Cleaning your motorcycle through a detailer’s service may be outside your budget right now, but you don’t need to sacrifice high-quality cleaning. Knowing the key steps to clean your motorcycle properly is not just easier than you think, but it can save you a lot of money in the long run too.
The 8 steps to clean your motorcycle are:
- Prepare your cleaning area
- Use a pre-wash process
- Deep clean the bike
- Rinse the bike
- Polish your paint
- Apply wax
- Clean your engine
- Lubricate your drive chain
Below, we’ll go through each of these steps in more detail, so you can clean your motorcycle effectively. We’ll also give you some extra cleaning hacks to keep your bike looking its best, but first let’s talk about the importance of preparing to clean your motorcycle.
First things first, your motorcycle should be allowed to cool off before you go to wash it. Once the engine is cool to the touch you are ready to give it that showroom cleaning. First, take off all removable leather seats and saddlebags. These are parts of the motorcycle you will clean separately.
Take all the leather pieces off of your motorcycle and set them aside. You’ll want to have them ready to buff and wax with leather cleaning balms. This preserves the leather which prevents it from scratching, cracking, or peeling. It is better to use a damp terry cloth to remove particles of dried dirt or other grime from the leather rather than to submerge it in water, which may cause damage.
A Useful Product
Automotive leather cleaners on the market are the best bet for a safe gentle wash on leather pieces. Leather Therapy is an equestrian product that many horse trainers use for saddles. However, it also works on motorcycle seats and saddlebags that are made from genuine cow-hide leather.
Before you even begin your washing process, do a run-down of the products you’ve chosen. They should be automotive safe, and aluminum-rim tire safe. Select products that are market-approved for use on automobiles or motorcycles. Dish detergents and other soaps are made with chemicals that may be harmful to metal or paint.
Prolonged use of these products can damage your paint, causing it to chip or scratch, so it’s always best to buy products specifically for motorcycles. Once you do these things, you’re ready to start cleaning your motorcycle!
8 Steps To Clean Your Motorcycle
To properly clean your motorcycle, you need to set aside adequate wash space. This can be a portion of your driveway or garage. It is advisable to choose a place that is not under trees or directly near bushes to avoid particles from foliage falling directly on the body of the motorcycle while it is wet.
To prepare a wash area, rinse pavements of mud, and clear away any debris that could be cast back upon the motorcycle during the wash process. You will want to rid the area of leaves, pet hair, or other potential debris such as plastics that could leave scratches and stick to a wet motorcycle.
Pre-wash is as important to the whole detailing process as the wash itself. Careful attention to detail in the prewash stage will boost the effectiveness of the later washing steps. This will get the metal or plastic machine parts ready for washing. A smoother, cleaner finish will prepare the machine parts for body wax.
To begin, start with a pre-rinse. Use plain water. You can do a pre-rinse by filling up a clean container, such as a bucket, with plain water and bathing the body with a terry cloth, an automotive sponge, or a microfiber wash mitt.
Use A Hose
You also want to have a hose or other washing tool handy. The objective here is to loosen up the dirt and other solidified grime from the body of the bike. By wetting the particles, you ensure that they are not hard when you go to wash the bike by hand, which could scratch the paintwork.
For the deep cleaning process, you want to invest in a good brush that has soft, automotive-safe bristles. In a pinch, a soft-bristle toothbrush can also work for hard-to-reach corners, but you must use bristles that are too soft to scratch leather or paint.
Once you’ve loosened any dirt, you can then use the brush to remove tiny particles and excess dirt attached to the motorcycle’s body using a suitable motorcycle cleaner. Which one you choose is up to you, but just make sure it’s safe for use on motorcycles.
You want to rinse the soap off of the body after you’ve performed a detailed scrubbing with soft brushes or microfiber mitts. Your bike will be covered in a lather of soap mixed with oils, dirt, and other debris, and so you can use the hose to rinse this off. You can also soak a clean sponge in a bucket of plain water and rinse the soap away by hand.
Once you finish cleaning your motorcycle with soap and water, you can move on to the next steps, the first of which is to polish your paint. Polished paint will add long-term shine to your motorcycle. Make sure you use motorcycle-safe polish tools. You can take off your fender while polishing to make the body easier to reach.
You can use a light clay bar application to add some real shine. Just take a piece of the clay bar and knead it into a patty shape. Spray some sort of Clay Luber on the paint to prep it, using a generous amount. Use a piece of clay about two fingers’ length. Run this piece along the gritty places in the paint to remove hidden debris. The clay bar exfoliates the paint, adding a lovely shine to your motorcycle.
Give light pressure when using a clay bar, going back and forth in lines. Do not make circular motions. Expect a slight drag at first, as the clay bar removes hidden debris. It will begin to glide as the polishing works its magic. Seal up a clay bar in a container after each use to keep it from drying out. Wipe the surface with a cloth to get rid of any leftover Clay Luber and debris.
Seal the body’s paint by applying some sort of paste wax. Products such as S100 Carnauba Paste Wax typically sell for between $15 and $20 per bottle. The wax is made from carnauba, the world’s hardest wax, as well as beeswax. The wax finish leaves no residue when applied. It produces a refined shine that really makes your bike stand out.
Applying a wax finish to your detailing job repels dirt and other harmful particles from the motorcycle’s body. Wax provides a special coating for clear coats. It adds a wax layer to your paint, and this preserves the paint and the body materials. While not essential to clean your motorcycle, it’s a great way to ensure your bike always looks its best.
A clean engine is integral to the long-life and smooth operation of your motorcycle, so don’t neglect this key component in your cleaning process. There are plenty of specialist products on the market specifically for cleaning motorcycle engines, so do your research and make sure you pick the right one for your bike.
Finally, lubricate your drive chain. To keep your bike in top running shape, you will need to lubricate the drive chain as part of the after-wash process. Chain lubrication requires some specific products and specialty tools to do correctly, with the choice usually between chain lube or chain wax.
Identify the type of chain on your bike first. If you have a seal chain, use either commercial cleaner marketed for chains or a gentle fuel such as kerosene to prevent harming seals. Prepare a spray bottle to soak the chain in cleaner and thoroughly lubricate it.
A spray bottle will give you control while cleaning, so as not to spread the fuel or lubricant on the bike’s clean body after washing. To be safe, we recommend removing the chain to clean it separately, away from the newly cleaned bike.
Liberally apply the cleaner to pull particles of dried lubricant out of the chain, as well as dirt and other debris from the chain. In this way, you are flushing the chain of debris that can erode it over time. If the chain is only slightly dirty, use a rag or other cleaning tool to go over the newly applied oil and remove the dirt particles you just drew out with a chain cleaner.
That’s the final step for cleaning your motorcycle thoroughly, but below are some handy tips to make your life easier when it comes to cleaning your ride.
Baby Wipes For A Quick Clean Up
Baby wipes are a safe and quick hack for keeping the surfaces of your motorcycle clean. They’re inexpensive and easy to use, so these are a great way to keep your bike looking great in between deep cleans.
Grill Cleaners For Exhaust Pipe Rubber
Use grill or oven cleaners to get melted rubber off your exhaust pipes. Oven cleaner is safe to use on exhaust metal because it is commercial oven safe. You can use this cleaner to rid your motorcycle of the rubber residue from anything that touches hot exhaust pipes, such as the soles of your shoes.
Test it first to see if the cleaner will discolor your chrome. Do this by applying a small amount to an inconspicuous portion of the pipe. If you do not notice any dark spots, your particular cleaner will be safe to use to get rid of melted rubber.
You can then run the bike until it is warm. Once the exhaust pipe is warm, the melted rubber will loosen up. You can then spray the oven cleaner directly on the melted rubber and use a cloth to wipe it away.
Soft Bristle Toothbrush
A soft-bristle toothbrush will work as a detailing tool for hard-to-reach parts of your bike. Check to be sure the bristles are sensitive-tooth safe. These toothbrushes will not harm paint for the same reasons that they are safe for sensitive teeth!
Separate Wheel Wash Bucket
Use a separate bucket for wheel wash water and use separate brushes for the wheels. Wheels and tires are the dirtiest parts of the bike. Do not mix the wheel wash with the body wash! If you do, you’ll undo all that hard work from the first steps of the cleaning process.
Use Straight-Line Motions
Scrub your motorcycle in straight-line motions. Circle motions can add scratches and smudges even with the right brushes. Scrub in straight lines to avoid leaving any marks.
Ziplock Technique For Hidden Grit
Avoid products not marked for motorcycles. Only use abrasives if you have grit residue. You can check for grit residue by using the Ziplock bag trick. Put a Ziplock bag over your hand. Trace your hand along the paint. If you feel grit against the plastic bag, you need to use the grit-remover. Only use the grit remover in spots with heavy residue.
Clean Your Microfiber Separately
Wash your microfibers separately from any other fabrics. Wash with vinegar and liquid detergent to add some softness to them. Keep them away from other towels and clothes to avoid gathering lint particles.
Never dry microfibers at high heat because this can damage them. Tumble drying on a low heat is optimal because it fluffs them up as well as drying them.
Degrease Your Tires
Finally, prep your tires before you begin to add shine products. The new shine product will stick better to the rubber if you work to remove any old product first. A good prep keeps the tire from slinging little pieces of rubber residue onto the paint.
While there is a lot of personal preference involved when it comes to cleaning your motorcycle, there are some simple steps you can follow to make sure it always looks its best. On top of pre-washing, deep cleaning and properly rinsing, you should also take care of key components like the engine and drive chain, to ensure your bike not only looks great, but performs well too.