This is the last post in the Tips and Tricks blog series. Hopefully the series has help some of you learn a little more in caring for your bike and helped remind some of you about some of the things that need to be checked throughout the year.
With riding season fast approaching, I couldn't think of a better way to finish the series off than reminding everyone of what needs to be checked before each ride. Failure to check these things could lead to a breakdown at best or a wreck at worse.
What was true more than 100 years ago is still true today. Roads and motorcycles are a lot different from those in past years. But the need for proper maintenance and ride preparation is just as important as ever, especially before a long trip. The quality of the time spent on the road often depends on what we do in the garage.
A quick, pre-ride routine will keep your Harley® ready to ride. Here are a few suggestions for keeping your two or three wheeled ride in order:
Before riding your motorcycle, do a general inspection of the entire bike to be sure it's in safe riding condition. We recommend you walk all the way around your motorcycle, not just the side you mount the vehicle.
1. You can start by checking the oil and filter and inspect other fluid levels. Harley-Davidson® motorcycles are made to make oil changes as easy as possible. If you do it yourself, don't ignore the maintenance schedule. And make sure the used oil is properly disposed of. It should be sealed in an approved container and taken to a legitimate oil disposal facility. Most of the time, this can be done at no cost to you.
2. Next you'll want to check the levers and controls to be sure they operate properly. On your list of controls to inspect should be the front and rear brakes, throttle, clutch and shifter levers. You should also examine the steering for smoothness by turning the handlebars through the full range of operation.
3. Check tire pressure often, daily when you are on a long trip, and always using a gauge that is accurate. Consult your owners' manual for correct tire pressure and load rating. Air pressure can change with the air temperature. While you're in that area, inspect the tires. Replace them if there's less than 50 percent of the tread left, or if there's any noticeable cracks, cuts or signs of distress.
4. Check for any fuel, oil or hydraulic fluid leaks. Give the cases and lines a once over to make sure there are no leaks or damage. If any lines look cracked or worn, it would be a good idea to have them replaced.
5. For high-mileage bikes, inspect the drive belt, sprockets and brakes. For older bikes, check the chain. Make sure it is properly lubed and free of debris.
6. Before riding, sit on your bike and take a look in the mirrors to be sure they're adjusted properly. Even if you don't think you've moved the mirrors, do a quick check just to be sure. Adjusting them while the vehicle is moving can be very dangerous.
7. Check your headlights, turn signals, tail light and brake light every time you ride. Not only do they help you see where you're going, but they help others see you! If a light is out, it is easy to replace yourself. Consult your owners' manual and/or service manual for correct type and removal. If replacing a headlight, be certain the beam is focused properly. Also make sure there are no cracks in the protective coverings over the lights.
8. You can extend the life of your battery by checking and correcting its water level regularly. It's as easy as looking at it with a flashlight for most models. In warm weather climates, check the water level on a regular basis. Otherwise, every 2,500 miles is a good guideline. For those who can't ride as often as they'd like, install a battery charger with a convenient disconnect. If you travel often, for instance, the charger will help you avoid a dead-battery right before you need to leave. Newer batteries, even though not filled with water, still need to be checked for their ability to hold a charge. Stop by your local authorized Harley-Davidson dealer if you do not have the proper equipment to perform this check.
Doing basic maintenance yourself can save you time and money in the long run, but if your do-it-yourself skills are not quite what they should be, it can become costly. The risks just aren't worth it. If you are the least bit unsure, go see the experts who are factory trained and certified: a Harley-Davidson® dealership.