6 Easy Steps to Detail Your Motorcycle Yourself
Maybe it’s my OCD and the fact I know I won’t stop cleaning until it’s perfect, but let me start out by saying that I hate cleaning my motorcycle. It’s not therapeutic or a task that I really think about when trying to find something fun to do. It’s up there with folding laundry on my list of things I loathe. When I can, I make my boyfriend or another guy do it. (Now THAT is something I find entertaining about washing a bike—making a dude wash a chick’s motorcycle, hahaha.)
With that being said, when I do wash my bike, I like to spend a couple of hours really getting it cleaned up, so that the in between washes are a lot easier to maintain. After 5,000 miles of adventures, and a good ride in the rain last week, it was time to spend some dough on some cleaning products and get to work.
Detailing your bike isn’t nearly as difficult as you may think.
I’m always looking for ways to save money. Learning how to clean my bike myself has probably saved me hundreds in detailing services over the years. And, I’m here to tell you that you can do it too! You don’t need fifty different tools or a cabinet full of cleaning supplies. In fact, you can use a lot of the same products that you would use on your car or truck.
With a custom paint job, paint care is even more important to make it shine like new at all times! (And to keep you sane, nobody likes a dirt on their expensive paint job!) I was able to fully detail my motorcycle for under $75. And by doing it myself, I have a TON of supplies left over to keep my bike clean for at least another year.
Here’s a list of everything I used:
- 12 qt bucket
- Scratch-Resistant Mitt
- 4 Microfiber Towels
- 2 Microfiber Applicator Pads for Polish & Wax
- Turtle Wax Ice Car Wash
- Turtle Wax Bug & Tar remover
- S100 Engine Brightener
- Meguiars Carnauba Wax
- Turtle Wax Tire & Wheel Cleaner
- Meguiars Hot Shine* (Please read this blog carefully for this portion of the job.)
- Lucas Oil Speed Wax
All together, this detail took me 2 hours, and only a portion of all the products used. I could easily give my bike a full clean like this after every major motorcycle trip, and have enough product left over to last me a year or more.
The most important thing to note here, is that there’s no water hose or running water outside of the house. If you have access to a hose, the process might be sped up ever so slightly. However, cleaning your bike up to be show ready is completely doable in your driveway with a bucket of water. Let’s get into the six easy steps it takes to clean your bike up!
Step One: Bug Removal
I Start of with the Turtle Wax Bug & Tar Remover on my fairing. This thing catches most of the wind, as well as the bugs. I let that sit for a few minutes before taking a microfiber cloth to wipe off all the bugs and residue. Feel free to spray this on your headlight, triple trees, and fork lowers if there’s any road grime attached. Although I didn’t use one, a Bug Cleaning Sponge can come in handy for the stubborn gunk that won’t let loose.
If your bike is completely filthy and covered in dust, You should probably start with step two, then do the bug cleaner. I keep my fairing as clean as possible at all times, so for me, using the bug cleaner makes more sense to start with.
Step Two: Bath Time!
Here comes the Bath! Any concentrated wash will work, but we had the Turtle Wax Ice Car Wash laying around, so that’s what was used. Grab a Scratch-Resistant Mitt, mix the soap into the bucket, and start scrubbing! I used a 12 Quart bucket, and cleaned every nook and cranny as many times as I could before the bucket was empty.
Wash the mitten to get rid of the soap, and fill the bucket back up with water to finish the “rinse” stage. If you wish, go panel by panel, and rinse, then dry the area with a microfiber towel to avoid any “spots.”
When should you start using a new Microfiber Towel?
It’s important to note that in order to avoid swirls in your paint, or any new scratches, use clean microfiber towels, mitts, and applicators. If your towel is looking like it was tye-dyed with grease, it’s time to grab a fresh towel out of the stack. You can wash these towels and reuse them, however, you’ll want to wash them by themselves to avoid adding any materials that may damage the towels for future use.
Step Three: Tire and Wheel Deep Clean
From road grime to caliper dust from your brakes, your wheels take a beating on the road. Take the tire and wheel cleaner and spray an excess amount on to the wheels of your bike. You’ll soon see questionable gunk coming off of your tires.
Once it’s done it’s magic, take the now-water-based mitten and remove any excess foam from the wheel and tires. This is also a great time to scrub one more time on those wheels to get any caliper dust or road grime off before you get to step six.
Step Four: Rejuvinate that Motor, Fam!
Let’s keep it like new! Engine Brighteners are commonly used by detailers, especially on older motorcycles that have seen the road, sun, and grime along their travels. I like to spray this stuff on my engine cases, inner primary, heads, jugs, and sometimes my front and rear calipers to get the black wrinkle lookin’ new again.
Step Five: Paint Care
Keeping your paint waxed is extremely important to keepin the clear coat strong and shining like new. This step is going to require the most effort, however, it isn’t rocket science to hand wax your motorcycle. Plus, you’ll be so happy to see that paint shine like new again when you’re finished!
Put a “drop” of Meguiar’s Carnauba Wax onto a Microfiber Applicator pad and begin to channel your inner Mr. Miyagi. You can always add more as you go, however, it’s a bit messy once you’ve put too much on the pad. Start rubbing the wax in in swirls, one area at a time.
Soon enough, your motorcycle may look a little “dull.” That’s okay! Let it sit and “dry” before you rub the wax off. I went ahead and waxed the entire bike and finished step six before I started taking the excess wax off.
Step Six: Details
For the powder coated areas of your bike, and quick washes in between details, Lucas Speed Mist has been a long time winner in my book. I’ve been using this stuff for probably nine years. It was the first cleaning product I ever purchased for my motorcycle, and I haven’t found a reason to stop using it. Feel free to spray it on your wheels, transmission covers, and other areas for an extra shine. Yes, even your paint will enjoy the shine it gets from the Speed Wax.
If you’re feeling exceptionally boujee about your bike wash, you can also apply a tire shine to your wheels and sidewalls. I used Meguiar’s Hot Shine. And I seriously mean apply it to your sidewalls, and sidewalls ONLY. No matter what tire shine products you use, it’s going to leave your tire a little slick, which isn’t ideal on a motorcycle. As you can see in the photo below, I didn’t do the best job keeping the Hot Shine off the wearable area of my tire. Make sure to rub any excess tire cleaner off of the wearable area of your tires to avoid any mishaps.
Most people would not recommend doing this. However, if you’re getting your bike ready for a photo shoot or something where those extra details matter, then yes, go for the gold, and be smart about it.
Extra Love + Quick Washes
If you run a black exhaust, the Pig Spit is a great detailing spray. It does the same job as the s100 engine brightener, but comes in a significantly larger can for almost the same price. More than likely, this is what they would be using on your bike if you took it to your local dealership and asked for a detail.
Between details, I often use Glass Cleaner to keep my paint clean and free of bugs and other junk. It does the job really well, and is affordable. If your bike has a fairing and/or windshield of any sort, this stuff is a great, quick cleaner.
If you run spoked wheels instead of mags, you may find that a wheel brush will be extremely handy.
Look, You Did It!
In under two hours, you can have your bike looking new again, and have plenty of supplies left over to keep your bike clean for months. If you can, try to give your bike a good detail before and after any motorcycle trip, or at least every 5,000 miles if you ride often. You may find things that need to be replaced in the process, which will save you the headache while being stranded on the side of the road!