Inspecting and buying a motorcycle

Inspecting and buying a motorcycle
« on: July 28, 2008, 04:41:18 PM »
Just interested to know what other people think is important when inspecting a motorcycle for the first time with a view to buying it.  If you can help out with good info, I'll tidy the whole set of posts up and credit you all in the final guide.

Here's my few pence worth:

Document check

Check the person selling is the legal owner and if not make sure they have a good reason why.  "Selling for a mate" should be treated with caution if the mate's existence can't be proven.  Remember, you can steal documents as well as a bike.
Check MOT due date.
Check number of former keepers - lots of previous owners could mean that the bike is not reliable.
Check the service history - Main dealer servicing is important for the first few thousand miles.  If it has not been serviced by a garage, quiz the owner on what has been done by them.  A good test question I find is to ask what oil they put in the bike.  A keen amateur mechanic tells you 'Semi- synthetic', a very keen one tells you 'Castrol Semi-synthetic', a full blown mechanic actually wears a bit on his shirt and offers you a taste!

Visual check
Check the bike all round for scuffs which show it has been dropped.
Check panel fit - big gaps mean possible alignment issues caused by frame twists, again possible signs it has been down the road sideways.
Don't be afraid to walk quite far away from the bike and check how it looks when on the centre stand at the front sides and rear.  On the centre stand with the handlebars dead straight often reveals twisted frames when viewed from directly in front of the bike.  Attempt to line up the front wheel with the back one visually from about 3 or 4 metres away. If the frame is twisted, walk away or negotiate a large price reduction as this is costly to put right.
Remove the oil filler cap and check if there is a milky residue on the inside, sign of a coolant leak into the engine.
Check for oil leaks all over the engine.  Check for fuel leaks on the carburettors/injectors and around the fuel tap.  Check where the owner parks the bike to see if there are any puddles of oil or petrol.
While there, check oil level (engine cold and sitting level on the centre stand).  Open the fuel tank filler and check for corrosion inside the tank.

Tyres and wheels
Check tyres for bulges (signs of hard impact) and low tread (replacement required).  Uneven wear can often mean a bad frame geometry, possibly the result of an accident  It could also be as simple as the wheel alignment is not done correctly (check the notches match up on the rear wheel's swinging arm).
Wear on just the outsides of the tyre is generally due to incorrect tyre pressures.
Tyres are one of the more expensive parts on a motorcycle so knock the price down by the price of a new tyre.
Wheels come in all shapes and sizes but they have to run 'true' otherwise handling suffers.  Try putting the bike onto centre stand and holding a pencil 2mm from the wheel rim.  Spin the wheel and look at the 2mm gap.  It should remain the same size, if not the wheel is buckled, a costly replacement.  Other possibilities include bad wheel bearings which can be tested for by listening to the wheel spinning and also pushing the wheel from side to side and front to back to test for any play.  Get someone to sit on the back of the bike to raise the front wheel from the ground here.

Chain and sprockets
Hooked teeth on a sprocket mean that it's up for replacement.  Chain adjustment should be done regularly to prevent problems here.  A baggy chain can damage your engine if it comes off.  Any you for that matter.....

A test drive is the best test but here are a few static tests:
Check the rear shock absorber for leaks.
Check if the settings are on maximum and ask why.  This often tests how the owner rides the bike (soft settings = good for town use) and how much he knows about fine tuning the ride.
Check the fork seals for weeping.  If the owner has just cleaned the stanchions or shock absorber then you will need to pump the front and bounce the rear a few tines to see any fresh oil emerge.  Fork seals are not expensive but the job can be fiddly.  Rear shocks are often quite pricey and awkward to do.

Cooling system




If you can start the bike cold, then do so a few times.  This is harder work for the battery.  For a good test, leave the headlamp on for 2 to 3 minutes then start the engine.  A good battery won't be affected too much by this, a bad one will.  For those who are OK with a multimeter, you should get 13 to 14.5 Volts across the battery when the engine is running, 12 Volts when stopped.  Some bikes show the battery well enough to see the electrolyte level, there is normally a Max and Min marker on the side.  Too little electrolyte can mean there is an overcharging problem.  Too much can only mean bad topping up!

Steering head bearings
With the front wheel raised (someone pushing on the rear seat) turn the handlebars slowly from one side to another.  I usually repeat this a few times then do it quickly a few times.  Any notchiness here is probably the steering head bearings which may need replacement.

Engine noise
Firstly, make sure the engine is cold.  If it was warm when you first arrived then the owner may be trying to hide a bad starting problem.  Also, a warm engine often hides the knocking of worn internals like big end bearings or even start-up smoke from the exhaust.

The test drive

OK, I've done quite a bit here, need to fill in the blanks as my brain hurts.  I will add to this when I can too.  Any offers?

Inspecting and buying a motorcycle
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2008, 05:47:31 PM »
PS please don't crib text from any other websites!

Inspecting and buying a motorcycle
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2009, 07:55:12 PM »
gone are the days when you met the seller ,listened to it, walked round it while the seller revs it a bit, take it for a quick blast, if you liked it you handed over the cash, took the log book, scribbled a hand written receipt and rode off on it ,(oh happy days )
on that note anybody remember when the m.o.t. garage tested your brakes with a set of weighing scales tied to the garage wall !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Inspecting and buying a motorcycle
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2009, 08:40:13 PM »
HPi checks are cheap and easy to get done and can even be done via text I think?!?!
test ride: go through all the gears by short shifting, and then rev each to the redline (speedlimits permitting). Does the bike feel straight and neutral? any funny noises? brakes: test them undre light and hard braking forces, if they pulse then new discs may be needed, does it fuel correctly, an aftermarket zorst may sound sweet but if its not been set up for it then it'll be all show and no go!
Does the bike come with ALL the oe parts that have been swapped for bling goodness? if not, knock the price down as bling is personal and may mean you have issues selling when the time comes yourself!


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Inspecting and buying a motorcycle
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2009, 01:07:50 AM »
Any doubts about a bike, the deal or the person selling it to you, walk away. There are loads of bikes out there dont land yourself with a turkey!