That’s a time-tested piece of fire fighting advice that also applies to things like our health, security, and yes—even your dirt bike! Routine dirt bike maintenance can prevent catastrophic mechanical failure, accidents and injuries, and costly repairs.
In our case, an ounce of prevention consists of these 12 easy maintenance tips that’ll keep your dirt bike running strong all summer:
- Wash your bike after every ride.
Be gentle. We recommend simply using a bucket of water and a selection of brushes to knock off mud. You can use a pressure washer, but be careful to deflect the water away from the bike, so you don’t force water and dirt into areas where it can damage engine or electrical components. Consider using an airbox cover to seal off the carburetor from water and debris.
- Dry it before you inspect it.
Make sure your bike is clean and dry before you inspect it for maintenance issues. You can use a dryer or leaf blower to speed up the drying process.
- Check for leaks.
Once your dirt bike is clean and dry, look for oil drips on the ground and underneath the motor. Also, inspect for coolant and brake fluid.
- Inspect and clean your chain.
If your dirt bike’s drive chain is particularly muddy, allow the mud to dry overnight, so it can be more easily removed with a nylon brush. Once the chain is clean, lubricate it with a high-quality chain lube from Klotz, Maxima, Bel-Ray, or other trusted brand.
- Check your chain tension.
Remember, the chain should never be taut—there should be some slack to compensate for suspension movement. On the other hand, if you are able to remove the chain from the rear sprocket, it has become too loose and should be replaced. No matter how much travel your dirt bike’s suspension has, the ideal amount of chain free-play is ½-inch or 13 millimeters when the swingarm is parallel to the ground.
- Inspect and tighten bolts.
Check your hardware to make sure bolts haven’t loosened under extreme vibration.
- Check out your controls and control cables.
Inspect your throttle and clutch cables and replace them if they are frayed or kinked. Then, test the throttle control for the proper amount of free play. An easy way to test for free play is to place the bike on a work stand, start it up, and let it idle. Then, rotate the handlbars through their full range of travel and listen for any increase in engine rpm. If an increase occurs, you need to add free play to your throttle cable. Also, test your throttle for responsive operation, making sure it snaps back crisply when twisted.
- Check and clean your air filter.
By maintaining a clean air filter, you’ll not only improve performance, you’ll protect your engine from costly damage. You can use a quality spray-on air filter cleaner or clean it with a mix of water and a household cleaner like Simple Green. Once the filter is dry, coat it with high-quality air filter oil.
- Check your tire pressure in between each ride.
Use a tire pressure gauge to set the proper pressure based on the terrain conditions. We recommend 8 psi (front tires) and 6 psi (rear tires) for muddy conditions and 14 psi (front) and 12 psi (rear) for dry conditions.
- Change your oil.
If you spend most of your time in the dirt or mud—or if your dirt bike sees extreme duty—you need to change your motor oil often. Some say change your oil after every ride; others say change the oil every eight to 10 operating hours. Follow your manufacturer’s recommendations, but remember—the more often you change your oil, the longer your engine will likely live.
- Check your fluids.
You should replace your brake fluid periodically, because it is inherently conducive to absorbing moisture. Most manufacturers recommend DOT-4 brake fluid—an alcohol-based fluid—for dirt bikes. Also, check your coolant level and top off as needed. Plan to flush and change your cooling system once per year.
- Grease it up.
Grease seals out water and dirt and provides lubrication for important components. Inspect your air filter’s sealing area, swingarm and hardware, wheel bearings and seals, shock seals and forks, and steering head bearings. Use a good PTFE-based, petroleum-based, or moly grease where necessary.