A well maintained bike is a safe bike, and it is for this reason that the so-called P.O.W.D.E.R.S.S. checks are a vitally important part of safe riding, allowing you to spot small problems before they become big problems. Here we take a closer look at these all important checks.
As we all know, it stands for Petrol, Oil, Water, Damage/Drive, Electrics, Rubber, Steering/Suspension. Think of them as your "pre-flight" check list.
Not only check if you have enough fuel for your journey but also consider the following. If you decide to lay your bike up for a long period of time, “brim” your tank to the top with fuel. Petrol unlike other fuels is extremely cold; when it sits in a metal container (your tank) it will generate condensation which in turn will mix with the petrol. As everyone knows water mixed with petrol is very bad thing and will seriously damage your engine. A lot of people lay up their bikes over the winter period in a cold garage and leave just a small amount of fuel in the bike’s tank - not a great thing to do.
Check the oil level to make sure it's at the correct height, either by a dipstick or a spy glass in the side of the engine casing. Remember to have the bike on its centre stand, use a paddock stand or get someone to sit on the bike to keep it vertical. Remember, over-filling an engine with oil is much worse than letting the level drop below the minimum mark. An over-filled engine will blow oil seals everywhere around the engine and will cost loads to rectify.
If you have a liquid-cooled engine, check the level of the coolant with the bike on its centre stand or with the bike totally vertical. If the level is low, do not use tap water. Always top up with a mix of distilled water and anti-freeze. Anti-freeze not only keeps the coolant from freezing in the winter but also helps to stop your bike from over-heating in the summer. Don’t just check the water level but also check the anti-freeze mix. You can buy a handy little tester from Halfords that measures the amount of anti-freeze present in the coolant mix. The gadget only costs a few pounds.
Check your bike for damage, not only to fairings but also light lenses, brake and coolant hoses, cracks to the bike’s frame, missing fairing bolts, dents to the wheel rims from pot holes, brake calliper bolts loosened from vibration, cuts or brakes to the wiring harness and most importantly, damage to your crash helmet. If you accidentally drop your lid or if it falls off your seat, then don’t wear it until you have a specialist examine it. Whilst focusing on helmet security, always try and take your helmet with you when away from your bike. You never know what can happen to it! When you do leave your helmet with your bike, place it between the clip on handle bars, it won’t roll off the bike and the bike’s screen will protect it from the rain. The other option is to place your gloves on the floor with the palms facing down and put the helmet on top.
Do a visual check of the chain and lube if required. Also make sure the tension is correct and it's not too loose. Shaft drive – check for leaks.
Complete a full lights check before a ride. Remember to check both the foot and hand brake switches. Give the horn a quick blip and if you are planning to lay the bike up for a while during the winter, it’ll be worth buying a trickle charger.
Tyres keep you in contact with the road, so make sure you look after them. Check the tyre pressures when the tyres are cold because the pressure will read higher when you start moving and the tyres get warm. Place a bit of spit on your finger and smear it into the valve to ensure the valve is not leaking air bubbles. Obviously, check the tread depth of both tyres and clear out any small stones between the tread pattern. The minimum tread depth for motorcycle tyres in the UK is 1.0 mm across 75% of the tread surface with visible tread on the remainder (no slicks). Visually check both walls of each tyre to make sure there are no cracks starting to form due to lack of use or age. If you are going to lay the bike up for more than a month on a cold concrete floor, place a piece of carpet under both tyres because cold concrete with draw silica oil out of the rubber and reduce the performance on the tyre.
Make sure everything is working smoothly. Check the dampers are working, check the brake levers and their action.
We've touched on laying the 'bike up during the Winter. You might ride infrequently, say every six weeks in the winter months. The new fuel blends have 5% or 10% ethanol alcohol, which is the same ingredient as anti-freeze (basically alcohol). Alcohol attracts moisture from the air which will eventually start to corrode the inside of the fuel tank. This attracts water and causes serious misfires or no-starts. After about 6 weeks of non-running storage, it also ruins fuel lines, gaskets, fibreglass tanks, and carb parts and forms a white gel-like acidic gunge that clogs and eats away fuel lines, filters, carb venturis etc. If you fill the tank to brim, there will be no air gap at the top which in turn means no place for moisture to collect. You might also consider trying out a fuel additive such as Putoline fuel stabilizer if you plan on leaving your bike stored over winter.
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