7 Common Motorcycle Problems and How to Fix Them
Riding a motorcycle can be incredibly fun. When unexpected mechanical problems come up, though, an enjoyable ride down the open road can quickly turn into a seriously stressful ordeal. Instead of waiting until your bike breaks down far from home, check it frequently and keep an eye out for the seven common motorcycle problems described below.
1. Flat Tires
Even motorcycles that last will develop the occasional flat tire. Although this issue is more common than some, and it can be quite dangerous if the tire goes flat while you're in the middle of an otherwise enjoyable ride, the good news is that most flat tires are also easy to prevent.
The most common reason for tires that seem to always be going flat is a lack of maintenance. You should check your tires for bulges, cracks, bald spots, and dry rot before every ride. The older the tires are, the more likely it is that one of them will blow out while you're on the road.
Though there are some riders who purposefully create conditions that make their motorcycles backfire frequently, it's not generally something you want. If your motorcycle is backfiring, it usually means there's some kind of underlying problem that needs to be addressed.
The most common underlying problem behind a backfiring motorcycle is the engine running too lean or too rich. Fundamentally, both of these issues can be traced back to the carburetor, which means they can be fixed by adjusting the air to fuel ratio.
When the carb is adding too much air into the mix, your engine will run lean and you won't get enough fuel. As a result, the fuel won't combust consistently and, as soon as the exhaust valves open, it will ignite in the exhaust header, causing a loud banging sound.
When your engine is running rich, the cylinder is getting too little air and too much fuel, which can lead to your spark plugs being unable to ignite 100% of the fuel. Though there's a different underlying issue causing the problem, the result will be the same. The fuel will combust when it reaches the exhaust and you'll notice frequent loud popping sounds.
3. Battery Problems
Motorcycle batteries can be a bit challenging to maintain. Most riders learn how to handle them through trial and error because there are a lot of factors that come into play. The battery's performance will be affected by:
- External temperature
- Age of the bike
- Age of the battery
- How you've been storing your bike
- How often you charge your battery
Though it takes some time to figure out best practices for your bike and climate, there are a few rules of thumb every rider should follow. First, connect your battery to a charger if it's cold outside. Second, ensure that your battery is properly grounded. Finally, make sure there's no parasitic drain on the battery while your bike is not in use.
4. Squeaky Brakes
The brakes on a motorcycle are far more exposed than those on a car. As a result, they're more susceptible to wear and damage from the elements.
In a passenger vehicle, the standard reason for squeaky brakes is that the brake pads and/or rotors need to be changed. With motorcycles, the situation is a little different. Although the brake pads still need to be changed, the rotors should be even, and there should always be grease between the pads and the caliper pistons, not all abnormal brake sounds are the result of wear.
Sometimes, squeaky brakes on motorcycles are caused by water getting between the pads and the rotors. It's also not uncommon for tiny rocks and other road debris to get lodged in this space. All bikers should check their brake pads before every ride and perform maintenance or make replacements as needed.
5. Problems With Clutch Handle Tightness
Just about all motorcycles have manual gearboxes operated by clutch handles. When you pull in the clutch, it allows you to change gears based on your speed. It all sounds quite simple, but unfortunately, motorcycles often develop issues with clutch handle tightness.
If your clutch handle becomes too loose, you won't have enough force to disengage it. If it's too tight, your clutch will always be disengaged. You want to aim for a comfortable middle ground in which the cable stays tight enough to engage the clutch without being too tight. All it takes to change the tightness is a few turns of the cable screw, so don't be afraid to make adjustments as needed.
6. Inadequate Chain Maintenance
Your motorcycle's chain is what propels it forward. It takes the power from the engine and transfers it to the tires, so this part is essential. The thing is, even though motorcycles can't run without their chains, not all riders focus enough on chain maintenance.
Broken chains can jam up your sprockets and bring your bike to a sudden halt. They can also flip back to hit cars or other riders if you're on the highway. Needless to say, it's important to make sure your chain is neither too tight nor too loose so that these problems don't come up.
7. High Fuel Consumption
With the price of fuel on the rise, riders need to pay attention to how often they're stopping at the pumps. If it seems like the bike is eating up more fuel than usual, it's time to evaluate both maintenance strategies and riding style.
A failure to change your oil on schedule can kill your fuel mileage, as can a poorly tuned carburetor. Changing the oil and adjusting the carb are both easy maintenance tasks that you can learn how to do at home. If that doesn't help, make sure you're not riding like a speed demon and that you're shifting at the proper times.
Give Your Bike the Attention It Deserves
If there's one trend you've probably noticed, it's that the majority of motorcycle problems are caused by inadequate maintenance. You should check your bike before every ride and provide it with ongoing maintenance or, if necessary, take it to a mechanic for oil changes, chain adjustments, and other essentials frequently. If you treat your motorcycle right, it will do the same for you.