9 Components that need be checked when buying a used motorcycle

Remember: There’s no such thing as love at first sight
by Aris Ilagan | May 20, 2020
PHOTO: Aris Ilagan

Early this year, our writer Carlo Chungunco came up with a well-written article on useful tips when searching for used car and motorbikes online. He stressed the importance of checking the deed of sale, the LTO registration papers, and the history of the vehicle, and even discussed how to transact wisely with sellers on the Internet. That awesome piece was highly appreciated by our readers.

Now comes the exciting and more challenging step in buying secondhand vehicles. We now assume that the prospective buyer has narrowed down his choices to a few units, and he’s ready to see them in the metal. Nothing beats owning your dream bike, even if it’s not brand-new. But nothing dampens the dream more than inheriting headaches from the previous owner.

When it’s time to assess your future ride, hold your emotions back in order to be effective and impartial. Get a pen and a piece of paper, then make an imaginary points system for you to be able to effectively wrestle for the price. Let’s do this.


1) Engine

Check the surrounding areas of the valve and engine covers for possible oil leaks. It’s also recommended to let the engine run for a longer period to determine if the leak worsens. You might need to ask the seller to immediately replace the oil seal before, ahem, sealing the deal. Check the hoses and tubes on the fuel line for cracks or cuts. 

2) Clutch system

Make sure this is operating smoothly. If there’s a bit of dragging on the clutch lever, it might need lubrication. This is also probably an indication that the clutch cable is due for replacement. For fluid-type clutch systems, it’s important that the seller maintains clean, unadulterated fluid to ensure smooth clutch operation. Make sure there are no leakages or cracks on hoses, too.

3) Chassis

This is the part that shouldn’t be ignored it’s the one that holds everything together. Therefore, it has to remain as solid as can be, free of cracks and corrosion. Ask someone to hold the bike straight and look at it from a distance to check if the front and rear tires are properly aligned. Otherwise, the chassis has been twisted from a strong impact—either from bottoming out or a hard landing. This could result in an unstable and unsafe ride. Check for cracks or rust on joints and welded spots (for steel chassis) as well.

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4) Handlebars

If it seems the handlebars are bent due to a bad fall or accident, this could pose a problem for the bike’s handling. Misaligned handlebars can cause the bike to pull to the right or to the left, which can be very stressful to the rider. Also check also the steering head assembly for worn-out bearings.

5) Tires and wheels

Put up the center stand and let the rear wheel spin to determine if there are bulges or cracks. The tire wear should be even—flat spots indicate the rider is addicted to doing tire burns, power slides, or hard braking. Check what year the tire was manufactured, and make sure it has not been in use for more than five years.

6) Exhaust system

Make sure the entire exhaust system is still securely attached to the engine and chassis regardless of the long years of vibration it’s been subjected to. Listen to the exhaust for leaks for this will lead to more consumption of fuel.


7) Bodywork

Inspect the fairings for cracks and missing bolts or clips. Check the alignment of the bodywork. A misaligned fairing is a possible sign that the bike has been in a crash, and a shoddy repair job can’t hide this fact. Nothing beats clean, neatly placed bodywork that goes with an untarnished, original paint job.

8) Brake system

Check the rotor for damage, especially if the owner had failed to replace worn-out brake pads but still used the bike, causing deep scratches on the surface of the metal disc. If there’s a pulsating feel when braking, the rotors must be replaced immediately. Also, the brake lever should return quickly to its position, while the bike should be able to roll freely without a dragging feel on the brake calipers.

9) Suspension

The fork should return quickly and firmly after you shove it down. If there’s a tendency for it to ‘dribble,’ you’ll need to have it replaced. The same goes for the rear shocks (or monoshock). There should be no prolonged springing up and down. Be alert for any sign of leaks on the fork seal. Suspension systems do not come cheap, so it would be good if you spot any issues before the deal is closed.


Good luck with your bike hunting!

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PHOTO: Aris Ilagan
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