5 Things you missed while cleaning a motorcycle

Second to riding, cleaning a motorcycle is the most relished thing for a motorcyclist.

While a good and basic motorcycle clean comprises the below steps:

  • De-greasing the lower half of the motorcycle (prone to grease & grime)
  • Pressure wash with water
  • Foam/soap clean and rinse using the 2 buckets-method
  • Polish/wax
  • Before/after pictures to brag 😛

In addition to the above – here are the 5 most overlooked things one can include during a regular wash to make the motorcycle “super clean”

1) Cleaning the Exhaust Headers Pipes:
Easily the most neglected part of the cleaning cycle – the exhaust header down-pipes along with the radiator pick up the most grime and dirt spewed by the front tire.

What causes the discoloration of the exhaust header pipes?
Most of the OEM motorcycle exhaust pipes are made with stainless steel, chromium and other metals – they react with dirt, water, salts and heat to get oxidized to form a layer – which left untreated for long leads to pitting.

Materials to clean:

    • Hand gloves
    • Toothbrush
    • Scotch-brite
    • Steel wool (if scotch bite doesn’t work)
    • Water mixed with soap (Motorcycle cleaning soap)
    • Autosol Metal polish or Autosol Stainless steel polish
    • Lots of time, patience and hard work

Steps to super clean the motorcycle exhaust headers:

    1. Down-pipes are best cleaned upon removal of side + bottom fairings/panels of the motorcycle
    2. Wash the header pipes with soap water using the scotch-brite and toothpaste thoroughly – for newer motorcycles this removes at least 70% of the dirt and oxidation layer
    3. Rinse down the pipes thoroughly with plain water
    4. Dry out excess water with cloth
    5. Apply generous amount of Autosol metal/stainless polish using a cloth and give a good rub to make them shine

CAUTION:

    • Ensure the exhausts are cold before cleaning – never work on the hot ones
    • DO NOT USE harmful chemicals like “Harpic”, since it reacts to remove the protective layer of chromium
Before - cleaning the motorcycle exhaust downpipes

BEFORE…

 

How to super clean a motorcycle exhaust header without Harpic

AFTER…

2) Cleaning the Turn Indicators + Head-lights + Tail-lights:
While the outside of the indicators, headlights, tail-lights get cleaned every time – seldom do the inside of them get attention.
The insides of the turn indicators, head & tail-lights are not dust-proof, over a period they accumulate dust, moisture and turn dull.

On most motorcycles removing the indicators, head & tail-lights to access the inside is fairly simple, with basic tools.

Materials to clean:

    • Water mixed with soap
    • Microfiber towels

Steps to clean the inside of turn indicators and headlights:

    1. Basic tools to remove the indicator cover and to access the interiors of headlights and tail-lights
    2. Dab the microfiber towel in the soap solution and clean
    3. Dab a separate towel with plain water to rinse the soap
    4. Use a dry towel to remove any excess moisture

CAUTION:

    • DO NOT use coarse or any brush to clean since they may damage/scratch the inner reflective surface
    • DO NOT let water or soap to sit or drop on the electrical connectors/points
    • DO NOT use any polish or spray on the inside after cleaning
    • Don’t forget to clean the indicator bulbs/LEDs & bulbs/projector-bulb of the head, taillights
How to super clean a motorcycle turn indicator s

Clean’em ALL — In & Out !!

3) Cleaning the Front Sprocket of the chain drive:
While the rear sprocket and chain are often exposed to a cleaning spray and lube – the front sprocket is only seen by your mechanic 😀
Make it a habit to clean the front sprocket on par with its rear counterpart – after every ride.

Materials to clean:

    • Chain clean solution/ spray ( I prefer diesel since it cleans well, is cost effective and evaporates fast)
    • Chain clean brush/ regular toothbrush
    • Cloth to wipe the grime

4) Clean the Disc Brake System (not just the pads and rotor)
While a brake cleaning spray is good to clean the pads and rotor – it doesn’t reach the inside of the brake caliper and the brake pistons.
Cleaning helps with:

  • Correct braking pressure to both the pistons on either side of the caliper (translating to good braking feel/feedback to the rider)
  • Even wear of the brake pads on either side of the caliper

Thorough and cost effective cleaning of the disc brake system (pads, rotor, caliper and pistons) is best achieved with IPA (Iso Propyl Alcohol).

Materials to clean:

    • Commercial Iso Propyl Alcohol (IPA)
    • Toothbrush
    • Microfiber towel

5) Clean the Helmet 
After the motorcycle – the next most visible element is the helmet.

An unclean helmet smells bad, looks dirty and affects the rider since he/she has to breathe via the dust-filled air vents of the helmet and leads to scalp irritation and even hair fall.

Thorough helmet cleaning should cover the following areas:

  • Outer Shell with the graphics
  • Outer Visor and inner Sun visor (if present)
  • Helmet inner pads (head pad + cheek pads)
  • Air vents in the helmet

Materials to clean:

    • Water mixed with baby shampoo solution
    • Helmet interior cleaning spray
    • Microfiber towel
    • Ear buds
    • Wax polish for the helmet exterior shell

Steps to clean the helmet (interior & exterior):

    1. Start with cleaning the Interior Pads of the helmet:
      • Helmets with Removable Liner:
        • Remove the pads from the helmet (Refer the instruction manual provided with the helmet or the relevant videos)
        • Wash the interior pads with a mild soap solution by hand (do not feed them to a washing machine – it may damage the foam protection)
        • Air dry them in shade
      • Helmets with Fixed Liner:
        • Use a helmet cleaning spray and wipe using a micro-fibre towel
        • Air dry them
    1. Helmet Visor:
      • Remove the helmet visor
      • Clean with plain-water + dry using a microfiber towel
      • DO NOT forget to clean the spare visors
    2. Cleaning the exterior of the helmet:
      • Rinse the outer shell with plain-water
      • Clean with mild-soap water using a wet microfiber towel
      • Remove excess moisture using a dry microfiber towel
      • Use ear-buds to clean the air-vents and other hard-to-reach areas
      • Apply/spray your motorcycle polish/wax to make it shine
How to super clean a motorcycle and clean + polish the helmet

Not just the motorcycle – keep the lids clean & shiny!!

General tips to super clean a motorcycle:

  1. Perform all or any of the above procedures under a shade
  2. Work on a cold motorcycle – never on a hot one after a ride
  3. Wear protective rubber gloves – to protect from grease and chemicals that may react with your skin
  4. Read the service manual specific to your motorcycle to know beforehand – tools required, how to remove and put them back (usually putting them back is confusing unless one is adept) [PRO-TIP: use a tape to stick the respective screw/fastener to the relevant body-cowl of the motorcycle – ensures no mix-up of fasteners during assembly]
  5. Listen to music – helps keep the tempo!!
  6. Keep a bottle of cold water to hydrate and towel to wipe sweat
  7. Mount the motorcycle onto a rear and front stand for easy access
  8. Use a low stool/bench to sit and work on the motorcycle
  9. Tires: inspect the tires for any damages, embedded sharp objects and small stones that sit between the tread pattern

A “super clean” motorcycle feels great to ride, improves longevity of the moving parts and strengthens the bond between man and machine !!

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