How To Wash a Motorcycle at a Car Wash


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How To Wash A Motorcycle At A Carwash

Do you own a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and you’re looking to wash it at a car wash, but you don’t know how to? If yes, then this is just the right place for you to be.

Washing a motorcycle at a car wash is a great way of cleaning your bike and keeping it well maintained. All you will require is a motorcycle cleaner, a hose with a spray nozzle, a sponge, brushes, rags, and chain lube. The process will consist of gathering the supplies, spraying down the bike with water, applying the motorcycle cleaner, rinsing off the detergent, drying the motorcycle, re-lubing the chain drive, and taking your bike out for a drive.

In this article, you will get to know all about washing your Harley-Davidson bike, how to wash a motorcycle at a car wash, the Dos and Don’ts of washing a bike at a car wash, and more. Continue reading to get all the answers that you’re looking for.

Washing a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle

Harley-Davidson bikes take a lot of punishment when out on the open road. Even models having fairings and other protective coverings over some of the sensitive components have to endure dust, oil, dirt, and more while blasting along at highway speeds. All this filth isn’t just hard to look at when covering up the beautiful paint job of your Harley-Davidson bike, it is also quite damaging.

Corrosion from road salts, dirt, and other grime can wreak havoc on your motorcycle’s inner workings, especially wiring connections and rubber gaskets. It means that washing your motorcycle is as necessary for maintenance as it is for the joy of riding a clean and shiny bike.

If that isn’t enough, washing your motorcycle also carries another great benefit – it offers an excuse to give your motorcycle an up-close visual inspection that could do wonders as a practice of preventative maintenance. While you are scrubbing, you can also check the chain for signs of wear and tear, make sure that the tread on your tires is still good, or look out for oil leaks that might need immediate attention.

How to Wash a Motorcycle at a Car Wash

Very few things can be as relaxing and exhilarating as taking your Harley-Davidson bike out for a long, leisurely ride after a hectic week. However, even the costliest and sturdiest bikes take a lot of punishment when cruising down open roads and highways.

Dirt, dust, bugs, and other sorts of filth easily get on your bike. Some people may think of it as just an aesthetic convenience, however, experienced bikers know that allowing this filth to cling to a bike can easily corrode and degrade important components. Washing and cleaning a motorcycle is a rather simple task as long as you’ve got the right supplies. Follow these step-by-step instructions to know how to wash a motorcycle at a car wash – 

1. Make sure that you’ve gathered all the supplies

Using a car wash can make things quite convenient, but it might not always have everything you need for washing a motorcycle. If your local car wash doesn’t have any of the following items, you must purchase them online or from an offline store – brush, sponge, rags, exhaust plug, motorcycle-specific detergent, chain lube, and motorcycle wax. 

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2. Lightly hose down your motorcycle

Rinse off your motorcycle with water before moving forward. This will eliminate any large bits of dirt, which can scratch the paint if you’re scrubbing them around. It will also help the soap or detergent create suds. 

Remember to make use of low pressure, especially on the engine and drive. You can use higher pressure on the wheels and tires, but you should be careful that you avoid the drive chain.

3. Apply the detergent or cleaner

If you’ve got an engine degreaser, you should apply it first to the extent of your motorcycle’s engine, ensuring that you get in all the cracks of the fins.

Next up, you should use a sponge to scrub the bike lightly and apply the motorcycle detergent to the extent of your motorcycle, working from the top down. You shouldn’t apply detergent directly to the brakes or drive chain, but it’ll be ok too if some of it falls into them. You should rinse off the sponge and then apply more detergent to keep from scraping dirt or grime across the paint.

Once you have finished with the sponge, you should check if there are any dirty places like the wheels. Make sure that you remove any stubborn dirt and grime with a brush.

4. Rinse off the soap/detergent and grime

Again, using low pressure you should rinse off all the suds. Ensure that you’re going over the motorcycle multiple times so that you don’t want to leave behind any residue.

Person Washing A Motorcycle

5. Dry off your bike

Some carwashes come with air blowers to dry out your motorcycle. These are great since they get into all the nooks and crannies while avoiding leading behind any watermarks.

If the car wash hasn’t got an air blower, make use of soft rags to dry the bike off as much as possible. Get into the cracks and crevices, as water can cause metal parts to corrode.

6. Re-lube the drive chain

You shouldn’t directly apply soap or water to the drive chain directly, but it will inevitably receive some crossfire. Before riding the motorcycle again, you’ll need to re-lube the chain by spraying it evenly on both sides with motorcycle-specific chain lube.

7. Take the bike for a drive

Once you have applied the chain lube, it’ll be a good idea to take your bike out for a ride. This will help in dispersing the chain lube while drying off the water in nooks and crannies. Make sure that you’re taking out the exhaust plug first.

Moreover, remember that the brakes will be wet. Start off slow and as the brakes are drying out, you should move to higher speeds. Once the brakes are dry, head home and consider the job done.

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Do’s and Don’ts of Washing a Motorcycle

Despite how simple the entire process of washing a motorcycle can be, there is a list of Dos and Don’ts that you should keep in mind. Failing to clean the bike properly could lead to many headaches later on in the future, so it’ll be best to familiarize yourself with how motorcycle washing works. 

Here are the Dos and Don’ts to consider when washing a motorcycle –

Do’s: Wash your bike in a shaded place

Ideally, you’d want to clean your bike on a bright and sunny day so that you can better see what you’re doing. However, you should try your best to do the cleaning in a shaded area. This is the case because exposing soap to direct sunlight causes the soap to dry faster, leaving soap marks and water streaks. The former can be difficult to remove when you’re rising your bike. Save yourself the trouble and wash your bike inside your garage or at least under the shade of a tree.

Don’t: Forget to lubricate the bike’s chain

Even though you want to remove grease from the bike’s body, you’ll definitely want to keep it on your motorcycle’s chain. This can be a slightly difficult task since you’ll inevitably get cleaning spray and soapy water on your bike’s chain as you’re going through the cleaning process. Lubricating the chain isn’t a step that you’d expect to see in “how to wash a motorcycle” guides. However, it is still an important step, and washing your bike is the perfect time to ensure that the chain is well-lubricated.

Do’s: Plug your exhausts before rinsing

It is no secret that getting water in your bike’s exhaust system can lead to a bad time on the road. Unfortunately, plenty of motorcycle exhausts are angled in a way that it is easy for water to enter and pool inside.

As there’s no way around using water to clean your bike, you will have to ensure that you plug up your exhaust pipe before rinsing off your bike. You can use a rubber plug from a third-party supplier, or you can just take a dry, clean rag and then stuff it into the exhaust.

Don’t: Use car shampoo or household soaps

Avoid using household soaps, laundry detergents, or any other types of cleaning products on your bike. The materials used for manufacturing your motorcycle are much more delicate than you may initially think. Cleaning products that aren’t specifically designed for bikes will often contain harsh chemicals that might damage your paint job or the metal components of your bike. You should play it safe and use motorcycle shampoo, preferably a brand that your motorcycle detailer recommends.

Do’s: Use different buckets of water

How many buckets of water do you need to have on hand when you are washing your bike? The best way of cleaning a motorcycle is to use different buckets of water. The filth that has been collected on your motorcycle generally gets transferred onto your cleaning cloth. As you are rinsing the cloth in the bucket, the grime from the cloth begins to mix with the water and back into your cloth. Over time, all you are doing is applying grime back onto your bike.

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Use different buckets when cleaning your motorcycle – one bucket filled with motorcycle shampoo and water and the other filled with clean water. Ensure that you’re rinsing your cloth in the bucket with pure water before you dip it back into the one with your cleaning mixture.

Don’t: Scrub vigorously for removing dead bugs

Cruising down country roads is a quick way of accumulating dead bugs on your bike. This wouldn’t be too terrible if the bugs weren’t so tough to remove at times.

When removing these dead bugs, take care that you don’t scrub too vigorously, since you could scratch your paint job. Try to soften up the bugs with warm water or spray on a coat of bug remover before rinsing your bike.

Do’s: Use a microfiber cloth

When washing your bike, ensure that you’re using an appropriate microfiber cloth. The fibers in this cloth are specially designed for cleaning, which is why they are incredibly soft. This softness is essential as it reduces the chance of accidentally leaving scratches on your paint job.  Another advantage of using microfiber cloths for cleaning bikes is that they absorb water up to 8 times the weight, making drying easy and quick.

Don’t: Wash your bike while the engine is hot

If your motorcycle is filthy after a long ride, you might be tempted to wash it as soon as you get home. This might be a good mindset to have, but you should ensure that your bike’s engine has cooled down properly first. The engine and other metal components of the motorcycle are subjected to a significant amount of heat, and washing your bike while these parts are still hot is a nasty burn just waiting to happen. 

Another reason to let your bike cool down first will be cracking. Splashing the hot engine with cold water from your hose could lead to cracking due to the sudden change in temperature.


What do you need for washing a motorcycle?

The list of supplies that you’ll need for washing a motorcycle includes a motorcycle-specific cleaner, a hose with an adjustable spray nozzle, brushes, a sponge, rags, chain lube, and a microfiber cloth.

Can you use detergent for cleaning your bike?

No, you cannot use detergent or even a cleaner that you use for washing a car. You must use a motorcycle-specific cleaner.

Is there a specific temperature at which you should clean your bike?

Never wash your motorcycle when it is hot. You should only wash your bike when the engine has cooled down.

Can washing at a high-pressure give better cleaning?

You should never use a high-pressure hose. Water forced into engine components can end up causing problems down the road.

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