You’re waiting in traffic, and you feel the heat around your legs gradually increase. You take a quick look at the temperature gauge and realize that the temperature is steadily rising while you are idle on your motorcycle. Oh boy. Something is wrong with the system and your engine is overheating. Not something you or anyone wants to deal with, but it’s important to remain calm and resolve the issue. It’s a little too late for prevention, but your bike can still be saved. Oh the hassle.
Let’s rewind that. What went wrong? What caused your engine to overheat? Motorcycles are machines, and machines can malfunction. It’s important that we thoroughly understand our machine, and the steps we can take to prevent a malfunction. Here is a list of causes for your motorcycle engine overheating, and how to prevent them.
When you first start your engine at the beginning of the day, the engine will run on rich mixture for a few minutes, which causes the visible sluggishness of your engine. Theoretically, there is no need to rev your bike at all or leave it running to warm it up. You should be able to start and immediately ride. However, from experience, you may notice that that may not always be the case because over time, engines go through wear and tear changes. If you are the kind to warm up your engine, just let it run for a few minutes. Revving it will cause unnecessary stress to the engine, especially because it will initially be running on rich mixture. The revving can potentially cause an increase in temperature.
The most basic of basics, your engine oil. Besides serving its purpose as lubrication, engine oil also works as a coolant by absorbing heat from the engine, and dispersing it during circulation. So, reduction in engine oil or contamination will result in two things - less lubrication which means more friction and higher temperature, and less cooling effect from the engine oil. Hence, ensure that your engine oil level is optimum at all times, and do your periodic oil change to avoid any problems.
If your bike runs with a carburetor, set it up so that the idling rpm is not too high. You may need to readjust from time to time. High rpm is a sign of lean mixture entering the engine that can cause an increase in temperature and chances of your engine overheating. So, if you don’t know how to set it up, go to your local mechanic and get them to do it for you. Pay attention to the difference in engine noise.
The radiator is responsible for the circulation of the coolant, and so they work very closely together. The main sections to look at here are your coolant, your radiator fan, and radiator fin. Ensure that your radiator is always clean. As the coolant carries heat from the engine, the heat dissipation process happens through the fins. The fan runs when you are idle, and there is no air cooling taking place. However, if your fins or fan are dirty, the heat dissipation will be affected, resulting in unoptimized cooling. And what happens next? Engine overheats.
Although most motorcycles are air-cooled, the few that are water-cooled work similar to cars; with a ratio of water and coolant that works best for your region. It’s pretty easy to maintain a water-cooled system. All you need to do is check from time to time and make sure that the coolant level is optimum, and that you do a complete coolant change periodically. Low coolant level will cause the engine temperature to spike, and contaminated coolant may cause the system to be clogged, resulting in undesired temperature rise.
High speed riding is fine, really. In fact, it’s great for air cooling. But everything in moderation, because there is always a limit as to how much stress an engine can take, and high speed riding means high rpm, and high rpm means stress on the engine. So, time yourself. Don’t continuously ride at high speeds because your motorcycle engine is likely not built for that. If you are riding long distance, take a few breaks in between and give your engine a break. It is needed.
These aren’t the only possible reasons for engine overheating, but they definitely are the most common causes. Just remember to perform all periodic maintenance, and do the basic checking of your motorcycle every two weeks. Also, learn to listen to abnormalities from your bike. You will be grateful to yourself.