How to give your motorcycle a basic service

When did you last give your custom Harley Davidson the once over? A quick walkaround to make sure everything’s looking ride-ready? We’re not saying that home maintenance is any substitute for sticking with your Harley Davidson maintenance schedule. But there are some simple skills you can learn so you’re ready to deal with whatever the road throws at you. And that way, you can have the best custom Harley Davidson around virtually stress-free.

Getting started

First, read the manual. Because it really is the best way to get to know your machine. And #TeamDU will be happy to talk about taking care of your customised bike all day. Plus, the internet is packed with sources of wisdom, from YouTube videos to owners’ forums.

Tyre pressure and tread

Let’s start off nice and easy with a tyre check. You can get your own tyre pressure gauge or use a local garage. Remember to let the tyres cool if you’ve done a few miles beforehand.

  • Locate and remove the valve stem cap and use your tyre gauge to check the pressure.
  • Check your reading against the manufacturer’s label. Pro-tip: this also shows your VIN and is generally located near the steering head. 
  • Use an air compressor to inflate to the desired pressure and then replace the cap tightly.

Because your tyres are your primary contact with the road, it pays to check them regularly. First, the tread pattern should be visible across the entire tyre, with a depth of at least 1mm across three-quarters of the surface. Next, check the tyre tread indicators in the grooves – if they’re level with the tyres, it’s time to get a new set. 

While you’re checking your tyres, take a few seconds to check your wheel spokes. There are two ways you can do this:

  • Grab a handful of spokes and give them a good squeeze.
  • Get your Harley on a stand and spin your wheels, tapping the spokes gently with a wrench.

If they’re correctly tensioned, you should hear a ting rather than a dull thud.

Change your oil

Whether you ride on the weekend or put in the miles daily, you’ll need an oil change after a few thousand miles. Before you get started, have a replacement oil filter and a can of oil handy, and run your engine for at least 5 minutes, so the oil gets viscous and easier to drain. Then kill the engine, prop your bike upright and grab a drain pan because you’re ready to do your first oil change:

  • Cover the engine and the exhaust with foil because oil changes can get messy.
  • Position the drain pan under the oil filler cap and drain plug. Remove them both and let the oil empty into the pan.
  • When the oil’s completely drained, change the oil filter.
  • Screw the drain plug back in and use a funnel to top up the oil to the correct amount.
  • Replace the oil filler cap and recycle your old oil.

Change the coolant

Changing the coolant is more complex because you’ll need to remove bodywork that’s in the way. But it’s essential maintenance to prevent your engine from corroding, freezing or overheating:

  • Place a drain pan under the engine and remove the drain plug and radiator cap.
  • Drain out the old coolant and replace the drain plug.
  • Using a funnel, top up with new coolant, then replace the radiator cap and any parts you removed.

Before you head out, check the coolant level:

  • Run the engine and then cut the ignition when it’s warmed up. Now, let the engine cool, and then check the coolant level.
  • Top up if necessary. 

Check the battery

A dead battery means a dead motorcycle, so make this a routine check. Start by locating the battery, usually under the seat, and removing it from its holder.

Now check the charge. If it’s below 12v, ensure it’s fully charged with the appropriate charger, then replace it in its holder. If your custom Harley Davidson runs on a newer H-D LiFe or Li-Ion battery, check you have a compatible charger before you start.

Replace your air filter

This is another easy fix that requires little skill. Simply remove the old filter and replace it with the new one. Follow the manual or ask us if you have any issues. Otherwise, this is minimal-effort maintenance at its best.

Lights and brakes

You’ll also need to check your headlights, brake lights and indicators and replace any dud bulbs. Check the wiring is tightly secured and that your headlight alignment gives you proper visibility.

Then it’s time for a final fluids check. Brake fluid eats through anything in its path, so have a rag handy to mop up any spills and cover your custom paintwork. Top up with sealed brake fluid every two years, and change DOT4 fluid every two years. 

Finally, check your brake pads. If they’re 1.5mm or less, they need to be replaced with new ones.

Dirty Unicorn for your custom Harley Davidson

Ready to talk about custom bikes? Contact #TeamDU today and get the custom Harley Davidson of your dreams.