Washing Your Dirt Bike
If your dirt bike is just going to get dirty again, why wash it at all? The fact is, good dirt bike maintenance starts with good cleaning habits -- if for no other reason than, “you can’t fix a problem if you can’t see it in the first place.”
It’s a good idea to get into the habit of washing your dirt bike after every riding session. Find a routine that works for you and stick to it – the easier you make it for yourself, the more likely you are to do it. What follows is a combination of how my buddies and I keep our dirt bikes clean, take what works for you and alter as needed.
Step one is to plug that exhaust pipe. You can buy an exhaust plug, shove in a cork, stuff in a rag, or hold a plastic bag in place with a rubber band -- anything that’ll keep water out of your exhaust (without getting stuck in the pipe itself).
If the ride was dry and the most you did was kick up some dust, a good hosing off is often all you need.
If you have a lot of caked on mud and grime you’re going to need some extra pressure. I stick to the “pistol” attachment on my garden hose – it has a variety of settings to adjust the flow and pressure. I keep clear of pressure washers as much as possible and use them VERY carefully when I have to. A pressure washer can force water, and even the grit you’re trying to remove, into seals, bearings, electrical parts, and cables.
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Work from top to bottom when washing and rinsing, and get yourself a routine for which parts and which side you’ll wash and in which order. If you do it the same way every time, you’ll get a little faster every time.
If you’re lucky, the hose will get off all the muck, but chances are you’ll have to do a little scrubbing as well. A stroll through the household section of any department store will get you a huge selection of brushes in all shapes and sizes for getting into all your dirt bike’s nook and crannies.
I don’t use a cleaner or detergent every time, but that’s just a personal preference – again, it makes things a little easier and faster, so I’m willing to do it regularly. If you choose to soap it up, you can buy specific products for cleaning bikes, but I’ve never run into trouble using the same stuff I wash my truck with.
If you have a lot of grease or oil to get rid of, it’s worth using a spray-on degreaser. Follow the instructions. Note that if you use a degreaser on your dirt bike while on a paved driveway, there’s a good chance it’s going to stain.
With detergents and/or degreasers, rinse well!
If your dirt bike is liquid-cooled, be careful around the radiator fins. My preference is to backwash them (spray in the back, out the front) with fairly low pressure but lots of volume. High pressure and/or brushes can bend the fins.
If you’re going to do a MAJOR cleaning – for example, before storing or selling your dirt bike – pop the seat off to keep the foam from absorbing any water. With the seat off, you can remove and clean the air filter and carefully clean the inside of the air box. Keep the air box covered and sealed while washing. Air box covers are available, and if you’re going to frequently clean around the exposed air box, they’re worth the cost.
If you’re careful and gentle, you can also clean between your fork dust seals, as well as the fork seals themselves. Using a small screwdriver, CAREFULLY pry the dust seals away from the fork seals. Clean out any residue with a gentle flow of water – too much pressure and you’re going to push the stuff you’re trying to clean away past the fork the seal. If you feel the need to scrape, use a clean business card, piece of an index card, or pieces cut from a file folder. After it’s clean, a lot of riders pack in a little waterproof grease between the dust seal and fork seal.
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After you’re done with the water part of cleaning your dirt bike, it’s not a bad idea to start it up and let it run until it’s warm. This will help get rid of any residual moisture. Of course if you’re washing your 2-stroke around midnight in the middle of the suburbs, you may want to reconsider firing it up.
Don’t forget to clean your chain.
If you really want to spiff things up, you can wipe down the plastics with an Armor-All type of product, or something with a silicone base. Smooth and shiny plastics have the advantage of being easier to clean later.
DO NOT POLISH UP YOUR SEAT! By all means, clean your seat, but avoid using anything slippery on it. A soft scrub brush works well, and so do those new micro-fiber cloths (the cheap ones usually work as well as the expensive ones). To clean a seat that has years of build up on it, lay a fairly damp rag on it for an hour before cleaning – it tends to soften up the grime.
It doesn’t hurt to occasionally remove the ignition cover after washing to check for moisture leakage.