Buying a Used Dirt Bike? My 28 Point Checklist to Uncover Hidden Problems.

buying a second hand dirt bike

Are you buying a used dirt bike and want to ask the right questions? Use this 28 point checklist to uncover hidden issues so you don’t get ripped off.

 If you don’t have any mechanical experience with dirt bikes, I recommend bringing a friend or mechanic with you that is handy with the wrench to avoid any landmines.

Step 1 – Warm up the Bike.

Problems are easy to hide when a dirt bike is cold. But when a bike has been warmed up then that’s when you will see, feel and hear the problems on the bike.

When you are riding the bike, jump up and down on the suspension and listen for noises in the engine. Check all the controls and make a mental note of anything that is not right.

 Don’t rev the shit out of the bike and ride recklessly. All you will be doing is pissing off the owner which will make them less likely to negotiate with you. Just give it standard riding revs until the engine is hot.

 After you have taken the bike for a ride and warmed it up, put the bike up on a stand (if possible) and start your inspection using the below list.

 STEP 2 – Check the Wheels.

 Check the spokes. To do this, tap on the spokes with a metal object and listen to the sound, if there are any really low sounds it means that the spoke is loose and the wheel may be buckled.

 Check the wheels. Spin the wheels and take a step back to check for buckling. Any buckling means that the wheels have not been serviced which is a sign that the bike hasn’t been serviced properly either.

 Check the tires. Check the tread to make sure you have at least 3/4 tread left. Any less then that and you should be looking to negotiate the price of new tires off the total price.

Step 3 – Check the Brakes.

 Check the rotors. Spin the wheels to check that the rotors aren’t bent and rubbing on the calipers. Are the rotors worn down badly?

 Check the brake pads. Is there plenty of padding or are they worn down?

 Check for leaks in the master cylinders, hydraulic lines and calipers.  Pump the brakes and check the fluids in the front and rear master cylinders and hydraulic lines. Any leaks?

Step 4 – Check the Bearings.

 Check the swing arm pivot bearings. While the bike is up on the stand, wiggle the the swing arm with some force. If it moves left and right even slightly it means that the pivot bearings are worn out.

 Check the steering head bearings. Check the steering head bearings by putting pressure on the triple clamp and front forks by wiggling them forward and back, left and right. If it has movement then the steering head bearings are worn out.

 Check the wheel bearings. Check the wheel bearings by shaking the wheels left and right with force while the bike is up on a stand.. If they move, the wheel bearings are broken.

Step 4 – Check the Radiator.

 Is there coolant in the radiator or is it empty? If it is empty, the motor may be burnt out.

 Is there coolant in the radiator or is it just water? Water is bad for radiators. If it is water, you can expect corrosion.  Check for leaks.

 Is the coolant green or a brown color? If it is brown then you definitely have rust and the radiator will need fixing or replacing.

 Check the hoses. The radiator hoses should be in good condition with no major cracking and should definitely have no leaks.

STEP 5 – Check the Suspension.

 Check the wear on the front and rear suspension by putting all your weight on the peg.

If the front and rear suspension push down and rebound at the same speed then the suspension is healthy.

If not, either the suspension is setup incorrectly or the suspension is worn out.

 Check the front forks. They should be straight, have no damage and not leaking oil anywhere.

 Check the swing arm. Is it bent or damaged?

 Check the suspension linkage for worn bearings or bends.

 Check the static sag. Lift the rear of the bike up as high as it can go without picking the rear wheel off the ground, then let it go.

The seat should drop by no more than about 25mm!

This is called static sag.

If it drops significantly further than this, the shock absorber has been worn out.

This same rule applies for the front forks.

To check the static sag you will need to bring a retractable tape with you and measure between the center axle nut and the bottom of the rear fender at full stretch and then released.

STEP 6 – Check the Engine.

 Check the oil levels in the engine. If it’s low, the engine may be burnt out.

Ask the owner of the last time the oil was changed. If they don’t know you may have an engine problem.

 Check the valves( if it is a 4 stroke). The valves are the first thing to wear out on a 4 stroke engine and so it is important to know how much life they have left. The only way to do this is either to crack open the engine or to check the service history with the owner.

 If there is no valve service history at all, prepare to pay for new valves if you choose to buy the bike.

 Check for leaking oil all around the engine seals. To check for leaks, run your hand under the engine and around the oil plug.

 If there is a skid plate, ask the owner to remove it to check for leaks around the oil plug.

 If they won’t remove it, the owner may be hiding a serious oil leak.

Also, check for leaks around the kick starter, the front sprocket and the gear shift.

 Check the air filter. Is it dirty? Is the air box full of dust? This is a classic sign that the bike has hardly been serviced.

STEP 7 – Check the Chain and Sprockets.

Check the chain. Can the chain be adjusted further or are the chain blocks adjusted all the way back. If it has been adjusted to its max limit, it means that the chain is fully stretched and worn out.

 Check the front and rear sprocket teeth for wear. If they are worn down, both front and rear sprockets and chain will need to be replaced.

STEP 8 – Check the Frame.

 Check the frame for fractures and big dings. Check this carefully as paint can hide issues. If there is really bad frame damage, it’s best to avoid the bike completely as the bike has been in a tremendous crash that has busted up the frame.

STEP 8 – Check the Service History and Modifications.

This is where you will need to ask the owner for service receipts and other records and manuals.

An owner that looks after their bike should have a folder full of receipts that details all services and maintenance all the way down to the brand of oil used.

If there are no service records, be wary because it may not have ever been serviced at all!

STEP 9 – Check the VIN.

The vehicle identification number should be clear to read (printed on the frame) and should have been re-welded on or modified in any way.

If you cannot identify the VIN, grab your wallet and run the other way because the bike is probably stolen.


Let me know if I have missed any points in the comments box below and if you liked this article, please give it a share on social media.


Happy hunting!

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