Every time you ride your dirt bike it has to take an absolute hammering! It gets plastered in mud, and has to handle some of the roughest terrain; and over time this can take its toll. Dirt bike maintenance is essential to keep your machine running happily, and to stop it falling apart as you head out into the trail.
In this post we'll look at what maintenance you'll need to carry out after every ride, and at regular intervals. Many of the parts on a dirt bike only have a certain service life, so I recommend that you fit an hour meter LIKE THIS to help you stay on track with your maintenance schedule.
Dirt bike Maintenance to be carried out after every ride
1. Wash the dirt bike
This may not sound like maintenance, but by cleaning off dirt and grit you're preventing excessive wear and corrosion. You'd be surprised at how quick certain types of mud will eat into an aluminium frame and engine block, leaving visible pitting.
Grit will also collect on the chain, the sprockets, between brake pads and discs, and in all the other other moving parts, so it needs to be removed. If left, this grit will not only cause each part to wear out quicker, but these parts will also become less efficient.
2. Oil moving parts
After washing your dirt bike, be sure to oil your cables at both ends to stop them rusting and seizing up. You can also put a spot of oil at the pivot points on the levers to keep them working as smoothly as possible.
The chain will also need oiling, but be sure to clean any fine dust and sand from between the links before you oil it. Do this with a firm plastic bristle brush, and also remember to clean the sprocket. Don't use a wire brush if you're using an x-ring or o-ring chain as you'll cause damage to the seals on each link.
3. Cross-check it
We're always told to check every single nut and bolt to make sure it hasn't vibrated loose, but the truth is that most riders don't do this. I recommend checking the wheels, forks, handlebars, and swingarm nuts after every single ride, but for everything else there's cross-check.
Dykem cross-check is a thick liquid that you can mark the nuts, and heads of your bolts with. This lets you visually check them, rather than going over every bolt with a spanner, making maintenance much quicker. It won't wash off, but it is removable, this means that if you remove a nut or bolt, you can easily re-mark it after tightening it back up.
Check out this awesome product on Amazon here > Dykem Cross-Check.
4. Clean the air filter
Keeping the air filter clean and oiled is super important. Just a single piece of grit is enough to put a score line inside the cylinder, or cause damage to a piston ring, so you need to do your best to prevent it getting through.
When you remove the seat to reach the filter, it's also a good idea to wash inside the airbox. You can use an airbox wash cover to prevent any grit or water going through the intake into the engine.
5. Check tire pressures
After the tires have cooled down you'll need to check both tire pressures. It's likely that you adjusted them to suit the conditions you were riding on that day, so now's a good time to set them back to the safe margins of 12 psi front and 13 psi rear.
6. Check for leaks
By keeping the engine clean, you should be able to spot air and oil leaks very easily. Looks for oily marks, or drips on the floor, and check around the cylinder and exhaust for sooty marks.
Check your brake fluid reservoirs, brake calipers, and hydraulic brake cables. And check around your radiators, coolant pipes, and water pump gasket. Any leaks should be dealt with before riding the dirt bike again.
7. Check the sprockets, chain, and adjustment
Check the chain for wear by referring to the service manual. You will measure the distance between a stated number of links to see if the chain is excessively worn, and needs replacing.
If the chain needs replacing it's a good idea to change the sprockets at the same time, and vise versa. To check the sprockets simply look for hooked over teeth, broken teeth, or grooving between the teeth.
The chain needs to be adjusted correctly after each ride. A slack chain will wear the sprockets and could jump off while under power, potentially causing damage.
A tight chain is also bad, and can lead to a broken countershaft bearing. In some cases the countershaft bearing has been known to break out of the engine case. It can also break the chain, which can then smash through your engine case.
You will also need to refer to your service manual, as there will be a measurement to set the chain slack at. This will be measured from the top of the swingarm to the bottom of the chain as you pull up on it.
Maintenance to be carried out at regular intervals
8. Oil change
4-strokes: It's recommended that you change the engine oil in a 4-stroke dirt bike every 5 hours, and change the oil filter at 10 hours.
2-strokes: change the gearbox oil on 2-stroke dirt bikes every 6 hours.
Fork oil: forks have a hard life, so it's recommended that you change the fork oil after 25 hours.
9. New air filter
As previously mentioned, you should clean your filter after every ride, but you should change it for a new one after about 5 rides. If the air filter looks worse for wear, or if it looses its shape, then it should be changed regardless of how many rides you've done.
Depending on where you're riding, the air filter may need changing sooner. Dusty and sandy conditions will destroy air filters, so be mindful of the conditions you're riding over.
10. Change piston and rings
The length of time a piston and rings will last depends on how the dirt bike is ridden. Motocross racers will wear out pistons much faster than weekend riders gently riding along a trail.
The track conditions will also make a difference, as fine dust and sand can easily find its way into the engine, shortening the life of these parts.
4-strokes: if the dirt bike is used for racing, then it's recommended that the piston is changed every 30 hours of riding.
Many people will tell you that if the bike is ridden gently you will be able to get over 100 hours out of a 4-stroke piston, but beware that fatigue may cause the piston to break, so changing it sooner is recommended. Aim to change it every 50 - 60 hours of less aggressive riding.
2-strokes: due to the nature of a 2-stroke (poor lubrication, higher revving), the piston will need changing much sooner. If used for racing then the piston should be changed after 15 - 20 hours of riding.
2-strokes that are ridden less aggressively can run for 50 hours before the piston needs changing.
It's recommended that you also change the little end bearing and the spark plug at every engine rebuild. Find out how to rebuild a 2-stroke engine, along with some valuable tips HERE.
There's no telling when a bearing will wear out, so they should be checked regularly and replaced as soon as any play is detected.
Wheel bearings: check the wheels bearings by firmly holding the dirt bike, and attempting to move the wheels side to side.
Swingarm bearings: place the dirt bike on a stand and hold it firmly, attempt to move the swingarm side to side, feeling and listening for play.
Swingarm linkage bearings: these bearings can also be checked while the dirt bike is on its stand. Grab the rear wheel and attempt to move it up and down, any movement will point to the linkage bearings, or the top rear shock bearing.
Steering head bearings: check these bearings by sitting on the dirt bike and holding the front brake on. Push and pull on the handlebars as if trying to move the bike back and forth, and feel for play in the steering head.
12. Check fluids
Check your front and rear brake fluid reservoirs, and your clutch fluid if you have an hydraulic clutch. Keep them topped up, and be sure to use the correct fluid as suggested in the manual. Brake and clutch fluid will absorb moisture over time, so plan to replace it once per year, preferably after the winter.
Check your engine coolant after every ride, and keep it topped up, and be sure to use coolant to top it up with, and not water. You should also flush and replace the coolant once per year.
Stay on top of your dirt bike maintenance schedule to keep your dirt bike performing as intended. Remember that your dirt bike has to endure massive amounts of stress during each ride, and if these steps are skipped its performance will suffer.
Any more dirt bike maintenance tips are welcome in the comments below, I will then add them to the list to help other riders!