Surprisingly simple motorbike repairs you can do at home

Filed under: News |

Trips to the garage for routine repairs can get costly, with the price of expert labour likely to add money to your bill that you’d rather be spending on cool custom parts, or fuel for your next big trip. Not every motorcycle enthusiast is as keen on dismantling and rebuilding bikes as the next, but there are some repairs you’ll find surprisingly easy to do yourself.

Whether you’re maintaining multiple motorbikes or have just one trusted ride, save yourself some ready cash by doing these simple fixes at home.
Replacing a dead battery

The most common electrical problem any biker faces is a flat battery. No matter how good you are at looking after your motorbike and even if you regularly use a battery charger, you’re still going to need to replace your battery eventually.

Removing and replacing a dead battery starts with the simple task of locating it – usually under the seat of your bike, but consult your manual if you’re not sure. If you have access to a charger, it’s worth seeing if you can re-charge the battery first by connecting the charger and seeing if it recognises that there’s a battery connected. If it doesn’t, you need a new one.

Your battery has a negative and a positive cable, and if you’re unsure which is which you’ll generally find that the current battery has a + and a – symbol embossed on it to indicate. Disconnect the negative cable first to avoid sparks, then the positive. You may need an adjustable wrench to turn the bolts. Then, it’s as easy as dropping the new battery into place and connecting it up – again, making sure that the correct cable goes to each terminal.

Sorting out chain tension

For most bikes, adjusting your chain tension is the second-easiest job you can do yourself, after replacing the battery. It can also prevent the need for all kinds of other repairs, as incorrect chain tension can cause premature sprocket and gearbox wear, rough-gear shifts and transmission problems.

Your owner’s manual will tell you what the correct amount of slack is for your bike’s chain, including the correct torque settings for each bolt. To do the best job on this repair you’ll need a torque wrench, but these are inexpensive and certainly cheaper than paying someone else to sort your chain out for you.

Keep the engine off and the bike in neutral, putting your bike on its side stand to measure chain slack before moving onto a centre stand (if you have one) to make the adjustments. Most motorbikes have bolts that you can simply turn to increase or decrease chain slack, depending on what your manual dictates. Only adjust these a quarter turn at a time, making the same adjustments on either side of the swing arm so that your rear wheel alignment stays on point.

Replacing oil filters

Oil filters are loaded with paper and mesh designed to trap contaminations in your oil, like clutch plate material and unburned fuel. You should change your oil filter every 3,000 miles or every three months – whichever happens first.

Turn on your bike and let the engine warm up for a few minutes, so that the oil will drain out more easily. You’ll want to put a bucket under the drain bolt to catch your dirty oil, before unscrewing it with a socket wrench and removing your oil cap to encourage air flow through the engine.

Oil filters can be easily removed by hand, and while oil is draining you can rub clean oil onto your new filter before simply attaching it and tightening with the same wrench you used to remove the drain bolt. Be sure to screw the drain bolt back on tightly before you go to refill your bike with new, clean oil.

Replacing brake pads

It goes without saying that having well maintained brake pads is crucial to your safety on the road. Worn out pads won’t just wreck other parts of your motorbike, they can also save your life – and thankfully it’s incredibly easy to check and change them yourself.

Most brake pads come with a wear indicator groove cut into their surface or moulded in, so you don’t need to know anything about bikes to spot that they need replacing. If you can’t see the groove, or if the pad is worn down to about 2mm, it’s time to make a switch.

You’ll need your tool kit for this job, and a little bit of patience. As with your chain tension, check your motorbike’s manual for details on how best to work on your specific model. There are normally two bolts holding the brake caliper onto your bike, which you can remove with a socket wrench or Allen key wrench.

Next up, loosen the two bolts that hold the brake pads into the caliper – you shouldn’t need to completely undo these to allow the pads to slip out. On the majority of motorbikes, one of the pads will be shaped differently to allow it to fit properly next to the front forks, so check that when you’re putting your replacements in you put the front brake pads into the front caliper.

In order to get the new pads into the calipers you’ll need to push the pistons out of the way, as far into the cylinders as possible. You can do this by hand, on bikes up to 250cc, but will probably need to press them back with a screwdriver or pliers on a bigger bike. Re-secure these mechanisms once your new brakes are in, and bolt the whole lot tightly back together according to your owner’s manual, using a torque wrench.

Lastly, pump the brakes before you ride so that the brake fluid flows back into the cylinders. Your brakes won’t work until the fluid has been pushed back down, so failing to squeeze the levers means you’ll be setting off brake-less.