Motorcycle restoration, is it for you?
There are two main reasons to start a motorcycle restoration project, you either love motorcycles, or you love bringing things back to life. Both bring different challenges to the project.
If you love tinkering odds are you have plenty of tools, but you may know nothing of motorcycles, but that shouldn’t stop a natural-born tinkerer. On the other hand, you may love bikes and know them in an out but have never held a screwdriver in your hands.
Unlike car restorations, motorcycle projects are easier to do in your garage by yourself. They are usually less expensive than restoring a car as well. So if you are looking for a bonding project to build something together with your partner or maybe your son, a motorcycle is an excellent choice. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Choose a simple design
Choosing a motorcycle with a simple, straightforward design is recommended, especially if it’s your first build. Old Japanese motorcycles are widely recognized for their simple and pragmatic design.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t restore that old triumph you fell in love with, it’s just going to be harder. For first time restorers, it is also highly recommended that you choose a bike that’s already running. That will allow you to focus your time and budget on making it look great instead of rebuilding the engine.
Learn to ride it before you restore it
After you bought your motorcycle, it is always a good idea to drive it a while before you start taking it apart. That’s especially true if you are an inexperienced rider. Falling and scratching a body you are going to replace anyway is significantly better than scratching a recently applied paint job.
It can also help you decide if you are comfortable with the bike configuration. If you are not, you can get custom handlebars to modify the riding position and make you more comfortable.
It is always a good idea to have a clear picture of how the final product will look like before you even start working on it. So driving it should give you an idea of the modifications you want to make to your motorcycle.
Check the paperwork
There’s nothing worse than spending a ton of hours working on a bike to later find out you can’t drive it because there’s a problem with the title. It may ever be reported stolen. Before you even pick the first wrench up, make absolutely sure that it’ll give you no problems with the long arm of the law.
Label and photograph everything
When you are disassembling, take pictures of every step, then place all the screws in clearly labeled Ziplocs. That is the only way to ensure you won’t finish reassembly with mistery screws left over.
Also, remember to label every wire before you unplug anything. The electrical part is usually where restorers lack more knowledge, so don’t skip this step.
Don’t be afraid to paint it yourself
Painting a motorcycle isn’t as hard as it seems. You just need a cheap spray gun, tarp, and patience. Heres a great article that explains the process step by step.
Painting it yourself significantly reduces the cost of your motorcycle restoration project. Furthermore, if you enjoy it, you can paint it every couple of months to keep the looks interesting, besides its a lot of fun.
Rust is the enemy, and it must be destroyed
If you find rust anywhere on the bike, you shouldn’t under any circumstance paint over it. Sand it until its completely gone and all that remains is bare metal. Otherwise, it will spread like cancer, and all your hard work on your motorcycle restoration will be for naught.
Don’t skimp on the breaks and hoses
If there’s one part of the bike you should splurge for the high-end stuff is the brakes. As soon as you bring your bike home, replace all the brake lines and while you are at it, go ahead and replace all the hoses as well. Decades-old rubber is notoriously unreliable.
Trust us, there are few things as frustrating as being stranded on the side of the road because you didn’t replace your fuel lines. Hours of your life lost because of a couple of bucks worth of rubber hoses.
Clean the inside of the gas tank and check the carburetor
A dirty gas tank will bring you all sorts of problems. It can clog your carburetor, which will eventually turn your bike into a paperweight until you get it cleaned.
Before reassembling your bike, always remember to clean the carburetor. A dirty carburetor is the most common reason for motorcycle problems. Cleaning it is really easy, so if you already have the bike disassembled, don’t miss the opportunity to clean it up. Heres a step by step guide on how to clean your carburetor.
It is very important to make sure that no water is left inside the tank after you clean it. Water doesn’t compress, so if it gets into the compression chamber of your engine, it can severely damage it. If you plan to use water to clean it, make sure it is completely dry before reinstalling it.
Don’t forget to dress the part
That goes for you and the bike. Don’t go through all that trouble of restoring the motorcycle if you aren’t willing to commit to the lifestyle. A few accessories can go a long way in providing that custom feel to your new project.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
We know most DIY enthusiasts like to do everything themselves, but discretion is the better part of valor sometimes. For example, if your engine needs a rebuild service, take it to a certified mechanic to take care of it for you. Rebuilding an engine takes a lot of specialized tools and even machining sometimes, so it is not something the average person should engage in.
The electrical part is sometimes hard for some people as well, especially if you ignored our labeling advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for a professional to help you with the parts of your project you are not so familiar with.
If you need a professional to help you finish your motorcycle restoration, you can get in contact with a wide variety of craftsmen here. From re-upholstery of the seat to welding to machining, we are happy to help you find the help you need.