#1 Remove the required parts to get better cleaning access to your bike.
#2 Cover essential areas of the dirt bike to protect them from water damage.
#3 Remove the big chunks of dirt first before hitting the bike with water.
#4 Use a high pressure washer to wash down the bike, making sure you avoid areas of the bike that can be damaged by water such as bearings, seals and radiator fins.
#5 Scrub your bike down with light detergent and various sized brushes.
#6 Rinse the bike to remove the detergent.
#7 Dry the bike down with dry rags or compressed air to avoid water staining and mineral deposits.
#8 Apply chemicals to the right parts of the bike to maintain and protect.
#9 Clean and refit the removed parts.
#10 Use Brillo pads and silicone spray to get that shiny factory finish!
Anyone can give their bike a spray down with a garden hose after a ride.
But as we well know this doesn’t do a very good job.
There is still plenty of dirt and muck left on the bike, especially in the hard to reach areas.
If you really want to restore your bike to its former glory then you will need to spend a bit of time and energy to get it right.
Also, doing a proper clean will help maintain your bike better.
But also, a freshly washed bike is really sexy to look at!
It will also help you to identify any issues with the bike that may need repairing.
In this article I will be going through a comprehensive cleaning system that I use on my bikes.
I will be sharing some tips and tricks that I use for getting to the hard to reach places.
Also, I will show you how to protect the areas of the bike that are sensitive to high pressure water.
Finally I will describe how to finish by re-lubricating the right areas of the bike.
I’m going to assume in this post that you have a high pressure washer available. If not, you need to buy one as they are the best way to wash down your bike properly. They are also useful with cleaning your car and concrete areas around the house. It’s a useful tool to have in the garage.
A good high pressure sprayer should have the ability to spray detergent wash as well as clean water.
The problem with high pressure sprayers is that they are a pain in the ass to store away. They have long messy hoses and the gun is hard to put away. They usually just end up being thrown in the corner in a big tangled mess.
I own the Karcher K1700. It has 1700 PSI of pressure which is plenty and has a detergent nozzle. Most importantly for me is that I can pack away the hose and the gun into the unit and I can store it neatly in the garage. Highly recommended.
When using a high pressure washer on a bike, don’t go in at point blank range as they are really powerful and can force water into sensitive areas and can break down stickers and rubber.
Use the sprayer from a decent distance so the pressure can’t do any damage. I will be talking about this further on.
Put your bike up on a bike stand before you start working on it and work in an area that is okay to get dirty.
#1 Remove Parts.
The first step is to remove a bunch of parts off your bike to get to the places where the high pressure washer can’t reach.
Lay out a plastic cover on the ground where you can place parts and nuts and bolts so they are easy to find.
Remove the side covers and radiator covers. Removing these will give you much better access to the engine and radiator.
Remove the skid plate. Skid plates are notorious for collecting mud.
Remove the front sprocket cover. Nothing can reach this area if it’s full of grease so you will want to remove this as well. Throw it in the solvent bucket with the chain.
Remove the chain. Take the chain off and soak the chain in a bucket of mild solvent. I use some gasoline from the tank but you can also use mineral spirits or diesel works good as well.
Remove the air filter. By removing the air filter, you can clean out the air box at the same time that you are washing the bike.
OPTIONAL: Remove the seat. The seat will become waterlogged and the foam will become damaged if you hit it with a high pressure sprayer so try to avoid it or take it off.
Grab a rag and wipe down the inner air box making sure you remove all the dust until it is all cleaned out.
Cover the air box hole. Make sure you cover the air box hole completely so water doesn’t get into the engine.
To do this you have a few options. Some riders will stuff in a rag and you can also use a shower cap as a cover.
If you want to do it properly though, get yourself a professional air box cover.
I use a ‘Twin Air’ air box cover. Highly recommended!
Air boxes come in different shapes so make sure you have a chat to your retailer to make sure you get the right size for your bike.
Rockymountainatvmc.com will let you enter in your bikes make and model to see if parts will fit your dirt bike.
An air box cover will completely seal the air box hole and will guarantee that no water gets into the engine when you go crazy with the high pressure cleaner.
Plug your muffler. Plugging your exhaust ensures that no water gets into the pipe and corrodes it from the inside. Here you can use a rag or you can use a professional exhaust plug.
Cover your electricals and carburetor. The electricals around the spark plug area and carby (if you have one) are pretty good at resisting water normally but not from a high pressure sprayer.
I like to stuff rags around the area between the spark plug and the frame where the fuel tank sits so there is some protection from water being driven into the electricals.
Also, I like to put a rag around the carby as well.
#3 Remove the Heavy Mud First.
If your bike is heavily packed with mud. Go over the bike with a wooden stick to poke the mud off your bike.
I like to use a broom stick to do this job. Don’t use anything sharp or made of metal. Timber or rubber is strong enough to push the mud off but not so tough that you are scratching or damaging anything.
Remember to scrape the undersides of the wheel mudguards and through the rear suspension.
#4 Power Wash.
Use the high pressure washer. Spray the bike down with the high pressure water at a reasonable distance, blowing off as much dirt as you can.
Standing the bike up on the stand is perfectly fine of course, but I lay my bike on its side so the water and mud is directed into the ground.
Swivel moving parts like the foot pegs and gear lever to rattle out any excess dirt. Also, point the gun through the chain guide to blow the dirt out of it as well.
What NOT to do with the power washer!
Don’t hit the bike at point blank range as this will force water into crevasses and can break down rubber parts and tears off stickers.
Avoid the seals around the front and rear suspension areas as they can break down quickly under high pressure water.
Don’t hit any areas that swivel and contain bearings as they really don’t like water.
Do not hitting the radiator fins directly as they can bend flat under the pressure of the sprayer.
If you don’t like the idea of using a power washer, a bucket of warm water, mild detergent and a good brush will also do the trick but it will be a bit slower.
#5 Start Scrubbing.
The high pressure sprayer has now taken off most of the dirt but you will still need to get to the finer dust on the dirt.
While the bike is still laying down, get yourself a warm bucket of water with detergent and some different sized medium bristled brushes and start scrubbing the bike down everywhere you can.
I also like to use a medium bristle broom with a long handle so I can scrub the bike while I’m standing up because I am lazy.
As an alternative, you can also spray the bike down with a spray on bike wash first and let it soak in. I use Bio Maxima dirt bike wash. You can also use this in the high pressure spray gun.
After doing that and letting it soak for a few minutes, you can attack it with the brushes.
When scrubbing, pay attention to the chain areas.
These areas build up with a lot of thick grease and dirt and may take a while to remove. If they don’t come off by scrubbing, use a rag with solvent to wipe off.
If the radiator fins are clogged up with dirt, don’t hit them with a high pressure sprayer as the pressure can bend the fins shut.
Instead, use a high pressure air gun to blow the mud off if you have one. If not, scrub them with a soft brush and detergent with light pressure. Then wash them down with light water pressure.
Put the bike back up on its stand and grab the high pressure water sprayer and blow off all the soap, following the high pressure water rules.
Drying the bike is really important!
Water can stain certain metals and mineral deposits in water can damage fork seals as well.
Remove the protective rags and rub the bike down with a dry cloth.
If you have a high pressure air gun then definitely use that as well to get to the difficult to reach areas.
Take particular attention to the front forks and make sure they are completely dry.
#8 Apply Chemicals.
After the bike is dry you will need to apply the right chemicals to certain parts of the bike to maintain and protect them.
Get some brake cleaner and spray down your rotors and calipers. This will clean out any grease, grime and any left over water from the wash. I use PJ1 Brake Cleaner.
Spray the engine, electricals and bearings with a mild lube spray to drive away excess water.
#9 Clean and Refit Parts
The parts that you have removed from the bike in the beginning will be mostly plastic and are easy to clean.
But you will also have the sprocket guard, chain, air filter and skid plate to clean and refit as well.
Wash the plastics with a bucket of warm water, detergent and a brush and dry them off with a rag.
Spray some contact spray on a rag and rub down the plastics. This should remove most of the black buff marks off the plastic without removing the stickers. I use Maxima Contact cleaner for my plastics.
Pull the chain out of the bucket. It should be clean from sitting in gasoline. Then re-lube your chain using your usual lube and refit the chain back on the bike. Also clean the sprocket guard of excess muck and refit that as well.
Clean the seat down lightly with a brush and detergent being careful not to soak the seat in water.
Also, don’t use any polishes, waxes or silicone sprays on the seat otherwise it will become too slippery to sit on!
You are done! Go grab yourself a beer and admire the magic!
#10 Getting the Factory Finish.
A factory finish is where the aluminium parts of the bike such as the frame and swing arm looks like a mirror and the plastics and rubber look shiny and new.
Polish the frame with scrub pads. There is only one way to get your frame and other aluminium parts to come up with a mirror finish…
And that is with a lot of work!
To do this, get yourself some steel wool pads that have been infused with soap and start scrubbing until you are happy with the finish. I use Brillo.
You can also use fine sandpaper and even finer sandpaper to finish with plenty of water and aluminium polish.
Give it a good 20 minutes until you see results. You will need to be patient with the brillo pads.
Here’s whats possible with super amounts of dedication!
Silicone spray the plastics and tires. Silicone spraying your plastics will give them that new shiny look. Spraying the side walls of your tires with silicone will bring out the black and make them look like new.
I use Alco Silicone Detailer. It’s made for detailing bike and car parts. It works great!
Cleaning a dirt bike is not as simple as just hitting it with the garden hose. But if you follow my 10 steps then you can’t go wrong.
Can you get that super shine finish on your bike? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to share on social media if you liked it.
Title photo courtesy of Dirt&Stance Studios
- How to Whip a Dirt Bike. A Beginners Guide to Getting Sideways. - September 23, 2019
- The Best Dirt Bike Tool Kit for Trail Riding [that Won’t Break]. - August 6, 2019
- How to Wash Dirt Bike Pants. 5 Tips for Making them Last Longer [and 5 things to never do]. - August 5, 2019