What is the real cost of self maintenance?

What is the real cost of self maintenance?

As bikers, many of us take as much joy from riding as we do from working on our bikes.

To those that like it, not only do we get something to do when the weather isn't all that great, but we also manage to keep the costs of maintenance lower.

But how much will you spend if you do your own motorcycle maintenance?

There are many variables to this question:

  • What bike do you have?
  • Did you buy it new, or second hand?
  • How much do you ride per year?
  • Are you planning to stick with the manufacturer's maintenance program, or set one for yourself?
  • Do you have a fully stocked garage, or will you have to buy tools as you go?
  • How much experience do you have as a mechanic?

The list of questions needed to answer this question fully is quite big, meaning, this is not a one answer fits all situation.

Now what is possible is to give you means so that you can come up with your own projected values.

  1. Research

    The first thing you need is to know what common issues your bike has.

    Research forums, go to on and off-line groups, do your homework and figure out what common issues and fixes your bike has.

    That will allow you to budget for those fixes, and the tools required to get the job done.

  2. Regular maintenance

    Download the manufacturer's maintenance plan.

    Before attempting to create a plan for yourself - will get to that in a second - you first need to know what the manufacturer recommends, and at what millage.

    Knowing how many miles per year you are aiming to do, you will be able to understand how much you will need to spend on parts to get to the manufacturer's standards.

  3. Tools

    Knowing what kind of jobs you will need to do on your bike on a regular basis, you will know what kind of tools you need to buy.

    As a DIY mechanic, you will most likely have most of the tools required, but not all of them.

    Specific tools will be required for particular jobs, and although you can manufacture some tools yourself, it may be more cost-effective to rent others.

    Don’t forget that many bikes on the market require specific computer programs to fix certain problems, as they do tools that due to building tolerances can become very hard and expensive to self manufacture.

  4. Preemptive maintenance and inspections

    I’m a big fan of preemptive maintenance and bike inspections, especially for those that want to have a firm grip on costs.

    Going above what the manufacturer recommends is always a risk, but getting the inspection intervals closer together allows you to have much better control of what is happening.

    Although replacing the oil at shorter intervals can become expensive, checking if everything is ok by using control checklists will allow you to spot problems beforehand, and that will save you money in the long run.

  5. Choosing consumables

    It is quite tempting to use the cheapest consumables we can find when we are on a budget, but with many years of experience working in mechanics, let me tell you, many times cheap becomes expensive really fast.

    If there are some consumables where you can cheap out, in others you really shouldn’t.

    One example is engine oils.

    I won’t be opening the “engine oil Pandora’s box,” but I’ve opened engines that have had good oils used, and engines that ran on little over than cooking oil, and the long term degradation is more than noticeable.

    Bearings, for instance, are another excellent example of consumables where you shouldn't cheap out.

    Do your research, choose the materials you will want to use so you can budget for them, and remember that the best you take care of your bike, the fewer unexpected problems it will give you in the long run.

  6. Unexpected problems

    As the sub-title entails, unexpected problems can’t be accounted to a tee, but they should be budgeted for in one way or another.

    Once you have your estimated yearly cost added up, add 20% to it.

    I say 20, but you can choose whatever value you want there, the idea is that you have wiggle room.

    A tool you didn’t account for, a slip that broke something, or a part that sized unexpectedly are possible events, and if you have some budget allocated for it, you will most likely not break the bank when it happens.

    If you end up not using that money, take your better half out for a nice meal, or get some new farkles for the bike.

    Deciding what to do with extra money is always a good problem to have.

    If you are an inexperienced mechanic just starting, I would advise you to add a more significant margin to your budget.

    Errors are common when learning, and your skill level will be vital in keeping them from getting costly.

  7. How much do you want to do

    Getting your hand dirty and getting to know your bike better will be a great feeling, and something many choose to do.

    However, that doesn’t mean you need to go full Gas Monkey and do it all yourself.

    As it is perfectly fine just to want to drive, it is also perfectly fine not to want to tackle some problems or regular maintenance tasks.

    Choose what you want and don’t want to do, and ask for budgets.

    Some garages will accept that you bring your material and only charge you for labor, but check their labor prices first, as some will raise the man-hour price to compensate for the loss on parts commissions.

All in all, there is much to take into account when trying to find out how much you can save if you take care of your maintenance, but the feeling you have, and the knowledge you'll obtain of your bike, that is priceless.

What is the real cost of self maintenance?

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