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Fixing common motorbike problems

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A motorcycle is a complex piece of machinery – even the hardiest machine will have components prone to failure if a bike isn’t cared for properly. But not every issue necessarily requires a trip to the mechanic – if you’re confident with your tools then there are plenty of fixes you can do in your own garage. Let’s take a look at a few – it’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but it may help you keep your repair bills down.

Fuel contamination

This is a really common problem, but it only really occurs when a motorcycle hasn’t been ridden for a long time. If you’re in the habit of putting your bike away for the winter, or don’t have many opportunities to ride, you’re at risk of fuel contamination.

Essentially, leftover bike fuel goes stale and clogs the fuel system. To avoid this, you should either drain your fuel tank before putting your bike into storage, or take it out regularly and start it up, just to keep it in good health. Alternatively, there are fuel stabilisers available that you can add to the fuel tank to prevent clogs and oxidisation. They’re not expensive, either – usually less than £15 a can.

Dead battery

Another common issue that arises from infrequent use is the battery dying, so regular rides should keep a battery healthy. However, accidentally leaving the lights on overnight can also drain the battery, so remember to switch everything off!

It’s a really simple fix, and you don’t need to go to the garage for it – you can pick up a battery charger for less than £50 that will not just charge your battery when it’s flat, but can keep it topped up when not in use too. Simple!

Non-starters

If your bike’s electrics – the lights and so on – work, but it just won’t start, then you could have a problem with your spark plugs. It’s an easy fix so it’s worth checking if they’re the cause.

First, pull the cap off the spark plug, and clean the area around the base. Unscrew the plug from the cylinder head and take a closer look. Use a feeler gauge to measure the gap between the two electrodes. If it’s too wide, you may be able to bend it back into place.

Are there any cracks or chips? Have the tips of the electrodes worn down and rounded off? These are all signs you need a replacement.

To replace the plug, ease it into the cylinder head until the washer rests against it. Do this by hand as much as possible, to avoid damage to the plug. Fit the spark plug cap again, and you’re done.

Worn-out chains

A neglected chain can cause damage to your bike, and may even snap – an incredibly dangerous fault to have on the road. It’s easy to maintain though – stick the bike on its stand and hold a ruler inbetween the two sprockets. Pull the chain up and down and measure how much it gives – the correct amount varies from bike to bike, but if it’s significantly over or under an inch each way then you’ve likely got a problem. If it moves too far, it will need tightening. Loosen the rear axle nut, and the locknuts on the chain adjusters. Turn the adjuster nuts clockwise to tighten the chain.

If it moves too little, it will likely need cleaning to work out any kinks and tight spots. Use an o-ring approved cleaning agent to spray it down, give it a wipe with a rag, and then rotate the wheel as you spray a layer of lubricant across the chain. If it is still too tight, follow the steps above but turn the adjuster nuts anti-clockwise.

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