Motorcycle Detailing Checklist - Mobile Detailing Pros' Blog

Motorcycle Detailing Checklist

Motorcycle detailing is, if anything, even more critical to your bike’s upkeep than it is to the maintenance of your car. The engine isn’t entirely sealed away as a car engine is, so detailing your motorcycle not only helps it keep looking it’s best, but also keeps its resale value high and helps keep it at peak performance. It also makes it easier to pick up on any mechanical problems as they occur, so they don’t go unnoticed and continue to get worse.

Knowing where to start can be difficult, especially for new motorcycle owners. In this article, we’ll provide you an easy, step-by-step checklist for how to detail your motorcycle.

Step One: Pre-Wash the Motorcycle

When your engine is completely cool, the first step of detailing your motorcycle is to rinse it down thoroughly. Use a gentle stream of water from a regular garden hose and rinse the bike from top to bottom, paying special attention to the lower section where mud, dirt, and grime can get kicked up by the wheels. This step helps remove debris without scraping it across the body of the bike.

Next, use a soft microfiber cloth and gentle automotive detergent to wash the motorcycle’s surface. Make sure you don’t wash your bike in direct sunlight, as it can make the soap dry before you can rinse it off, causing discoloration or damage. Also make sure not to use harsh cleaners like dish detergents, which can strip off any wax and parts of the clear coat.

When you’re done, rinse the soap off thoroughly with the garden hose again.

If the motorcycle isn’t particularly dirty, you can also simply use a microfiber towel and a waterless wash solution. After you’ve applied a waterless wash to the bike, use a clean cloth to wipe it dry. If you use this method, make sure you frequently switch to a clean section of the towel to avoid rubbing debris into the paint.

Step Two: Wash the Wheels

Use a mild tire cleaner to thoroughly wash the wheels and spoke of the motorcycle. If there’s any tar, sap, or sticky bug debris stuck in the spokes, you can use a tar and bug remover to get it all off. Once the tires are clean and try, polish and wax the rims. You can use a fine chrome polish followed by wax to seal in the shine, or aluminum polish for uncoated aluminum. If the rims are made of coated aluminum, they can be polished and waxed the same way as the painted body of the bike.


This is also a good time to check the air pressure in your tires!

Step Three: Wash the Controls and Dash

While you should avoid getting the electrical components on the motorcycle’s dash wet, they do still need to be cleaned. Apply a cleaner that will also protect against UV rays to the plastic components and plexiglass windshield.

Step Four: Clean the Engine

Depending on how dirty the engine is, you can either give it a quick scrub with bike soap and a soft bristle brush, or do a more involved wash with a tough degreaser. As always, keep the engine cool and shaded as you clean it. Make sure that you follow instructions in the user’s manual for how to clean each component, and only use engine-specific cleaning compounds on the engine, since they can cause damage to paint, leather, chrome, or cloth anywhere else on the motorcycle.

Step Five: Polish the Chrome

Now, go over any other chrome on the bike and polish it. You can also give any chrome on the wheels a second round of polish, as it’s typically a good idea to do two rounds of polish on all chrome. In between polishing sessions, use the time to detail another component of the motorcycle, like the leather or the controls.

Once you’ve finished polishing all the chrome on your motorcycle, apply a coat of wax to seal the shine.

Step Six: Treat the Leather

It can be difficult to tell exactly which kind of upholstery is on your motorcycle. You may have coated leather, natural aniline leather, or even a high-quality, vinyl faux-leather. Each different type of material requires a different kind of care, so make sure you know what you’re working with before you start. As a general rule, you can clean and protect the upholstery by using a non-slick protectant, but refer to the owner’s manual for deeper cleaning instructions for your specific materials.

Step Seven: Rinse and Dry the Motorcycle

Rinse the bike off with a gentle stream of water, ideally using soft water. Forgetting to rinse the bike after detailing can leave behind excess soap and other substances that can cause corrosion or discoloration.

After rinsing the motorcycle thoroughly, use a soft microfiber cloth to absorb all of the excess water. Drying it with a cloth, instead of allowing it to air dry, will prevent any water spots from forming.

Step Nine: Seal the Paint

Maintaining the paint on a motorcycle can be more involved than it is for a car. If your paint is in relatively good condition, you can lightly clay and polish the paint and then apply a coat of wax or paint sealant. If the paint hasn’t been cared for in a while, you might need to use a machine compound before applying polish and wax.

Professional Motorcycle Detailing

As you can probably see from the checklist, giving your motorcycle the detailing care that it needs. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the prospect or just want to get out and ride without dealing with all the upkeep, you always have the option to leave your motorcycle’s care to the professionals. Mobile Detailing Pros can handle any and every aspect of vehicle detailing conveniently and efficiently, wherever your vehicle is!

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