So You Wanna Buy A Bike? What To Do When You Show Up At Joe Schmoe's House With Some Cash In Your Pocket...
So you wanna buy a used bike huh? How many bikes have you checked out/bought in the past? The following is just MY initial list for things to check when looking at a used bike...at a dealer or private individual. This list is NOT exhaustive--it was initially stream of conciousness, so the order is not necessarily optimal either. There is a wealth of knowledge on how to buy a new bike. Usually a Google search on "how to buy a used motorcycle" is a pretty good place to start...that said, it won't get you here!
Basically, the strategy I take is that you put a not to exceed price on a bike you are going to RIDE (collecting bikes is a different story and these "rules" don't necessarily apply when you're insane about collecting) and don't EVER buy one for more than that...the reason is that another one will always show up somewhere--oh and it will probably be in better shape than the one you're currently inspecting. NEVER be desperate! YOU are the buyer and YOU have cash...cash is king! So operate from a position of abundance, you are in control. Be fair, be kind, don't be a dick...but be in control. I used to be an Air Force Officer and this approach works well for buying cars and getting groups of people to do what you want as well...if you are needy, desperate and a dick...you will be hard pressed to get what you must. Above all, be honest--that includes not leaving out key information (especially if you're selling).
It's amazing how keeping your side of the street clean ends up in positive motorcycle karma! Beware, honest, straightforward thoughtful, smart buyers tend to scare about 30% of the people...you don't reallly want a bike from those people...So here's my "how to list to buy a used motorcycle". This is aimed toward the VFR rider, but you can use 90% of it for any modern Japanese bike, maybe 85% for standard or cruisers.
BEFORE YOU GO:
Just for precaution's sake, always leave a trip plan with a friend or family member...whether you're riding, looking at a bike, hiking or on business. That way, if something should go wrong on the way there or back someone knows your plan--heck you may just run out of gas in an area with no cell coverage...or your cell battery died along with your charger.
Taking a buddy is a good way to split up tasks so you can be objective AND observant. What is the owner nervous about when you ask questions or poke around on the bike? People will give you clues. Also, a friend can keep you from being too "rosy" or too down on one thing and help you evaluate the overall value of the bike that you're inspecting.
Before you go--let the owner know you want the bike cold--so you can see how it starts and runs when cold. Get permission beforehand to take a test ride. Get the background from the owner before you get there and ask him again when you arrive--note any differences, if any, in the stories--significant ones can be a clue to whether you're getting the whole story or not.
1. Ask for the service history...if the guy doesn't take it to the dealer for this...ask for his log. If he doesn't keep one, that is one nock against the bike...no records means no proof of maintenance...not always bad, but not a positive. Check the VIN and see if this is a California model or not (will have evap canister on the bike as well...important iif you live in Cali I imagine. Write down the VIN and I think you can ask your insurance company or the dealer to see the history of the bike (if it has been crashed--reported--or not).
2. Bike should be COLD when you walk up...if not, then he either jumped it or got it started and warmed up so it would start easier (the first time)...this isn't normally a problem with an FI bike, more often with bikes that have carbs...but still...it is a potential sign.
3. Check the color of the oil level and color of the oil through side viewing window (rt side engine case ahead of the clutch housing) with bike on center stand...oil level should be between two lines--if too low, take a note...will probably be darker as well. If too high--above the second line -- that's definitely not good either.
4. Bring some hex wrenches and peel off the left side fairing (ask first) and look at the coolant level, cold. It should have coolant in between the two lines. After you start it up and get it to temp it should rise somewhat.
5. if you have a Volt Meter, take the seat off. Check to see if the factory tools are all there...and check the cold voltage on the battery. >12.2V but that's not enough. After you start the bike the voltage (DC) should be >13.5 at 2500 rpm and less than 14.8V at 5000 rpm. Here's the fault finding guide link from electro-sport...https://www.google.c...102537793,d.dmo
6. Let the bike warm up at idle for at least 5 minutes...the temperature should be >175F...if its a hot day let it idle for 20-25 minutes and the temp should go up to 220...the fan should kick on...if temp goes above 225 and no fan you have an issue (the displayed temp is wrong or the fan switch is not working or there is an open circuit in the fan circuit...)..either way you need to get the bike to temp and make sure the fan comes on...you can rev the bike safely after 5 minutes and it is up to temp to get the temps up...
7. if it is at temp, check the weep hole under the water pump to see if any coolant is coming out...use a flashlight, see if the weep hole is not gunked up first...if it is, un-plug it with something small...if there is fluid coming out the shaft seal on the water pump is shot...this is not good but repairable.
8. You should also ask for a test ride--if possible. Be prepared to leave your car keys or, something to secure the fact that you might ride off with the bike. Don't push it--you don't know IF there's something wrong or not. Start slowly and act like it is an MSF course...go through the gears, do some braking to a stop, go down through the gears...work up to Emergency stop conditions. Eventually get up to full throttle upshifts, but don't push top speed (it's not your bike--you're just making sure it isn't a pile of broken bolts). Wear your gear--ATGATT! Make sure your insurance will cover this (call before you test ride!) if something goes wrong.
9. Look for crash damage to the fairings...cracks or obvious repairs...better if you can pull off the side fairings and check them and the seat off to see if the rear has been repaired. all the fairings should line up easily...all the fasteners should be there...and should be factory...even behind the front wheel in front of the front cylinders...these little clips are a pain, sometimes we replace them with similar types...not too concerning, but they should all be there.
10. Look at the engine cases to see if they have been ground down. Look for oil leaks/fluid leaks under the bike. Look at the oil plug and oil filter see if there's any leaking oil.
11. look at the bar ends...are they stock or aftermarket?...if aftermarket, ask to see the factory ones...they should not be ground down...a scuff is OK, ground down means laid down...not just a tip over. Look for dents in the tank...Look at the front turn signals...cracks around them means they were either crashed and broken or tipped over. If they are replaced with aftermarket, ask to see the stock ones ("in case you want to put them back on") if they are scuffed or not there they were probably broken in a crash.
12. with bike on center stand and facing a garage door, check out the headlight pattern...I've seen it where one was higher than the other...menaing the front fairing stays were bent ...you should be able to see this also if the front windscreen and fairing are closer to one handlebar or the other...as you sit on the bike with the front wheel straight ahead.
13. Bring a string...and do the alignment method on the front and rear wheels...with an SSA (single sided swingarm) if these are not aligned, the frame is bent (http://www.motorcycl...wheel-alignment).
14. Look at the chain and rear sprocket...if the teeth are worn, ask when it was replaced...if no records assume you need to replace front, rear and chain....this is at least $200 negotiating point. Same with tires, used tires are OK, new better, if they are at the wear bars, it is a negotiating point worth at least $300 to $400.
15. Look for rust at any of the subframe welds...to me, this indicates it was bent, cracked the paint and is now weakened.
16. Look under the seat and see if he has any switched relays for accessories...is there a fuse for the relay? How are the electrical connections, are they professionally done or look like an amateur slice and dice job?
17. Look at the brake fluid color and the clutch fluid color...take the tops off and see if there's gunk in the resevoir...should be light or color of honey at most...brown is bad, gray or black is horrible. front and rear rotors should show some wear but not big ridges or gouges...a little rust is OK if it sits outside, but should wipe off ...lots of pitting is bad. The pads front and rear should be able to be inspected with a flashlight...should have more than a 16th and near an 8th at least...if it looks like its almost flat means they are way gone...need not only replaced, but you need to check the caliper bores as well and maybe refresh. Have someone push down on the rear of the bike and get the front wheel off the ground...spin it. it should spin freely, you should hear the brake pads lightly sing on the rotors, but it should be fairly even and very light...wheel should spin a few rotations...not stop quickly or hear the singing pulse. if it sings, means the rotor carriers are bent most likely, an indication of a crash or someone was hamfisted changing the front tire...not a good sign. same with the rear wheel and bike in neutral, cept it won't spin as much because of the chain drag...so listen to the rear brake for dragging caliper...should not drag too much...and have some meat on the pads.
There's plenty more you could check, but that's some of what I try to go over...if you can get a test ride there's more to do/feel...but I would ride it without earplugs...you should hear the Pair system flapper opening and closing when you start out and come to a stop...the chain should sound smooth when idling and clutch in...taking off shouldn't be snatchy. It should snick into second gear, third etc...easily. braking should be straight.
So the best tool and tip I have here is tip numero cero #0: Be prepared--do your homework on the bike and it's foibles and idiosyncrasies--plusses & minuses AND make a checklist of things to BRING and DO when you get there! Have a plan for how much you will knock off the price or three prices for Excellent, OK and bad bikes! Don't vary...be prepared to walk away and have no regrets when you do...there's always a bike in a shed somewhere else that's better cared for than this one and it probably cost less!
Have Fun and be safe and do good, that's what its all about!
Sept 28, 2015