Advanced jobs you can carry out on your motorbike

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If you're a little more 'hands on' than most and want to tackle some more advanced jobs on your bike, here's our pick of tasks you can carry out this weekend.

Important

_Before we go any further it's vital that you never attempt any mechanical work on your bike unless you know what you're doing. If it's the first time you've attempted any of these tasks, make sure you have an assistant with experience, and if in doubt always leave it to the professionals. _

Changing coolant

This should take you around 20-30minutes. Coolant is a contained within a sealed system, so other than occasional inspections of the levels, it's largely maintenance free. But it's not a bad idea to drain, flush and replace the coolant every couple of years, just to keep it in good order. Coolant also works to inhibit corrosion, and over time it loses this ability. So even if you don't do many miles on your bike, consider periodic coolant replacement.

First locate the drain plug, which is likely to be near the water pump. Making sure the engine is completely cold remove the plug and drain into a suitable container. Replace the drain plug once you're assured it's empty. Following the manufacturers recommended levels and recommended coolant, top the bike up. It's commonly a 50/50 mix of coolant and de-ionised water. Give the radiator hoses a squeeze to help expel any air locks. Once you've checked the level, go for a test ride check for leaks, and top up again it necessary.

Handy parts and tools

Oil and filter change

If you can tackle a coolant change, you an also carry out an oil change. As with all jobs on your bike check your handbook/workshop manual for the correct procedure – but in general most bikes are very similar.

With a warm engine remove the filler cap (this will make the oil drain more quickly) and remove the sump plug over a suitable oil catch tray. If you're not totally sure which one is the sump plug ask someone who is sure. You don't want to be removing the wrong bolt!

When it's drained remove the oil filter. This should have been fitted hand-tight, but many are overtightened. Use a filler wrench if required to remove it. Be aware that oil will come out of it, so have that catch tray handy.

Replace the sump plug, and smear a small amount of oil on the new filter gasket before replacing. Make sure it's tight, but don't go overboard. You can always tighten further if it leaks.

Refill the engine with the correct oil (check handbook!), replace filler cap and start the bike and check for leaks. Wait a few minutes for the oil to settle before checking the level again. Top up if necessary.

Handy parts and tools

Spark plugs

Changing your spark plugs depends on your bike, and your usage. Some will need doing more regularly than others. Check your handbook for the manufacturers recommended intervals. Also, on some bikes changing plugs can be a simple 10 minute job, but on others could require more extensive work, such as removing the radiator, so make sure you have sufficient skills (and tools) to carry out the task.

Get the correct plugs for your bike; the code number on each one will differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. Check the owner's manual for the correct gap, although most will be pre-set when you get them, you can check using feeler gauges if necessary.

Using a spark plug socket remove the plugs one at at a time to avoid mixing up the HT leads. Take care not to over-tighten them, and always screw in by hand to avoid cross-threading. Once finger tight do them up a further quarter, to half a turn with a plug wrench.

Handy parts and tools

Brake pads

It goes without saying that the brakes are a vital safety component, so maintenance work should only be carried out by someone experienced, or under the guidance of someone experienced.

Assuming you've purchased the correct pads, and have the correct tools you first need to ascertain whether you need to remove the caliper. Some designs allow you to remove a plate, and retaining pin to access the pad – and others require caliper removal.

If you can swap yours with the caliper in situ remove the required fixings and the old pads. Then you will need to push the pistons back. This will be easier with the brake fluid reservoir cap removed. If can push the pistons back with your fingers, then great – but if not, use some needle nosed pliers – just don't lever them against the disc as it can damage it. With the pistons pushed back the new pads should slot in.

If you have sliding calipers, then these generally have to be removed from the disc by undoing the bolts attaching the caliper to the fork leg. Once loose the caliper may need to be eased apart, and the retaining clip removed. This will release the old pads. Again, push the pistons back before fitting the new pads. Always check your handbook for torque settings for the bolts when you're tightening it back up.

Expert tip

Always pump the brakes before attempting to ride the bike. You will have to push the new pads up against the disc face, otherwise you could find that the first time you try and stop you don't!

Handy parts and tools

Get your motor running

There’s nothing quite like feeling the road beneath your two wheels but you know better than many that keeping a motorbike in great working order falls somewhere between a labour of love and a vocation. Then, you’ve got to make it look good…