Keeping a motorcycle looking clean and new requires a little work on the owner's part. Most of the external parts of a motorcycle retain their finish for several years, and a simple cleaning is often all they need to look new again. However, the exhaust system and its associated components are exceptions. The conditions the exhaust is exposed to make it rust quicker than other parts of the motorcycle.
Luckily, rust can be removed quite easily from the exterior of an exhaust pipe, and the exhaust can be used as long as none of the rust eats through the pipe. If you have noticed rust spots on your motorcycle's exhaust, you can use one of several simple methods to remove the rust. There are also several ways you can prevent and slow down the formation of new rust. In some cases, you may want to consider an aftermarket exhaust made of more rust resistant metal.
Why Motorcycle Exhaust Pipes Rust
The exhaust is used to remove burnt gases from the engine and send them out into the atmosphere. The exhaust system also includes a muffler to bring down the noise generated when the gases escape. In newer motorcycles, the exhaust system may also include a catalytic converter to break down environmentally harmful gases into harmless ones before they enter the air.
Exhaust gases are extremely hot and corrosive. The heat also causes condensation when the gases come in contact with cold air, sometimes leaving water droplets in parts of the exhaust. This condensation is more of a problem if you only take your motorcycle out for short rides. The high temperatures are the main reason behind external rust and water condensation is the cause for internal rust.
There are several other factors that can make rust form faster on your motorcycle's exhaust. These include:
- Environmental factors (living close to the sea)
- The materials used to make the exhaust
- Driving patterns and habits
- Salt or chemicals used to de-ice roads
What Rust Can Do to Your Motorcycle Exhaust
As rust gets worse in a motorcycle exhaust, it eventually eats through the pipe. These rust "holes" allow exhaust gases to escape before they have made their way through the exhaust system. The results in more harmful emissions and louder noise, both of which could prevent your motorcycle from passing the Ministry of Transport (MOT) test. In fact, a motorcycle with a holed exhaust will not pass the test. If your motorcycle exhaust has reached this stage, the best thing to do is replace it.
Protecting Your Motorcycle Exhaust from Rust
All exhaust pipes eventually rust, even modern exhaust pipes manufactured to be rust resistant. However, you can still take steps to slow the formation of exterior rust on the exhaust before any cleaning is required.
Powder coating is a high quality, durable coating that has been in use for several decades now. It is used as a protective and decorative finish. You can apply a powder coat to a cleaned (or new) exhaust pipe and it can help protect it from rust. Powder coating needs special equipment and must be done by professionals.
Though many modern motorcycle exhausts are already chrome plated, if yours is not, you should consider chrome plating it. In this process, a thin layer of chromium is electroplated onto the surface of the exhaust, protecting everything beneath it from exposure to the elements.
WD-40 is a lubricant that can be applied to exhaust pipes to prevent rust. Some motorcyclists recommend that it be used after every day's ride when the exhaust is hot. This method gives the exhaust a slightly different colour. An alternative to WD-40 is "5-56".
Painting an exhaust pipe protects it from external factors that promote rust. However, not just any paint will do. Because of the high temperatures of the exhaust, the paint must be designed to withstand high temperatures. Painting the exhaust involves detaching the pipe from the motorcycle. Clean the pipe completely and remove all grease and dirt before painting. Once painted and cured, use a heat wrap on the first six inches of the exhaust to prevent the paint from peeling.
Even if you have an older exhaust with some rust, you can use these methods to prevent future rust formation after you clean the exhaust. Another factor to keep in mind when preventing rust is to keep the motorcycle as dry as possible.
Removing Rust from Your Motorcycle Exhaust
Minor rust formation can easily be removed from a motorcycle exhaust. There are several tried and tested methods used by motorcyclists around the world, many of which do not require any complicated equipment.
Steel Wool and Soap
Some motorcyclists recommend using steel wool with soap (SOS pads)) after a high pressure wash. This method removes minor rust on the exhaust pipe. Once the rust has been loosened, rinse the pipe.
Cloth and Vinegar
A less abrasive method, using cloth and vinegar quickly removes surface rust. This method works because of the acid present in vinegar. It is strong enough to loosen the rust particles, but not strong enough to eat through the pipe. Soak the cloth in white vinegar and let it sit on the rusted area for some time. The longer you let it sit, the more time the vinegar has to work through the rust. After soaking the area, remove the cloth and wipe the exhaust.
Cloth and Coca-Cola
Similar to using vinegar, Coca-Cola and a piece of cloth can non-abrasively remove rust from an exhaust pipe. Some motorcyclists recommend Diet Coke instead of regular Coca-Cola. Both drinks can remove rust because of the presence of phosphoric acid. If possible, remove the exhaust and soak it in Coca-Cola. A few two litre bottles should be enough. After soaking the exhaust for up to a few days, wipe the exhaust with the cloth.
Aluminium Foil and Vinegar
Aluminium foil and vinegar can remove surface rust if the rust on the exhaust proves difficult to remove with any of the non-abrasive methods. You should exercise care when using anything abrasive to clean your exhaust pipe. Too much pressure and you can scratch the pipe and ruin its finish.
Lightest Gauge Steel Wool
Some motorcyclists recommend very light gauge steel wool (0000) to remove rust on motorcycle exhausts. This is an abrasive method and could scratch your exhaust pipe if used carelessly. Whichever method you use, follow up with any one of the preventive measures mentioned earlier, such as applying a coat of WD-40.
Considering an Aftermarket Exhaust Pipe
If you need to replace your motorcycle's exhaust pipe, consider an aftermarket replacement. These pipes are usually made of alloys that are rust resistant, such as stainless steel. They are also cheaper than stock replacements. However, since the back pressure of the aftermarket pipe usually does not perfectly match that of the stock exhaust pipe, be prepared to tune your engine for optimal performance.
Finding Accessories to Remove Rust from Motorcycle Exhaust Pipes on eBay
If you are considering removing the rust from your motorcycle exhaust, you can find all the supplies you need to do the job on eBay. To start a search, visit eBay's home page and use the search bar. The search bar is also available on other eBay pages. For example, searching for "WD-40" lists all WD-40 items currently available on eBay. If the search results are too vast, consider adding more specific keywords to reduce the number of results and find more relevant listings.
You can find much more on eBay besides supplies and accessories. You can look for stock or aftermarket exhaust replacements for your motorcycle, as well as many other motorcycle parts and accessories. Once you have a list of what you are looking for, you can narrow down the list by selecting from different criteria including price range, condition, and location. Before committing to a purchase, take the time to review the seller's return and exchange policy in case the item you purchase is not as expected.
Keeping a motorcycle in top condition requires some basic maintenance and cleaning on the part of the owner. However, some things are unavoidable. Rust on the exhaust is one of these. There are several measures you can take to prevent it from appearing very quickly, but sooner or later, you have to remove rust from your motorcycle's exhaust. Luckily, removing rust is not a complicated or difficult procedure. There are several ways to go about it, and every method uses supplies that are easily available.
If your exhaust is very badly rusted, consider a replacement. A badly rusted exhaust pipe does not function as designed. It allows harmful gases into the air and is noticeably louder than an exhaust in good condition. Exhausts with rust holes will not pass the MOT test. You can opt for a stock replacement or an aftermarket one. Aftermarket exhausts are usually made on non-corrosive alloys but do require some engine tuning. You can find everything you need to remove rust from your motorcycle exhaust easily on eBay.