Bike Repairing services
I was a little surprised when someone recently asked me if it was possible to rack up a hundred thousand (or more) miles on a late model Royal Enfield without making any major repairs, and if it was, what sort of maintenance it would take to do it. My knee-jerk reaction was to start cataloging all the things that would need doing, but the more I considered the question, the more I realized that while all devices are subject to the whims of mechanical misfortune, the current crop of motorcycles are for the most part as reliable as anvils, and, barring any unforeseen mishaps, will last almost as long while needing only slightly more attention.
This is particularly true if you purchase the bike new and can control how its broken in and maintained from Day One. Since this is our Buyers Guide issue and many of you are no doubt contemplating the purchase of something fresh, we figured now would be the perfect time to explain how to keep your bike alive and well over the very long haul.
The preface in my 1946 Triumph service manual says, "To obtain the best possible result from your investment you must keep your machine in such condition that it will give you long and satisfactory service." Spoken like a proper Englishman I say, and as true now as it was then. The question is, how to go about it.
People in charge of large fleets of equipment (airlines for instance) use routine preventive maintenance programs to forestall any major problems, and that same solution works just fine when applied to motorcycles.
By the way, while commercial airlines dont always keep up their maintenance programs the way we might think they should, let me point out that the newest U.S. Air Force B- 52 entered the service in 1962 and is still flying regular missions. The point is, when routine maintenance is properly done, it is extremely effective.
The hardest part of creating a routine maintenance program is knowing what to check and when to check it. Fortunately when it comes to your motorcycles, the heavy lifting has already been done. Every owners and service manual has list of prescribed maintenance tasks that, if performed according to schedule, should allow you to run the odometer of any modern motorcycle into big numbers without much strain. Of course, this depends on how hard you abuse the motorcycle between services and your mechanical diligence, but even a relatively lax program can be surprisingly effective.
Deciphering the Manual
Maintenance schedules are based on time and distance, and yes, that means whichever comes first. Doing it that way means the garage queen and the bike thats racking up 20,000 miles a year both receive the appropriate level of care.
All owners manuals include a chart listing the maintenance tasks, with a notation at the appropriate place describing what needs to be done. Typically, these are the letters I, C, R, A, and L which respectively stand for Inspect, Clean, Replace, Adjust and Lubricate. Of course thats subject to the whims of whomever wrote the manual so be sure to read the fine print. Itd really suck if you cleaned the oil filter five or six times before finding out that C in your case actually meant "change."
While the time periods are generally standardized, most manufacturers currently favor 12-month intervals, though mileage specifications vary. For example, the recommended oil and filter change interval for my 2008 Triumph Scrambler is 12 months or 6,000 miles, On the other hand, even though Honda would also like me to change the oil on my long term VTX at least every 12 months, its mileage limit comes at 8,000. Granted, thats not a huge difference unless you rack up lots of miles in a year-in which case the Triumphs oil will need changing slightly more often than the Hondas.
However, there are some service recommendations that may have a more profound effect. For instance, the Triumph factory would like you to inspect the steering head bearings at one year/6,000 miles and repack them with fresh grease every two years or 12,000 miles. Honda, on the other hand, is just as happy to have you have inspect them every 8,000 miles regardless of time, and doesnt specify repacking them unless theres a problem. Well return to this subject again, but the message for now is that service intervals fluctuate between brands and even between different models from the same manufacturer. I should also point out that the manufacturers recommended service schedule applies to bikes ridden under average conditions. If you ride your bike in harsher situations then youll need to step up the maintenance, and by the same token, if youd just like to service your bike more often, than by all means do it.
Climbing the Maintenance Ladder
Most routine maintenance tasks are relatively simple. Generally, youll be inspecting components for damage, changing fluids, and making the occasional adjustment, at least initially. As time and mileage accumulate, the inspections do become more involved and will require more time, skill, and in some cases, special tools. Like anything of this nature, if you dont feel comfortable performing the work, then dont; do only what you can and leave the rest to the pros. I know plenty of guys that do little more than change their oil and check their tire pressure, leaving the more involved stuff to their dealers. Which brings us nicely to a salient point.
As a rule, accumulated mileage isnt particularly critical as long as the day-to-day stuff is performed on schedule; whether you perform the brunt of the 20K service at 18K or 22K wont matter all that much. Because I dont like to tie up my bikes during the prime riding months I change the oil when its due and do what maintenance I must while basically letting the rest slide until the snow flies and the bike comes off the road. Then I take my time and spread whatever inspection is due over a couple of weekends. If youre so inclined, Id suggest you take the same approach, in part because with no pressure to ride the bike, youll be disposed to take your time and do a more thorough job. By the same token, most service departments are slow over the winter-in fact many offer incentives like reduced prices or free bike pick-up to bring in the work. If youre going to have a shop perform the inspection, schedule it for the colder months when things are quiet, even if it means running up a few extra miles.
Doing It By the Book
Lets look at a typical routine service checklist. Since this one is representative rather than specific to a particular bike, there may be tasks here that dont apply to your motorcycle. That goes for the 6,000-mile interval, which was used because its a nice round number; your inspection intervals could just as easily arrive at 4,000 or 8,000 miles. As always if theres any doubt, refer to your bikes service manual.
If none of that looks particularly difficult, thats because it isnt. If you remove the valve adjustment and the carb/throttle body synchronization from the equation (and in many cases, neither will be required), the whole job can easily be completed in about four unhurried hours.
As time and mileage accumulate the workload increases. In addition to the items listed at the one year/6,000 mile mark, expect to see something similar to the following at the next level.
Obviously, theres a trend here, and its one that will continue. Using our hypothetical example, at the four year/24,000 mark, the manufacturer may want the brake and fuel lines and radiator hoses replaced, or at least thoroughly inspected. In this regard, some manufacturers are more finicky than others. Id also caution that some of the manufacturers suggestions need to tempered with common sense; Ive been running the same coolant hoses on my dual sport bike since I bought it nine years ago and theyre still in mint condition, despite the manufacturers recommendation to change them every two years.
In addition to the parts listed here, youre certainly going to be replacing some expendable items like tires, brake pads (and possibly the rotors), batteries and maybe even the occasional clutch or two, but you and I both know that those parts are going to wear out no matter how often you service the bike.
Benign neglect vs. neglect Unfortunately, when it comes to working on motorcycles, not everyone shares my enthusiasm, and thats perfectly understandable. If thats your case, and presuming youd like to hang onto your bike, you have several options. For one, you can follow the manufacturers recommendations and simply have someone else perform the work. Thats a reasonable course, and I know of several 100,000-plus mile machines that have never felt their owners hand on a wrench.
Another alternative would be the, "if it aint broke, dont fix it," program. The argument here is that if youre going to work on something, you might as well wait until it stops working entirely before wasting your time and energy. This is generally a bad way to go, in part because Murphys law-which states that things will always break when doing so causes maximum expense and inconvenience-tends to be overly optimistic. So not only will that worn muffler bearing let go when youre 500 miles from home, itll do so where you have no cell phone coverage and its an uphill walk in both directions to seek help over dark, deserted and wet roads, in a neighborhood where serial killers leave their porch lights on. People that subscribe to this theory generally have a yard full of broken machinery, all of which just "needs a little work and shell be good as new."
That being said, there are times when a little benign neglect pays off. For example, most manufacturers recommend inspecting and lubricating the steering head bearings at the two to four year mark. While its not a particularly onerous job, it is a bit time consuming, and in most cases, the bearings are perfectly fine. Now by no means am I telling you not to do it; I must emphasize that steering head bearings take a lot of abuse, so if theres the slightest doubt concerning their condition, by all means yank them out and have a good look. However my feeling is that once theyre out of there, its just as easy to install new ones, so what I normally do is let them slide until theyre shot (which generally means something closer to maybe 30,000 miles or more), and then I replace them. That approach isnt by the book and in some cases, like that of a high-mileage bike that sees a lot of use, it may not be the smartest way to go, but it works for me. So the bottom line here is that you dont necessarily have to follow the manufacturers service recommendations to the letter so much as you have to establish a realistic and rational program that works for you.
In the end the secret to running up the big mileage is that there really isnt any secret: keep up with the maintenance, repair things that break in a timely manner, and chances are better than average that the motorcycle will age a lot more gracefully than its owner. -MZ
ONE YEAR/6000 MILES (WHICHEVER COMES FIRST)
ENGINE OIL Replace
OIL FILTER Replace
COOLANT Inspect, top off using an approved coolant.
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE OIL Replace
SPARK PLUGS Inspect /replace
VALVES Inspect and adjust as required
CARBURETOR/THROTTLE BODY Synchronize as needed
IDLE SPEED Inspect - adjust
FUEL LINES Inspect lines and clamps; replace chafed lines, tighten clamps.
FUEL FILTER Inspect/replace as required
AIR FILTER Inspect/clean or replace as required
THROTTLE/THROTTLE CABLES Inspect and lubricate cables, check operation, adjust free play
CHOKE/FAST IDLE CONTROL Inspect operation. Lubricate and adjust linkage as needed
CLUTCH/CLUTCH CABLE Inspect cable adjustment. Lubricate cable and clutch lever pivot
STEERING HEAD BEARING ADJUSTMENT Inspect and adjust
SWING ARM AND LINKAGE Inspect and lubricate
FORK SEALS Inspect for leaks or other damage
REAR SHOCKS Inspect for leaks, worn bushings.
DRIVE CHAIN Inspect, lubricate, adjust
DRIVE BELT Inspect, check tension
DRIVE SHAFT Replace oil (if applicable)
BRAKE FLUID Verify level; if contaminated, replace.
BRAKE PADS Inspect/replace
BRAKE CALIPERS Wrench-check mounting hardware, check for leaks/chafed hoses or torn dust boots. Make sure all pistons are free.
BRAKE ROTORS Wrench-check mounting hardware, look for scoring or other damage
BRAKE MASTER CYLINDERS Inspect for leaks.
WHEELS Inspect and adjust spokes, Inspect wheel bearings for play. Inspect wheel seals for leakage. Inspect wheel alignment.
TIRE CONDITION AND PRESSURE Inspect and adjust. Replace worn or damaged tires. (Obviously, tires should be replaced whenever theyre worn out, but theyre often overlooked when the bike is infrequently ridden.)
ENGINE AND FRAME BOLTS Visual inspect and wrench check. Make certain all appropriate cotter pins/lock tabs are in place and bent over.
LIGHTS Inspect operation
BATTERY AND CHARGING SYSTEM Top off battery, check cable terminals, check charge rate.
AIR FILTER Replace
FUEL FILTER Replace
BRAKE FLUID Replace
AIR INJECTION SYSTEM Service
EVAPORATIVE SYSTEM Service (if equipped)
STEERING HEAD BEARINGS Lubricate
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