Your Guide to Buying Motorcycle Parts on eBay

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Your Guide to Buying Motorcycle Parts on eBay

Motorcycles are not just a way to get from here to there. For many riders, motorcycles are a way of life. They are symbols of freedom, tools that give riders the means to get out on the open road and go wherever adventure leads. For many, the motorcycle lifestyle does not end when the ride is over; part of the fun is maintaining the bike, repairing the bike, even completely rebuilding it. Of course, it is possible to take a motorcycle to an expert and pay for their skills. Some riders happily go this route, but others welcome the challenge of doing the work themselves. Working at home also makes it easier to source low-cost parts through eBay. Some professional mechanics are willing to work with parts the customer brings in.

Of course, any rider doing his or her own work is responsible for the quality of that work. No one should work above his or her skill level when a mistake could cause a hazard for other people out on the road. Of course, many riders hear such reminders simply as a challenge to develop expert skills. For those just beginning the journey, a tour of motorcycle parts and how to buy them conveniently through eBay is a good way to get started.

The Anatomy of a Motorcycle

Before actually searching eBay for motorcycle parts, it is important to have an overview of how motorcycles are actually put together. A description of some of the major parts and systems of a motorcycle might help. Of course, there are a lot of smaller parts also, but this should provide some useful context.

The Frame

The frame is the basic skeleton of the bike. The engine, the gas tank, the forks, and most of the rest of the bike's parts are all mounted to the frame. In custom chopper-style bikes, the rear wheel is mounted directly to the frame as well, while sport bikes mount the rear wheel to a spring arm that helps the bike adjust to irregularities in the road.

The Fork

The fork is the frame for the front of the bike. The fork mounts to the frame and can turn in its mount, allowing steering. The lower part is split into two forks tubes that hold the wheel, while the upper part of the fork, the triple tree, connects to the handlebars. The front axle, brakes, and suspension are all part of the fork.

The Brakes

Motorcycle brakes, like those of a bicycle, consist of two separate systems, one for each wheel, and are typically controlled from the right and left handlebars, respectively. But the brakes themselves are structured very much like those of a car, and can be either disc brakes or drum brakes. In disk brakes, brake pads clamp down on a disc attached to the wheel, stopping it from spinning. Drum brakes also work by friction, but applied by a brake shoe inside the drum. Both pads and shoes wear out and must be replaced periodically so that the brakes continue to work properly.

The Wheels

Wheels and tyres, obviously, allow the motorcycle to roll along. Some people mix up the phrases, wheel and tyre; the tyre is the rubber outer shell that actually meets the road, while the wheel is the rim underneath. Both tyres and wheels come in a number of different sizes and types, and while the buyer does have some choice over which tyre to choose, the tyre must always be compatible with the wheel. The tyres need to be changed periodically, since they gradually wear down.

The Engine

Motorcycle engines can be grouped by their number of cylinders, their arrangement of cylinders, the number of strokes in the power cycle, or the capacity of their combustion chambers. That is, a V-twin engine, a 500cc engine, and a four stroke engine could all be the same engine. Cylinders are where combustion takes place and pushes the piston, turning the crank shaft. A V-twin engine has two cylinders, arranged at angles to each other, like a letter V. The power cycle consists of a combustion chamber filling with a fuel-air mixture, igniting, and then preparing itself to fill again.

Engines either take two or four strokes of the piston to complete the power cycle. Obviously, motorcycle engines occasionally break down. Sometimes the whole engine needs to be replaced, or more often one of its many component parts does. The following table lists the major engine parts and their descriptions.

Engine Part

Brief Description

Intake valve, rocker arm, and spring

Opens and closes the port through which fuel and air enter the combustion chamber

Exhaust valve, rocker arm, and spring

Opens and closes the port through which exhaust gases leave the combustion chamber

Spark plug

Creates a spark to ignite the fuel and air mixture

Head

The box that contains the valves

Engine block

The box that contains the combustion chamber and other engine parts

Oil pan

A reservoir of oil from which the engine lubricates itself

Camshaft

A rotating shaft that pushes the valves open one after the other; the valves return to position by means of springs

Piston

The piece that fits inside the combustion chamber and is pushed out when the fuel mixture ignites; the linear motion of the piston is translated into circular motion by the connecting rod

Crankshaft

Receives motion from the connecting rod and transfers it to the transmission; the transmission moves the wheels

Any of these engine parts could need to be replaced. However, except for the spark plug, the motorcycle parts are not designed to wear out regularly. Ideally, they might never need to be replaced at all.

The Transmission

The transmission is a series of gears that transfers power to the drive and then to the rear wheel. There is no permanent connection between the crankshaft and the transmission. If there were, it would be impossible to stop the rear wheel without stopping the engine. Instead, the two are held together by the clutch, and separated in order to change gears. The same process is used in both automatic and manual transmission bikes.

The Drive

The drive is the part of the transmission that actually transfers the power of the engine to the wheels. Most motorcycles have chain drives, though belt and shaft drives are also common. Some motorcycles have friction drives, a type of continuously variable transmission involving two rotating disks. Each type has some advantages and disadvantages. Chains and belts need to be replaced periodically as a matter of routine.

The Exhaust System

The exhaust system includes both the tailpipe and the muffler. As the name implies, the job of the muffler is to make the engine quieter, though it also limits the bike's power somewhat. Not surprisingly, many riders want as few limits as possible. Many also like their bikes loud. For these reasons, the exhaust system is often replaced, not because there is anything wrong with it, but because the rider wants to customise the bike's performance.

Buying Motorcycle Parts on eBay

Not all motorcycle maintenance is alike. A rider looking to make some quick repairs is likely to make different purchasing decisions than someone doing a complete custom rebuild. Different considerations apply to different reasons to buy.

Finding Parts for Basic Motorcycle Maintenance and Repair

Some parts, such as tyres, brake pads or shoes, and spark plugs are more or less designed to be replaced regularly. Other parts may need to be replaced eventually, but if the bike is properly maintained the need for replacement should be kept to a minimum. For example, if the brake pad is not replaced as needed, the brake disc may be damaged. Brake discs are fairly expensive, and replacing them can be avoided by replacing the pad on time.

Regardless of what is being replaced, if the idea is to find replacements for parts that are broken or worn, the big question is whether to use Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) or aftermarket parts. Using OEM parts is the less risky choice, since the new part is exactly the same as the old one. However, aftermarket pieces are less expensive, and some perform as well, or better, than OEM parts. Both types of parts are available on eBay. If going with aftermarket parts, the buyer must make sure to get parts that are made to work with their bike's particular make and model.

Customising Motorcycles with Parts Bought on eBay

Buying parts for customisation projects on eBay is different from buying parts for repairs, because customising, by definition, means installing aftermarket parts. Not all aftermarket parts work well, so safety demands that the buyer research parts thoroughly. Sometimes the choice involves fairly complex trade-offs. For example, stock exhaust systems are designed as a compromise between engine power and the general public's interest in peace and quiet.

Riders who like their bikes nice and loud and powerful would say that louder aftermarket exhaust systems perform better, but the neighbours who must listen to the engine noise might disagree. The point is that an aftermarket part might perform better in one area because it performs less well in other ways. The buyer has to decide how the advantages and disadvantages balance out, in order to decide what to buy.

Finding Parts for Classic Motorcycles on eBay

When working on a classic bike, the big decision is whether to go for historical accuracy or to try to get the bike on the road as soon as possible. Historical accuracy means using either original parts or accurate reproductions of the original parts. These can be difficult to find on eBay, but a historically accurate restoration can be important for showing the bike or for selling it as a classic vehicle. Original parts are also the surest way to find something that performs properly. Buying lower-quality parts in order to get the bike on the road faster can be an attractive option, but it is the responsibility of the buyer to make sure that the quality is high enough that the bike is safe.

How to Buy Motorcycle Parts on eBay

eBay is a good place to start the search for any motorcycle parts because the selection is very broad and searching is simple and convenient. eBay is also a good place to browse for useful items and tools, since there are new listings almost every day. And the buying process is simple.

How to Find Motorcycle Parts on eBay

To begin, just type 'motorcycle parts' in the search box on eBay's home page. Use the menu options to specify the brand and the type of part and see what is available. Alternatively, use the Advanced Search feature to search for very specific motorcycle parts and brands.

How to Buy Motorcycle Parts on eBay with Confidence

The two keys to the eBay buying process are to check selections and to communicate with the seller. Checking prevents buying the wrong thing by mistake, such as the wrong size or the wrong brand. Communicating with the seller is a good way to be sure about the quality of the piece. If something arrives not as described, return it. The seller's profile page lists his or her contact information, feedback score, and return policy.

Conclusion

Riding motorcycles is a way of life that goes far beyond riding. For many riders, learning how to work on the bike is a big part of the freedom and independence that goes with motorcycle ownership. Customising the ride, so it performs exactly as the rider wants it to and looks like no other bike on the road, is simply a further extension of these cherished ideals. Yet learning how to work on a bike is only half the battle. The other half is finding a good source of parts at an affordable price.

eBay is an excellent place to look for motorcycle parts because such a wide variety of parts are available in one place and the listings are easy to search. If a new rider is just getting into motorcycles, all these possibilities might seem a bit confusing, but with a tour of the anatomy of a motorcycle and a discussion of how different types of work demand different approaches to finding parts, the beginner can start to gain a little more confidence. Add to this the knowledge and experience gained by working with an expert friend, and the newcomer is ready to ride.

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