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Motorcycles are machines but they share some characteristics with humans, such as overheating. It’s completely possible to happen to a motorcycle and it often leave us wondering how to handle such a situation if it ever happens.
An overheated motorcycle engine is something that shouldn’t ever be ignored. These damages can cause severe damage and leave you frustrated as well as a high repair bill.
How can you prevent your motorcycle from getting too hot? You must maintain a basic motorcycle maintenance routine, such as oil changes and proper coolant levels. This will prevent your motorcycle from overheating. To prevent the motorcycle from running at an excessive idle, ensure that the idle screw is in a good place.
I’ve had my fair share of overheating vehicles, especially motorcycles. As unfortunate as that was, I’ve been able to learn a lot about overheating motorcycle engines and how to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Avoiding your Motorcycle from Overheating
Overheating is one of the most difficult things to address in vehicles. Certain factors can make them susceptible to becoming as such like hot weather, high RPM’s, and lack of proper maintenance.
Motorcycles are not an exception. I’ve actually heard people say that it’s not really possible for motorcycles to overheat because there’s constant airflow. Such is not the case and they’re in for a big surprise when their motorcycle overheats one day.
There are two types of cooled motorbike engines. First, air-cooled bikes make up about 90% of all motorcycles currently on the roads.. The fins are on the sides of the engines. As you ride, the air passes past the fins and cools down the engine.
The second type is known as a water-cooled engine. This engine is attached to a small radiator, just like a car. Water circulates through the engine and cools down the engine as you drive. For optimal cooling, these require a water/coolant mix.
All it takes is basic maintenance to keep your motorcycle from overheating. If you have an air cooled motorcycle, you’ll need to always make sure that it doesn’t have a high idle and it’s not constantly being revved to a high RPM. Click here to see more information I’ve written about why a motorcycle idles high. Revving can be fun and essentially doesn’t cause much damage, but constant revving can lead to unnecessary overheating.
It is essential to maintain the correct coolant and water mix for your water-cooled motorcycle engine. The cooling system of a motorcycle is relatively simple yet can cause a lot of problems if you don’t maintain it. Regularly inspect your radiator to make sure there aren’t any obstructions or rocks that could cause fluid leaks.
It doesn’t matter if your motorcycle has an air or water cooling system, regular oil changes are essential. It is a good rule of thumb to change your motorcycle’s oil every 4,000mi or every 6 moths, depending on which comes first.
How to address the problem of motorcycle heat buildup
Two main reasons an air-cooled motorcycle engine overheats are: The engine is working too hard and revving too fast is the main reason.
During a high rev, the RPM’s are increased so the friction that’s happening inside the engine also increases. Constant friction causes heat, which in turn leads to motorcycle engine overheating. See my other article here that discusses whether or not it’s bad to rev your motorcycle engine.
If this is your suspicion, stop revving the engine at high speeds and let it cool down. If your motorcycle is idling high by itself, you may need to readjust the idle screw on the carburetor so the motorcycle idles between 700-1,000 RPM’s. Anything above 1,500 RPM’s is excessive.
An improper oil circulation is another reason that an air-cooled motorcycle motorbike engine overheats. Oil acts as an engine coolant on an air cooled motorcycle because it lubes everything that’s going on inside. Lubrication helps to reduce friction between parts, thereby reducing heat that it emits.
It is easy to fix and prevent a motorcycle engine from overheating because of a lack of oil circulation or lubrication. Change your oil and address any oil leaks. Click here to read my suggestions for how to fix an oil leak on a motorcycle.
Check your coolant-to-water ratio if you notice excessive heat on a water-cooled motorcycle engine. It is important to keep a mix of 50% distilled and 50% motorcycle coolant. A motorcycle can overheat if it has an inequal mixture.
Tap water can cause damage to your motorcycle’s cooling system. The city may have added iron and calcium. These additives are fine for humans but not for motorcycle engines. Always use distilled water for a motorcycle engine that is water cooled.
Sometimes coolant lines may get blocked up, which can prevent coolant mixture from circulating. You can use an infrared thermometer to check if this is the problem. Point it at the radiator’s inlet and then at its outlet and compare the temperatures. They should be drastically different from one another. If they’re not, then coolant is not circulating properly and your likely culprit is plugged lines.
What to Do When Your Motorcycle Overheats
A lot of motorcycles don’t come with temperature gauges so it may be hard to know whether or not an overheating engine is your issue. There are a few obvious signs you can look for if you suspect you may have an engine that’s overheating.
Burning fluids, such as oil or coolant, are the most obvious sign. Those are smells you shouldn’t be smelling on a regular basis. A second sign is excessive smoke coming out of the exhaust or smoke coming from your engine.
Though most motorcycles don’t have a temperature gauge, there are other lights on the instrument cluster that can be an indication of a problem. Some motorcycles have a check engine light or some sort of warning light that notifies the rider there’s something wrong. The oil light may be on older motorcycles.
If your motorcycle is heating up, stop immediately and pull over to the nearest safe spot. Allow your motorcycle to cool for at minimum 15 minutes before starting it up again. You might try pouring water on your engine to cool it down.
If the engine continues to heat up when you try to start it again, immediately turn it off and stop using it. To properly address the problem, you will need to have someone to help you pick you up. It is much cheaper to call a tow truck than to have your engine repaired.
What Damage Can An Overheating Motorcycle Motor Engine Cause
Overheating a machine and not doing anything about it is one of the most dangerous things you can do. These can have severe consequences and may eventually render them unfixable. Too many motorcycles overheat and end up ruined because of it.
Many people think metal is tougher than it really is. Some feel it can handle heat at higher temperatures than what it’s meant to withstand. When you have an overheating engine, there’s a lot of friction going on inside which can cause some of the parts to fuse together.
Overheating can cause the piston to seize inside the cylindrical, which is one of the most common problems. Your engine will stop working once this happens.
There are still possible damages if the piston doesn’t seize. It is possible for the pistons to warp and the cylinder walls to crack. There’s also a lot of wiring that’s by a motorcycle engine; if the engine gets too hot it can burn and melt those wires which will cause other malfunctions throughout the motorcycle.
You, the rider, can be exposed to heat and overheating engines. If the engine is seized, it means that all moving parts within it are seized and the chain stops moving back tire. The sudden stoppage of the back tire can cause you to lose your balance and even cause you to fall off the bike. You could also accidentally touch the hot engine.
What should you do when your motorcycle engine gets too hot in traffic? Turn off your motorcycle if you notice that it is heating up in traffic. If you don’t come to complete stops, pull over, turn off the engine, and let it cool for a few minutes before proceeding.
Which is more efficient, an air-cooled motorcycle or a motorcycle that is water-cooled? Both air-cooled and water-cooled motorcycles offer their own advantages so it’s difficult to decide which is best. If properly maintained, water-cooled engines are less susceptible to overheating.