As the name suggests, a mini service is a quick procedure that can be carried out as a DIY job with minimal tools. We’re not talking open heart surgery and you don’t have to be a mechanic to perform a small service on your bike. We are simply talking about an oil and filter change, plus some visual checks and running maintenance. We are not going to open the engine, nothing will explode and hopefully nothing will set on fire. It might seem daunting, and scary if you haven’t tried working on your bike before, but there’s nothing more rewarding than spending a few hours in the garage – and it will save you a few pounds in the process.
We’re going to take this step-by-step. First job and sometimes forgotten, in any service is to clean the motorcycle. There’s nothing worse than working on a dirty bike, and it’s also a great way to get up close and personal with your bike and give it an inspection for any defects. Secondly, make sure you have time. Don’t think this can be done in an hour. Don’t try and do it in a rush before picking up the kids from football practice. Set aside some quality time.
You’re going to need some basic tools, an owner’s manual and the correct oil and filter for your bike. Again, don’t worry, your local bike dealer will be able to help you with this – you usually just need your registration number. It’s also a good idea to have a notepad and pen, or phone, handy to make notes…
Let’s start simple…
- Visual checks – brake fluid, coolant, tyre wear, the condition of your chain and sprockets and finally brake pads. This can all be done visually, using the owner’s manual for guidance.
- Physical checks – wheel bearings; spin each wheel and check for any play in the bearings. Do the same for the headstock and swingarm bearings. Suspension; have a bounce around. Does it move and rebound with control. Turn the bars from left to right, are they free of any cables? Do all the electrics work as they should and does the clutch and throttle have a smooth action.
- Adjusting – referring to the owner’s manual, we need to check, and adjust if need be, the tyre pressures. We also need to lube and adjust the chain, again referring to the owner’s manual. While you’re slightly grimy, add some WD40 (or similar) to the levers, footpeg pivots (front and back), plus the centre stand/side stand. Do make sure to keep the WD40 away from the brakes though…
Feeling satisfied? Now it’s time for a brew before we change the oil and filter. If you’ve spotted or ‘felt’ anything untoward, hopefully you’ve made a note (that’s why we had a pen and paper). For example; if you think the rear brake pads are too low or badly worn, or the discs are badly scored, we can revisit at the end, do some research and make a plan of action. If they aren’t dangerously low, for example, you might decide to leave it until the main service, or attempt the work when you have time at a later date. If it needs urgent attention, you can prioritise the job or book it into a professional mechanic, if the thought of changing brake pads yourself is a step too far.
Now let’s tackle the oil and filter, which is a relatively basic job and the passage into home bike maintenance for many a biker. Once you’ve done this you can wear your overalls proudly, with genuine grime earned in the workshop.
- Oil and filter – make sure you have the correct ones, as filters are specific to different bikes and there are different grades of oil. Contact your local dealer or refer to the owner’s manual for the specs you’ll need. It’s also worth replacing the sump plug washer too.
- You’re going to need to remove the sump plug, which is usually located at the bottom of the engine, and the filter, which is usually towards the front of the engine, near the front wheel, sometimes behind the downpipes to the exhaust. Before you start – are these accessible, do you need to remove bodywork, have you got the right tools to remove them?
- Now you’re ready. Make sure the bike is level. If you don’t have a centre stand use a paddock stand, not the side stand. We need to remove all the old engine oil. Place a professional drain tray or washing up bowl (the thing in the sink) under the sump plug. Remember you might have as much of five litres of oil to drain away, so don’t choose an egg cup. If in doubt go too big rather than too small. You need to get this right, or risk getting oil all over the floor. That’s not cool and will really ruin your day.
- Now remove the sump plug. If this is your first time changing oil, chances are that the sump plug will fall into the drip tray, fish it out and give it a clean.
- The oil should now be flowing freely into the drain tray. Simply let it flow until there’s no dripping. This can take a while, giving you the perfect time to take a few pictures to show your mates on social media. While you’re doing nothing else, clean the sump plug making sure it’s perfectly dirt-free.
- Now we can remove the filter. The filter contains oil, even though you’ve drained the engine, so have a tray or bowl on hand, along with some paper towels. Remove the filter with a filter wrench (available for around £10-20) or a similar tool.
- Now leave the filter alone, we need to refit the sump plug before anything else. Remove the washer from the sump plug and fit a new one. Use a paper towel to make sure it’s perfectly clean before refitting. Tighten and torque to the correct settings. Again these will be in the owner’s manual.
- Now back to the filter, time to fit the new item. Make sure the exposed engine area is clean, removing traces of oil. Take your time, be careful like you’re cleaning antique silver wear. Now lightly oil the ‘O’ ring on the new filter, this is the rubber seal just inside the filter. Now refit the filter by hand, gentle at first. Tighten with your filter wrench and again consult your manual for torque settings.
- The last job, and the most important one, is to fill her back up with the recommended oil. You add the oil via the filler cap, which is usually located at the top of the engine, to one side. You might need a funnel, if so make sure it’s clean. We don’t want anything but fresh engine oil entering the engine.
- Once you’ve added the required amount, a prescribed in the manual, replace the filter cap and clean up. Remove the drip tray, any paper towels and so on, and make sure the filter and sump plug are clean. Now start your bike and allow it to tickover naturally for a few minutes. Wait a while, and check the oil level, again referring to the owner manual. You’re almost done. As you’ve already meticulously cleaned up, make a visual check around the sump plug, filter and filler cap. If everything is clean and drip free and the oil level is correct, congratulations you’ve done it. Fire up the kettle, add more pictures to social media, you’re a mechanic!