How to Detail a Motorcycle: A Comprehensive Guide

Detailing has become an obsession in the automotive world. At car and motorcycle meetups across the nation, enthusiasts gather to show off their favorite vehicles.

Professionals are able to do incredible detail work because they have the equipment and the skills to make a motorcycle of any size or shape look brand new. The only downside is that professional detail work can be quite expensive, which makes it less appealing to some motorists.

After all, you’ve probably already spent quite a bit of money on your favorite motorcycle, high-quality protective gear, and any customized parts you wanted. The good news is that learning how to detail a motorcycle at home is easy and doesn’t require any professional equipment.

Our guide will teach you how to apply basic detailing to your motorcycle right from the comfort of your own driveway!

How to Detail a Motorcycle: A Step-By-Step Detail Guide

cleaning motorcycle

Detailing your motorcycle can be done at home over the course of an afternoon. Your detailing should follow a few basic steps:

  1. Preparation
  2. Pre-wash
  3. Deep clean
  4. Prep the paint
  5. Wax and polish

Preparation

Before you get started, make sure you have all of the materials you will need to complete the job. The worst thing you can do is get started and then have to scramble to find something you need during a time-sensitive part of the detail work.

You’ll need the following materials:

  • Clean water
  • Clean microfiber towel
  • Detergent
  • Degreaser (for really greasy bikes)
  • Wax
  • Water buckets
  • Bug cleaner

Once you have all of your materials, you’re ready to get started!

Pre-Wash

how to detail a motorcycle

A sad fact of motorcycle life is that bugs and insects fly right into your path and then splatter all over your gear and motorcycle. Before you do any kind of detail work, your bike needs to be sparkling clean.

First, fill up your buckets with warm water and mix in your detergents. If you can, use more than one bucket because you don’t want to rinse your tire cloths in the same water that you’re going to use for the body of your motorcycle. While the soap is mixing and foaming up, take some bug cleaner and apply it to a microfiber towel.

Use the bug cleaner to remove any bugs on the chassis and headlights of your motorcycle. Once those pesky bugs have been removed, you’re ready to start cleaning.

Before you start the deep clean, take some mild degreaser and scrub the grease off your bike. Using detergents and heavy degreasers is sometimes necessary but should be avoided except in extreme cases. These chemical solutions are so harsh that they can actually damage the paint on your motorcycle.

A mild degreaser is safer to use and will help to prep your motorcycle for a more thorough clean. Any grease left behind on the chassis will interfere with the waxing and detail work you do later in the process. Once your wash buckets are ready and your motorcycle is free of grease and leftover bug remnants, you’re ready to begin the deep clean!

Deep Clean

how to detail a motorcycle

Begin by washing your wheels with a tire cleaner to remove any foreign particles that have found their way onto your wheels and spokes. Be careful to use separate cleaners for the actual tires versus the wheels themselves. You don’t want to use a tire cleaner on the metal wheel spokes.

Once the tires and wheels are clean, you can apply either chrome or aluminum polish depending on the material of your rims. Remember that coated aluminum materials can be lightly polished and waxed like the actual paint on the chassis of your motorcycle. Uncoated aluminum should be treated with aluminum polish.

Once the wheels and tires are cleaned, you can move on to the headlights and the chassis of your motorcycle. Wash all of the exposed elements and then towel dry them. You will wax, polish, and detail them later in the process.

Next, you’ll want to clean out the dash and control console. Take extra caution with this step. The electronics of your motorcycle are mostly in the console, so you need to be careful not to soak and ruin the electronics. Lightly clean and wash the windshield, dash, and control console. Immediately dry the console when you’re finished.

You don’t want to give water any opportunity to seep into places that shouldn’t get wet. Take the time to make sure the console is fully dried before continuing. Once your windshield, console, and dash are clean and dry, apply a glass cleaner and wipe it down again.

You can also apply a UV protecting agent to help prevent any sun damage or fading, but this step is purely optional and can be done at your discretion. If you live in a warmer, sunnier climate, this option might be better for your motorcycle. Otherwise, it’s fine to skip this step.

Next, take a look at your engine and make sure it looks like new. During a deep cleaning, a lot of professional detailers will use chemical solutions like engine brighteners, which you can purchase and apply at home. Otherwise, you can use spray cleaners and abrasive brushes to scrub away grime and dirt.

Never use a pressure washer on your engine. Engines are not meant to be blasted with high-pressure water streams. If this happens, you will damage the sensitive mechanics of the engine, and you will have an extremely expensive repair bill.

Lastly, look over your motorcycle’s seat. Too many riders neglect the maintenance of their seat, which is a huge mistake. Your seat supports you during your entire ride, and damage to your seat will make your motorcycle less comfortable to ride. Be on the lookout for cracks and other damage to your seat.

If there are no visible cracks, use a clean cloth and apply a leather cleaning agent to your seat. Use circular motions and a light touch to wash your seat clean. Applying a leather conditioner will help protect your seat against sun damage, scratches, and general wear and tear.

Now that your bike is clean, take a last look to make sure there’s no lingering excess water and that you’ve cleaned all the parts of your bike. Make sure there’s no road grime hanging out in an area that might have been missed. Once your bike is fully cleaned and dried, you can move to the next step of the detailing process!

Prep the Paint

how to detail a motorcycle

Every motorcycle has imperceptible imperfections in the paint. Even though you won’t be able to notice these tiny imperfections with your naked eye, your bike will still look noticeably shinier and newer if you remove them.

To start, you’ll need to apply a detailing spray to the surface of your bike. This will make it easier to use a clay bar to scrub the paint and remove any imperfections. Do not use circular motions when using a clay bar because you’ll grind the dirt and grime right into your paint.

Use slow and steady back and forth motions. After a few passes, fold the bar over onto itself so that you aren’t pushing the dirt and grime you’ve scrubbed off right back into the chassis.

Wax and Polish

waxing motorcycle

The last step is where you’ll get your bike sparkling and protected from future dirt and grime buildups. Use a clean towel and apply a wax kit to all of the outer workings of your bike. As mentioned in the tire section, make sure you’re using the proper waxes for different materials.

Motorcycles contain different materials for different parts of the bike, so make sure you aren’t using the wrong type of wax on the wrong type of part. Once you’ve waxed the exterior of your bike, let the wax dry and you will be finished!

Conclusion

You’ve probably realized by now that learning how to detail a motorcycle is a simple process. With a little time and effort, you can give your motorcycle a professional-looking finish for far less money and in the comfort of your own garage. Now that you know how to detail your own motorcycle, you can reap the benefits for years to come. 

We hope this guide has helped you learn how easy it is to detail your own motorcycle. For more buying guides, reviews of bikes, and comprehensive lists of all the best gear, check out the other articles on our site.

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