Washing your scooter (or motorcycle ) the environmentally friendly way
This article got started when a customer sent us an email asking for our advice on the “best way” to clean a scooter.
Who would have thought such a simple question could have stirred up so much debate amongst the staffers here at the Underground?
Some people like soap and water; some don’t, some like certain polishes; some don’t, some use great care when washing; some don’t, some really consider environmental issues while others are eco-terrorists when it comes to washing their scooter.
How often should you wash your scooter?
Obviously whenever it gets really dirty, but also when it has been subject to harsh conditions such as salt-spray. Before putting your scooter away for an extended period of time, giving it a thorough cleaning is highly recommended.
Where should you wash your scooter?
If you wash at home, we ask that you be very respectful to the environment by only rinsing dust and dirt off with the hose. You do not want to put any hydrocarbon or heavy metal crap into any drain – period.
If you are not washing your scooter at home, a commercial car wash may be a good spot.
A word about commercial ”wand wash” car washes:
You may take your scooter to a “wand wash” car wash. This is especially handy for apartment dwellers that often do not have the space, a hose, or cleaning supplies readily available. Also, having almost no clean-up to worry about is very appealing.
The main precaution is to be sensitive about the amount of pressure. It’s usually best to keep the nozzle far enough away from the scooter that the pressure is not too great.
An added benefit to using a commercial wash is the environmental aspect. Most commercial washes in our area have the appropriate pollution abatement measures on their wash including oil/water separators and water recycling. This keeps dirty, oily, water and any heavy metals from running down the drain into either the storm or sanitary sewer systems.
What are some of the DO’s and DON’Ts when cleaning your scooter?
Most scooterists on staff here at Scooter Underground agree on the following:
DO make sure oil filler cap and gas cap are on tightly before spraying the area with water.
DO rinse the dust and dirt off your scooter with a hose.
DO use environmentally friendly, non-abrasive cleansers such as Simple Green or Starpower.
DO a careful wash with soap and water and rags.
DO try to keep soapy water away from the chain and bearings as much as possible.
DO use an old toothbrush to reach those hard to reach spots.
DO wrap a rag around a slot screwdriver tip to get into hard to reach places to clean grime.
DO remove the oil and grease with rags and use proper disposal methods.
DO use a chamois cloth to dry off your scooter (Some people say leaf blowers and hair dryers work too but 1.) its overkill 2.) It can force water into places where it shouldn’t go and 3.) It’s environmentally irresponsible to use a power tool when a little bit of elbow grease will do.
DON’T spray cold water directly onto a hot engine
DON’T spray pressurized water at electrical components such as switches, horn, etc.
DON’T use a pressure washer. Our staff is against the use of a pressure washer. Spraying pressurized water into the wrong place can drive water into electrical connectors or sensitive mechanical systems. A hose with a spray nozzle is plenty good.
DON’T try to rub dust and dirt off when it’s not wet. It will scratch.
DON’T use Scotch-Brite pads or abrasive cleaners like Comet or Ajax (especially those with ammonia).
DON’T put Armor All or polishes on your seat which will make it dangerously slippery.
DON’T wash oily muck into the drains or sewer systems.
DON’T use any aerosol products such as degreasers unless it is absolutely essential – in other words, almost never.
DON’T put wax onto matte or textured plastics (shiny plastic panels only).
DON’T put wax or other sprays on tires. If you do use special “wet tire” pump sprays, make sure they go on the sidewalls only – they can make your tire dangerously slippery. While these may be OK for show bikes, they are not what you want on the tread of your daily commuter scooter.
A few more specifics:
Plastic Panels and Decals
There are many specialty cleaners that shouldn’t go on your scooter. Some chemical cleansers and degreasers can ruin your paint and decals. They can even warp plastic panels or cause premature deterioration. In addition, almost anything that will have harmful effects to the panels of your scooter will also have harsh effects on the environment so DON’T use them.
For plastic panels that have dulled, our staffers have had as much success with Pledge furniture polish as anything else.
If you really wish to get that glossy shine with a fresh coat of wax, you’re better off doing it by hand than you are using a spray. Wax can also offer some UV protection for plastic panels and decals. Remember, wax should only go on the smooth and shiny panels. Working wax in by hand helps prevent excessive wax buildup. Caution: If wax and other sprays get onto your tires they can seriously reduce grip and set you up for an accident on your freshly cleaned scooter.
Generally, we recommend a good soap and water wash of vinyl seats. A protectant such as 303 Protectant gives good UV protection but check that it does not make your seat too slippery. This usually depends on both the type of vinyl and texture pattern on your seat. Sliding around on your seat while braking, accelerating, or cornering is not safe. If your scooter has a genuine leather seat, there are a number of products that are designed to protect and condition leather to keep it soft. Most will not have the sliding-around side effect that many vinyl products do.
Metal and Chrome Components
Metal polishing products can be great for keeping the bright metals shiny and gleaming. It’s important to know that not all of the shiny metal on your scooter is chrome. Some of it may be aluminum that has been polished and possibly anodized. Be sure to check the labels of the metal polish products before using them any also know what type of metal you are putting them on. Some are meant specifically for certain metals and finishes, and should not really be used on others.
Keeping your scooter clean is an essential task to prolong the life of your scooter and give you a great pride of ownership feeling. Do it on the weekend with one of your scootering buddies and it makes a great social activity.
Use washing as an opportunity to inspect your scooter for other items that may need maintenance.
Check to make sure all lights, signal, and horn are working. Check to make sure that lenses and plastic panels aren’t cracked. If you find minor problems, there may be a chance to fix them before they get worse.
We also like to check our oil and tire pressure when we wash our scooter. (Make sure to wipe any moisture from around the oil filler cap before removing the dipstick.)
Article by: Scooter Underground www.scooterunderground.ca