The 10-step way to really clean your bike
Delight is in the details
Everyone has their ideas on how to wash a motorcycle but just using a bit of motorcycle shampoo and maybe giving your bike a polish will not keep it looking as if it just rolled off the showroom floor. We decided to use our long-term Yamaha XJ6S as our guinea-pig to show you how to give your bike a makeover, using the big Meguiars cleaning kit.
1 One trick before you start washing is to get rid of the bugs that have sacrificed themselves. Wet a tea towel with warm water and drape it over the front of the motorcycle and leave it to soak for 5-10 mins. That will loosen the bodies and they should just wipe off.
2 Strip the bike down; take at least the side fairings off so you have greater access to the engine and all of that dirt. Leave the seat on at this stage because there are electrical components that you really don’t want to soak.
3 Use a quality motorcycle specific degreaser and brush to shift some of the grime and crud that collects on the front parts of the engine and clean your chain as well.
After waiting a few minutes for the degreaser to work, spray it off. Use caution with the radiator because spraying high-pressure water onto them can damage the grille. The same goes for using the brush to remove dirt, BE CAREFUL! Try to avoid spraying too much water around the ignition switch, spark plugs, fuel tank cap, throttle body and fuel injection system.
4 After washing the degreaser off, get a steel wool soap pad, I must stress the soapy one, and scrub the exhaust engine pipes (not your mufflers). I suggest you do a little test patch first to see that you are happy with the result, if so, get scrubbing until the pipes are clean. If you do this to your bike from new, you will have clean shiny pipes throughout its life.
5 Hose the bike down. Get your quality bike or car shampoo. Please DON’T use dish washing liquid! It won’t be the worst thing in the world but it won’t do the surface of your bike any good either because it usually contains salt. Save Sunlight for the dishes. Plus, you don’t have to buy the most expensive vehicle shampoo out there; many shampoos are available at very reasonable prices. I use Meguiars Hyper Wash. Lather the bike with a quality sponge to remove any other dirt. I use two sponges, one for the metal parts and a super clean one for the paintwork because you don’t want to scratch that nice colour do you? Soak the sponge frequently so it has plenty of soap to assist in the washing process. Don’t forget to thoroughly wash the fairings/parts that previously removed. Then hose the whole lot down.
6 Dry it off. There are many chamois makers that claim all sorts of drying capabilities for their products but over the years I have found Meguiars Soft Buff synthetic chamois works faultlessly. I actually once again have two, one for the paintwork and another for the engine, wheels and so on. If your bike has lots of tight spaces, an air blower works a treat to rid of any excess water in preparation for some protection.
7 Spray it. Get yourself a quality silicone spray and coat the engine, plastics and wheels, just don’t get any on the tyres! Spraying will give it a fantastic shine; will protect rubber bits and the surface of the engine; and it makes it easier to wash next time because most of the dirt will be stuck to the silicone rather than the metal on the engine.
If you don’t want to spray silicone onto the intricate parts around the dash, use a product such as Meguiars Natural Shine vinyl and rubber protectant and apply with a piece of rag. Remember to clean the clear face of the clocks and your side view mirrors as some spray will get onto them.
Don’t get any of the slippery silicone spray or vinyl protectant on the seat because you will soon be hanging off like Valentino Rossi when you don’t want to be or, worse, you will end up sliding down the road on your bum. If you want to maintain the seat, I recommend Meguiars Gold Class trim detailer because it is the least slippery product out there.
8 After all of this is done, replace the parts you took off and move the bike into a cool, shaded area to polish the paintwork.
First, clean the paint with a microfibre cloth; I use a Meguiars Supreme shine microfibre cloth, which is a large handy size.
Check your paintwork for any damaged areas that may require touching up with some body colour. Clean the area to be touched up and thoroughly shake or stir your can of body colour before applying. Get hold of a fine touch-up brush, available from most automotive suppliers, and apply the body colour lightly and allow to completely dry before moving to the next step.
Shake the bottle of your chosen polish. I use Meguiars new Colour X, which has been tested and proven to restore your oxidised or contaminated finish to a deep colour and gloss. It also helps remove fine scratches and swirl marks and with its polish and wax combination will dramatically revive brilliant colour and add a long lasting protection that locks in the shine.
Apply polish with an Even-Coat Applicator in a nice small circular motion and remove the residue with a Supreme Shine Microfibre cloth in the same way. Remember to turn the microfibre cloth after wiping the polish off, to remove any further residue.
If your paintwork is dulled from neglect, buffing may be the only way to revive it. Only use an electric buffer if you are an expert because motorcycles have lots of sharp edges and bits for the buff to catch on, which will make it burn through the paint. If you are lazy and think this is an easier way, you are wrong, because you will still need to use the old elbow grease with a final coat of polish to get the bike to showroom finish.
Now is time to get out your metal polish to brighten up those fork stanchions, rearsets, exhaust pipes, levers, chrome work and anything else made from metal. I use Meguiars Motorcycle all metal polish, which does a fantastic job of brightening metal parts to a shine that requires sunglasses to look at it and incidentally also smells great. Use a backward and forward motion, not a circular one on metal parts or you will get swirl marks.
Last but not least: ride your pristine shiny machine to warm up the chain, remember to be careful, as some water may still be on the brakes and this will increase braking distances until they warm up/get hot. Ride home and coat the chain with a quality lube and allow it to dry.
Check your owner’s manual to see if there are any lubrication points, if so, lubricate with the recommended product to extend the life of your bike.
9 Voila! One immaculate looking motorcycle for you and your mates to drool over! The entire process will take at least two hours, probably considerably more. It took me just over three to bring our XJ6S back to its best but I have been known to spend days on a bike getting it better than the factory ever could.
10 To keep your bike looking at its best and for a quick clean in between washes, use Meguiars Quik Detailer, which is a supplement to regular washing. This quick mist on/wipe off formula lifts off dirt, grime and contaminants without scratching your paintwork. Actually I have washed an entire bike with this stuff and it looks just as good as regular washing.
After all this hard work, I think you are entitled to a cold one!
Remove all the bits.
Degrease then get the tough bits off.
Use a soap pad on the exhaust – not the mufflers!
Dry it with a chamois.
Spray it with silicon.
Recommended cleaning agents
These are the products I used to clean the bike: Meguiars Hyper Wash, Meguiars Soft Buff synthetic chamois, Meguiars Natural Shine Vinyl & Rubber Protectant, Meguiars Gold Class Trim Detailer, Meguiars Supreme Shine Microfibre Cloth, Meguiars Colour X, Meguiars Motorcycle All Metal Polish and Meguiars Quik Detailer.
A fabulous, better than new result.