Essential tips for your motorcycle’s spring tune-up

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Good news, fellow bikers! Spring is just around the corner. Yes, I realize it is still wicked cold outside. But in a few short weeks, this hell of a winter will go back into the icy hole from which it surfaced. And that means it’s time to get your poor, neglected motorcycle ready for the open road. Sure, you could just save that work for a shop. But it will be all that more rewarding to do the work yourself. (And, come on, it’s really not that hard.) Here’s everything you need to do now, so you don’t miss a minute of spring riding.

Tool time

A post-winter tune-up shouldn’t require any specialized tools. But there are a few things you’ll need to get the job done. They are: A set of wrenches and sockets (including a spark plug socket), screwdrivers, allen keys, and pliers. Other helpful gear includes a battery tender or trickle charger, WD-40, motor oil, rags, an old tooth brush, brake fluid, new spark plugs, chain lubricant, and carburetor cleaner.

Lube that sucker

One of the first steps in prepping your bike for spring is to check all the fluid levels. Even if you have enough oil in the system, now is a good time to change the oil, and replace the oil filter.

You will also want to bleed the brakes, and refill the system with new brake fluid. As you’re doing this, check the brake lines for any cracks or other wear, and check the brake pads to ensure that they still have some meat on them. If not, order some new ones. Anything that doesn’t look 100 percent, replace it – you can never be too careful with brakes.

Lastly, you’ll need to replace the fuel filter to keep out any debris that may have formed in the tank over the winter. And add fresh gas.

Hit with a charge

The cold can take a toll on your bike’s battery. Take the battery out of the bike, and check for any white powder. If you find any, you likely need to replace the battery entirely. If not, hook the battery up to your tender or trickle charger. Once it’s finished charging, slap it back in the bike.

Spark it up

Next, you’ll want to check your spark plugs for any wear and tear. If the electrodes (the part that shoots the spark, at the tip) are dirty, you will want to replace the spark plugs with new ones. When reinstalling your spark plugs, make sure to not over-tighten, or you can damage to the engine. Also check the spark plug wires for any cracks. Replace damage wires.

Chain, chain, chain

Press on your chain to check the tension. If it’s too loose, you can likely adjust the tension with the wheel adjusters (see this video for more). Also check the chain for rust and dirt. If it’s dirty, spray the chain with WD-40 and let it soak in for a few minutes. Next, spray a firm bristled toothbrush with WD-40, and scrub down the chain until it’s clean. Once you’re finished, lube up the chain with proper lubricant, which you should be able to buy at most auto stores (or even Walmart).

Rubber on the road

Finally, check your tires for any cracks or flat spots that may have formed over the winter. If everything looks good, check the tire pressure, and fill or reduce the pressure as needed. If not, you’re going to need to get some new tires – and for that, your best bet is to take your wheels to the shop. (Changing motorcycle tires without the proper equipment is a major pain.)

Once, you’ve checked the essentials and topped off the gas and other fluids, give your hog a start. If you have an older bike that struggles to start, you can spray carburetor cleaner or starter fluid into the carbs. And if that doesn’t work, you may need to get some professional help.

Otherwise, power down, clean off the grease, and pray for warm spring sunshine.