Checklist For Buying a Used Motorcycle

Written by Danny Collins
Last updated: May 3, 2022

Are you planning to buy your first motorcycle? If you are, then congratulations! Motorcycling is a great way to get around and it can be a lot of fun too. There are many different types of motorcycles to choose from and the process of buying a motorcycle can be a bit overwhelming. If you’re in the market for a used motorcycle, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind. In this blog post, we’ll go over a checklist for buying a used motorcycle.

Buying a used bike may be intimidating to a first-time buyer. What should I look for? What should I ask for? How do I know if the motorcycle isn’t a lemon? So many confusing questions with what seems like not enough answers. But don’t worry, we’re here to help. Let us take a look at the checklist for buying a used motorcycle.

Overall Appearance of The Motorcycle

The first thing you should do is take a walk around the motorcycle. A clean bike is generally a good one. The seller must give you all the information about the motorcycle. You may be looking at a bike that can be restored as a project, and you’re prepared to overlook some flaws in the finished product. Only you know what is acceptable from a cosmetic standpoint.

Examine the bike carefully. It’s simple to tell a bike that has just been “rapidly cleaned” for sale from one that has been stored in a garage and pampered by a real enthusiast. Check all of the difficult-to-reach nooks and crannies. You are aware of the areas where dirt collects are more difficult to clean.

Important tip:  take along a small magnet when you go to look at a used motorcycle. Check for Bondo or other fillers by holding the magnet to different parts of the bike. These filler materials are not as strong as metal and will not be attracted to the magnet.

Chain and Sprocket Condition on a Motorcycle

On most motorcycles, the chain is exposed to the elements. The condition of the chain can tell you a lot about how well the bike was maintained. A dry, cracked, or rusted chain is a sign that the bike was not properly cared for.

Check the chain for any damage. The teeth on the sprockets should be in good condition as well. A new chain and sprocket set is not very expensive, but it’s a good idea to factor that cost into your offer if the bike you’re considering needs one.

Important tip: If the teeth on the sprocket are leaning over, they must be replaced. The chain will also need to be replaced.

Exhaust System on a Motorcycle

Let’s start with the exhaust first. You want to turn the engine on and listen to it roar. There’ll be plenty of time for that later. For the initial look, you want the bike cold. Engines that are too hot will not turn over as readily. When you call the seller to arrange a meeting place so you can view his motorcycle, ask him to have the bike cool when you get there.

This is because you want to make sure the exhaust is firmly in place. The motorcycle’s exhaust system is subjected to a lot of motion from the engine, which can lead to the mounts and pipe failing. You may detect corrosion in areas where you don’t have a clear sight if you listen for exhaust leaks. When you first start the engine, any exhaust leaks will be immediately apparent.

Important tip: Exhaust header dents can cause difficulties in the performance department. It’s critical to look at it from underneath. You may have to lay on your back.

Frame and Suspension on a Motorcycle

If you’re on the ground checking on the exhaust, you may as well give the frame a once-over. Look closely. Is there any sign that the bike has hit anything? Get your hands dirty with the frame as well. Slide your hands over as much of it as possible. You might feel something you can’t see because some manufacturers use Bondo to repair frames.

Check the steering head bearings for wear or looseness. Rock the bike back and forth while keeping the front brake lever pressed. It’s a good sign that the steering head bearing is loose or worn if you feel movement or hear a clicking sound when you press your hand over the upper triple clamp and frame.

Important tip:  All the frame welds should be inspected. Check for any cracks or breaks in the welds, especially around the engine mounts.

Clutch and Brakes on a Motorcycle

The clutch should engage smoothly, and the lever should have a consistent feel. You shouldn’t hear any strange noises when you turn the engine on with the bike in gear. Depress the clutch lever and hold it while you move the shifter through all of the gears. The bike should shift without any grinding sounds.

Now, pump the brakes a few times to get rid of any air that may have gotten into the system. The brake pedal should feel firm when you press it down. With the bike on its stand, spin each wheel and check to see if the brakes are dragging at all. This can be caused by a sticking calliper or pads that are worn down too much.

Important tip: The front and rear brake fluid reservoirs should be at the proper level and free of any contamination.

Tires and Wheels

The bike’s tires can tell you a lot about its condition. Newer bikes will have shiny, fresh-looking rubber. Older bikes will have duller, harder tires. Check the tread depth to see if they will need to be replaced soon. Also, look for any cracks or signs of dry rot in the sidewalls.

The bike should be sitting level when you check the tire pressure. If it’s not, that’s an indication that the suspension needs some work. Uneven tire pressure can also cause handling issues.

Important tip: The bike’s owner’s manual will have the recommended tire pressure for both front and rear tires.

Fuel Tanks

If the bike has been sitting for a while, there may be some bad gas in the tank. To clean it out, you’ll need to add fresh gas and run the engine for a bit. This will help to flush any contaminants out of the system. Check the fuel lines for cracks or leaks. Make sure all the connections are tight. Also, check the fuel filter to see if it needs to be replaced.

Important tip: If the bike has been sitting for a while, the seals in the fuel system may have dried out. This can cause leaks. To fix this, you’ll need to add fresh gas and run the engine for a bit. This will help to flush any contaminants out of the system.

Electrical System

Check all the lights to make sure they are working. Also, check the turn signals and horn. Make sure all the switches are in good working order. The bike’s battery should be in good condition. If it’s more than a few years old, it might need to be replaced. Check the terminals to make sure they are clean and tight.

Important tip: If the bike has been sitting for a while, the battery may be dead. You can test this by turning on the headlights. If they are dim or don’t work at all, the battery will need to be replaced.

The Engines

Now it’s time to check the engine. First, make sure there is no oil leaking from the engine. Also, check the coolant level and make sure there are no leaks in the cooling system. The engine should start easily and run smoothly. Listen for any strange noises that might indicate something is wrong. Also, check the exhaust to see if there are any signs of leaks.

Important tip: If the bike has been sitting for a while, the seals in the engine may have dried out. This can cause oil leaks. To fix this, you’ll need to add fresh oil and run the engine for a bit. This will help to flush any contaminants out of the system.

Title & Registration

The bike’s title and registration should be up to date. If they’re not, that’s a red flag. The bike may have been stolen or involved in some other type of crime. Check the VIN (vehicle identification number) to make sure it matches the one on the title and registration. The VIN is usually located on the frame near the steering head.

 Important tip: You can run a bike check to see if the bike has been reported stolen or if there are any outstanding recalls.

This is just a basic checklist to help you when you’re looking at used motorcycles. There are other things you’ll want to look at, but this should give you a good starting point. Remember to take your time and do your research and run a bike check before buying any used bike.