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Discussion Starter #1
hello, I have a few questions. I have not actually purchased my bike yet because I want a few thoughts

what is the normal maintenance required for a bike from the start in order to have a decent working life? The reason I ask is a bike I am thinking about is a Ninja 500R. It is a 2006 with 3500 miles service record includes pretty much nothing but a few oil changes. Is there more that should have been done? apparently it was not winterized this year... how important is that? Should I get it or is it more likely than not going to be trouble not too far down the road? Also in general, what is required maintenance for a bike other than oil changes and tire replacements?



11,328 Posts
Engine oil changes are very important for the life of the motorcycle, using the correct oil(not oil for a car) ensures the wet plate clutch operates correctly. Read and copy this oil information I found on the internet:

Best Oils To Use In Your Bike (Just My Opinion)

Engine oil : The commercial grade oils are clearly superior to the mass market oils. For the best protection in your bike or car, use Shell Rotella Synthetic, available at Wal-Mart in blue containers . For the best petroleum oil you can buy, get Shell Rotella T, Mobil Delvac 1300, or Chevron Delo 400, available at any auto parts store. On the back of most oil cans is a circular stamp with the certification. Avoid oils that say "energy conserving" in the bottom half of the donut. These oils contain friction modifier additives that could cause clutch slipping over time. All XXw-20 and XXw-30 oils are energy conserving, and should not be used in your motorcycle. Don't buy any oil additives like STP or Slick-50. Here's several listings on all about oil justifying these conclusions.

The Recommended Synthetic Oils :

Shell Rotella Synthetic
5w-40 Delvac 1 Synthetic
5w-40 Mobil-1 SUV/Truck Synthetic
5w-40 AMSOil AMF Synthetic
10w-40 Golden Spectro Synthetic
10w-50 Motul 5100 Synthetic
10w-40 Mobil-1 Synthetic
15w-50 Mobil-1 MX4T Synthetic

The best synthetics are: (in no particular order)

Shell Rotella-T Synthetic 5w-40 (blue container, not white), gallon at Wal-Mart.
Mobil Delvac-1 5w-40 (grey container, not black), gallon at Petro stations, gallon at Farm and Fleet.
Mobil-1 SUV 5w-40, qt anywhere.
AMSOil AMF 10w-40 synthetic motorcycle oil.
Golden Spectro Supreme, (no price).
Motul 5100 Ester, (no price).

Mobil-1 automotive oils all contain small amounts of moly - about 100 to 200 ppm. This can cause clutch slippage in some motorcycles. I've only heard of this being a problem in Honda Shadows.

For temperatures below -40, I strongly recommend either Mobil-1 0w-30 or the Canadian Shell 0w-40 Rotella. At these temperatures, your car is your life. Using cheap or incorrect oil is risking your life.

For temperatures below -55c, -65f, stay home. Really.

The Recommended Petroleum Oils

Chevron Delo 400 15w-40
Delvac 1300 15w-40
Shell Rotella 15w-40

The best petroleum oils are: (in no particular order)

Chevron Delo 400 15w-40 (blue container) gallon at any auto parts store, gallons at Costco.

Mobil Delvac 1300 15w-40 (black container) gallon at any auto parts store, gallons at Sam's Club.

Shell Rotella-T 15w-40 (white container) gallon at Wall-Mart or any auto parts store, gallons at Sam's Club.

If you live in another country, you'll have to do a bit of research to decide on an oil. Generally, any oil certified for use in a late model Volks wagon or Mercedes turbo diesel is a good choice. Another good idea is to go to a truck stop and ask the truckers about brands. Rotella is marketed all over the world, but in other countries it's called Rotella or Rimola or Helix Ultra, and the formulation may be a bit different, depending on local climate and preferences. It will likely also be a lot more expensive than it is here.

I would suggest going to the dealership and buying a Factory Shop Manual(FSM) for more detailed information about your bike. I don't like the Haynes or Clymer manuals as I believe they leave a lot of specs and adjustments out.

Periodic cleaning of the many various electrical connectors and switches is considered preventative maintenance. I use a very good brand of contact cleaner/preservative called "De-oxit" made by Caig Labs in San Diego Ca. Their website is caig.com - Home of DeoxIT - CAIG Laboratories, Inc. I use it on all of the connectors/switches in my 82 GPz1100 B2, cordless phone charging cradles,entertainment patch cords and any other low voltage current situations.

It can be purchased at Radio Shack stores in the U.S. and most electronic supply stores.

The drive chain and sprockets are what gets you down the road;proper lubrication and tensioning of the chain should be checked weekly, avoid if possible tight and loose spots on the chain as this will stress the suspension and engine causing wear.

The chain and sprockets should be changed as a set, old parts will quickly wear out new parts, if the rear sprockets teeth start to "Hook", it's replacement time.

Tires should be checked for proper pressure when cold, the same applies to engine oil. Tires that are over 5 years old should be replaced as sunlight and ozone attack rubber items.

At your earliest chance, consider replacing the rubber brake lines with the braided stainless steel ones, the original lines will swell with application of pressure when braking and the SS ones will not, for a better"Feel" when coming to a stop.

About once a week, you should go from front to back of the motorcycle checking the tightness of the fasteners as vibration will want to make the parts fly/fall off. I put high performance aircraft and motorcycles in the same catagory: both vibrate at many different frequencies and amplitude, both require fastener maintenance(Loctite,lockwashers,self locking fasteners,cotter pins and safety wire) to keep the vehicle together.

All I can think of at the moment.....................

5 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
wow thanks a ton for such a detailed and in depth response! As far as the bike itself goes there wasnt anything that should have been done when the bike was newer that wasnt? would you get it if it was you?

11,328 Posts
Other than doing the required oil changes,chain lubrication and tightening, and tire pressure checks, motorcycles can be low maintenance for quite a while. A wash and wax job will help keep the paint looking good now and then. When I wash my 1982 GPZ1100 B2 model, I use a bucket,car soap, and low pressure rinse water.

The auto car washes use high pressure soaps and rinses,not good for motorcycle electrical connectors and switches as the soap will be high in cleaning detergents that can corrode the electrical contacts making for at best intermittant operation or having something fail and strand you on the road.

The 1980's Kawasaki's required shims to adjust the valve clearances, some models had over the bucket(valve follower) shims requiring a special tool to remove the shim as the valve wore in to the engine, others had a below bucket shim requiring removal of the cams(a tricky process at best) to adjust the shims.

On these Double Overhead Cam (DOHC) engines, as the valve and valve seat wear, the valve moves closer to the engine requiring thinner and thinner shims. Eventually with time, an engine overhaul is required.

If your bike has owner adjustable tappets, a set of metric feeler gauges will be needed along with the suitable metric wrenches.
A good set of wrenches from the local Sears store is about all you'll need. Some riders go for the fancy "Snap-On" tools, but I've had good luck using Sears Craftsman tools for many years in building large power conditioning equipment and doing repairs/maintenance on my bike and cars.

Any more questions? Don't be afraid to ask. I'm on this forum a lot and two others: KZrider.com - Home (for the older Kz's) and wiredgeorge motorcycle carburetors - Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Carburetor Sales, Rebuilding and Restoration - Home (he overhauls motorcycle carbs and has a similar forum on old bikes).

Alien Test Subject
3,515 Posts
Mike's pretty much covered it.

But here are my rituals:

When you first buy the bike, go over it with a fine-toothed comb. Check all the fluids first; oil, brake fluid, coolant all at the correct levels? Are they clean? Are clear liquids cloudy? Are they to the correct levels? Is there wet spots around the areas you put the fluids, or where they flow to/through?

Next, put the bike in the center-stand (if it has one). Go front to back, top to bottom, just grabbing/pulling at things. Anything loose that shouldn't be? Pegs, pipes, bars, controls should all feel like they are secure, while levers should work without being 'loose' and cables should not feel like they are binding anywhere. Turn the handlebars back and forth. Do they turn smoothly, or feel like they have some play in them? If you have the bike on a center stand, does the rear wheel spin smoothly, or is the chain too tight and binding it up? When you spin the wheel, does the chain instantly turn with it, or is there some play in it first? All this stuff can tell you if you have something too loose, too tight, or have bad seals, bearings, etc...

For regular maintenance, do all of the above about once a week or so. It really only takes 10 minutes to do an inspection of your bike. As a rule of thumb, I do it every time I wash the bike. Believe it or not, the more often you ride, the longer the intervals can be between doing this. If you ride every day, things don't have a chance to bind up as much, and you'll start to feel, see, or hear if something is out of whack (though you should still go over the bike fairly regularly - I do it every 2-3 weeks, but ride almost daily). If you only ride once in a while, do it almost every ride. Things that sit for long periods of time corrode much easier.

Before every ride:
Check your tires and pressures. Are they properly inflated? Free of debris or punctures? Tread look good? Cords showing? I'm guilty of only checking pressure every couple of days, but again, I ride almost every day, and have a good feel for if something seems off. And use the same gauge every time. Different gauges will read differently. Even if yours is off by 2 psi, it will consistently off by that amount. So if you always keep at 38psi per your gauge, using a different gauge will not guarantee your keeping the same pressure in your tires.

Also before every ride, do a quick brake check within the first hundred yards. Grab the front. Does it do it's job? How about the rear? It takes a half second, but it's good to find out before you get miles from home if you have brakes or not.

Periodic maintenance:
Inspect and lube the chain and sprockets every time you wash the bike. The more often you ride, the more often you'll need to lube. I usually lube mine once every week or so, but if I've ridden through a lot of rain, it gets done more often. The chain will stretch over time, so you will need to occasionally adjust it. Properly maintained, you can get a lot of miles out of the driveline before needing replacement. I got 15,000 miles from my last set, and that was with heavy abuse.

Oil and filter should be changed every 3-6 thousand miles, depending on personal preference. Many manufactures say their oil can go up to 7k, but I'm pretty old school, and religiously do mine at 3k. Again, check it every time you wash the bike, or once a week, whichever comes first. It should be clean and golden brown in color (just like it came out of the bottle). If it's dark and cloudy, it's time for a change.

Brake fluid should be clear, and generally very pale yellow (again, just like it came out of the bottle - though some brands can have other color to them). Normally, you don't need to change it that often. But if you look at the sight glass, and it's cloudy, dirty, or 'pee' yellow, it may be time to flush and change it. Same applies for the clutch fluid (if it's hydraulic).

Coolant doesn't normally need changed too often. Like all other fluids, check it regularly for amount and condition (yep, again, when you wash the bike). You can usually go a few seasons without changing it, though you may need to periodically top it off. If you need to top it off regularly, it may be a sign of an issue.

Brake pads should be checked for thickness periodically as well. Replacement intervals very greatly based on your riding style. Aggressive, daily riders may need to replace them a few times a year, while highway cruisers might get 3 or 4 seasons out of a set. Same goes with tires. If your tread depth is getting low, start contemplating new ones. Tire compound will also dictate intervals between replacement.

Once a year or beginning/end of riding season:
If you live somewhere where you can ride year round (SoCal, Fla, etc.) it's always riding season. But lots of us have to put the bike away for the winter. Even if you ride year round, you should contemplate a once a year routine similar to what we do to prep for winter/spring.

I do a full oil change before riding in the spring. The bikes been sitting for months, and oil naturally deteriorates over time, even when just sitting.

Pull the spark plugs. If needed, replace them. But inspect them as well. They can tell you a lot about how your bike is running. Are you running too rich, too lean? Something else going on? The plugs will tell you a lot.

Check and replace (or clean) all your filters. The oil filter gets done with changes, but many people neglect air and fuel filters. If clogged or dirty, they can rob you of a lot of performance.

If your actually storing the bike for the winter, put a full tank of gas in it and add Seafoam, Stabil, or other fuel stabilized/cleaner to it. An empty tank allows corrosion on to possibly set in on the inside of the tank. If you have a petcock, shut the fuel off, and drain the carbs. Gas that sits too long (especially untreated) turns to varnish over time, and gums up every thing.

Buy a cable luber, and lube all the mechanical cables. Throttle mainly these days, but many older bike also use cables for clutch and brakes. All cables stretch over time, but if kept lubed, they'll last much longer.

And of course, wash the bike, doing your normal maintenance routine.

If you notice, for me at least, much of my maintenance and inspection of the bike revolves around cleaning it. It really is the perfect time, since your already bending over, getting into nooks and crannies. It's real easy to do, and only adds a few extra minutes to the process. Plus, it's easier to spot things when the bike is being cleaned. Stubborn, sticky dirt around seals, bearings, lines or gaskets could be an indication of a leak. You can tell if something needs tightened if it seems loose as you wash it with the sponge. Or whatever....

The other thing about doing all this simple, regular maintenance, is it can prevent, or warn you of, potential problems. Having to constantly top off a fluid means you may have a leak somewhere, or a gasket or seal going. Inconsistent tire pressure can warn of a small puncture, or that you may be into the cords. All kinds of things can be caught with regular maintenance, instead of seemingly popping up out of nowhere while you out in the middle of a ride.

I'm sure I've missed some things. But you've got the basics now.
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