6 Easy Steps to Detail Your Motorcycle Yourself

How 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.)

Dirty Motorcycle Before being Detailed

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:

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

Turtle Wax Bug & Tar Removal | How to Detail your Motorcycle Yourself

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.

Turtle Wax Ice Car Wash Soap for Motorcycle Detail

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.

Clean Microfiber Towels | How To Detail Your Motorcycle Yourself

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.

Turtle Wax Wheel and Tire Cleaner eats away at the residue on a motorcycle tire
Turtle Wax Wheel and Tire Cleaner eats away at the gunk on a motorcycle tire

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!

S100 Cleaner makes engines look new

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!

Small amount of Maguiars Carnauba Wax on microfiber applicator

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.

Motorcycle tank that has wax applied
Motorcycle with Maguiars Carnauba Wax applied and waiting to dry before removing excess wax
Maguiars Carnauba Wax applied to a motorcycle after wiping off excess wax from paint

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!

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Staci Wilt

I’m Staci: a freelance journalist, photographer, and marketing consultant. I primarily focus those skills around my passions of motorcycles, travel, and food…and yes, we will count margaritas and craft beer in that last category. Thanks for checking out my blog!
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  1. Tom on December 30, 2019 at 8:27 AM

    Thanks , a lot of great tips 👍
    I like to also use the lower crash-bars elephant ears for my Bagger . Since I don’t have a lower faring > they a relative cheap and can be slipped over the Crash-bars within no-time at all. Makes the air kinda circle back from the Motor and Helps to keep my Feet warm.
    Aloha Tom

    • Staci Wilt on December 30, 2019 at 11:06 AM

      Yes! I was going to touch on these as well, but when I thought about “essentials,” I figured getting into the additions of purchasing crash bars for the lower elephant ears might be a bit “much” for covering basics. But, I completely agree! Thanks for adding this tip! 🙂

  2. J.R. on October 22, 2020 at 4:15 AM

    Thanks for the tips. One thing I wanted to point out that I learned from detailing cars is to never use the same mitt you use on the wheels that you use on the paint due to cross contamination. You get fine particles of metal from the brakes that stick into the mitt and don’t wash out so the next time you wash your vehicle, those particles are still in the mitt and will scratch your paint.

    Thanks again and be safe,


    • Staci Wilt on October 22, 2020 at 1:02 PM

      Excellent tip! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Tommy jarvis on March 25, 2022 at 6:19 PM

    Never put tire shine or anything on your TIRES!!!! Side walls or not I highly suggest not doing that considering many possibilities they could occur from cornering to slight turns. I’ve seen many people use ledge instead but I’ve never used it and probably won’t try to. If you are going to put tire dressing on (which is stated before is never a good idea) at least use a water based tire shine. Water based might not last as long or be as durable but it would be a lot less slick.

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