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Common motorcycle problems: What to do

Posted on 23 March 2017

A complex piece of machinery like a motorbike can and will have its own set of problems if it isn't taken care of properly. That being said, not every issue that crops up can only be fixed by an experienced mechanic. There are plenty of ways to troubleshoot some of the more common problems yourself that will save you money on repairs.

Here are a few:

What to do with a dead battery
When you don’t ride your bike enough, your battery will die. Likewise, accidentally leaving the lights on overnight can also drain the battery. To avoid this from happening, ride more and don’t forget to double check you’ve turned it off completely when you’re parked.

If you need a quick fix, get a battery charger that will allow you to pump it with juice when its gone flat and also help you top it up when you need to.
 
How to counter 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.

How to fix 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.

What about 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 between 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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