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Tips on Washing A Dirt Bike To Achieve a Clean Motorcycle


If you're wondering if the way you've been washing a dirt bike is the best way, or if this is your first go-round... Below, you'll find some of the best tips to consider before, during and after washing the dirt bike, as there are a few important steps to take before washing a motorcycle which will help to keep water out of places you don't want water going such as in the air intake or exhaust, as well as there are a few steps to take during the washing to get it as clean as the pro's and we'll even go over a few things to consider after the water's turned off to reduce the chances of future electrical troubles or other problems.

The tips below on how to wash a dirt bike are all tried & true techniques that work exceptionally well for getting a motorcycle clean without discoloring the aluminium, or getting water anywhere it shouldn't be, but immediately after washing the dirt bike, be sure to check out the article elsewhere on Waterproofing the Motorcycle's Electrical System as doing so will ensure long term electrical connectivity and potentially eliminate any costly electrical problems.

If you're thinking you've got it handled on how to wash a dirt bike, it sounds simple but after reviewing this article, you'll likely become reminded of something you hadn't thought of in a while.

What to Do Before, During & After Washing A Motorcycle

  • Before Washing A Dirt Bike
    Before getting too far along, this section will hook you up with tips on keeping water out of the intake and keeping the silencer packing dry, as well as what to bring with you when heading out to wash the dirt bike.
  • How to Actually Wash A Dirt Bike
    Following these tips will get a dirt bike clean without turning the aluminum white, and may even reveal some grunge in areas that still have dirt lurking from the last cleaning.
  • What to Do After Washing the Dirt Bike
    Once the dirt bike is clean, there's still important steps to take so as to prevent corrosion of electrical connections, as well as tips for keeping everything lubricated and working smoothly.

Steps to Take Before Washing A Dirt Bike

Is it OK To Use A Pressure Washer?

Contrary to what you may have heard, A pressure washer is perfectly alright to use when washing a dirt bike, but doing so DOES require a little common sense with the pressure, and performing frequent maintenance of the swingarm pivot and linkage bearings, as well as the steering head bearings.

It is true that pressure washers force dirt and grit through the seals of the bearing(s) but with a little common sense while using a pressure washer, this can be mostly avoided, but as mentioned above, if routine dirt bike maintenance is performed on the dirt bike on a regular basis, you'll be ahead of any wear anyways and you'll have a clean & good looking dirt bike.
Before you fire up the power washer... There are areas you need to cover such as the intake tract and exhaust.
  1. First, access and remove the air filter while ensuring no dirt or other foreign particles fall into the intake tract during removal of the air filter.
  2. Stuff a clean rag inside the air tract.
  3. Using a clean rag, wipe the grease or dirt and other contaminants away from the sealing area where the air filter flange seals to the air box.
  4. Using an Air Box Cover, Cover the opening.

    (Be sure to check out our article on Servicing an Air Filter)
Once you have the air tract into the engine sealed, it's important to keep the water out of the exhaust and from ruining the packing. Picture duct tape on silencer end cap

There are a multitude of silencer plugs available to cover the opening at the rear of the silencer, problem with those though is that most will still allow water entry during washing, so I found it convenient to use duct tape to cover the exhaust while washing a dirt bike, and this works best by "doubling-up" the tape. Using two layers of tape effectively ensures water won't penetrate the tape and absorb into the silencer packing thereby ruining the packing. The duct tape may look "Ghetto" but it's only for washing purposes and it IS effective.

What Do I Need to Wash A Dirt Bike?
You're going to need a good cleaner that will cut grease, oil and grime such as what builds up near the countershaft sprocket or under the swingarm and "Simple Green" used at full strength works wonders without discoloring the aluminium the way that some purple cleaners will, also, considering that Simple Green is a Bio Degradable and Non-Toxic commonly available concentrated cleaner that can be found just about anywhere such as home improvement stores and auto parts outlets, Simple Green just can't be beat.

In addition to the cleaner chosen, to get a sweet looking dirt bike out of this deal, you'll also need a sponge, a good scrub brush and 3M Scotch brite will come in handy for tough spots, just don't go too heavy on the scotch brite otherwise you'll have dull looking scratches in the aluminium or plastic.

How to Actually Wash A Dirt Bike

Begin washing the dirt bike with first wetting everything down and trying to dislodge a majority of the built up mud and grime with water pressure alone, but use care so as to not force dirt into the swingarm bearings, linkage bearings, steering head bearings or axle seals.

Once the heavy stuff is gone, use the simple green in full concentration (or the cleaner of your choice) applied from a hand held pump sprayer, and apply it liberally all over the motorcycle, focusing on the areas you will need the cleaner to soak in such as the swingarm and linkage, crankcases in the area of the countershaft sprocket, radiator shrouds, air box area, and under the fenders.

Next, using your brushes, sponge and scotch brite, begin cleaning by scrubbing the areas of the dirt bike that have dirt remaining rinsing with water occasionally.

A few areas that are not generally thought of or addressed are:

  • Under the fuel tank
  • Between the radiator shrouds and tank or frame
  • Underneath the rear shock bump rubber
    (This area can be cleaned by lifting the bottoming rubber with a screwdriver and cleaning the build-up from underneath)
  • The underside of the bike near the area where the carburetor and crankcase vent tubes exit and mud generally accumulates due to the presence of fuel or oil mist escaping from the vent hoses attracting dirt or other particles which accumulate in this area creating a type of fuel / oil / mud mixture.
Picture of cleaning the inside of an air box

If you installed an Air Box Cover, you'll be able to wash the inside & outside of the air box and ensure that the drain is clear, but while doing so, if using a pressure washer, be sure to exercise caution during cleaning of the outside area of the air box so as to not direct the high pressure of the power washer directly at the air box to boot seal, as this could dislodge the seal leading to the introduction of dirt or other fine particles to be drawn in to the air flow, bypassing the air filter causing engine damage or other future costly repairs. If you're not certain of the integrity of the seal between the air box and intake boot, be sure to see this article on Sealing The Air Box.




Picture of washing a radiator

When focusing on the radiator(s), it's a good idea to use a lower water pressure than that of a power washer and force the water through the radiators from the opposite direction of normal airflow to remove any "roost" or other build up that may be obstructing air flow through the radiators diminishing their cooling capabilities.

What to Do After Washing the Dirt Bike

Once your done washing the dirt bike, it's important to start immediately displacing some of the water you just got everywhere.

It's very important that all the electrical connections and related components are quickly dried with compressed air to force any remaining water away from these areas, as this will help prevent corrosion or contamination of electrical connections which can cause intermittent cut outs or other problems including excessive electrical resistance which can result in the premature failure of expensive electrical components, or possibly leave you stranded on a trail, or left sitting on the gate when it drops, either of which can be embarrassing.

A great way to ensure that all the electrical connections are dry is by using compressed air in the following manner. (If you'd like to ensure that your electrical system will stand up to future washings or water crossings, check out this article on waterproofing the motorcycle's electrical system.)

Begin with directing the air at the electrical connectors on components such as the CDI unit (black box), kill switch, ignition coil and related connectors (usually near the steering stem).

Picture under left engine cover

Next, remove the ignition cover (two-strokes) and dry the magneto and pick-ups of moisture with compressed air while also ensuring the breather / drain hole in this area is unobstructed (not clogged with dirt from underneath).

Note; Removal and re-installation of the ignition cover will likely require the use of a hand impact driver if secured with "Phillips" type screws and it's very important to be removed on bikes with a plastic cover due to a majority of these covers being distorted allowing easy water entry.

Furthermore... If you have a plastic ignition cover in place, it's highly recommended that you upgrade to a more durable aftermarket ignition cover as these will keep water out in the event of a wet track or a water crossing when riding off-road.

While the ignition cover is removed, it's a good idea to look for any visual indications of a leaking crank seal (oil residue) and check for any play in the main bearings by grabbing the flywheel with your hand and feeling for any movement in any direction. You should not feel any movement using this technique but for more details, there is an article elsewhere which details the process for checking the left side main bearing and crank seal.

Next, while using compressed air, focus on displacing water from other areas such as around the throttle housing, carburetor or throttle body, pivot points, drive train and air box.

Once most of the dirt bike is dried, it's important that the cover over the intake tract, as well as the rag (If Inserted) are removed and the intake tract / boot is inspected for any dirt that may have fallen into the intake when removing the air filter or cleaning the sealing flange.

Once the intake tract is clear of any moisture, dirt or other particles, a fresh air filter should be installed and the engine should be started and ran for a few minutes so as to blow out any water that may have crept inside the engine past the air intake cover or exhaust connections.

After following the above recommendations, it's strongly recommended that The Oil is Changed, the drive chain is lubricated and adjusted, The control cables are lubricated, and the throttle housing is cleared of any moisture followed with being lubricated by using a dry graphite powder.

Finally, ensure that the throttle snaps shut when released and then review the many other articles detailing techniques for performing other
Dirt Bike Maintenance to achieve a professionally maintained motorcycle.



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