As warm weather approaches (assuming it ever stops snowing here in sunny Central Washington) you may be thinking about getting your equipment ready to go for the season. Most people know that you need to change the oil, but there are other things that often get neglected that can end up being very important to your wallet. Here are some things to consider depending on what you are working on. Preventative maintenance is the key to a long and healthy relationship with your equipment.
In addition to engine oil, it is a good idea to have your transmission oil changed. Many bikes and quads don't have separate oil for the transmission, but many do. Depending on your mower, there is a good chance that your hydrostatic drive might be due for service as well. If you don't know you should probably find out, there is a chance you have been neglecting your transmission.
Differentials/Final Drive; this is probably the most neglected component I see here in the shop, they are easy to ignore and many people don't even realize they need to be serviced. Even if the fluid looks okay, if you haven't changed it in a while there is no time like the present. Since there is no filtration system the debris that accumulates over time just stays there until the oil is drained. Worse than that, differentials can get filled with water via the vent tube and you wouldn't even realize it until there is a major failure of some sort.
Valve adjustments are important for easy starting and good performance. Some engines don't require adjustment, but by and large most do. So, if you can't remember the last time your valve lash was inspected now is the perfect opportunity.
Cables are another component that is easy to forget until they break or seize, a little lubrication goes along way.
If your machine has belts check them from cracks and other signs of wear, a broken belt usually is not the end of the world, but if it decides to get wrapped up in a pulley it can really ruin your day trying to get it out.
Chains and sprockets; once upon a time, you know when I was young and broke, I would run a chain and sprocket until it simply wouldn't work any longer. However, the problem with that approach is that you tend to cost yourself more money in the long run. When chain breaks it is not uncommon for it to try and take an engine case with it or get wrapped in the rear wheel and take you with it. If you sprockets are starting to "hook" (they start looking like a shark's dorsal fin) or the teeth are getting sharp at the points it's time for a change. Also make sure to look at all the teeth, sometimes you will only have a few teeth that are getting sharp and if they are covered by the chain when you do your inspection you might miss it.
Inspect your brakes, if you have 2 mm or less of pad left change them right away. Don't wait until you hear that lovely grinding sound. Trying to get down a big hill with bad brakes can end very badly for you and your ride. While you are at it, take a good look at your brake discs. It is not uncommon for the discs to warp due to heat. If your brake disc is starting to look like a dinner plate, toss it and get a new one. Putting new pads on a warped disc is right up there with throwing money down a rat hole.
Wheel bearings should be inspected at least twice a year, lift the machine so that the wheel is off the ground and not under pressure and wiggle it side to side if there is any play you may have a wheel bearing going out. But before you order bearings make sure the play is not in the spokes or steering. While you are at it, check the steering. On a motorcycle, with the front end off the ground and you standing in front of the bike (I would have have someone else hold the bike so it doesn't fall over) push and pull on the fork tubes, if the stem bearing is getting loose you will feel some play.
This is not a comprehensive list, but it is enough to get you started. Remember the sooner you address a problem and fix it, the cheaper it will be. I can't tell you how many machines have come through the shop for something relatively minor and ended up being a much bigger bill just because the problem was ignored or the machine was parked and forgotten about for too long.
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