is an array of lances to choose from which offer varying degrees of pressure as well as a snow foam lance for applying cleaning products to your bike.
This piece of kit will go someway to cleaning your bike, removing road dust, grime and oil in one pass, without damaging the sensitive parts of your engine.
MOTOREX BRAKE CLEANER
Slamming on the anchors might be the only thing that stops you from ending up in the back end of bus, so take care of your brakes.
Motorex brake cleaner does a pretty good job at removing grime and oil build up from days on the road.
GUY MARTIN PROPER CLEANER
The much loved Northerner who has a real taste for high speed has created a ‘reet good’ product for cleaning your bike with.
Designed for the environmentally conscious among us they simply ship you the starter pack which includes the cleaning capsules and detergent sprayer. You simply mix up what you need by just adding water. Clean bike, cleaner environment. Win win.
MOTUL CHAIN CARE KIT
The Motul chain cleaning kits is suited for both on-road and off-road bikes, and includes a chain brush with tough, inward-facing bristles, a can of Motul’s chain cleaner, lubricant and a pair of nitrile gloves.
AIR FORCE MASTER BLASTER MOTO DRYER
If your looking to take your bike cleaning expertise to the next level, and really master the fine art of vehicle detailing you may want to consider a dryer.
The Airforce dryer has variable power modes and will work wonders against streaking and chemical spots.
FMF WASH PLUG
On the road your bike can tolerate a lot, but one thing it can’t is water in the exhaust system from an out of control jet washer lance.
Therefore stuffing this exhaust plug in before you get your suds on will stop any soapy ingress. The remove before flight streamer will serve as a great reminder to take out before starting up.
I hope this post has helped you understand how to wash a motorcycle. While your in the mood for reading can I suggest another post which includes 5 Steps to change oil on a scooter or motorcycle and why it’s important.