How to Clean a Motorcycle Engine

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Motorcycles have seen a surge in popularity in recent years, and there are more bikes on the road now than ever. That also means there are people who are new to the world of bikes, and aren't familiar with how to detail or clean them. It makes sense to assume that you should clean a motorcycle the same way you would clean car, but actually there are different steps to the process. Cleaning the engine of your bike should take an hour or so, depending on the level of grit and grime it has. In these instructions, the example vehicle is a Harley Davidson with an open engine compartment, but some motorcycles may require you to first remove fairings or trim to access the engine.

How to Clean a Motorcycle Engine
(Dana Dowling/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic bags and masking tape
  • Citrus-based degreaser
  • Hose and water source
  • 1-inch round brush with soft bristles
  • Air compressor and air hose
  • Low-pressure air nozzle
  • Rubber protectant
  • Microfiber towel
  • Spray chrome polish
Step 1

Let the engine of the motorcycle cool completely, so that it's not hot to the touch. Spraying water on a hot engine can crack the block.

Make sure the engine is cool enough to touch.
Dana Dowling/Demand Media
Step 2

Cover any sensitive electronics using the plastic bags, and seal them from water, using the masking tape. Sensitive components include the computer, if the bike is so equipped, ignition coil or any fuse blocks. If you have any doubt that the electrical component could short out, cover it with plastic before washing the bike.

Use plastic bags and tape to protect your electronics.
Dana Dowling/Demand Media
Step 3

Spray the citrus-based degreaser onto the engine and scrub the engine using the round brush, working from the bottom of the engine up towards the top. Depending on the dirt and grime on the engine, you may need to allow the degreaser to work for 3 to 5 minutes, but do not allow to degreaser to dry on the engine, as it could stain the finish. Try not to hit any painted surfaces, otherwise you may have to re-wax the areas.

Scrub the engine with a sponge and degreaser.
Dana Dowling/Demand Media
Step 4

Rinse off the engine using the hose and low-pressure water to rinse off the degreaser.

Blow dry to prevent water spots.
Dana Dowling/Demand Media
Step 5

Use the low-pressure air nozzle connected to the air hose and air compressor to spray off any excess water from the engine. This is going to prevent water spots from forming on the engine, and will also help to dry off the surface. Get in all of the nooks and crannies with the nozzle, eliminating the water in the process.

Step 6

Apply the rubber protectant to any rubber surfaces on the engine, wiping off the excess or overspray on the engine, using the microfiber towel. This will help keep the rubber looking sharp and clean. Apply the chrome cleaner to any chrome components and shine them up with another microfiber towel, wiping off all of the cleaner in a circular motion.

Clean and protect the rubber and chrome.
Dana Dowling/Demand Media

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't use cleaning products containing ammonia. The ammonia will discolor the chrome on your bike.
  • Don't use high-pressure water or air when cleaning your engine. High pressure can damage your bike's finish and force water into seals as well as overcome the protection of the plastic bags used to cover electronic components.
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