Whether you are a seasoned rider or a newcomer to the sport, buying a used motorcycle is a great way to get on the road. However, a quick search through your local classifieds can yield a few bargains listed as “non-running” or simply “does not run.” These are often dirt bikes or older motorcycles that have seen better days. If the price is right and you don’t mind a challenge, many of these bikes can be made road-worthy with some work. So, what do you look for in a non-running motorcycle?
1. Research the motorcycle before meeting with the owner. Enter the year make and model into an internet search engine to gain information about the bike, including any issues that particular model may have faced in the past. If you cannot find any information about that particular type, it may be a rare motorcycle. This means that parts will be hard to find, if not impossible. Unless you are a dedicated restorer, leave these types of motorcycles alone.
2. Look at the overall condition of the motorcycle, specifically look for missing components, visible corrosion and signs of damage. Older motorcycles will have some signs of wear and tear, or have broken or missing pieces. Avoid any motorcycle that is missing substantial components, such as engine covers, cylinder heads, carburetors, or forks and wheels.
3. Open the fuel tank and look inside for signs of rust and corrosion. If the inside of the tank is heavily corroded, the carburetors will be filled with corrosion as well. Inspect the condition of the carburetors; looking for signs of leakage and obvious damage. Take a look at the air filter; any rips or tears could have allowed dirt into the motor, causing internal damage that may be costly to repair.
4. Inspect the electrical system’s condition. If possible, turn the ignition switch on and check that all the lights work. Inspect the wiring for cracks and breakage that might prevent the system from working. Warning signs include cut, damaged or burnt wiring.
5. Ask the owner if the motor is seized or locked up from internal damage or wear. If the motor is not seized, turn the ignition on and try to start the motor. If it turns over, there is a chance that the bike can be brought back to life. Remove a spark plug, and screw the compression tester in its place. Start the motor and observe the level of compression displayed on the gauge. A motor should have at least 125 pounds per square inch of compression. Anything less will require a rebuild of the motor and should be avoided by the average buyer.
6. Test the suspension for binding by pushing down the front forks and rear shocks. Look for leaks and corrosion on the fork tubes. Also, check that the wheel spokes are present and not broken. Avoid a motorcycle with missing, bent or broken spokes.