The Dos and Don’ts of Washing a Motorcycle, Part Two (Final)

After having dealt with some of the key aspects of washing a motorcycle in the first part of the Dos and Don’ts of Washing a Motorcycle guide, here are some more items on the list. Make sure you pay some attention to these, as well, and you’ll be able to retain the perfect aesthetic condition of your ride indefinitely, provided you don’t crash or drop it.
Bike Wash 1 photo
Photo: Max Pixel
7. DON’T use WD40 everywhere.

It would be really interesting if someone took the time to write down on a list all the things WD40 is useful for and compare it to the list of things that have been ruined by this wondrous product. I won’t deny its amazing properties, but I just have to add that WD40 isn’t the answer to ANY problem.

There are a lot of scenarios where having a WD40 can at hand can save the day, but spraying it all over the place can result in serious damage. You should always remember that this is a chemical product that can interact with the various materials your bike was built of.

This includes plastic parts, bodywork, paint, decals, various hoses and aftermarket accessories you have installed on the bike. Before using it as a magic “cleans-all” solution, it would be wise to spray some WD40 on a small piece of cloth and test it on the parts you intend to use this product with. And don’t be surprised if you see paint being affected, or the color vanishing from certain stickers. Petroleum-based products CAN have adverse effects.

DO use WD40 sparingly and only as a last-resort solution. There is a special, safe product for pretty much any job you might want to perform on the bike.

8. DON’T trust MAGIC products unconditionally.

In a way, the eighth point on my list is a subsidiary of #7, because it has to do with various “magic products”. Long story short, not all of these are that magic, and even fewer of those who work are safe for the user, bike or both.

Rider lore is full of all sorts of magic tricks that can get a specific job easier, faster, with better results and so on. Instead of jumping head-first in this, please take your time and do a little research in case you feel like taking the “magic path” to reach your goals.

What worked great on chrome might not be the best solution for the nickel on your bike, and the paint used on a modern bike might be much more resilient than the one that adorns your beloved vintage machine. This is not about never trusting anyone, but about not being a fool, it’s all as simple as that. Being just a bit skeptical in certain situations might spare you quite a lot of hassle and make you wiser, nonetheless.

DO remember that there are solutions specially formulated to tackle a wide range of problems, and instead of giving in to magic, you could try them and stay on the safe side.

9. DON’T be chaotic.

Acting according to a reasonable plan when washing your bike reduces the time you’ll spend with this operation and will create a workflow that simply makes everything more efficient, sometimes also on the financial side of things.

Just like I advised to clean the chain before you get to the rest of the bike, following a plan makes sense if you think a bit about it. It’s always a good idea to start from the supper sections of the bike, no matter whether you are soaking it, spraying grease solvents, soap or lather, or even rinsing. Always remember that gravity will eventually have everything flowing down your bike, so cleaning the upper part of the vehicle first is as natural as it gets.

Even though you will be kind of chaotic the first times you will wash the bike for yourself, you’ll quickly start to see the best pattern to carry out the operation faster. A few tweaks to the plan and you’ll start to wash your bike without even thinking about what you have to do… and gradually become better and faster.

DO start at the top with soaking, foaming, scrubbing and rinsing.

10. DON’T exaggerate with that pressure washer.

Pressure washers are surely much more convenient when it comes to cleaning motorcycles. They are more energy and water-efficient than your garden hose, and make removing dirt a much easier job altogether.

Still, setting them to the highest pressure they can produce is not always a good idea. Remember that a jet of high-pressure water is also used to cut concrete and even steel. Surely, you don’t work with thousands of psi but even a household pressure washer can deal serious damage if used improperly.

As I already told you, it can push dirt behind the o-rings and damage them, it can peel off paint and it can pierce through your seat if the nozzle gets close enough. Just as it is helpful, a pressure washer can be the very tool that wrecks parts of your bike.

It’s best to be careful how close you get to the bike while keeping in mind that pressurized water will get most of the dirt off your bike, but not all of it. So instead of insisting with the nozzle, you could just use special cleaning products and let them finish what you started.

As a final consideration to using the pressure washer on liquid-cooled motorcycles, be careful when getting to cleaning or rinsing the radiator. The radiator’s fins are thin and fragile, and using too much pressure and from too small a distance WILL bend them. Bent fins reduce the cooling efficiency of the radiator and look like crap, too.

DO keep in mind that a pressure washer, just like the WD40, is not a magic problem solver.

11. DON’T forget about the sensitive parts.

Water may have unwanted effect when in contact with aftermarket parts you may have installed on the bike. If anything, custom suede seats are probably the first thing that comes to mind. Other leather accessories on the bike may also be affected by water and making sure you either remove them or provide proper water protection.

Likewise, after washing your bike, it’s always a good idea to use special leather products to maintain the leather parts looking good and avoid cracks and all. If your bike’s seat cover is made from synthetic materials, you’re lucky, as water will not affect it in any way.

It’s always good to use soft, lint-free cloth to dry the bike, and if you can dry it in the shade, you’ll also be spared the white marks harder water leaves upon drying. After the bike is dry, you can inspect for scratches and marks that may have appeared since the last time you washed it, and maybe correct them with crayons or other special products if needed.

DO be patient when drying the bike, and if possible, do this in a place that’s far from roads, or dust will set on it even before you’re ready to roll.

Now that you know the basic Dos and Don’ts of Washing a Motorcycle, you can get to reading the first part of the guide and make a list of what you need, and then get to work! Also, feel free to add your personal input to this guide and make it better, because sharing is caring.
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