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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I feel like almost everyday we go over some basic stuff in different threads regarding what to look for when buying a used bike. Instead of repeating this information over and over again, I am going to stick this thread in the hopes that it will help some new buyers(and old ones) in some basics to look for when purchasing a used bike. Feel free to add on to the list and I will edit the post to make it cleaner.

1. Check fluid levels--Oil, brake fluid, coolant levels, etc. Also if you can look at the oil and its condition. A bike with fluid levels that haven't been maintained, especially the oil could mean trouble.
2. Tires- Tires are often neglected, but can run a few hundred bucks right off the bat. Make sure they are not brittle or cracked, no nails, plugs, or flat spots. Check the tread life, you can go through tires quick so be prepared to replace them if the tread is low.
3. Chain/belt drive--Rusty chains will need to be replaced, see how much slack is in the chain. Check for kinks in the chain and if possible put it on a rear stand and spin the back tire to see how the chain looks. Properly lubed chains should be free of rust and move smoothly.
4. Frame--Look for damage in the spots on the frame that are most likely to be scuffed up in a crash or drop. Check out the sub-frame on sportsbike as this can be bent(get behind the bike and make sure the rear end lines up over the rear tire) Check the stator cover, and the clutch cover for touch up paint(touch up paint is a sure sign the bike has been down one way or another). Forks, check for leaks or cracked seals, this could be a couple hundred bucks easy.
5. Fairings--Make sure they line up and match up. Slightly different colors could mean replacements from a crash, misaligned fairings could mean the same. Beware of "custom" or new paint jobs, most of the bikes I have seen repainted were repainted because they were down and the fairings were bondoed instead of being replaced. A warning with street figher/naked bikes that weren't originally a naked bike. Most bikes that are streetfightered have been wrecked and instead of replacing parts, the bike was chopped down to a fighter, just know that going to look at a fighter.
6. Handle bars--Check the ends of the bars for scraps, another sign the bike has been down. Turn them both ways as far as possible, there should be some clearance on the gas tank. Check to make sure all levers move freely and the throttle is smooth both ways.
7. Pegs--look over the pegs, see if they are scrapped, another way to tell if the bike has hit the ground.( Also with aftermarket levers, another red flag that they might have been replaced due to a crash).
8. Electronics--Check to see that all lights and blinkers work, check the condition of the battery, and all wires leading to it. A dead or weak battery is another 90 bucks or more to have to replace.
9. Forks- Check to see that the forks are true and straight. Check the fork seals for leaks, any oil coming out of them is a sign they will need to be replaced and it isn't cheap, also if the fork oil leaks down to the brakes a rebuild on them is necessary as well.
10. On the bike--If riding, and you are comfortable, let go of the bars and see if the bike rides straight at 20-30 mph, it should, also check for any excessive shaking. Check brake condition, and acceleration. Also if possible hear the bike start up from a cold start. You can hear a lot of weird noises on startup that won't be there once the bike is warm. Let the bike run to operating temperature and make sure it doesn't overheat and that the radiator fan(if applicable) turns on.
11. ASK ALOT OF QUESTIONS-- The best thing to do when buying something used is to ask every question you can think of. I.E. How long have you owned the bike? What problems are you aware of? When was the last oil change? Valve adjustment? Does it pass inspection? Has it ever been down, or dropped? Asking these questions will help you get a feel for the buyer and a lot of times people are 100% honest about things like that, but you won't know until you ask.


Hope this helps and anything to add please do. Good hunting and good luck guys and gals!:71baldboy:
 

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great checklist! The only thing i could add, because I just bought a bike and forgot to do it... make sure that the exhaust coming out of both mufflers is strong and matching the other. You want to know if you're getting into carb problems. Great list!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
great checklist! The only thing i could add, because I just bought a bike and forgot to do it... make sure that the exhaust coming out of both mufflers is strong and matching the other. You want to know if you're getting into carb problems. Great list!
Or cylinder issues.
 

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Rub the muffler outlet. If you get a lot of black on your
finger, it's probably an oil burner.

Smell the oil cap. If it smells burnt, the oil hasn't been
changed often enough.

Smell the oil fill hole. It should not smell like gas.
It should not smell like a junkyard. It's hard to tell
what it should smell like, but if you are a man, it's
a smell you wouldn't mind having on you except in
church. If you are a woman, it will smell like a man,
a real man.

Look at the color of the brake fluid. If it is dark, it
hasn't been changed often enough. (Not such a
big deal but it tells about maintenance in general.)

Check how snugly the chain fits the rear sprocket.
If you can pull the chain away from the sprocket
(at the rearward most part of the sprocket) it is
worn. If you can see through between the chain
and the sprocket, it the chain is all used up, and
it has been using up the sprockets as well. You
will need to replace both.

Look for wear on the sides of the sprocket(s).
This shows misaligned rear wheel from adjusting
the chain wrong.

If only the outside ends of the pegs are scraped,
it means the owner is a good rider. If the whole
peg is scraped, the owner is a lousy rider.

Check the wear on disk brake pads and the
wear indicator pointer on drum brakes.

These items are not reasons to reject a bike,
unless too many of them are bad. They mostly
affect how much you will need to spend soon,
so you would adjust your price negotiations.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Good advice there, thanks for adding that.
 

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You want the bike to be started from a cold condition. If a seller knows you are coming,he may start it up to have it warm. Feel the engine before he starts it for you. Also you may want to feel the pipes right off a cold start. One pipe that heats more slowly says something about carb adjustment or perhaps even cylinder condition.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
You want the bike to be started from a cold condition. If a seller knows you are coming,he may start it up to have it warm. Feel the engine before he starts it for you. Also you may want to feel the pipes right off a cold start. One pipe that heats more slowly says something about carb adjustment or perhaps even cylinder condition.
Excellent point! A bike started from cold can tell you a lot, once a bike is warmed up, potential problems are sometimes not always present.
 

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Check the seat, don't just think ow that easy fixed it can coast a couple of hundred dollars for reupholstering.
Another thing on dirtbikes check the fork seals if they are leaking then thats a sing the bike has taken a bit of a beating.
Also if the bike look shiny new and all the fluids are near new then be suspecious.
 

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I was about to buy a bike yesterday, and I ran the VIN, found out it was salvaged in another state.... But I just bought my first bike through a Harley Dealer, it is sweeeeeet! CAUTION CRAIGLIST ADS!
 

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On the point of Craigslist ads. Definitely beware of any ads or emails from sellers proposing a long distance transaction brokered by Autotrader, Craigslist, or some other company. This is absolutely a sign to run for the hills. The bike should be correctly priced (not too low), and you should be able to sit on the bike personally and run through the checklists recommended in this forum.
 

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Great thread for us newbies!

I made a Word document based on the information here so I can bring it with me as a checklist when I check out bikes.

My first section is the ID the bike
Make, model, year, VIN, owners name, NADA price, KBB retail price, asking price (I may leave off KBB since it seems to be on the high side).
There is also a reminder to myself to check to be sure the engine isn't hot and space for a couple sentences for general impressions of the bike and its condition.

The next section is set up in Word as tables so I can check off condition (good, average, poor).

The section headings with their subsections (subsections are in parenthesis, the semi-colons separate each subsection) are:
Fluids- smell, look, levels (oil; brake fluid; coolant levels)
Tires (brittle/cracked; nails/plugs/repairs; flat spots; tread life)
Chain (Rust; slack; sprocket wear)
Electric (lights; blinkers; battery, wires)
Signs of accident/drop (frame; dents, paint/scratches; chrome- dents/scratches; footpegs or boards and handlebars)
Engine (Exhaust from both mufflers; sound; pulls strong; sticking throttle)

The last section is made of the questions I don't want to forget:
  • How long have you owned it,
  • when was the oil change,
  • valve adjustment,
  • did it pass inspection,
  • has it been dropped,
  • why are you selling,
  • is it paid off/is there a lien or do you have a clear title.


Thanks guys for the idea. This will really come in handy when I check out bikes.

Edit:

I tried to attach the file in case anyone wanted to see it or was interested in using it. Unfortunately, the file is larger than I can attach on this forum. If you are interested, PM me and we may need to exchange emails so I can send it to you. Unfortunately, it would probably be easier just to make your own checklist.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Jeff, just copy and paste it into a post.
 

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It loses the tables when I try to do that, so it really doesn't look much better than above. Since I lose the tables, I've reformatted it for the forum so you circle the condition of each item instead of a check box on a table. BTW- the way some items are combined into one where separate items may be better (such as chain/sprocket condition) allows it to all fit on 3 pages in the original formatting with plenty of room for you to record the answers to the questions.


Used Motorcycle Checklist

Make: _______________________________________ Year: _________________
Model: ______________________________________ N.A.D.A.: _______________
Owner: ______________________________________ KBB Retail: ______________
VIN: _________________________________________________ Asking price: ___________
Note: make sure engine is cold- want to test cold start
Overall Condition/Impression:



Fluids (levels, look- is it clean, and smell- does it smell burned)

Oil Good Average Poor
Brake fluid Good Average Poor
Coolant levels Good Average Poor

Tires
-
Brittle/Cracked Good Average Poor
Nails, plugs, repairs Good Average Poor
Flat spots Good Average Poor
Tread life Good Average Poor




Chain (sprocket wear, can chain be pulled from sprocket)
-
Rust/Slack/Overall Condition Good Average Poor


Electric
-
Lights Good Average Poor
Blinkers Good Average Poor
Battery and wires Good Average Poor

Signs of accident or dropped bike:
-
Frame (lines up, bent) Good Average Poor
Dents Good Average Poor
Scratches in paint Good Average Poor
Scratches in footpegs/boards and end of handlebars Good Ave Poor
Scratches or dents in chrome/muffler Good Average Poor

Engine:
-
Exhaust from both mufflers Good Average Poor
Sound Good Average Poor
If ride on it, pulls strong Good Average Poor
Throttle doesn’t stick Good Average Poor

Questions:
• How long have you owned it?


• When was last oil change?


• When was the last valve adjustment?


• Did it pass inspection?



• Has it ever been dropped?


• Why are you selling?



• Is it paid off/is there a lien or do you have a clear title?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Very nice, that should be a good tool for people to use, thanks for posting that.
 

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Very nice, that should be a good tool for people to use, thanks for posting that.
Thanks. You guys put all the info out there. Just being a teacher I decided to put it into an easy to use worksheet. Looking over the entries, when losing the table/checkboxes and instead circling the correct entry, some of the answers may be best converted to "yes no" instead of good, average, poor. Oh well, if anyone wants to use it they should probably adjust it to what is most useful for them anyway (for instance, it occurred to me yesterday that having a place for the owner's address would be useful when setting up the form before seeing the bike- I'll just write the address and some basic directions on the back of the form I guess).
 

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Hmm, filling out the top part of my form for the first time today while preparing to go look at a bike I noticed one glaring omission. I didn't include an entry for miles. So, I figure right under asking price (next to the note about a cold engine) may be a good place for that.
 

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If the exhaust is disolored by the heads how much damage could have been done to the engine? Knowing that it was probably run to lean (they changed the pipes but didn't adjust the fuel) does it do major internal damage? If so can you tell without pulling the heads to check the valves?
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
If the exhaust is disolored by the heads how much damage could have been done to the engine? Knowing that it was probably run to lean (they changed the pipes but didn't adjust the fuel) does it do major internal damage? If so can you tell without pulling the heads to check the valves?
Some bluing is normal on exhaust, what kind of discoloration are you talking about?
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
That seems a little more than most bikes I have seen but I will let a crusier rider chime in.
 
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