Motorcycle breakdowns are one of the most feared aspects of motorcycling. At the very least, they can leave you stranded on the side of the road, calling for rescue, and faced with a hefty repair bill. At the very worst, they could result in a major accident, and could very well put your life, as well as the life of other road users in danger.
Having said all that, most motorcycle breakdowns are caused by mechanical failure, mostly due to negligence towards maintenance and repairs. With that, let’s take a look at the top 5 most common causes for motorcycle breakdowns, as well as a few precautionary measures you can take in order to avoid being faced with this problem down the road.
Tire failure accounts for a large chunk of motorcycle-related accidents due to the fact that it can be all too easy to take tire maintenance for granted. The same can be said for running proper tire pressures, too, with many riders doing away with checking tire pressures in favor of visual inspections. While a visual inspection can tell you whether or not your tires are flat, it can’t tell you whether or not you’re running the right tire pressure.
Riding your motorcycle with too soft or too hard a tire can result in premature wear, as well as nonoptimal traction. As a result, your tires won’t last as long, and the likelihood of a blowout, especially towards the end of your tires’ service life becomes even greater. Of course, common sense dictates that once you’ve reached your tires’ tread wear indicators, that it’s time to splurge out the dough on a new set.
Your motorcycle’s brakes are by far the most important part of your bike. They literally spell the difference between life and death, as they’re solely responsible for putting your motorcycle to a stop. That said, while a hydraulic braking system is a rather simple system, this isn’t to say that it doesn’t need maintenance. Just like tires, it can be very easy to forget about looking after your brake fluid, brake pads, as well as the overall condition of your brake lines, calipers and master cylinders
In order to avoid brake failure, be sure to check the level and condition of your brake fluid. If it’s below the minimum level mark, or looks very dark in color, chances are that the fluid won’t be able to optimally actuate the brakes. Additionally, checking on your pad thickness is also a good way to keep your brakes performing at their best at all times.
Another common cause of motorcycle breakdowns is overheating due to engine issues. This is more common on liquid-cooled machines which make use of coolant, a water pump, and a radiator to keep temperatures at bay. A leak in your coolant system, a damaged water pump, or a non-functioning radiator fan can contribute to overheating, and result in you being stranded on the side of the road.
Air-cooled motorcycles, although much less prone to overheating, can also overheat especially when ridden hard or in traffic for extended periods of time. Using old or low quality engine oil can also have a detrimental effect to the heat-dissipating capabilities of an air-cooled motor.
Electrical problems are among the biggest pains in the neck, especially for older motorcycles. This is because electrical issues tend to be intermittent in nature, meaning they’re only present sometimes, then seemingly gone the next. A motorcycle’s electrical system is relatively simple, however, it’s also a system on which various aspects of your motorcycle depend on in order to keep running.
Keeping your motorcycle’s electrical system healthy is rather simple. For starters, make sure your battery is healthy, and maintains a steady charge when the engine is running. Be sure to clean out your battery terminals every now and then. Checking for kinks, tears, and breaks on the various wires of your motorcycle can also help prevent issues with your electrical system down the road.
Your motorcycle’s chain is really the only thing connecting your engine to your rear wheel. Without it, your bike is nothing more than a very heavy paperweight. As such, ensuring proper chain maintenance is of paramount importance. Not only can a broken chain result in you being stranded on the side of the road, it also, more often than not, results in some hefty collateral damage to your wheels, bodywork, and maybe even your crankcase. At the very worst, a loose chain can break away and hit you, lock up the rear wheel, and cause a crash.
Maintaining your chain is a relatively simple task. Ensure that your motorcycle’s chain is well lubricated and free of any rust. Also, be sure that your chain has been set to proper tension, as a chain that’s too loose is more prone to skipping, while a chain that’s too tight significantly increases wear to your bike’s drivetrain, and increases the risk of snapping a link.