The Best Way to Clean Your Motorcycle – Our In-Depth Guide

Do you know how to wash your motorcycle properly? In most cases, cleaning a bike means more than just scrubbing it with soap and rinsing with water.

It’s nothing too tricky to do, but there are a few tips, trick, and rules you should follow for best results. Water might be dangerous in some parts of your vehicle, so you have to be careful as you do this.

Moisture in critical components might result in corrosion which is something you want to avoid. Still, we’ll guide you through the process to help you clean your bike correctly and thoroughly.

Step 1: Cool the Bike Down

Allow your bike to cool down if you’ve been riding it before cleaning. Adding water over a hot engine is one of the worst things you could do it due to the sudden change in temperature.

You should let it cool even if you rode in wet conditions, through the mud or in the rain. You don’t want to shock any components with the temperature change as that could cause severe damage. For your engine, it most definitely means a defective block.

Step 2: Set Up Your Space

Find a suitable area where you can work with water. Find a dry space that’s away from direct sunlight. The shade allows the bike to stay cool whereas sunlight could damage the paint leaving water spots.

Make sure you’re in nobody’s way and that you won’t have to move halfway through the cleaning process. Gather all the materials around you, so you don’t have to leave the setup and go get them.

It’s important to plan where and how you’ll do this so you don’t waste any time. Make sure you’re in a shaded place, and of course, it must also be dry.

Step 3: Gather Cleaning Supplies

A part of setting up your space is also gathering cleaning supplies as we briefly mentioned. It’s an essential step because if something you need is not within your reach at that moment, you’re going to be frustrated.

If it’s just something you have to go to the garage to get it, that’s fine. But what if you actually have to go to the store to buy it? It’s annoying, and it will take a lot of time that you might not have. To avoid this, you should carefully plan what supplies you’ll need and then go out and get them before time.

There are many cleaners you can choose from, and the vast majority of them is probably available at your nearest bike shop. However, do stick to the products meant for cleaning motorcycles. Anything other than that might not perform that well.

You’ll notice how cleaning a motorcycle isn’t all that hard, although there’s a strategy to it. One of the most important things to remember is that the right equipment for the job is equally as necessary as cleaning supplies. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Sponges – essential for cleaning the grime without damaging the paint finish. Make sure to get a few for just in case because sponges tend to pick up some dirt during the process.
  • Brushes – you might not even use them, but we recommend you do get them just in case. A brush can clean rougher areas and more persistent dirt.
  • Cloths and flannels – you’ll need them for the process of drying.
  • Microfiber cloth – it’s the best material for finishing touches and detailing spray. It traps dust, lint, and other leftovers.
  • Cleaning supplies – you’ll probably need some specialized detergent, water, detailing spray/metal polish, speed compound and whichever leather protectant of your choice.

Step 4: Plug Up Holes

Motorcycles are usually quite resilient to water, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. You can use a specialized rubber plug to close the exhaust hole. If not, use a rag to stuff it in or a rubber glove to cover the hole with.

You can do pretty much anything as long as you ensure that no water can get in there. Though this is usually most common to dirt bike riders (learn how to ride here), it wouldn’t hurt for others to do it as well. More so, if your exhaust is angled, you might end up with quite a lot of water in there.

Motorcycle Block Off Plugs

Step 5: Rinse Properly

It might sound weird that you should rinse before applying a cleaning product. However, it’s a crucial step in order to avoid scratching and damaging the paint finish. Rubbing and scrubbing a dirty bike is more likely to result in scratching the delicate surfaces.

For this reason, you should give your bike a quick rinse. This will wash most of the dust and dirt off so you can get in there and clean everything more thoroughly.

Plus, this step makes the rest of the process much easier since you’ll lose most of the gunk right away. Most of the dirt will be easier to clean later on if you’ve gotten it wet at this point.

You can mix some water and mild bike cleaning detergent to rinse the vehicle with. A spray cleaner is also a good idea, and you can apply it to a dry bike. It does wonders for loosening the dried bugs and dirt but make sure to read the instructions that came with the product.

Though rinsing doesn’t sound like a tough process, make sure to do it properly. Avoid using a power washer since the pressure can actually damage your bike in several ways. Motorcycles have many intricate pieces you don’t want to use a power washer on.

Step 6: Start Cleaning

Once you’ve completed the steps above, you can finally start cleaning the vehicle. This is a step you came here for so make sure to do it properly and with care. Be gentle, don’t apply too much force and be mindful of what you’re doing.

Mix the proper cleaning solution for the surface you’re cleaning. Starting at the top and working your way down is by far the best way to do this. Go section by section, so you cover all parts of the bike.

Always remember to clean and rinse the sponge you’re working with. Sometimes, sponges pick up on different dirt that could scratch the delicate surfaces. Also, don’t forget to change the water/detergent solution a few times as well. It can get quite dirty.

Get in there as best as you can, making sure to clean all parts thoroughly. Take your time with the process since the more attention you pay to it, the better results you’ll accomplish.

However, avoid parts such as brakes and chain even if you do get some soapy water on them. Those components usually have a coating that you don’t want to scrub off.

Step 7: Rinse Again

Once everything is nice and clean, you want to rinse the bike all over again. Make sure to do it right after cleaning since you don’t want any soapy water drying on your bike. It could cause stains that are quite hard to get off. Be patient with the second rinsing since it’s crucial you wash off the residue.

A Gearl Rinsing Motorcycle

Step 8: Dry

You should dry the bike thoroughly right after you’re done rinsing it. All the water that’s left in crevices will most likely cause corrosion over time.

A quick way to do this is with an air blower for snow or leaves. You can even use a reverse shop vac. It’s a great way to speed up the process and really make sure your entire bike is as dry as possible.

If you don’t own one of the machines above, or you simply prefer a more hands-on approach, you can use a simple drying towel. Make sure it’s effective at picking up water but also gentle on your bike.

Some riders like to take their bike for a ride in order to dry the remaining water. It sounds like fun, but it might not be the most effective way of doing things. It’s especially not recommended if your motorcycle has fairings in which case some areas will definitely remain wet.

Also, you might have to ride for a long time before the engine gets hot enough. There’s probably a lot of excess water that will stay on your bike unless you heat the engine enough for it to evaporate.

Another thing you should remember if you choose to ride when the bike is still wet is that its brakes probably won’t perform as well. While a leaf blower would easily fix this, riding to dry the bike requires caution. If you choose to do this, make sure not to go full speed right away.

Step 9: Lube Up the Chain

As we briefly mentioned, you’ll probably end up with some water/detergent on the chain as well. Even if you’ve been careful about this, it’s most likely you’ve splashed some on it. For this reason, you should re-lube the chain as well as all lubed parts of your bike that may have gotten in contact with soapy water.

An in-depth article on how to clean your chain here.

Adding lube to those components is a safety precaution. Soapy water might break down some of the oil which is bad for the lubed parts. It’s an essential step of preparing the bike for the first post-wash ride around the neighborhood.

Step 10: Add Seat Protectant

Use an approved product for the type of material you have on the seat. In most cases, it’s either leather or vinyl, both of which are equally as easy to handle. Vinyl tends to fade over time while leather is also quite delicate, so don’t use any detergents on them. Instead, treat the seat with a protectant you can get at most well-equipped bike shops.

Step 11: Add Bearing Protectant

Keep water and high pressure away from all bearings as well. Apply an appropriate protectant to prevent corrosion over time. There are different products for this, all of which you can probably get at your local bike supply store.

Step 12: Add Wax

Now that your bike is clean, you want to add the final touch to the finished result. Waxing is a crucial step in making your motorcycle look even better.

Get the best waxes here.

It’s not only to make the paint shiny again. It’s also a critical step in protecting the finish from different dirt and elements. Of course, your bike will get dirty again at some point, but a good waxing will protect it for a while.

Keep in mind that this step might take the most time to complete. It’s the final step and doing it incorrectly will show as soon as you take the vehicle out in the sunlight.

This might sound intimidating although waxing shouldn’t be a problem for most people. It might take a while to get a grip of, but it’s nothing too hard to do, as long as you take your time and carefully dedicate to all the parts of your bike.

Helpful Tips

The first thing you should remember is that washing your motorcycle isn’t the same as washing your car. Bikes don’t have as much protection against strong detergents and high-pressure devices. Here are a few things to remember:

  • Use only a cleaner that’s made specifically for motorcycles.
  • As we mentioned, wash it only when the engine is cold.
  • Avoid sunlight as it will dry soapy water too quickly leaving stains on the paint finish.
  • Also, stay away from a high-pressure hose that could damage certain parts.

Conclusion

At this point, you’ve probably realized why washing a motorcycle isn’t such a difficult task. It’s a simple thing to do only if and when you carefully plan the process.

Find the perfect spot and get all the supplies you’ll need within your reach. Also, make sure to have some time to do this since rushing the process will result in soap marks and possible corrosion down the road.

Overall, just follow our guide as you complete each step carefully. Doing all of the 12 steps should leave you with a clean and shiny motorcycle.

Additional Resources

The team at Road Racerz aims to be a source of knowledge for all riders, whether they are beginners, intermediate, or have been riding for 20+ years. We want everyone to enjoy safer rides and have access to rider-specific content to get the most out of every mile.

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