Washing and polishing your motorcycle
A gleaming motorcycle is a joy, particularly if you choose the right care products to make cleaning quick and easy.
Vehicle check while washing
Regular care of your motorbike isn't just about keeping it clean and shiny. Experienced bikers always take this opportunity to ensure that their machine is also technically up to speed. This includes checking the tread depth and tyre pressures, that the brake pads have sufficient wear left in them and the tension of the drive chain.
Have you noticed any leaks coming from the engine? Are any cables frayed or worn? Is there any flash rust on the chrome or aluminium corrosion on the engine? Have vibrations caused any of the mounting brackets to show signs of cracking? Are all screws securely tightened? Does the battery need topping up with distilled, deionised water (does not apply to maintenance-free batteries)? Are all the lights working properly? Have you checked oil and coolant levels? Take the time to check!
What you need:
- Bucket and sponge
- Various brushes
- Gel cleaner
- Paint conditioner
- Multipurpose oil
- Chrome polish
- Aluminium polish
- Plastic cleaner
- Vinyl cleaner
- Chain spray
- Clean, soft cloths
- Special microfibre cloths
Before rolling up your sleeves for a good old spring clean with water and detergent, you need to find the right place to wash your bike, like a petrol station, because you're not actually allowed to do it in grandma's back yard or on the road. You also don't want to be doing this job in the blazing sun or on sandy ground. If you're using a steam jet cleaner, don't hold it too close to your bike, and avoid aiming the jet directly at the bearings, as this will blast out the grease. The connectors in your bike's electrical system are also not overly partial to steam jet treatment, which tends to result in leakage currents or dodgy contacts. Important: Always allow your bike to cool down before washing.
Start by spraying the bike thoroughly with a good motorcycle cleaner. Gel cleaners are best because they also adhere to vertical surfaces and don't run straight off. We particularly recommend the Procycle special gel cleaner. Apply generously to heavily soiled areas on the rear wheel and around the engine. The Procycle Pump-Action Spray is extremely useful for this task and makes it easy to get at those hard-to-reach places. Then just let the cleaner work for the time specified in the instructions.
Now grab a bucket of water and a sponge and give your machine a good old rub down. And don't forget all those hidden nooks and crannies! Don't apply too much pressure - the last thing you want to do is scratch the surface.
Squashed bugs on the headlights and touring windshield can prove stubborn, and are easier to wash off if you spray them with an insect remover first. Hard-to-reach areas on the engine (fins), or the rear suspension rocker, can be cleaned with a brush if need be. If the fins are particularly heavily soiled, and for all those hard-to-reach areas on your bike, we recommend the Procycle cleaning brush set. But beware! Don't used these brushes to clean chrome parts or the delicate paintwork on the tank, side panels and fairing! Rinse the sponge and brushes out regularly in the bucket to reduce the risk of them containing sand particles that may scratch the surfaces of your bike.
Now clean the wheels if they need it. Stubborn soiling will be much easier to remove if you use our special Procycle wheel cleaner. You will need a brush for this too - unless you have chrome rims, of course. And while you're at it, it's always a good idea to check the brake discs. If they are very dirty, we recommend using Procycle brake cleaner.
Finish off by hosing down your bike with clear water in order to rinse off any remaining cleaner. And make sure you thoroughly rinse unprotected aluminium parts and screws, as even gentle cleaners can damage them over time.
Once you have finished rinsing, dry the bike thoroughly all over using a chamois leather. This prevents streaking and water spots. Occasionally rinse the chamois in clean water and wring out well.
We recommend applying a paint care product containing wax to painted parts. Not only does this make them nice and shiny, but it also protects the paintwork against environmental influences. Products that clean as well as polishing are particularly practical. And they can also be used to clean the areas under the seat or tank. Larger areas are probably easier to clean if you use special polish pads.
If the paintwork is scratched, we recommend using a special polish, such as S100 paint + plastic polish. This contains fine abrasive particles that will remove light scratches. And if you have any minor scuffs and scrapes, the S100 adhesive remover may just save you that expensive trip to the paint shop. As long as we're talking parts that don't get hot, wax cleaning agents are also great for chrome and untreated metal, as they help protect against rust, and water simply pearls off. Milky polishes are often unsuitable for unpainted, slightly rough plastics, as they can be absorbed into the rough surface leaving permanent ugly white marks.
Allow the polish to dry for approx. 10 min. and then rub off gently with a clean, ultra soft cloth or with a special microfibre cloth. The gentlest way is to only polish small areas at a time and always polish in straight lines – NOT in circles!
Use Armor All deep cleaner and your unpainted plastic parts will come up like new. It protects against the sun and environmental influences and stops plastic parts drying out and becoming tarnished.
Your vinyl or leather seat, however, would much rather a rub down with S100 seat care and clean.
Caution: Do not use the plastic cleaner spray mentioned in Item 11 – this would make the seat too smooth and slippery!
Chrome parts, such as rear silencers, especially if they're weathered,can be very effectively treated by applying Nevr Dull magic wadding or Procycle chrome polish. Don't forget the fork tubes while you're at it, as any dirt overlooked there may damage the fork seals during compression. Chrome parts with surface rust stains or tarnished stainless steel, on the other hand, are best restored back to their original shine with Autosol Metal Polish. Unpainted, polished aluminium can be buffed up to a lustrous finish with Alu-Magic – used intensively enough, you can almost get it to shine like chrome. All these products are used in the same way as paint polish, i.e. leave to dry and then gently polish off.
Apply a little WD-40 multipurpose oil to painted engine parts to protect against aluminium corrosion. Wax products are not suitable in this case, as the heat from the engine can cause yellowish discolourations. The carburettor casings, screw heads and other galvanised parts also love a protective film of WD-40.
Also lubricate joints and lever systems of the gearshift and brakes with WD-40. It is also a good idea to occasionally lubricate all control cables on the handlebars. Never apply oil to modern Teflon cables – always use Procycle cable spray.
If the chain is heavily soiled, we recommend cleaning with a special chain cleaner. However, try not to spray the cleaner on the wheel rims and tyres as well – after all, you've just spent ages cleaning them! It's always a good idea to use a suitable underlay to keep the spray off the floor or ground.
Before lubricating the chain, make sure it's dry first. Then apply a thin layer of chain spray to the O, X or Z ring chain. Always aim at the inside of the chain. This helps the lubricant adhere longer and it won't be thrown off on your very next ride. Do not spray on the rims or tyres. And if you're not a very good shot, just remove any stray lubricant using brake cleaner and a cloth.
Important: Do not ride off until you are sure that the brake cleaner has evaporated and the area is completely dry. It's generally easiest to check the chain tension while sitting on the bike. If the slack is correct, you should be able to insert two to three fingers when the suspension is compressed. Finally, you need to check that the tyres, rubber grips, footrests and brake discs are free of all cleaning residues, chain spray, and any other lubricants. If you've been working in the garage, it might be a good idea to push the bike out and check it again by daylight to see if you've missed anything.
Download this tip
For the garage: Simply download, print out and take it with you.
The Louis Technical Centre
Problems getting spare parts? Or maybe you've got a technical question about your motorcycle or an accessory The Louis Technical Centre can help! Remember to quote all the necessary details of your vehicle – better still, send us a copy of your registration document.
We will get back to you as quickly as possible!
So: send us your technical problem!
- by e-mail to email@example.com
- or by letter to Louis Technical Centre, 21027 Hamburg
These tips for DIY mechanics contain general recommendations that may not apply to all vehicles or all individual components. As local conditions may vary considerably, we are unable to guarantee the correctness of information in these tips for DIY mechanics.
Thank you for your understanding.
Louis DIY Mechanic Manual
The printed version
The big Louis DIY mechanic manual available in a printed version: in color and practical A4 format at cost price.