Photographer: Kim Garn
As I was pondering what the tech article should be about this issue, several things came to mind. I wanted to keep it a little simpler, but wanted to be sure to cover a couple of different areas. Sometimes I take it for granted that you already know how to do common maintenance jobs on your bike correctly. But lately, a few bikes have come in for some work and I feel the need to write the correct way to maintain these items.
Basic common motorcycle maintenance
I have in the past shown what direction the master link clip on your chain should be and I need to start with this again. In Pic #1 you see the chain direction. Make sure the clip is installed with the solid side on the forward motion side. Again, look at the picture and be sure it is installed in this direction. Why is this so important? When the chain is in motion and contacts something, like a stick or other debris, hitting the master link clip, there is no way for it to become unclipped. If it is installed with the open end facing forward, contact with something could pop off the clip.
Now, go out and check your clip. If you find the clip facing the wrong direction or need to remove your chain, be sure you remove the clip with the proper procedure. Do NOT spread the clip apart with a screwdriver (pic 2). This will damage the clip and will have to be replaced. The proper way is with a pair of pliers or a screwdriver. With the pliers, you pinch the open end of the clip against one of the master clip pins (pic 3). Apply pressure and the clip will snap out forward and then can be removed.
Another way is by getting a straight screwdriver and placing it on the open end and tap to snap and then slide out. Either method works fine. If the clip comes off very easily, replace it. Be sure when replacing the clip it is for your chain size and chain pin diameter. Different companies have different pin diameters and installing one not meant for your make of chain will be a problem.
To reinstall the clip, slip it over the one pin and then with pliers (pic 5) or a screwdriver (pic 6), snap it back in place. Be sure that the clip is in the groove in both master link pins.
The next item is the importance of a metal valve cap on your tire/tube valve stem. The actual valve core in the stem works 99.9% of the time flawlessly. But it has happened to me a couple of times where the core breaks and shoots out of the stem, allowing the air pressure in your tire to be lost. This can cause an accident and/or leave you stranded. Sometimes when you go to add more air in your tire the valve will not seal but leak. Bad enough when you are at home, but terrible when on the road. The way to add some safety is by using a metal valve cap. Most of the new metal valve caps will have a rubber O-ring or seal on the inside (pic 7). This will seal the valve stem from leaking and will hold the air pressure up in your tire. Be sure your cap does have the rubber inside. Periodically replace them. Do this now before a problem arises!
Mind the gap on the Spark plugs
The last item I want to bring to your attention is your sparkplug. Sparkplugs do come with a gap, but is it correct? All engines are designed for a specific sparkplug. Not only in the thread diameter and thread length, but also for the sparkplug tip design and plug heat range. When installing sparkplugs be sure you install the correct ones designed for your engine. I have seen the wrong plugs installed many times which can cause damage to your engine. One of the problems I have seen with spark plug installation is an improper gap. Many times I have worked on customers’ bikes and the problem turned out to be the wrong sparkplug gap or no gap at all!. Check the gap (pic 8) with a sparkplug gap tool. The tool has an edge with progressive thickness and the measurements are stamped on the top (pic 9). Just insert and check the gap. Adjust the gap to the specification the engine requires. Be careful with the sparkplugs; if you drop one, the damage may not just be limited to closing the gap, there could be hidden damage to the porcelain or electrode. Don’t take a chance, replace it.
Now, get out there to your garage and check your master link clip and maintain your bike correctly. Have a fun, safe ride!