How to Prolong the Life of Your Dirt Bike
Prolonging the life of your bike simply comes down to performing the maintenance items outlined in your bike’s service manual.
Changing your oil is easily the most important thing you can do for your bike, not to mention any vehicle that uses an engine. It keeps your internal parts cool and minimizes friction.
The reason why you need to change your oil is because it collects moisture and contaminates, making it less effective as time goes on. If you let your engine go too long without fresh oil, you shorten the life of your engine, not to mention run the risk of seizing your top or bottom end. Better put, changing your oil will cost you $20 and a top/bottom end repair will cost you $x,xxx.
2.Lube/adjust your chain and check your sprockets.
Lubing and adjusting your chain is another good habit to get into. Lubing your chain keeps it from becoming rusty. A rusty chain robs you of power because your engine has to work harder to turn your wheels. Be sure to adjust your chain as well, because it’ll stretch as time goes on and too loose of a chain can come off the sprockets. And where do you think that chain is going to go? One (expensive) place is your crankcase.
You also want to check your sprockets for wear. Look for things like broken or curled teeth. A good test is to pull the chain back from the back of the sprocket and see how much of a gap there is. If there is more than a 1/4″ or so showing, then the sprocket should be replaced.
3. Check and lube bearings (wheel, steering, swing arm).
You’re probably starting to see a trend. Moving parts need oil or some kind of lubricant. In the case of your wheel, steering and swing arm bearings, they need grease. You don’t have to grease these bearings very often (depending on how often/hard your ride), maybe once or twice a year. Failure to do so can result in these bearings seizing, which means your wheels and bars stop turning. This is dangerous, not to mention a pain in the ass to fix.
A lot of guys are seasonal riders. They ride in the spring and summer and then their bikes sit for the winter. If this is you, it’s a good idea to “winterize” your bike before putting it up.
Winterizing consists of lubing all of your cables and bearings, and changing all of the bike’s fluids. You also want to drain all of your fuel, or add fuel stabilizer so it doesn’t go bad and clog up your jets.
Winterizing your bike takes maybe 30-45 minutes. It’s much more effective than taking your bike in the spring to diagnose and fix a no-start.
5. Never let the bike sit for months without being started.
An easy way to ensure your bike lasts longer is to start it up every so often if you’re going to leave it sitting. For one thing, the fuel won’t just sit and turn into gunk that clogs up your jets. Secondly, starting your bike gets oil flowing to all of your parts and gaskets. If the oil just sits in the pan instead of circulating throughout the motor, your parts and gaskets can dry up, causing them to rust and/or crack and leak later on.
6. Adjust your valves.
Valve adjustments are important because as you put time on your engine, your valves tighten up (as they close, they push themselves further into the head). Too tight of valves can cause excessive heat damage aka your piston or valves melting to each other and the cylinder wall.
On older bikes adjusting the valves isn’t difficult. The older models use what is referred to as tappets, which are easily adjusted using a feeler gauge, screwdriver and wrench. The newer models are more difficult as they use “shims,” which require special tools to remove. In either case, if you’re uncomfortable checking/adjusting your valves, be sure to take your bike in to have it done.
7. Clean your air filter.
You need fresh air to live, right? Your bike does too. Keeping your air filter cleaned will prevent your engine from sucking up a bunch of dirt and other sediment which can get caught in moving parts, breaking them or wearing them down prematurely. Plugged motors also have a difficult time running, if they start at all. If you don’t believe me, hold your mouth shut and plug your nose and tell me how it goes.
Although it’s not optimal, if you’re pressed for time you can clean your air filter in less than a hour. Just wash it real quick, blow off the excess water with air and hang it to dry in front of a fan. Let it dry as long as possible, apply some filter oil and reinstall.
8. Wash your bike.
Washing your bike is an easy maintenance item. It prolongs the life of your bike because there won’t be any dirt or sand that can get caught in moving parts, which will either cause them to break or wear quickly.
9. Pipe maintenance.
Pipe maintenance comes down to making sure it’s not plugged up. A plugged pipe makes it harder for the engine to get rid of the exhaust, ultimately robbing it of power. A plugged pipe can also keep your bike from starting. So periodically check for broken down exhaust packing, excess oil and rust and replace/repair as needed.
10. Lube your cables.
Forget prolonging the life of your bike, rusted cables that can bind is flat out dangerous, especially if they’re your throttle or brake cables. All you got to do to prevent your cables from rusting is to lube them with cable lube. Motion Pro has a tool that makes this an easy task. Just attach it to your cable and spray lube until you see it dripping out the other end of the cable housing.
This should be a no brainer, but as parts wear or break, you need to replace them ASAP. Not only is it a safety concern, but not making repairs as they come up will cause these problems to compound. For example, if you don’t replace your brakes when they’re worn out, they could warp your rotors. So a $150-$200 job turns into a $300-$400+ job. Not changing your oil frequently will turn a $20-$30 job into a $x,xxx job, or a new bike altogether.
Just remember that keeping up on your repairs, or preventive maintenance altogether will cost you a little bit of time and money, but much less than the alternative. While Ben Franklin may have not owned a dirt bike, given his quote, I’m sure he’d keep up on the maintenance items listed above if he did. I suggest you do the same if you’d like to prolong the life of your bike.
For Dirt Bike maintenance parts and more, check out our sponsor partspitstop.com