How Often Should I Get My Motorcycle Serviced? Maximize Longevity


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Owning and riding a motorcycle is a thrilling experience and there’s nothing quite like it. The maintenance on them is also pretty simple and basic compared to a car.

However, that doesn’t mean you should let the maintenance on your motorcycle be on the back burner. Your machine still has needs and it’s important you’re on top of getting it serviced.

How often should I get my motorcycle serviced? You should get your motorcycle serviced every 4,000 miles or every six months, whichever comes first. This servicing should include changing the oil and lubing/checking the tension on the chain. Additional motorcycle servicing should include checking the tire pressure every month and tuning the carburetor every two years.

Obviously, there are a few other fixes and check-ups a motorcycle may require, but these things listed above are important to check routinely. Having owned dozens of motorcycles myself (and restored most of them), I’ve seen the importance of routine servicing and what it can do to your motorcycle if it isn’t done correctly. Keep on reading to learn more about how to make your motorcycle last the longest.

Getting Your Motorcycle Serviced

Unfortunately, there is no one simple answer as to how often you should get your motorcycle serviced. Getting a motorcycle serviced requires attention to several different components and all of those components require different times when they need to be addressed. Doing things too often is just a waste of money and not doing some of the servicing frequently enough can cause damage to your motorcycle.

When servicing your motorcycle, the first thing you should consider is changing the oil. Almost every motorcycle owner knows this as a basic form of maintenance, but a lot of them don’t know how frequently they should do it. You just do it when the oil light comes on or when the engine starts burning oil, right?

Nope. You should get the oil changed on your motorcycle every 4,000 miles or every six month, which ever comes first. Oil that is not changed routinely in a motorcycle increases the chances poor lubrication properties which can lead to engine failure.

The next type of servicing you should perform on your motorcycle is checking in on the chain. A lot of motorcyclists don’t realize that the chain does, in fact, require regular maintenance.

You should lube the motorcycle chain and check the tension of it every 4,000 miles or every six months, which ever comes first. This should be easy to remember because it has the same schedule as oil changes. You can simply plan on servicing both at the same time every time.

Don’t forget to check the tire pressure of your motorcycle every month. This is one I often forget to do myself, but neglecting the tires could be detrimental down the road (both literally and figuratively). Any time you take your motorcycle in to the shop, you can count that as your monthly tire pressure check because they usually already do that for you. If not, you can have them do it in addition to whatever fix your motorcycle is getting usually at no extra charge.

If you have a carburetor on your motorcycle, regular servicing and maintenance is required on that as well. I have been guilty of only paying attention to the carburetor when it started giving me problems. I quickly found that regular maintenance on it saved me a lot of time and money. You should get the carburetor tuned every two years. That shouldn’t be very difficult since it’s not that frequent of intervals for service.

If you have a water cooled engine, you need to get the cooling system flushed about every two years. You can do this while the carbs are getting tuned since their service intervals are the same.

I’ve restored dozens of motorcycles and I’ve seen first-hand what happens to them when you don’t provide the proper care. The main reason they needed to be restored in the first place was because the primary owner simply didn’t provide the appropriate servicing and maintenance it needed. Trust me, follow these servicing intervals that your motorcycle will last much longer!

Can You Perform This Maintenance Yourself?

The next big question you may be asking is if you’re able to perform all of this maintenance yourself. Luckily you can do most of this yourself.

If you are willing to take a little bit of time to learn how to do these things (if you don’t already know how), you can become a pro in no time. Motorcycles are simple machines and working on them is much easier than working on cars. I had literally zero experience before I took on the daunting ask of doing a full restoration on a 1981 Yamaha XS850. I was completely successful with a little help from the internet!

Changing the oil on your motorcycle is usually motorcycle specific, but I can almost guarantee you can find a Youtube video specific to your bike. This process mainly consists of locating the oil filter and oil plug, removing the oil plug and letting the old oil run into a drain pan, reinstalling the plug, installing a new oil filter, and adding new oil.

There are also useful tools out there that can help you check and adjust the chain tension on your motorcycle. You’ll need to look up the exact chain tension your motorcycle requires in your owner’s manual as each motorcycle is different. Chain lubrication every 4,000 miles minimizes chain stretch and corrosion.

Checking the tire pressure on your motorcycle is only a matter of 10 seconds (if that) for each tire. Your tires will indicate on the side what your PSI should be at. If you don’t have an air compressor or gauge at home, a lot of gas stations will have a combo of these you can use for a few dollars.

Flushing the cooling system on a motorcycle is also very simple. All it really entails is taking out the drain bolt, letting the coolant drain, replacing the bolt and adding distilled water to the system, let the distilled water drain, replacing the bolt again and adding your new coolant. It’s an easy process and can usually be done within an hour.

A rough tune can be performed by adjusting the air and fuel screws and can be done by anyone. This will get the motorcycle running decently well. If you want a precision tune for either max horsepower or max fuel economy, you will have to get a vacuum tune by a professional.

I always do rough tunes myself and always take my motorcycles in to the shop for a precision tune since I don’t have the right tools for it.

Costs Of Taking Your Motorcycle In The Shop vs. Doing It Yourself

There are some who prefer to leave all motorcycle servicing for the professionals while others want to be thrifty and do it themselves. So does performing regular service on your motorcycle yourself really save you money? Let’s look at the breakdown of the costs.

Taking your motorcycle in to the shop for an oil change can cost anywhere between $60-$90. For some reason, it seems that motorcycle oil changes cost more than oil changes for a car. I have always been able to do my own motorcycle oil changes for around $35 which includes purchasing all the oil I need and getting a new oil filter.

The cost of basic chain maintenance for a motorcycle in a shop may cost anywhere between $60-$110. It’s a very simple task so you’ll probably only be paying for labor and a little bit of lube. But doing this yourself will only cost $6 for lube that should last you a year or two as well as a few sets of basic tools you probably already have laying around in your garage.

Getting your carburetor tuned will cost about $100 per carb. So this can be a bit pricey if you have several carbs, but remember that you only have to do this about every two years.

Flushing out the cooling system of your motorcycle will cost around $120-$170 if it’s done at a shop. You can do this yourself for around $25. About $5 for the distilled water and about $20 for the new coolant you put inside the motorcycle. That’s a lot better than $150!

Servicing your motorcycle yourself will save you about $450 every year or so!

What Happens If You Don’t Regularly Service Your Motorcycle?

Some people only stick with the mileage rule instead of the time rule when it comes to oil changes. Not very many people ride their motorcycles 4,000 miles within six months, so people wait until they have reached the 4,000 miles even if that means it takes them a few years.

Old oil can lose it’s lubrication properties over time and will be less effective lubricating your engine. Your engine could overheat or ultimately seize. That why it’s important to remember to change your oil every 4,000 miles or every six month, which ever comes first.

A too loose, too tight, or unlubricated chain gives your chain a higher risk of breaking. It’s dangerous if your chain breaks while you’re out riding because it can tangle up on the sprocket and bring you to an abrupt halt. It can also fling back and damage a vehicle behind you. Click here to see my article for more information about what happens when a motorcycle chain breaks.

The wrong tire pressure can either make your tire blow or flatten which can cause significant damage to the rims. Lack of carburetor maintenance can mean your motorcycle is running too lean or too rich. Either of these scenarios leads to poor performance and ultimately engine failure.

And of course, the lack of a cooling system flush could mean sludge and deposits building up inside your cooling system. This can easily clog passageways which also means coolant isn’t getting to some parts of your engine, thus your engine overheats. An overheated motorcycle engine can cause it to smoke and ultimately seize.

Conclusion

Servicing your motorcycle is an important part of ownership; it could ultimately mean your safety as the rider. You should change the oil and check on the chain every 4,000 miles or every six months. Checking the tire pressure should be done monthly, and tuning the carbs and flushing the coolant (if your motorcycle is water cooled) should be done every two years.

It’s so easy to think “well, my motorcycle is running fine, I’ll just wait another month or so before doing x y z on it.” You may be able to get away with this, but all it takes is a second for your chain to break or your engine to start overheating. If you take care of your motorcycle, it’ll take care of you!

Do you guys stick to a servicing interval like this? Do you have any tips on how to remember these intervals?

Related Questions

Can a motorcycle use car engine oil? It is okay to temporarily use car engine oil in a motorcycle. It should not be used frequently. If car engine oil has been put in your motorcycle, your motorcycle oil should be changed sooner than the regular oil change intervals. Click here to see my article for more information.

What is considered high mileage on a motorcycle? High mileage for a motorcycle is anywhere between 50,000 – 60,000 miles. Mileage on a motorcycle is different compared to a car because of their sizes. However, motorcycles can still last a long time if you perform the right maintenance on them.

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

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