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REVISED: Bike Checklist

15296 Views 15 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  Duckster
OK so this is my bike checklist, any time I go to buy a bike I take a copy of this list with me. Things I also take include:
A pencil, you dont think about it till you forget it
a flashlight
a metric torque wrench/ratchet set [to check tightness of bolts]
a screwdriver [phillips and flathead]
a tire depth gauge
a copy of your insurance card
a copy of your drivers license
a helmet
a voltmeter
cash [cash is king, $1200 cash will beat a $1200 check any day]

a carbon monoxide sensor
a rear tire stand
a friend
starting fluid
a camera

How to use the list: first, print off two copies of the list, one for each person looking over the bike [if you are going alone, just print one]

next, figure out how much it would cost to have a mechanic repair everything on the list. [make a note next to the item, I have done it for some items, but that is for my mechanic, yours is probably different.]

in each of the slots, write down a cost to repair the item.

tally up your total, and subtract it from the fair market value for the bike [if FMV is $2,000 and the guy wants more for it, subtract from each and you have two separate numbers.

now go over the bike with the guy and tell him what is wrong with the bike and what it will take to fix it.

give him your offer and barter around with the price until you can both agree on a price.

Bike Inspection List:
_____Fairings/gas tank scratches/dents/cracks? _____
_____Front forks twisted/bent ?____300
_____Under rear fender burnout?____[abuse]
_____Brake pads?____30
_____rotors bent?____150
_____Brake Lines?____80
_____Cracks nicks scratches or bent frame?______

_____Levers bent/mismatched?____
_____Cracks along welds?____[replace/reweld part]
_____Smooth Break levers?____[flush brake system]
_____Dragging breaks?____[flush and adjust]
_____Brakes work?____[serious safety concern]
_____Kill Switch?____
_____Clutch Length Of Pull:____[adjust clutch]
_____Dragging clutch?____[adjust clutch]
_____Smooth Friction Zone?____[plates may need replaced]

_____Oil:____[does it feel gritty?]
_____Brake Fluid:____[if it is a dark color, replace]

_____Transmission shifts smooth, grinding down shift?:____[plates may need replaced]

_____Dry Rot?____[replace]
_____Walls?____[replace if damaged or warped]
_____Edges?____[is the wheel grinding against the tire?]
_____Last Changed:___________[old tires are no good, even if they look good]

Gas tank:
_____Rust?____[pita to clean, recoat it]
_____Recoat?____[is there still signs of rust in the gas?]
_____old gas?____[is it clear or some gunky color]

_____Rips/tears?____[patch it/recover]
_____Seat Fit?____[is it loose? safety hazard in turns]

_____Headlights High?____[bulb or wiring?]
_____Headlights Low?____[bulb or wiring?]
_____Signals?____[bulb or wiring?]
_____Break lights?____[bulb or wiring?]
_____Neutral Light?____[bulb or wiring?]
_____Battery?____[fluid level maintained or dry cell?]

_____Front Forks leaking?____
_____Resistance?____[if it pushes down like a spring, you have bad seals]
_____Binding?____[gunk in suspension]
_____Scratches?____[bad for seal]
_____Rust?____[bad for seal]
_____Rear suspension leaking?____
_____Resistance?____[if it pushes down like a spring, you have bad seals]
_____Binding?____[gunk in suspension]
_____Scratches?____[bad for seal]
_____Rust?____[bad for seal]

_____Bent?____[depending on severity, may be repaired]
_____Tension?____[are spokes uniform tension? do they make the same noise when you run a screwdriver over them?]
_____Cracks?____[replace! SAFETY HAZARD!]

_____Rearmost chain loose[back of sprocket]?____[need new chain]
_____Symetrical sprockets?____[if not, need new sprockets]
_____Rust?____[bike not taken care of]
_____Tension?____[bike not taken care of]
_____Kinks/tight spots?____[need new chain]

_____Holes?____[depends on where, may cause loss of back pressure]

_____Spark plugs_____[check the color for a chocolate brown, lighter is leaner, darker is richer, carb needs to be adjusted appropriately]
_____Carbs_____[is bike responsive to throttle with and without choke at all speeds? does bike feel like there is a loss of power? Engine should run smooth without choke when warmed up]
_____Exhaust color[white rag]_____[what color is the rag? blue=burning oil, black=running rich, white/moist=water in fuel]

next is a list of questions to ask the seller: this is just an outline, you can add more if you want.
Service Records?
Has the bike ever been down/dropped?
Has the bike ever been raced?.
When was the oil last changed?
What is the maintenance history of the bike? Serious problems?
How old (years & miles) are the tires? Ask the seller if he thinks the tires are good.
What modifications were made to the bike?
Why are you selling the bike?
Is there anything wrong with it that you haven't pointed out?
Are there any maintenance/safety issues that I should be aware of if I buy this bike?
What work would you do on the bike if you were going to keep it for another year or two?
Is there any reason I shouldn't buy this bike?

Asking price:_____________________
Fair Market Value:________________

and there you go! hopefully you are driving home on/with a new ride!
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Thanks for the list! It has several things on it I would think of but usually do not when looking at the bike. I'm presently looking at a CMX450 that has been converted into a trike. The list will help alot. Thanks again!
I hate trying to remember what to ask..

and for a newbie bike person, who can't remember it all, this list is really comprehensive! This is great Wrzesinski. Thanks!
Thank you for this comprehensive list! I'll be buying in the next 4-8 weeks, so having this list with me will make me feel much more confident, and will help pinpoint areas that I wouldn't have thought of looking at otherwise.
Thanks for the list! It has several things on it I would think of but usually do not when looking at the bike. I'm presently looking at a CMX450 that has been converted into a trike. The list will help alot. Thanks again!

If you buy it, please start a thread with pix. Is this one of Jack's creations?
Nice list, one concern, do you think a sellers would allow you to take the spark plugs out so you can check them?? what if it was cross threaded, then they blame you etc.

one more to add to the list,
check how many owners have owned the bike, in PA there is a number on the title on how many times the title has been transferred.
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Nice list, one concern, do you think a sellers would allow you to take the spark plugs out so you can check them?? what if it was cross threaded, then they blame you etc.
This is but one of many reasons I would never allow any potential buyers to unsheath any tools around my bike. If they really want a full diagnostic we can agree upon a bike shop to do that.

That said, this is the list I like to offer up, with the only tool needed being a flashlight, this list, and a pen/pencil to make notes ---

Here are some pointers on what to look for on a used bike purchase. Take a clipboard with you when viewing the bike, and look for the following items:

Check the oil prior to starting, is it clean? Or at least filled to the correct level? Check the coolant (if applicable) is it filled properly? Check the air filter as well if possible. After all the checks, start the motor...does it start and run smooth? Any visible smoke coming out of the pipe(s)? Does the throttle rev smoothly? Any odd noises coming from the engine, like valve ticking or coughs, spits, sputters, or rattles? Does the clutch engage easily and does the shifter click naturally as you go into gear? (many bikes have a side stand safety feature that prevents the motor from going into gear while parked, raise the side stand before doing this...and then put it down while it's in gear/clutch in to see if the feature works). Check for oil leaks around the motor, any trails of dust/dirt build-up at any of the engine seams?

Are they new? Decent? Worn? Look for any hairline cracks in the sidewalls, this is an indication of replacement time regardless of tread depth.

Check the pads and look for the wear indicators, most pads have a groove carved into them and if this is gone the pads are thin, needing replacement. Also check the rotors, are they clean and smooth or filled with grooves? Drum brakes often have an indicator mark on them, when the pivot arm is aligned with the mark it's time for new pads.

Does the front end bind at any point during full motion, from left lock to right lock? Do any of the lines and cables pinch at any point? If possible, raise the front wheel off the ground (center stand/hold the rear down or a car jack) and grab the lower forks, yank forward and aft to check the steering head bearings. If there is any play they'll need some work.

Are the seals leaking? Telltale sign here is a grime ring above the lower/slider, the seal pushes the dirt and leaking oil up and it collects at the end of the travel distance. If the bike is already clean apply the front brake and compress the forks down a few times and run your finger along the fork tube, it should be dry all the way around. Any slippery feeling or noticeable oil indicates new seals are needed. Also are the forks straight, no dings or dents or any other damage?

Is it on solid? Jack the rear up (center stand or car jack) and grab the swing arm by both sides and try to move it from side to side, if it moves new bearings are in order.

Test all the lights, bells, and whistles...high/low beam, directionals front and rear, tail light and brake light, horn, indicator lights (such as neutral, turn signal indicator, high beam on, etc).

Is it clean inside, no rust or other deposits? Does it smell like fresh fuel or is it dingy enough to curl your toenails? Does the gas cap pop off and on easily?

Is the chain tight or loose? most bikes should have 1/2" to an inch of slack at the center point of the chain. Is it lubed or dry? Are the sprockets good? The teeth should be tapered to a squared point and even, if they are pointy or broken they need replacement ASAP. If the bike is a shaft, ask to check the oil level in the transfer case. If it's a belt drive feel the snugness of the belt and examine the lugs in the pulleys.

Does the bike fit you when you're sitting on it? Can you stand the bike upright and plant both feet firmly on the ground, heels and all? Can you do the same with the bike on its side stand? Can you reach the pegs comfortably and work the controls? Do your elbows dig into your ribcage during full left to right turning motion? Can you pull yourself off the seat via the handlebars without having your feet slip off? All this can be modified later via the aftermarket, but it's always nice to be able to ride the bike right away...

Don't expect this, many owners won't allow it. You may need to strike up a mutual bargain here, let the owner hold the cash and you hold the title while you ride it, if you dump it it's yours and if you like it you don't have to come back! Or you can ask the owner to take you for a ride as a passenger, at least you can feel how smoothly it works. You'll want to see how smoothly it accelerates, does it bog at certain revs? Do the gears change smoothly? Do the brakes work smoothly? Do the wheels/tires spin smoothly and straight or is one end shaking a bit?

Check on this before buying any bike (new or used), can you afford the rates? If you're 18 years old and looking to get a ZX-7 Ninja or a CBR 600 don't expect a fair rate, $3000+ per year (and that's for used bikes, new ones are even more) is a common rate for sport bikes in this age bracket, assuming the company will insure them at all. You can get better rates on bikes that are 7 model years old or older, the next break comes at 25 year old riders and again at 29. And tell the insurance company what the bike is, don't pass off something like "EX500" instead of Ninja or "VFR750" instead of Interceptor. The low rates they quote you may not endure once they run the VIN and sock you for the actual rate. If anything, ask for the actual rate before commiting and then insure it at "the lower rate" least you'll know what to expect if it happens and will know whether or not you can afford it when it does. You don't want to bring a bike home and then find out you can't afford the insurance later.

Do that and someone else could be visiting you with this list before you ever get to enjoy the bike.
im with shadow shack on this one
Thanks for taking the time out to make this list, it's just what i was looking for to weed out the bad ones from the good ones and saves me time. What would be an expected price for having someone check it out doing a full inspection? I want the inside of the engine and wiring checked out to make sure it has a lot more life to it.
Mechanics vary a great deal in what the charge from one location to another, and even the same town. If you can find an independent shop (not a stealership), or a motorcycle mechanic that moonlights in his spare time, they will probably be the least expensive. If you know someone who works on their own bike, that might be an option too.
I doubt anyone will let you or your mechanic, dealer, or anyone else open an engine without a serious, nonrefundable payment up front. Valve clearance, maybe, but beyond that no way. Just too much can go wrong and devalue the bike.
You'll have a better chance of getting a test ride than yanking bits off the bike for inspection.
I don't think I've ever bought a running bike without a test ride, unless it was new, and then I had ridden a similar demo. That is probably harder for younger riders, or novice inexperienced riders to negotiate though.
I don't think I've ever bought a running bike without a test ride, unless it was new, and then I had ridden a similar demo. That is probably harder for younger riders, or novice inexperienced riders to negotiate though.
i bought my current R1200GS without ever riding it. I did a very thorough visual inspection which showed it to be in near mint condition after 11 years. It had 20,000 kms on it which is very low mileage for an 11 year old adventure bike, and obviously all those kms were on the highway.
I also had a good interview with the owner to go over the maintenance history as well as the general history of the bike. He was not a mechanical type, so depended on the dealer for maintenance. He had bought the bike with the intent of doing some long tours which he had never found time to do. Now he was concerned about doing it on an older bike and so was buying a brand new R1200GS. He had recently had a major maintenance procedure done on the bike, and it started and sounded great.
It now has 68,000 km on it which includes 2 transcontinental trips with no significant maintenance issues. I'm sure the guy would have let me take it for a test ride, since I showed up 4 hours from my home on the K1200 to take a look at the bike. I just thought it wasn't absolutely necessary to even ask in that case.
The only repairs it has had was the replacement of a camchain tensioner with a newer design which is a known issue on these bikes.
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I guess you were already comfortable with the deal Duckster, but I would have still asked regardless. I might have bought some of my bikes without a test ride, but there would have had to be a really reason. There were definitely some that I would have walked away from without riding, and some that I seriously negotiated a discount after riding them.

To each his own, but I don't think there is anything at all wrong with asking if you are an experienced rider. I think a denial also requires additional conversation to restore confidence in the purchase.
No argument on any of that. I guess I trust myself to evaluate the bike on visual inspection of both the bike and the owner. If a good looking bike is owned by a flake, I'd be suspicious. When you buy a bike you are buying the previous owner to a large degree. Would you let this guy maintain your bike?
If the bike is less than pristine, I'd probably insist on the test ride.
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