View Full Version : Motorcycle Detailing?

06-27-2009, 11:30 PM
So, how hard is it to detail a Motorcycle? I have two clients who wish I could detail thier motorcycles but, I have no idea how to detail a Motorcylce, OR, how to ride one of them darn things. lol Feed back please


06-28-2009, 10:55 AM
So, how hard is it to detail a Motorcycle? I have two clients who wish I could detail thier motorcycles but, I have no idea how to detail a Motorcylce, OR, how to ride one of them darn things. lol Feed back please


Bikes pose some special challenges. The most obvious is the small painted surface areas as well as the nooks and crannies. Plus there's some areas on bikes that don't respond well to water or being disturbed by vigorous scrubbing. For the non-rider or one unfamilair with particular makes or models it may be wise to have the owner remove side covers, saddlebags, seats etc to provide access to those grungy, rarely cleaned areas.

The products and techiniques are pretty much the same. You need to size up the materials on the bike and their condition before chooing products. For instance, TAW/S100 used full strength will booger up and dull uncoated aluminum leaving you a real polishing chore. Washing or rinsing with direct pressure is a no-no around wheel hubs and bearings, drive chains and electrical connections. Dressings are ***verboten*** on hand grips, clutch and brake levers, foot pegs or running boards and shift levers.... anywhere a slip could spell catastrophe. On those areas I use ARO to leave them ultraclean.

I'm most familiar with Harleys so that's about the only marque I can address with any specifics. I usually keep the bikes fairly clean with ONR, quick detailers or spray & wipe products. When the nooks and crannies get grungy that's when I do a wet-wash.

I wet the bike down, every once in a while I may foam and let dwell, especially the forward-facing bug encrusted areas. A wet towel draped over buggy spots, particularly on a front-fairing equipped model, will soften the bugs and make the wash easier. I caution on using plastic-webbed bug sponges on some paint. Harley's Vivid Black is the softest most miserable to finish I've ever encountered and using a bug sponge on it will impart a zillion swirls and scratches. A bug sponge is a decent tool for fork legs, headlight surrounds, the backs of mirrors and chrome or aluminum areas. Thorough detail in tight spots is necessary as bug guts get into places you'd never believe they could splatter.

It's imperative to use your good mitt or MF on the painted surfaces first. Then use a grungy MF or old mitt on wheels, engine surfaces and the low stuff. You ARE going to pick up a lot of grunge, tar and grease around wheels and lower frame areas.

Chrome wheels and spokes can be tedious but rewarding. The usual polishes work fine. Aluminum wheels and spokes can be a real pain though, especially if they've been neglected. Brake dust etches into the surface and can be a real bear to remove. Best thing I've found for neglected aluminum wheels is P21S/S100 polishing soap. It avoids the black crud most polishes produce. You'll get best results by following with Meg's Aluminum & Mag wheel polish... with it's attendant black crud. But using the polishing soap first minimizes it.

Aluminum spokes are time and labor intensive. Harley's non-chrome spokes are cadmium. Once they lose their shine, forget about it. It isn't coming back.

Working on wheels is best done with the bike slightly elevated on a lift so you can spin them while you work on them. Moving the bike a couple of inches every time you move to another area of the wheel is a pain in the neck. And if it's a heavy Touring model and you're unfamiliar with bikes it can be pretty dicey. Telling the owner you need help lifting his 900 lb pride and joy back up on the wheels would not be an enviable position.

Detailing around the hand controls, turn signal buttons, start and kill switches and possible radio controls is a Q-Tip affair. I've used PB's Natural Look and 303 Prtectant there with no slipperiness on the controlls after a good buff-off.

*IF* you dress the tires make sure you don't get anything on any tread, brake discs or calipers. Natural Look is the only thing I've ever used on sidewalls. I usually use ARO and settle for the plain, clean look there. ARO is also good on black-painted engine surfaces. It doesn't leave a gunky film as long as you don't use it on a warm engine and don't let it sit for an excessive amount of time. An EZ Detail brush is your best friend for cleaning the cooling fins on engines. Polished edges on the fins is a good job for Never Dull. You don't want to use a polish that leaves residue as it's really tough to remove from a wrinkle black finish. CD2 or S100 Engine Brightener is a good finishing touch for engines. I always wipe off the excess leaving a clean matte-looking finish that won't attract road grime quickly the way leaving it dry will.

A blow dryer, leaf blower or Shop Vac blower is the only way to get water out of all the spots you just can't reach with a MF. Once again, use the good MF on the painted tin, use something less than your favorites on the lower portions because they'lll pick up crud that you missed during the wash.

Polishing tin with anything larger than a 3 or 4" pad is next to impossible. Griot's and Metabo's 3" polishers work well for finishing but they lack the oooomph necessary to deal with stubborn defects. Unless you have some particularly tough defects to remove you may as well do it by hand and put some passion behind your pad. I find non-diminishing abrasives to work best since it takes forever to get Menz etc to break down by hand application. M105 and Meg's Ultimate Compound both work real well on tough swirls by hand and finish extremely well. On the frame and places you want a shine and protection a one-step cleaner/wax works best. Ultimate Quik Wax is nice on those areas and if you get it on wires or control cables it wipes right off leaving them clean and shiney as well. BTW, M105 is killer on chrome! Works fairly well on discolored exhausts although once they discolor from heat they aren't coming back to like-new ever again.

Plast-X or Novus to polish windshield's, lenses and transparent plastic bits followed by Plexus for shine and protection.

Other than dealing with moving a motorcycle around or having it on a lift, there's not that much really different. The tin and painted surfaces are worked just like a car. Much of the rest of the bike resembles underhood detailing. The big thing is letting the owner assist with those things you're unfamiliar with or uncomfortable doing. The right tools.... blower, EZ Detail brush, etc... may be a bit more essential than on a car though.


06-28-2009, 11:24 AM
Riding is definitely more fun than cleaning! Unless you are twisted like most of us here. I just finished reading "Motorcycle Detailing Made Easy" by David H. Jacobs, Jr. while my wife was in, and recovering from, surgery (All I could do was sit and wait, so I tried to be somewhat productive instead of feeling like a useless bundle of nerves).

Much like his "Ultimate Auto Detailing" book there are several newer detailing products that give better results than most anything he recommends. This is mostly due to the publishing date. However, he makes several good points.

First, only use water to remove the big stuff - don't move in close with the pressure washer. Be sure to know your engine cleaning products and their affect on the different metals since you will be cleaning Aluminum, chrome, stainless steel, plated metals, etc.. all in the same confined area.

Second, Have a comfortable seat or stool handy because you wont be moving around a bunch. Have several cleaning brushes, towels, and products close by; this will help keep you focused and methodical in your cleaning strategy.

Third, be prepared to remove parts and or panels in order to do a thorough job. On most bikes this will be the gas tank, fairing, chain guard, and air cleaner/filter. However, some of the touring bikes will have saddle bags or dressers (fiberglass painted storage bins over the rear tire - usually found on Harleys or Gold Wings).

These are simple things to remember and your auto detailing will give you all of the skills you will need to make a bike look awesome. I say take the challenge and do the bikes. I enjoy cleaning them, and it is a nice change of pace. Take care and enjoy the rest of the weekend.


Garry Dean
06-28-2009, 11:33 AM
:iagree::whs: Pick up and EZ detail brush and some 4" spot buff pads and you will be set (if you have a PC of course)!

06-28-2009, 11:35 AM
Did my first bike yesterday. Took me tad over 4 hours to detail. The chrome, engine and aluminum were bad and areas were really hard to reach. I should be detailing his other 2 bikes and some friends of his. It was a great experience and I enjoyed it, I hope to do a lot more. Im like you I do not know much about bikes, just guys I have worked with always had bikes and I liked how they look and watching all the bike building shows on TV

08-13-2009, 09:38 AM


i use one thing on the entire bike... this...

been doing motorcycles for a while now since ive been riding. detailed well over 50-60 bikes.

If its a VERY nice bike, like a 6 digit priced chopper, ive claybar'd the tank and fenders and then carnuba waxed them. Thats about it. otherwise i only use this. This will not harm ANY material or metal or chrome on a bike!!!


few examples of ONLY using the polish below..



for ATV's and dirtbikes, for the plastics, use SC1, it covers scuffs and light scratches in colored plastic.

using this product, no wash or anything beforehand, makes mobile motorcycle details INCREDIBLY EASY!!!!

To clean a chain on a motorcycle, look at the thread below...


12-16-2009, 12:25 AM
It takes a lot of experience to find all the
hiding places on different bike types and models.
Study up on your products, there's a lot of different
metals and surfaces on bikes. The best products help,
but there useless without knowledge.
Glad to hear you had a good detail and
enjoyed it :xyxthumbs:

detail viking
12-16-2009, 01:52 AM
I agree with ICEMAN. Do not put tire shine on the tires at all.

12-16-2009, 06:23 AM
Is there a Motorcycle Detailing video that I could see? I really do not wish to attempt detailing a motorcycle until I've seen one OR see someone detail one. Having brain damage, it's best for me to see something done 1st hand AND by me doing it.