What to Check Before Buying a Used Motorcycle

If it’s been properly cared for, a used bike is a great way to get on the road at an affordable price. To avoid the pitfalls of ownership, however, you’ll need to develop an eye for the smallest details. Read on to learn a few tips on used motorcycle shopping.

What to Bring

As you’re getting ready to look at a used bike, bring a few items along for the ride. For instance, a pen and paper will be useful when writing down the answers a seller provides. When buying a bike for the first time, consider taking a few pictures and sending them to a fellow biker or a mechanically inclined friend. That way, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect.

Physical Condition

The best pre-owned bikes are in good physical condition. Dents and dings are more than eyesores and may point to hidden damage and past collisions. When buying a used motorcycle, look at the:

Fuel tank. The oil should be clean, and the paint should not be chipped or cracked.
Side covers and fenders. Are there dents or scratches?
Seat. If there are rips, tears, or missing foam, look elsewhere.
Chrome. There should be no indication of rust.

While most bikes are made without them, some have aftermarket windshields and fairings. Inspect these pieces thoroughly and ensure that they’ve been installed correctly, as poor installation methods can create future problems.

The Engine

Before heading out to look at a used bike, tell the seller that you’re planning to check it from a cold start. When a bike is run beforehand, it may hide certain issues, but cold starts leave everything out in the open. Look for warning signs like:

A smoking engine. If the smoke is blue or deep black, it’s a cause for concern.
Strange sounds. As the engine is running, listen for odd rumbles, rattles, and squeaks.
A damaged exhaust system. Exhaust pipes should be damage- and leak-free.
Sloppy shifting. If the transmission won’t stay in gear, or if the clutch slips, walk away from the deal.

Engine repairs are costly for any bike owner. By listening to your gut and following these tips, it’s possible to save time, money, and frustration.

Electronic Components

Among motorcycle riders, electronic faults are some of the hardest to diagnose and treat. When buying a pre-owned motorcycle, check for:

Functional lights. The turn signals, brake lights, headlights, and instrument panel lights should all work when the key is turned.
A working horn. Loud pipes (and horns) save lives.
A good battery. Without it, you’re not going anywhere.

With a check of these basic electrical components, you can end up with a great bike instead of a lemon.

Tires, Wheels, Chain, and Belt

A motorcycle’s tires are, quite literally, where the rubber meets the road. Before riding away, check for:

Plenty of tread and no dry rot
Dent- and wobble-free wheels
Spoke condition. When tapped, spokes should make a pinging noise; if the sound is flat, the spoke may be loose.
A well-lubricated and properly adjusted chain or belt

These are just a few of the things to look at when buying a used motorcycle. Count on the team at the American Motorcycle Trading Co. to provide the area’s widest selection of low-mileage, well-maintained Harleys.

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