Maintenance on any machine can be a bit of a pain, so it’s no wonder that people are looking elsewhere for vehicles that require less work to keep them working in mint condition. This is especially true for those who don’t like to perform the maintenance themselves and pay someone else to do it.
A common debate you’ll hear is whether or not motorcycles are easier to maintain than motorcycles. This specific comparison is often misunderstood.
Are motorcycles easier to maintain than cars? Motorcycles are easier to maintain than cars no matter the amount of mechanical experience. Motorcycles are much smaller and require less maintenance, have less parts to care for, have easier accessibility, and are much easier to do DIY projects on compared to cars.
Being a gear head myself, I have rebuilt and maintained several cars as well as over a dozen motorcycles. I’ve been able to see first-hand the work required for each and provide a good argument as to why motorcycles are easier to maintain than cars.
Car Maintenance Vs. Motorcycle Maintenance
To prove that car maintenance is more difficult than motorcycle maintenance, let’s take some specific examples and explore the maintenance required for each type of vehicle.
To maintain a vehicle means to regularly check up on certain parts that’s important to the functionality. Not attending to these certain parts could mean catastrophic damage which leads to expensive fixes or possibly totaling the vehicle.
First, let’s look at the similar maintenance both a car and a motorcycle will require. Both will require tire maintenance including tire pressure, tread checks, balancing, and the need for new tires after a certain amount of time.
Both also require oil and regular oil changes. Though most motorcycles have smaller engines than cars, they both run in a similar manner and require the proper lubrication for optimal operation. Regular oil checks for a car and a motorcycle are a must for any one who owns one or the other.
If a motorcycle is water cooled, both a motorcycle and a car will require regular coolant top-offs. Neglecting to do so could mean the engine overheats which can ultimately lead to a seized engine.
Using the correct gas for optimal performance, keeping the battery charged, changing out the spark plugs and filters, and getting the suspension checked and maintained are also things that both cars and motorcycles will need.
One of the only basic parts of maintenance that a motorcycle requires that a car doesn’t is chain maintenance. A motorcycle does require regular chain lubing and tension checking.
That pretty much sums up the basic maintenance of a motorcycle. Though most of these points of maintenance are applied to both a car and a motorcycle, a car requires much more than these tasks.
In addition to the basic maintenance that has already been discussed, a car also requires regular checkups with the different belts it has such as the serpentine and timing belt. A timing belt should be changed about every 100,000 and is incredibly labor intensive.
A car also requires regular transmission servicing such as maintaining the right fluid levels, changing the fluid out every 60,000 miles, and occasionally doing a complete transmission flush. Most motorcycle engines share the same oil with the transmission, so something like this isn’t necessarily with them.
Cars have dozens of hoses found under the hood. These hoses connect to the fuel lines, heater, radiator, power steering, vacuum lines, and air conditioning. Each hose has the ability to brittle or come off and any little leak in them could cause multiple problems. The amount of hoses a motorcycle has can usually be counted on one hand.
Power steering is another component of a car that can’t go unchecked after a while. Power steering has a separate fluid and should be check every once in a while. Leaks can happen in the system and if left alone too long, the ability to steer becomes very difficult.
The average amount a person spends on maintaining a car is about $800-$900 a year. The average amount a person spends on maintaining a motorcycle is about $200-$300 a year. These estimates do not include gas or insurance. Having a more expensive car or higher tech motorcycle is also not considered in these averages.
Parts Of A Car Vs. Parts Of A Motorcycle
It’s obvious that cars are a bit bigger than motorcycles which means they have more parts to maintain and fix. And there’s more to a car that most people aren’t aware of.
A basic motorcycle consists of a few parts: an engine, transmission, two tires, and suspension/support. When the engine is running, the crankshaft inside the engine spins a sprocket. As this front sprocket spins, it turns a chain that is connected to a rear sprocket. The rear sprocket spins the rear wheel with a chain, which propels the motorcycle forward.
Transmissions on a car and a motorcycle deliver the same concept, such as determining which gear you should be in, but they each work a little differently. The way a motorcycle works is rather simple; it has a fraction of the amount of moving parts that a car has. See my other article here to learn more about how a motorcycle works.
Any moving part on a machine gives a chance for friction and heat to build up which can ultimately lead to failure. Essentially, the less parts you have the less likely you’ll have failure and parts that require to be fixed.
The way a car engine works is similar to a motorcycle. But it powers much more than what a motorcycle engine powers. There are several other belts connected to the engine that helps generate other parts of the car such as the air conditioner, steering, and the cooling fan.
The power from the engine also goes to the transmission which gives the capacity for the wheels to go. A drive line is connected to all four tires for four-wheel drive vehicles or just two wheels for two-wheel drive vehicles. A lot of parts on a car depend on each other and when one part goes out, it sometimes creates a ripple effect and makes other parts go out too.
Over the past few years, I have restored and fixed up about thirteen motorcycles. I’ve also fixed up several cars including classic and modern ones. Fixing up a motorcycle was much easier, quicker, and less expensive than it was to fix up the cars. And a lot of that had to do with the fact that most of the fixes I did on the motorcycles were ones I was able to do myself.
I got to a point where I could fully restore a motorcycle from rags to riches in about 2-3 weeks. That’s a time frame that would be impossible with a similar task on a car. I’ve been restoring a 1969 Bronco since last year and I’m not even half way done with it.
Motorcycles are excellent vehicles to perform do-it-yourself maintenance because of how simple they are. And let’s not forget about the accessibility they have compared to cars.
It’s completely possible to perform do-it-yourself fixes on a car, but there’s not near the amount of fixes on a car you can do yourself compared to a motorcycle. Some fixes and forms of maintenance on a car are simply best left to the professionals because of the heavy equipment required such as tools to drop an engine or transmission, car lifts, ramps, and large air compressors. These are tools that most people don’t have laying around.
And because of the much more complicated mechanics of a car, diagnosing problems can be a bit more difficult. So many systems are interconnected; one symptom could could be caused by multiple different types of malfunctions. Pinpointing the exact cause is much more difficult than it is on a motorcycle.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember basic maintenance on a car simply because we can’t see all the parts on it. There could be underlying problems that aren’t even visible until it gets so bad that it starts impacting some other system.
Special Attention A Motorcycle Needs That Cars Don’t
Because a lot of motorcycles have carburetors, they require a certain kind of gas. Motorcycle owners should always use gas that has high octane and is ethanol free. Adding anything else could end up gunking up the carburetor. While some cars do have certain types of gas they require, motorcycles are much more picky about it. See my other article here to learn more about the type of gas a motorcycle should use.
Leaving a car outside during rain or snow doesn’t have much of an impact on them. It’s much different putting a motorcycle in the same type of circumstances. Though a motorcycle is okay to stay out in the snow or rain for a little while, keeping it out in such conditions for long periods of time could eventually lead to engine and carburetor problems.
It’s pretty annoying, let alone expensive, to have to take a car in to a dealership to have certain parts fixed or maintained. But the nice thing about car dealerships is that they’re everywhere. Such is not the case with motorcycles. If there is a certain fix you need on your motorcycle that requires a dealership, you may have a more difficult time finding the right mechanic to do it.
For example, I had a certain fix I needed done on my 1969 Triumph. Triumphs require certain tools that I didn’t have laying around in my garage so I needed a Triumph professional to do it for me. There was only one Triumph shop within a 200 mile radius of where I lived (and that was pretty lucky).
So while basic maintenance on a motorcycle is much easier and accessible than it is on a car, motorcycles will have certain caveats especially if you’re going to own an expensive and/or rare kind of bike.