Do Motorcycles Break Down Often? (8 Beg Questions Answered!)

Overall, it is accepted that motorcycles don’t have as long a lifespan in terms of total mileage as most cars.

Their components are also somewhat more exposed than those of most cars, which leads some to assume that they always break down more often.

Motorcycles certainly do have their unique challenges when it comes to breaking down.

This article answers the question: “Do motorcycles break down often?”…

What Breaks Down First? (And What To Do About It)

The most vulnerable parts of the bike to wear and tear are the brakes, batteries, drive chain, tires, filters, and the hand controls like clutch and throttle. Among these, the brakes are most likely to wear down first.

The only thing to be done about brakes wearing down is to change the brake pads and check the brake discs often for any signs of damage or warping.

If changed in a timely manner, more serious breaking down of the brakes will be avoided.

The drive chain is another vulnerable component and will break down if it is not properly lubricated.

The thing to do about it is to make sure the chain gets all its proper lubrication.

As for tires, batteries, filters, and controls, the rider simply has to follow the bike’s maintenance schedule for fluid and filter changes, and perform regular walkarounds on their motorcycle to check for any signs of corrosion or other damage.

At the first sign of any problem, the owner should bring the bike to a qualified mechanic for a proper check and have it repaired if needed.

How Often Do You Need To Change The Tires?

First, all motorcycle tires that are more than five years old should be replaced as a general guideline, regardless of mileage.

The only exception to this rule would be if the tire had been kept in safe storage for the first 1-3 years with minimal wear and tear.

If you are riding on your motorcycle regularly or using it as a primary mode of transportation, then the tires may only last up to three years.

In terms of mileage, the typical lifespan of a front tire is longer than that of the rear tire.

You can expect to use a front tire for around 4,000 miles, but the rear tire may only last 2,000 miles.

How Often Do You Need To Change The Oil?

How often you change the oil in your motorcycle will depend on what kind of oil you use in it.

For instance, if you use semi-synthetic oil, then it will need changing every 5,000-8,000 miles.

The exact mileage will depend on your riding frequency and style.

If you ride a lot to cover a lot of miles, you should check the condition of your oil regularly and look out for signs that you’re in need of an oil change.

Fully synthetic oil will last longer, up to 10,000 miles usually.

It is far better at resisting the buildup of contaminants, and also actively works to protect your engine and exhaust. For these reasons, it lasts longer.

If you are riding an older bike that uses conventional oil, then it may only last 2,000-3,000 miles before the motorcycle needs an oil change.

When Do You Need To Change The Chain?

When a chain is both of a high order of quality and well maintained and lubricated by its owners, there’s no reason it shouldn’t last up to 20,000 or even 30,000 miles.

Motorcycles with cheaper chains may have a more affordable sticker price, but you’ll have to change the chain on that bike every 5,000 to 10,000 miles.

If the chain is well lubricated, well maintained and the owner keeps a close eye on any problems with emerging with the chain, there’s nothing to stop them from reaching the higher end of the lifespan estimate.

What Is High Mileage For A Motorcycle?

Looking at all types of bikes, the average number that constitutes “high mileage” is typically about 30,000 miles.

For many purchasing a bike with more than 30,000 miles on the odometer presents too much of a risk.

For cruisers and touring bikes, the number is usually higher.

These bikes are not usually pushed to their fastest speeds and are most often ridden at steady, consistent speeds.

This increases their lifespan and so “high mileage” on these bikes would be 50,000 miles.

Sportbikes, on the other hand, are the opposite.

They are frequently pushed harder, and thus wear and tear comes with increasing speed, too.

For a sportbike, everything north of 20,000 (or 25,000 for a high-quality sportbike) can be considered as “high mileage.”

What Type of Motorcycle Brands Are Most Reliable?

In general, the following brands are considered the most reliable in the motorcycle world:

  • Yamaha
  • Honda
  • Kawasaki
  • Suzuki
  • Harley-Davidson
  • Indian
  • KTM

Yamaha bikes come top of the list with a failure rate of just 11 percent according to Consumer Reports.

What’s more, that’s a failure rate on a four-year-old bike, not a brand-new one.

On top of their reliability, Yamaha bikes are also relatively affordable, with models displaying the same high quality and reliability being available for just $5,000.

Honda motorcycles enjoy reliability that is certainly comparable to that of Yamaha, but on the whole are somewhat more expensive to maintain, which is why users don’t rate them as the most reliable overall.

Hondas are priced a little higher than average, but as most people point out: you get what you pay for.

Even for the slightly more money, you pay for a Honda, you get a bike that is incredibly reliable and cheap to run, but the trade-off is marginally more expensive maintenance costs.

Next on the list comes Kawasaki and Suzuki.

Both of these Japanese brands are known for their sportbikes in particular, but actually produce a range of cycles.

All their bikes are known for the build quality and strength of the individual components.

Suzuki and Kawasaki both particularly find great reliability as brands for new motorcycle riders.

The brands offer great-quality beginner bikes of 249-650cc which help new riders get acquainted with motorbiking faster.

Harley-Davidson and Indian are perhaps the most iconic brands on this list, both from the US.

While they fall behind their Japanese counterparts in overall reliability, it would be wrong to simply call them “unreliable.”

Both have a failure rate after four years of about 24-25 percent, which is respectable.

The smaller Indian models in particular perform very well in the longer term.

The main issue some have with these brands is the price point.

They are definitely not budget-friendly overall, either to buy or maintain.

KTM is the Austrian motorcycle brand that has found great success with its off-road bikes.

They’re simple, affordable models that are backed up with strong warranties and customer service.

They are an alternative go-to when people buyers want dirt bikes but don’t want to pay for a Japanese brand.

What Maintenance Is Needed To Avoid Break Down?

Before we get to the specific maintenance items that are needed to avoid breaking down, the first thing that owners should get used to is doing regular walkarounds of their bikes.

The walkaround is a perfect opportunity to look over the various components, get close to the exterior, and see the bike from every angle, and not just from the rider’s seat.

Getting to know what the bike looks like when it’s in full working order will help you better spot when things look wrong with the bike.

Next, the following maintenance checks are needed as a baseline for avoiding breakdowns on your motorcycle:

Battery: Check for signs of corrosion, leaking, conduct a voltage test if you can, keep the terminals clean and coat them with dielectric grease (silicone grease).

Tires and Wheels: Check the tire tread, as well as signs of drying, cracking, or damage to the tire sidewall.

There is usually a wear bar on the tire, and when it becomes one with the surface, then it’s time to change.

For the wheels, rotate them and check for dents, scratches, bent spokes, and signs of warping.

Brakes: Check brake pads for wear, and change them if they are getting too thin.

Leaving that too late will likely lead to damage to the rotors.

Besides the pads, brake lines need to be checked for signs of wear and tear.

These are made of rubber and so won’t last forever.

Fluids: The essential fluids all need to be checked, flushed, and changed where needed.

These include brake fluid, transmission fluid, coolant, and engine oil.

Filters: Oil, air, and fuel filters need to be changed on time.

The oil filter will last 5,000 miles, the air filter about 10,000 miles, and the fuel filter up to 25,000 miles.

Controls: Your clutch and throttle need to work smoothly, as do the rest of the buttons and switches on your motorcycle.

Test them before you set off riding to ensure they’re not sticking or otherwise not moving as they should.

Carburetor: If your bike has a carburetor, then cleaning it regularly will be important to maintain proper throttle and air/fuel mixture going into the combustion chambers.

What Parts Are Important To Care For?

On a motorcycle, there are many parts that need to be cared for, but perhaps the most important ones are:

  • Brakes (and ABS system if you have it)
  • Battery
  • Wheels and tires
  • Frame
  • Carburetor (if applicable)
  • Seat
  • Handlebar controls
  • Suspension fork