Motorcycles were built to withstand the elements, but they are by no means invincible. Rust is the common enemy any metal component, and motorcycles have plenty of them. So preventing rust is the a very important part of maintaining a motorcycles appearance, longevity and optimal performance.
The causes of rusting
Rust, otherwise known as Iron oxide, is a byproduct of a process called corrosion. At any given point that iron, water, and oxygen are combined, rust or red oxide is formed. This then causes the affected metal to flake and disintegrate.
Anytime that you see rust on your precious bike comes with it the potential of it to be ridden with holes. And when you have holes or weak metal components on your motorcycle it becomes a major operational and safety concern for your unit. So it’s important to address a rust problem as soon as it appears.
Parts that are vulnerable to rust
Motorcycles nowadays are built to withstand sun, wind, weather and even snow. They are primarily built with a combination of carbon fiber, fiberglass, hard plastic, rubber and steel alloys. Steel alloys are a combination of metal elements that form a greater metal product that is generally harder, lighter and tougher than ordinary steel.
Exhaust systems in motorcycles are commonly fitted with chrome finish for aesthetic purposes and were once believed that it resists rust better. It is now known that it doesn’t. Chrome does rust, although not as readily as other metals.
Parts of your motorcycle that are prone to rusting:
- Exhaust pipes, exhaust manifold, muffler
- Engine Block
- Wheel spoke rims
- Drive chain and sprockets
- Metal handlebar
- Metal Gauge and other displays
- The inside of the fuel tank
- Brake pedal
- Gear shifter
- Clutch pedal
- Side and center stand
- Exposed nuts and bolts
- Plate number
- Ignition key
- Grab rail
- Other chromed parts of the motorcycle
It would be wise to periodically check the components listed above for any signs of rust.
How to Remove Rust
Assuming that you have already washed your motorcycle and dried it well, then you notice that some rust has accumulated on the underside of your bike’s engine block. This is mainly because that part of your motorcycle is what is usually exposed to mud, dirt, and rain. You can go two ways about removing it.
Use Commercial Rust removing Solution (WD-40, LimeAway, etc.)
- Wash and dry the rusted area removing any remaining dust or dirt.
- Spray the rust removing solution on the affected area then let sit for 30 minutes
- Once the rust is loosened, use a scrubbing pad to remove the rust flakes and wipe off completely after scrubbing. Try not to use a brush that will potentially scratch the metal as you clean it. Use a scrubber instead.
- Once rust is removed wash off any excess residue and wipe clean.
If you are an eco-friendly person who wants to make a difference for the environment, you can go natural by using full-strength vinegar to remove rust from your motorcycle. All you need is vinegar and a small spray bottle, a piece of cloth, and a sturdy scrubber.
- Use white distilled vinegar and put it in a small spray bottle.
- Remove any remaining dirt from the rusted area.
- Spray full-strength vinegar on the affected area.
- Let sit for 1 hour, then scrub off with a non-scratch scrubber
- Once rust is removed, wash with cleanser and water to remove any remaining vinegar acid.
Newer motorcycle models are made mostly of corrosion-resistant alloys, but nonetheless still corrodible. On the other hand, the older and classic motorcycles like Harley, Honda bikes, etc., still do sport a lot of chrome and metal parts that need real attention. Anyways, a bike that needs much attention isn’t much of a problem for riders. We take care of our bikes like we do our wives, or husbands as the case may be.
How to Clean Your Motorcycle Properly
Keeping your bike clean is a necessity, not only for practical purposes, but also goes well with the resale value. A well-kept motorcycle will always fetch a decent price once you are ready to sell it and upgrade.
Best Place to Clean Your Bike
You can do it outside the house under a shade. Avoid washing your bike under the hot sun, watermarks can quickly bake into the paint job which is really hard to remove. You can also stand your bike beside a small incline of your driveway, where you can wash away mud and dirt straight to the gutter.
Is it Okay to Use a Pressure Washer for Your Motorcycle?
It’s okay to use a pressure washer for your motorcycle, provided that you keep a few important things in mind. (Proceed to steps)
Tools for Cleaning:
- Garden hose or pressure washer (if available)
- Special motorcycle shampoo/wax or snow foam lance (whenever available)
- Center stand or rear paddock
- All-purpose cleaning cloth
- Long reach brush
- Waffle Drying Cloth
- Makes sure your motorcycle is completely dry before applying snow foam lance. When applying it, do cover all nooks and crannies, including the wheels and underside of your engine.
- Let the foam sit for at least ten minutes to soften dirt and grime.
- If you are using shampoo, wet the whole bike first before applying.
- Set the washer at the lowest pressure to avoid damaging your paint. High-pressure water hitting your motorcycles can potentially damage your paint if it is done often, and is directly sprayed straight unto the area.
- With low-pressure spray, cover wider areas like your cowlings and fairings first. Avoid spraying directly at your electronic apparatuses, as water may get into the electrical wiring, causing a short and damaging your bike’s electrical system.
- Spray in a non-penetrating and oblique manner. It’s okay to get everything wet just avoid directly spraying the electrical dash. (starter, speedometer dash, etc..)
- While rinsing your bike, use the long reach brush to brush away stubborn dirt and grime. Start from the top working your way down one section at a time. Do this from the handlebars going down to the fairing, then the seat, then the cowling, on to the metal engine components, to the swingarm, and last but not the least the wheels.
Working your way down avoids bringing dirt and grime up to your paint and seat. Rinse the brush at the same time to avoid any grit that may be stuck on it and could possibly scratch your paint.
- Pay special attention to small metal nooks and crannies that could catch rust.
- Do one quick final rinse to make sure all the shampoo or foam is gone.
- With the bike still wet and by using a waffle drying cloth, do a top to bottom wipe down in the same manner.
Remember, your washing ritual is designed to prevent any rust build-up and maintain shine and operational durability of the metal components of your bike.
What to Do with My Chain after Washing?
The chain of your bike is the most prone to rusting because of the friction generated, and the general abuse the metal takes as it drives your bike forward. Making sure that it is lubricated not only prolongs the life of your chain but increases your safety as a rider as well.
- Pull up your bike on the center stand
- Inspect the chain action by manually rolling your rear wheel or starting your engine and putting it on first gear to roll the chain.
- If everything checks out well, add on your special chain lubricant while the chain is slowly turning. Apply evenly until chain and sprockets are fully coated. Do not overcoat, lest you drip oil all over your driveway.
How Often Should I Wash My Motorcycle?
It really depends on the location that you live in. If you live in a dry country with not much dust, and or mud, then you can do it at least once or twice a week. If your location has a lot of rainfall then you would have to frequently clean your bike.
If it becomes especially dirty after a rainy, muddy ride, it would be wise to immediately wash the mud down (even without shampoo) on the same day to prevent unwanted rust build-up.
Here’s the Kicker: How to Ultimately Stop Rust
Use wax to prolong paint on your bike, then use a market specified rust blocker that has special formulation made only for non-moving metal components on your bike. Examples of these special metal preservatives are Cosmoline RP-342, Rust Prevention Magic (RPM) and many others.
These anti-rust formulations are not designed to be used on the moving parts of your motorcycle. Avoid putting them on brake discs and calipers. Additionally, your drive chain has a different set of lubes that you can use for maintenance. Better yet, keep them off your wheels altogether.
Packed in aerosol cans, these specially formulated rust blockers are pretty easy to apply. Just spray on lightly to all metal surfaces, from top to bottom of your bike. Lab tests have shown that these protectants last up to 5 months in-between applications.
How Often Should I Use these Anti-Rust Protectants on My Motorcycle?
Tests have shown that these don’t get stripped down with plain water. And, it does last as long as 5 months. So, if you washed your bike without shampoo or snow foam, chances are the protectant stays on. Then you wouldn’t have to reapply it. If you did wash it with snow foam, you can reapply the protectant. Other than that, you can rest easy knowing that somehow your bike is extra protected from rust.
Don’t forget to wipe off any drip.
It is important to note that if you live near the ocean, your bike is at risk of premature rusting due to the salty air. It is essential to keep your bike as clean and as dry as possible. The least you can do is every after wash you have to make sure every nook and cranny is dry, lest the moisture binds with the salt in the air activating the corrosion process.
Of course, this is where your corrosion protectant would come in handy. Likewise, if your bike comes in contact directly with salt water, wash it down as soon as possible.
Storing Your Bike for the Winter
There are many reasons why storing your bike for the winter would merit attention when it comes to avoiding rust. For one, an immobile unattended metal component can easily catch rust if not properly prepped for non-use in sub-zero temperatures.
Tips on Avoiding Rust on Your Bike During the Winter Months
Apart from doing all the stuff and preparations for the storage of your bike, be sure to take certain steps that will prevent the metal of your motorcycle from corroding. If you live in a place where temperatures fall below zero, it’s important to ensure that your throttle, shifter, kickstand, and clutch cables are all lubed up. So that when moisture and condensation get to them they don’t rust.
- Drain old oil and add fresh oil to your engine. Used oil can corrode internal engine parts.
- After washing don’t forget to apply wax for the body and antirust protectant for the metal parts. And lube up your drive chain as well. This should cover the next few months that your bike will be unused and collecting moisture and dust
- Purchase a cover for your bike and leave covered in a dry place inside the garage or the house. Do not leave your bike outside the house.
- Add fresh fuel to your tank and mix in fuel stabilizer to prevent your fuel from hardening and gumming. Gumming and sludge could potentially corrode the inside of your tank.
Overall, rust only appears when moisture, air, and dirt meet. If you keep the habit of maintaining your motorcycles cleanliness, then that would be the last of your worries. And if it does appear, a remedy is always available. That is, provided that you have the time and effort to work on it. So sparkle up and enjoy the ride.