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Diagnosing Motorcycle Noises


Diagnosing where a noise originates and figuring out what it means is an essential part of routine maintenance. But occasionally, a motorcycle will develop a noise that is not typical and needs serious investigation. For the most part, noises can be both traced, and the root cause diagnosed, without disassembly.

The process of diagnoses starts with a process of elimination. For instance: where is the noise coming from, what kind of noise is it, does it only happen when the engine gets hot? In addition, the type of noise will tell the mechanic a lot: if the noise is only evident during idle and clears during acceleration, for instance.

Process of Elimination - Engine Noises:

By observing these factors, you may either determine that you can fix a problem yourself, or you may determine that you need to take the bike to a mechanic. If a mechanic is necessary, you can save time and money by sharing your preliminary observations.

  • Location - from the crank cases, or the cylinder head?
  • In gear or not - gets worse or goes away when in gear?
  • Speed of noise - coincides with valve operation, or crankshaft movement?
  • Type of noise - a deep rumble or ticking?
  • Suddenly developed or slowly appeared (indicates whether a breakage or worn parts are involved)
  • Known problems - some makes or models have known issues (example: GS Suzuki valve buckets)

Chassis Noises:

  • Location?
  • Type - rattle or rubbing noise?
  • When does noise appear - cornering, braking or accelerating?
  • Has the noise gotten worse or did it suddenly appear?

The biggest problem with noises is that they don't always affect performance. Therefore, the urgency to find and fix a noise may not be so great.

However, the owner must consider the safety aspect. For instance, a noise may only be apparent during deceleration and at no other time. But the noise may be related to a loose chain that could break and lock the rear wheel.

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