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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know this is pretty basic info, but I figured newbies, like myself, are always looking for info on bikes. Plus, we need some good information pages here.

Filling It Up

Filling a motorcycle's gas tank is not like filling up a car. You can't just shove the nozzle in as far as it'll go and grab the handle. With most bikes, that will result in a tank filled about half way.

The way it needs to be done is a bit more involved. If you have a centerstand, park the bike on the centerstand to get the tank as full as possible. Once you get more experience, it is certainly OK to use the sidestand while fueling. Then, open the gas cap, before you grab the nozzle off the pump. Most motorcycle gas caps are relatively complicated, and you should open it first with both hands free the first few times. With many bikes, there will be a little flip-up cover over the keyhole. When flipped up, that allows you to insert the key, and twist to unlatch the cap. There will commonly be an arrow showing which way to twist the key, but not always, and it's not always clear what the arrow means. It might take moderate force, but don't apply brute strength, or you could snap off the key, leaving you well and truly stuck. Sometimes pressing down on the cap makes it easier to turn the key.

Once the cap is open (many bikes have a hinging cap, just fold it back to its stop), grab the nozzle, and put it perhaps an inch (2-3 cm) into the tank opening.

Make sure the metal nozzle is touching the metal rim on the tank filler opening! This grounds the motorcycle, preventing build-up of static electricity.

Gas nozzles are grounded, to prevent static build up as the gas is pumped. (Amazingly, gasoline moving through the pump's nozzle does build up static, sometimes quite a lot of it.) A static charge could cause a spark to jump when you pull the nozzle away, if the system wasn't grounded. You can probably imagine that a spark at the gas tank opening is among the world's worst ideas. At the very best, your bike only catches fire and burns uncontrollably. At worst, you get explosions like you normally only see in movies featuring guns and mean-faced guys in black turtlenecks.

If your gas nozzle has one of those pleated shrouds which allows it to catch gas fumes, you need to pull it back before the nozzle will work. Nozzles of that type contain an interlock device which will prevent them from pumping if the shroud isn't pushed back far enough. Since you'll never fill the tank with the nozzle shoved into the tank, you have to pull back the shroud by hand.

Start pumping with the nozzle an inch or so into the tank, until the tank is nearly full. You have to look into the tank for this operation to work, since the auto-off clicker on the nozzle won't work right to fill the motorcycle tank. Wear eye protection (such as your helmet or sunglasses) to keep gasoline from splashing into your eyes. If gasoline does get into your eyes, flush them with water immediately, then seek medical help.

There's commonly a visible lip inside the tank, and you can usually safely fill to that point. Don't try to fill beyond it unless you know what you're doing. If you fill the tank beyond that lip, the gasoline can expand out the vents and spill on the ground, creating a fire hazard, and wasting the gas for which you just paid good money. This is usually only a danger when parking the bike immediately after filling it. Note that on some bikes (particularly California models) you can destroy the emission system by filling the tank too full.

Once you've filled up the tank and closed the lid, check to make sure (if you have one) that your fuel petcock is set to the ON position, and not to RES or Reserve, or OFF. For more discussion on what reserve means, please see this FAQ article. If you have two petcocks, check both of them. Fuel injected bikes don't have a petcock at all for normal operation.

[edit]Fuel Gauge
Most motorcycles don't include a fuel gauge. On those that do, the fuel gauge is usually inaccurate or worse. The best way to solve this problem is to use your trip meter. If your bike has several trip meters, pick one for gas and always use it that way.

Just reset the trip meter to zero before you leave the filling station. Note how many miles are on the trip odometer next time your bike hits reserve, or the fuel light comes on. Keep paying attention to that number as you use the bike, and you'll quickly get a feel for about how many miles until it's time to head to the gas station.

If you fill up to the same point each time, and record trip odometer miles and gallons filled, this will also allow you to calculate gas mileage. This information can be very useful in determining fuel range. I use Fuel Record, which is free software for the Palm Pilot, to track mileage, which makes it pretty painless. It's also easy to find a small notebook and record the numbers in there -- that notebook can be kept in your tankbag, or a jacket pocket.

At a minimum, you need to track mileage since the last fill (conveniently there on the trip odometer if you reset it with each fill) and gallons used. It's also handy to record the date and odometer reading; tracking which gas station/brand you use can also be helpful.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Check Tire Pressure

You will need a tire pressure gauge to do this. These are available for as little as a dollar or two (or your local currency's equivalent) at an auto parts store.

Checking the tire pressure is about as simple as they come. Locate the valve stem on one of your wheels, and take off the cap. If you don't have a valve stem cap, nip down to the parts store and pick up some spares: they're cheap, and they'll keep crud out of your valves. With the cap off, push the pressure gauge down over valve so that the receptacle is seated firmly and squarely. It'll stop hissing when you've found the right position.

Pull off the gauge, and look at what it indicates. I can't offer you any advice on what pressures you should run, but your owner's manual should have that information. If the gauge indicates too low, get yourself to an air pump (bicycle tire pump, air compressor, etc.) and inflate the tire until it's at the manufacturer's recommendation. Because motorcycle tires are relatively low volume, it doesn't take much air to change the pressure up or down.

Note that even a small difference in pressure (like 1-2 PSI, or .05 - .1 bar) can noticeably change the handling of the bike. It's worth it to check the tire pressure about once a week, or every time you ride if it's less often than once a week.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Checking The Fuses............

Use a test light; it's fast and easy.

Okay, if you don't own an automotive test light, go buy one. They look kind of like a pointy screwdriver with a wire coming out of the end. One should set you back about five bucks.

Turn all the switches on the bike to the "on" position (ignition, kill).
Connect test light to a handy ground (brake pedal works well).
Double check the battery and test light by tapping the test lead against the positive (red) battery terminal. It should light.
LEAVE the fuses IN, but pull the lid to the junction box (L shaped thing under the right side cover).
Touch the test light to each fuse terminal from the back side of the fuse. There are two terminals per fuse.
If the light doesn't light on EITHER fuse terminal, there is something circuit-related wrong.
If the light lights on BOTH fuse terminals, the fuse is good and the circuit has power.
If the light lights on only one fuse terminal, the fuse is blown.
This is faster, safer and more reliable than visual inspection. You can do the whole bike in well under a minute and make no errors.

Oh: There are a couple of spare fuses in there. Obviously, they don't need to light.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Changing the Brake Fluid.

Brake fluid is hygroscopic, which means that it tends to absorb any water it encounters (usually from the air). Water which contacts brake system components will tend to corrode it. Watery/old brake fluid also boils at a lower temperature, which is very dangerous in emergency stops, where a great deal of heat can be generated in the brake system. Boiling brake fluid creates pockets of vapor, which drastically reduces your ability to transmit pressure to the brakes.

For these reasons, brake fluid needs to be changed about every 2 years. As brake fluid absorbs water, it gets darker, so if your brake fluid looks dark (tan or brown), it needs to be changed. New DOT4 brake fluid is nearly clear, with a slight amber hue, although different brands and even batches will have differences in color.

Brake fluid is corrosive to painted surfaces, and will damage the paint in short order. If you spill any on your bike, wipe it up quickly. DO NOT spill any brake fluid on the brake disc or pads. If you do, use brake cleaner to clean the disc, and replace the pads. Any brake fluid (or any other fluids) on the ground can be cleaned up by sprinkling kitty litter on it.

[edit]Manual (no vacuum pump) Method
The process for changing brake fluid isn't difficult, but it requires a bit of time, some patience, and a few supplies. Plan on your first fluid change taking an hour and a half without a vacuum pump, or about an hour with one. You'll need the following:

unopened, fresh bottle of DOT4 brake fluid (8-12 oz will normally do both brakes)
3 ft of clear, 3/16" inside diameter vinyl hose
small toolkit crescent wrench
small toolkit phillips-head screw driver
sealable plastic container (such as an empty milk bottle)
a few old rags
Put the bike on the centerstand, attach the hose to the front bleeder valve, and run the length of hose into the empty bottle.

Carefully clean the reservoir cap to prevent getting any dirt in the system. Then, unscrew and remove the reservoir cap on the right handlebar, and remove the secondary cap and rubber seal; fill the reservoir with new brake fluid if it's not full already. To swap the brake fluid, you must repeat the following sequence at least 20-30 times:

open the bleeder valve
squeeze the brake lever
close the bleeder valve
release the brake lever
check the reservoir and fill if it's below 1/3 full
Remember: Don't release the brake lever while the bleeder valve is open (it'll introduce air into the system.)
Keep doing this until the fluid coming into the catch bottle is the color of the new fluid. Once the color changes, you've successfully swapped out the brake fluid. When you're in the midst of bleeding, don't overtorque the bleeder valve as you close it -- just close it hard enough to stop fluid from flowing.

Tightly seal the reservoir cap and bleeder valve to deter air entry. Torque for bleeder valve is 69 in-lbs. Repeat for the rear brake (the rear system is smaller, and will probably take less time than the front). You should notice improved lever/pedal feel, and your stopping distances should decrease as well.
 

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Put about an inch of fluid in the catch bottle before you start, then if you miss a "clean pull" you won't suck air.
 

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Great posts for new riders. Hopefully every new 250 rider will find this site and the wealth of info it provides. Also as a courtesy, I would love to answer any questions anyone has. Just PM me and I shall seek and find. Safe riding to all.
 
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