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How To Wash a Motorcycle

Keeping your motorcycle clean doesn't just maintain the look of your beautiful ride; it also prevents rust and overall breakdown. When you wash your motorcycle, high pressure is the enemy. This is why many will advise against going to a car wash to clean your bike. Instead, opt for a garden hose and low-pressure dryer. Both of these will be gentle enough to use while still getting the job done. Keep reading to learn the best way to clean a motorcycle and how to wash a Harley properly.

Motorcycle Cleaning Tips:

  • If you are removing salt, avoid using solvents or cleaners, as they can worsen the problem. Instead just use water to clean the bike, and apply wax afterwards.
  • Avoid washing your motorcycle in direct sunlight, which can lead to water spots.
  • Never let cleaners dry on the bike or sit for too long.
  • Dry each area after every rinsing.
  • If you are able to, remove your motorcycle seat to protect the leather or vinyl from water and cleaning solutions.

Motorcycle Cleaning Supplies:

  • Garden hose or low-pressure washer
  • Spray degreaser for getting rid of oil and grease on any metal parts
  • Motorcycle-/car-specific soap, which is formulated to not strip off coats of wax (Common household cleaners are NOT recommended.)
  • Microfiber cloths or chamois towels
  • Bucket
  • Soft sponge
  • Small brush or toothbrush for getting those hard-to-reach spots
  • Boar bristle brush for wheels and engine
  • Air compressor or motorcycle dryer
  • Motorcycle wax or polish
  • Specialty cleaners such as bug or tar remover, chrome cleaner, leather or vinyl protectant (optional but recommended)

How To Wash Your Motorcycle:

1. Wait for your engine to cool down before starting. This should take a minimum of 10 minutes, so plan accordingly. Water on a hot engine can cause cracking.

2. Begin by cleaning the chain with your degreaser. Wipe it clean and remember to add chain lube after you are done with your entire bike. To learn how to properly and thoroughly clean a motorcycle chain, click here.

3. Move on to areas that are harder to access and require a little more care. You can use your small brush or toothbrush to get into the smaller areas to remove any dirt. Be careful around brake lines and bearings. For those areas, avoid water or solvents, as they can be damaging. Instead, try to wipe away any dirt.

4. Now it's time to wash the motorcycle body. Start with a pre-rinse of cool water. Fill your bucket with a mixture of cool water and car wash soap. Use your sponge to give your bike a gentle pre-wash with the soapy water. This is mainly to remove any dust or loose dirt, so don't feel like you have to scrub hard. You can use your boar bristle brush to clean your engine with the soapy mixture. Rinse away the dirt and soap and dry the bike. To dry your bike, you can wipe it down, use a motorcycle dryer or use an air compressor with low pressure. Wiping down your bike will take much longer, so we recommend using one of the other methods and using cloth to wipe away any excess water.

5. Dump your bucket of soapy water and refill it with clean water; then add your auto detergent. Use this mixture to wash plastic parts or those spots that were difficult to clean. Try not to use this on any areas that don't need it.

6. Rinse your bike once again to remove dirt and cleaner. Examine your bike for any missed areas and spot clean as needed.

7. Blow dry and take a dry microfiber cloth or chamois and spot dry where needed. Be gentle and be sure to leave no spots or streaks behind to ensure spotless drying.

8. Apply vinyl or leather protectant to your motorcycle seat. This will prevent cracking and keep your seat looking like new.

9. Remove any bugs or tar with your tar remover. Apply a generous amount to affected areas and let it sit for a minute. Use your sponge to wipe away the remover and any residue for a clean surface.

10. The last part of your bike you need to wash is the wheels. If you have aluminium wheels, all you will need is soapy water. If you have chrome wheels, then use your chrome cleaner. Start by spraying the wheels with the cleaner and let them soak for 30 seconds to a minute. Grab your sponge or microfiber cloth and wipe away dirt and grime. For really tough spots, a boar bristle brush works well for breaking up dirt or grease. Rinse the wheels and wipe dry.

11. Finish up with a wax or polish once your bike is clean. Lastly, spray bearings with a protectant, which will keep them in good condition and repel moisture and dirt.