Keeping your own scooter or bike working and reliable isn’t exactly rocket science but there are some things you can do at home to help keep it running and also to keep you safe. Here are five areas that apply to most machines in one way or another.
One crucial thing (or more depending on your engine) that really should get a regular check is your spark plug. If you ride a two-stroke then this is something you’ll no doubt have to do at the side of the road one day when it gets oiled up.
The plug should be removed using a spark plug spanner, visually checked (the colour gives an overall look at how your engine is running but as a general rule a light brown is good) and either cleaned or replaced on a regular basis. A plug can be cleaned using a wire wool brush, then rinsed off using WD-40 or similar. The gap between the electrode and tip should also be measured and set using feeler gauges (gaps differ from bike to bike so check your handbook, Google for details). A new plug can often cure a badly starting bike.
Most modern bikes only have one or two actual cables, the clutch and throttle but on older scooters you could also have two gear cables, a front brake and rear brake cable, plus a choke cable. They need to be kept adjusted and greased to perform and last as long as possible. A quick visual inspection can give an early indicator of wear, frayed ends, and strands of loose cable mean your cable is on the way out. It’s well worth getting used to changing cables at home and carrying spares. Although it’s a hassle you could do without it is easy enough to change a broken cable at the side of the road if needed.
Most four-stroke machines and many two-strokes will have an air filter, or filter box. Cleaning the filter is easy enough and it stops unwanted debris causing wear inside the engine. Simply locate your filter, unscrew the casing and remove it. You can buy special foam filter detergents, or wash using soapy water and degreaser then ring out carefully and leave to dry. Other paper type filters may need replacing if they’re too dirty. Mesh filters can simply be cleaned using petrol or degreaser.
If your tyres are under or over inflated your tyres will wear prematurely, they’ll also be more susceptible to punctures and more importantly will affect the handling of your machine. Always keep them topped up to the recommended pressure for your machine and for the type of riding you do (motorway/solo/with pillion).
It may sound a bit geeky but you need to remember that you’re quite vulnerable on two wheels. If a wheel drops off it’s not good. A regular visual look around your machine is well worth getting into the habit of doing. Check the tightness of wheel nuts, make sure there’s nothing obvious loose or broken, is your exhaust tightened up? Check your oil filler cap is tight (also check fluid levels), are the tyres in good condition? Is everything working? Pretend your going for an MOT, take as much care as you would on a pre-MOT check.