8 Ways to Tell if your motorcycle was in an accident

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Everyone should inquire before purchasing a used motorcycle if it has been in an accident.  You can find out if the bike has been in an accident by looking at its documentation and physical signs. Be mindful while you’re looking at a motorcycle and assess your own skills and ability to fix any possible damage.

How can you tell if your motorcycle was in an accident? Here are some signs to watch out for:

  • Wobbly Wheels
  • Front Forks with a Gouged or Bent Design
  • Handlebars that are bent or crooked
  • Gas tank dented or scratched
  • Bent Frame
  • Large Crank Case Scratches
  • Broken or cracked plastic or fiberglass covers
  • Strange feeling while riding the motorcycle

If possible, check the documentation. VIN checks can be used to determine if a motorcycle was ever in an accident. Unfortunately, it’s not the only way because a lot of people don’t report their motorcycle accidents and attempt to just sell them if they’re able to fix up enough parts themselves.

If you’re able to, try to check all of these points when purchasing a potential motorcycle. To be clear, just because a motorcycle has been in an accident doesn’t mean you should shy away from it, you just need to know the extent of the damage before purchasing and know how much you’ll need to invest to get it safely functioning.

Wobbly Wheels

This test is easy, usually. Wheels on a motorcycle aren’t really that complex and it’s not that hard to detect if there’s something wrong with them.

The first test you’ll want to do is stand next to the motorcycle, stand it up straight, and roll it forward at least 20 feet.  You should inspect the front tire while you are rolling it forward to ensure there is no wobbling. You should do the same for the back tire.  If either one wobbles it’s a sign of some sort of front or rear impact, most commonly cause by either the motorcyclist rear-ending someone or someone rear-ended them.

If it’s a slight wobble then the most common fix is simply a new front wheel, but if it has a large wobble then it was most likely a harder impact accident.  The reason front wheel wobbles are more common is that they occur in the majority of accidents.

The second test you can try will be while you’re riding it. After you’ve checked everything else out on the motorcycle and feel it is safe to ride, try to notice the wheels while you’re taking a stroll. If you spot any unevenness, be sure to let us know. “bumping” sound or you feel like you’re riding over little bumps on the road when you know you’re not, that may also indicate problems with the wheels.

A new front tire for most motorcycles costs between $100-$400, depending on make and model.  You can sometimes just replace the wheel and reuse the old tire, which can help you save $100. This is something you cannot afford to ignore.  It’s extremely dangerous and irresponsible to ride a motorcycle with a front or back wheel that isn’t perfectly straight.

Front Forks with a Gouged or Bent Design

This is an essential step that must not be skipped. Although they may appear harmless at first glance, a bent or gouged front fork can lead to serious problems. The bends will continue to increase with continued use.

Stand straight up, balance the motorcycle and take a look at the front forks.  To function properly, all forks must be straight. If there are any slight bends or large gouges on the metal, it is likely that there has been a frontal impact.  If the forks appear straight, take a look at the forks in the front to ensure they are parallel and straight. If they’re not, that could mean a side impact.

Now balance the motorcycle between your legs and get on board. You can feel the front suspension by balancing on the handlebars. If it’s way too easy to bottom out the front shocks then they have lost pressure and will need to be rebuilt. If they don’t move at all then that’s a sign that they are either rusted in place or they are slightly bent and the tubes can’t move in and out of each other.

They can move either too quickly or too slowly, and that is a sign that the front forks must be rebuilt before the motorcycle can safely be driven on the road. An ineffective front suspension can lead to serious injuries.

Prices for new front forks vary depending on make and model, as well as whether you buy new or used.  I’m a huge advocate of saving a few bucks and getting used parts for my motorcycles. For older motorcycles, front forks can be found for between $80 to $150. Front forks that are used for newer models are typically between $200 and $500.  

Many of my parts are purchased from Amazon and eBay. Beware of front forks that say “Front forks” when buying parts for your motorcycle. “universal”. Front forks can be customized for each motorbike model.e.

Handle bars with bent or crooked handles

You can also test the handlebars before you spend your money.  It may not seem like a big deal for some, but it drives me insane when I have my handlebars bent. And in all honesty, it’s just not safe to have to drive crooked.

Place your feet on the ground and get on the bike. Stand straight up on the bike and point the front tire forward.  The handlebars should not be more than 90 degrees from the front tire.. If it’s skewed in any way, it could have been knocked to the ground hard or was involved in a front-end accident.  

If your handlebars are crooked, you can either replace the handlebars directly or tweak the triple clamp (the place where the handlebars and forks bolt together).  If the front forks and front wheel are straight, then you will need new handlebars. This is a simple fix for most motorcycles and not too expensive, unless you really want to be a cool handlebars.

I’ve replaced numerous handlebars for motorcycles. It’s only an hour long fix and usually costs me about $50 for good handlebars.  Clip on handlebars are available at unusually low prices on Amazon and eBay. I’m all about saving money but do not buy the cheapest parts, your life is worth more than that. It is not a good idea to be driving on the freeway when your handlebars are losing friction and sliding around, or breaking.  

Gas tank dented or scratched

Gas tank dents that are large and obvious are a good indicator of whether the motorcycle was in an accident.  If there is a huge dent on the top of the tank that usually means the motorcycle was parked in the garage and something fell on it (not a big deal); it’s not as common for an accident to cause dents on top of a motorcycle tank.  

However, if the sides of the tank have large dents or scratches it usually means that the motorcycle has been on its back. The scratches and dents on the tank can help you determine how severe the impact was. If there are only a few scratches or dents, it is likely that the motorcycle was dropped or tipped.

However, if the motorcycle has a few large scratches or dents, it could be an indication that the motorcycle was tipped on the road. You can learn more about how to lay a bike on its side by reading our article.  

Gas tank dents generally don’t affect the functionality of the motorcycle, so this is very low on the critical list.  If the motorcycle was involved in an accident that severely damaged the tank, you should make sure that the motorcycle wasn’t dragged to the point that the road created a hole.

If the tank has small dents and even large scratches on it, it doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve restored and repainted several motorcycle tanks and cosmetic issues such as this aren’t much of a big deal at all. These fixes are easy and inexpensive if done yourself.

Bent Frame

This is another important test and should not be missed. A bent frame on a motorcycle can be a sign of a serious hit. It can also have ripple effects on the rest.

It’s often difficult to test whether or not the frame bent at all because most of it is hid with all of it’s mechanics. It’s especially difficult to diagnose if you’re looking into purchasing a motorcycle with those extra bells and whistles, hardly exposing the frame at all.

There are several general tests that you can use to diagnose possible problems with your frame. First, look at any welded areas on the frame.

For example, look at the front motor mount bar and check where it’s welded to the rest of the frame. Are there cracks or paint chips visible? This assessment can be done on all corners and welds. These are the weakest points of the frame, and they will be ruined first by a large impact.

You can also look at the frame of your motorcycle by doing the straight-edge test. Use two long wooden dowels, or metal poles, and place them on each side of your motorcycle. Make sure that both poles touch each side of the rear tire.

Other than the rear tires, the poles must not touch any other parts of the motorcycle. After they are set up, they should form one continuous line. If you notice that the poles touch other parts of the bike or if the poles are not aligned properly, it could be an indication that the frame is incongruous.

Personaly, I have never attempted to fix any motorcycle frames. My advice is to never buy a motorcycle with a bent or crooked frame.. It is extremely difficult to fix a frame and you’ll probably just end up buying a new one which can be hundreds of dollars.

Large Crank Case Scratches

Because it sticks out farther than the rest of the motorcycle, the crankcase (also called the stator cover) is the most likely to be damaged in a motorcycle crash.

Above is a picture of a motorcycle that I used to have. It is possible that it was just tipped or dropped if there are tiny scratches like this. However, If you see larger or worse scratches than these, it is likely that the scratch was caused by an accident.

This is very obvious and can easily be noticed by anyone. Any scratches on the engine covers will indicate a crash.

It is very simple to repair a crankcase. You can remove scratches from the metal using sandpaper. Next, switch to fine sandpaper. Although this will remove most scratches, it can take a while. After you have sanded the scratches from the crankcase that was previously painted, you can tape the case off and paint your choice of color.

If you’ve noticed the scratches are pretty severe or notice any cracks, you’ll probably want to just buy a new crankcase altogether. These usually aren’t expensive with the average price running from $50 to $150, depending on if you buy a new or used one.

Broken or cracked plastic or fiberglass covers

Again, this is a very obvious sign to look for if you’re suspecting a motorcycle has been in a crash. Although not all motorcycles have plastic covers, be sure to inspect their condition.

All covers should be inspected. There may be cracks or scratches. A few scratches on the bike may be a sign that it has been dropped or tipped.. If you see consistent scratches on several places, it is likely that the scratches are more severe and larger.es.

To me, scratches on any plastic covers aren’t a big deal because I’ll usually end up throwing them away anyway because I like my motorcycles to have minimum equipment. But it’s still a good sign to look at because it can be a reflection of what the motorcycle has been through.

It is possible to repair damaged or scratched plastic and fiberglass covers on a motorcycle. You just need to be patient. PlastiFix, which is made for cracks such as these, has many options. This is the best way to fix it.

You can replace the entire covering by paying a fee depending on the make and model of your motorcycle, and whether you are willing to purchase new or used parts.

Strange feeling riding the motorcycle

If you’ve conducted all the tests listed above and deem the motorcycle safe to ride, take it for a stroll. This is always a good rule of thumb when you buy any vehicle that’s running. Before you buy any vehicle, it is important to understand how it handles.

While you’re out on a motorcycle test drive, notice the wheels, the steering, and how the motorcycle handles when it turns, stops, accelerates, and goes over speed bumps. You’ll also want to test it at higher and lower speeds too if possible.

What’s your overall impression of the motorcycle? Is it smooth to ride? Is it smooth to ride?

Even if you looked at the whole motorcycle over and didn’t notice any signs of a hard impact on it, if you’re taking the motorcycle out for a ride and notice that it just doesn’t feel right, that may be your sixth sense tingling saying “do not buy!” It’s totally okay to go with your gut feeling on a purchase such as this because it’s a big investment and also a huge safety issue.

You want to feel as relaxed as possible while riding a motorcycle. Don’t take any chances if your gut is telling you no.

Similar Questions

Are motorcycles dangerous? As with all transportations, motorcycles are more susceptible to injury than other types. If you are a safe driver, keep the speed limits, and wear the appropriate gear while riding, you’ll have less of a chance at getting a major injury.

Where can I learn how to ride a motorcycle safely? You will need a permit in most states to test your skills riding a motorcycle. After you get your permit, it’s best to first start practicing in empty parking lots that you know won’t have a lot of traffic. Then you’ll be ready to test out riding in other conditions.

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