How to: Dirt Bike Maintenance

by Nathan Fisher

Used for trail riding and off-road racing, dirt bikes are designed with a heavy-duty suspension system, a high torque transmission and tires with aggressive treads. Because they are usually ridden harder, and in harsher conditions, than street motorcycles, dirt bikes require more frequent maintenance. Developing and performing a through maintenance routine yourself will both save money and keep your dirt bike running smoothly.

Items you will need

  • Oil
  • Oil filter
  • Spark plug wrench
  • Spark plug gapping tool
  • Ruler
  • Wrenches
  • Lithium grease
  • Toothbrush
  • Tire pressure gauge
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Step 1

Wash the bike as needed to remove dirt and road grime. Washing both protects the paint and keeps moving parts operating freely.

Step 2

Change the engine oil regularly. As dirt bikes operate at extremely high RPMs, the engines wear out oil at an accelerated pace. When changing oil, use an oil weight recommended by the bike manufacturer. If the bike is so equipped, change the oil filter along with the oil.

Step 3

Check the spark plug every 1,000 miles. Remove the plug with a spark plug wrench. Clean and gap the plug, according the specifications in the owner's manual, with a plug gapping tool. Install a new plug every 5,000 miles.

Step 4

Adjust the chain tension as needed. Squeeze the top and bottom sections of chain between a thumb and forefinger and measure the distance between the sections with a ruler. Adjust the chain tension by turning the bolts at the back of the sprocket on the bike's rear wheel, with a wrench, until there is 1 1/4 inch of play between the top and bottom sections of chain.

Step 5

Lube the chain, when it becomes dry to the touch, by rubbing a light coating of lithium grease into the chain with a toothbrush.

Step 6

Use a tire pressure gauge to maintain the proper PSI level indicated on the tire. Correct tire pressure improves handling, and safety, and maximizes tire life. For best performance, replace off-road tires when the tread has worn down 75 percent.

Step 7

Keep the brakes properly adjusted. If you notice the brakes beginning to feel sloppy, or the bike starts taking longer to stop, tighten the adjustment nut at the end of the brake cable. Turn the nut 1/2 turn at a time and then test drive the bike before adjusting the brakes further.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep a log of all maintenance performed on the bike. This will not only help you schedule servicing, it will show prospective buyers the motorcycle has been properly maintained should you decide to sell it.

References

  • "The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Maintenance"; Mark Zimmerman; 2004

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images