How to Clean a Motorcycle Engine

Updated February 21, 2017

Motorcycles have seen a surge in popularity in recent years, and there are more bikes on the road now than ever. That also means there are people who are new to the world of bikes, and aren't familiar with how to detail or clean them. It makes sense to assume that you should clean a motorcycle the same way you would clean car, but actually there are different steps to the process. Cleaning the engine of your bike should take an hour or so, depending on the level of grit and grime it has. In these instructions, the example vehicle is a Harley Davidson with an open engine compartment, but some motorcycles may require you to first remove fairings or trim to access the engine.

Let the engine of the motorcycle cool completely, so that it's not hot to the touch. Spraying water on a hot engine can crack the block.

Cover any sensitive electronics using the plastic bags, and seal them from water, using the masking tape. Sensitive components include the computer, if the bike is so equipped, ignition coil or any fuse blocks. If you have any doubt that the electrical component could short out, cover it with plastic before washing the bike.

Spray the citrus-based degreaser onto the engine and scrub the engine using the round brush, working from the bottom of the engine up towards the top. Depending on the dirt and grime on the engine, you may need to allow the degreaser to work for 3 to 5 minutes, but do not allow to degreaser to dry on the engine, as it could stain the finish. Try not to hit any painted surfaces, otherwise you may have to re-wax the areas.

Rinse off the engine using the hose and high-pressured water to blast off some of the grime, if need be.

Use the air nozzle connected to the air hose and air compressor to spray off any excess water from the engine. This is going to prevent water spots from forming on the engine, and will also help to dry off the surface. Get in all of the nooks and crannies with the nozzle, eliminating the water in the process.

Apply the rubber protectant to any rubber surfaces on the engine, wiping off the excess or overspray on the engine, using the microfiber towel. This will help keep the rubber looking sharp and clean. Apply the chrome cleaner to any chrome components and shine them up with another microfiber towel, wiping off all of the cleaner in a circular motion.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic bags and masking tape
  • Citrus-based degreaser
  • Hose and water source
  • 1-inch round brush with soft bristles
  • Air compressor and air hose
  • Air nozzle
  • Rubber protectant
  • Microfiber towel
  • Spray chrome polish
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About the Author

Russell Wood is a writer and photographer who attended Arizona State University. He has been building custom cars and trucks since 1994, including several cover vehicles. In 2000 Wood started a career as a writer, and since then he has dedicated his business to writing and photographing cars and trucks, as well as helping people learn more about how vehicles work.