11 Motorcycle Detailing Tips

Updated: Nov. 01, 2023

Get your motorcycle looking pristine with these motorcycle detailing tricks.

Polishing Motorcycle with ClothTMB STUDIO

A freshly detailed motorcycle is always a pleasure to ride.

But getting your bike professionally detailed can cost a bundle, from $200 all the way up to $600 for a complete job with the optional protectant package. So it makes sense that you’d want to do it yourself to save the dough.

To learn the right way to detail a bike, we consulted Renny Doyle, owner of Attention To Details, a school for professional detailers. Renny walked us through his step-by-step tips for detailing a motorcycle.

His motorcycle detailing tips may seem like overkill, especially his recommendation for multiple rinse/dry cycles, but that’s how he achieves perfection. He can detail a bike in less than four hours, but you’d better plan on a full day. You probably won’t save any money on the first round of detailing because of the investment in cleaners and tools. But after that, you’ll detail like the pros and save money every time.

When you are ready to start, work in a shaded area and don’t start cleaning until the engine is cool to the touch. Remove the seat and leather saddlebags and set them aside. Then cover the battery with plastic sheeting and seal off the exhaust pipe (or pipes) with plastic wrap and a rubber band or store bought plugs.

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Oven and Grill Cleaner
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Get Melted Rubber Off Exhaust Pipes

If you need to remove melted boot heel residue from hot exhaust pipes, grab some household oven cleaner. Test it first on your bike by spraying it in an inconspicuous spot on the chrome.

If it doesn’t discolor the chrome, run the bike until the pipe is warm. Then spray the oven cleaner directly onto the melted rubber, let it soak in for a few minutes and wipe it off with a cotton towel.

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Washing Motorcycle
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Wash Motorcycle

Do a prerinse with plain water to remove surface dust and grit. A fireman’s-style garden hose nozzle works great because you can dial in a different spray pattern for each area of the bike. You can also use a pressure washer to rinse the bike, but dial down the pressure to its lowest setting and maintain a healthy distance from the bike to avoid damaging the softer metal and plastic parts.

Rinse with a gentle stream around wheel hubs to avoid forcing water into the wheel bearings. Follow the rinse with a prewash. Use a gentle car wash soap , a microfiber wash mitt, and separate soap and rinse buckets.

The prewash is just to remove the light road dirt and mud, so don’t go scrubbing the really dirty and greasy areas with your mitt. Save those for the special cleaners you’ll use later on.

Rinse off the suds and dry the bike right away to prevent water spots. Rather than hand-wiping the entire bike, use a power blower or compressed air, keeping the pressure under 70 psi. Wipe off any remaining water with a waffle-weave microfiber towel.

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Cleaning Motorcycle Wheels with Detailing Brush
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Clean Motorcycle Wheels

Spray the wheels and spokes with an “aluminum-safe” wheel cleaning product and let it soak for about 30 seconds. Then brush the rim and spokes with a boar-bristle car detailing brush. Rinse everything with water and dry with the blower and towel.

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Cleaning and Polishing the Bike Dashboard
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Clean and Polish the Dash

Clean the dash using a gentle leather or vinyl cleaner. Squirt a small dollop of finishing polish onto a microfiber towel and work it into the dash using a random circular motion.

Continue wiping until the haze is almost gone. Then wipe off the remaining product with a clean towel. Use the same polish on the windshield.

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Cleaning Motorcycle Engine with Detailing Brush
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Clean the Engine and Drivetrain

Next, clean the engine, transmission, motorcycle chain or driveshaft housing with a spray motorcycle cleaner and brushes. If the spray motorcycle cleaner isn’t strong enough to remove caked-on grease, dilute a heavy-duty degreaser four-to-one with water, or cut a mild degreaser like Simple Green 50/50 with water.

Apply the diluted degreaser and expect to put some elbow grease into the job. Don’t ever apply full-strength degreaser to your bike.

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Polishing Engine Chrome Cover of Motorcycle
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Shine Chrome on Motorcycle

Before you polish the chrome, switch out your microfiber towel for a smooth 100% cotton rag. You can use an old T-shirt or dish towel as long as you cut off the seams first.

Seams that are stitched with synthetic thread can scratch chrome, and the seams can retain grit. Then use the same polish that you used on the dash.

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Cleaning and Polishing Motorcycle Leather Seat
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Clean and Protect the Leather

Clean the leather seat and saddlebags with a leather cleaner followed by a restorer or conditioner. Apply the leather cleaner to a sponge and gently work it into the leather. Then wipe dry and apply the conditioner with a different sponge. Wipe it down again with a rag and let the surface dry.

These products rejuvenate and condition the leather, and they don’t contain any slick additives, so you won’t slide off the seat.

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Cleaning Motorcycle with Water
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Do a Full Rinse

Use a new batch of soapy water to remove any remaining traces of the cleaners. Then rinse and dry the bike completely.

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Blow Drying Water on Motorcycle with Power Blower
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Blow It Dry

Starting at the top, blow the water down and to the front and back. Use a compressor set to 70 psi or less, or use a leaf blower or power blower like the one shown.

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Apply Paint Sealant on Motorcycle Front Mudguard
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Apply Paint Sealant

Spray sealant onto the paint and spread evenly with a wax applicator sponge, working in small sections. Immediately buff the paint with a microfiber towel. Don’t let the product dry before buffing. When everything is dry and buffed to perfection, reisnstall the seats and saddlebags and lubricate the chain.

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Wiping Dirt From Motorcycle
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Avoid These Motorcycle Cleaning Mistakes

  • Never use full-strength automotive or household degreaser products. They can permanently stain aluminum and strip off paint. Also avoid dishwashing detergent and household spray cleaners.
  • Never let cleaners sit on the parts for more than a few minutes, and always rinse the cleaned areas with water. Never allow cleaners, even diluted degreaser, to dry on the bike.
  • Never use scrub pads or coarse wheel brushes anywhere on the bike.
  • Work in the shade and dry each component after you rinse it to avoid water spotting.
  • Never use tire dressings, cleaning products, or polishes that contain silicon near motorcycle brakes or tires as they may present a potential slipping/safety hazard.