The Dennis Kirk Blog
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Previously, we wrote about how to keep yourself cool on your motorcycle, but if your bike overheats on those hot days you won’t even be able to ride. One of the first things that you notice when your bike overheats is the loss of power. What happens after that can be much worse, like a nice hole in your piston. When the temp nears triple digits, there are few things worse than being stranded on the highway. Proper motorcycle maintenance and a few add-ons can help ensure that you keep your knees in the breeze and the bike running cool.
Let’s start with the obvious. If you have a liquid cooled bike, your cooling system needs to be up to snuff. When you know that you are going to be riding in high temps, make sure that you check your coolant levels and that the are where they need to be. Also check to see that the radiator cap is on correctly.
Then, after the obvious, there are some of the things that you might not even consider. For one, you might not even think that your coolant can break down over time. When it does, it can create a mucky mess that will eventually corrode and plug up the cooling system, causing your engine to overheat. Most motorcycle manufacturers recommend that the coolant be changed every two years to prevent this from happening.
You might think of your engine oil as a key factor in engine cooling. Your oil, though, plays a huge part in keeping the temps down. By properly lubricating the engine, it reduces the amount of friction, which in turn creates heat. The oil also helps to dissipate the heat throughout the engine and eventually to the outer walls. Low oil can be a huge factor in engine overheating. Conversely, too much oil can create too much pressure causing your engine to work harder than it needs to. Make sure the oil level is right where it should be for the best results.
The type of oil that you use is important for hot weather riding too. When riding in the hot weather, it’s usually a good idea to choose an oil with a higher weight. A lower weight oil will become too thin at these high temps to properly lube the engine. Synthetic oil is an even safer choice because they can endure much hotter temps without breaking down.
For air-cooled engines, it’s that much more important to pay close attention to your oil. Since your engine only has the air to remove the heat, you need to have the right oil in it to limit the amount of heat that is produced in the first place.
Adding an oil cooler kit will help ensure that that your oil temps stay in a safe operating range and it is perfect for air-cooled V-Twins. Oil cooler kits like the one from Jagg, route the hot oil from your engine through the oil filter to a heat exchanger where the oil is cooled and then back into the engine. Some units have fans to cool the oil even faster. You do need to be careful, though. If your bike doesn’t need an oil cooler, you should not add one because it will make it harder for the oil to reach the optimal operating temp. If you are constantly riding your bike with extra load on it, like with a heavier passenger or with a trailer behind the bike, an oil cooler kit may be right for you.
An easier way to cool your oil, but to a lesser extent than an oil cooler kit, is by swapping your disposable oil filter out for a Speeds Performance Plus re-usable oil filter. Among its host of other benefits, the SPP oil filter has cooling fins on it that work on the same level as an oil cooler to drop the oil temp.
Clutch or Drivetrain Problems
You may see increased engine heat if your clutch slips or if your drivetrain causes you engine to work harder. These issues put extra load on your engine, making it work harder than what it was designed for. You may not see the effects on the engine when you are riding in cooler temps, but they will rear their ugly heads once they are compounded with the excessive heat from the weather. Make sure you resolve these issues before you take a ride on a really hot day.
Brake Hanging Up
Not only will your brakes get overheated when they hang up, but your engine will as well. Just like the clutch slipping and drivetrain problems, your engine can be put under too much load when a brake is dragging. Make sure that your brakes are adjusted properly before a ride on a hot day to eliminate the unnecessary excess heat.
Cylinder Head Cooler
If your engine is still overheating, you may want to consider a cylinder head cooler. The Cylinder head cooler works by having a fan force heat away from the engine by pushing high velocity air through the cylinder fins in a wide flow pattern. The JIMS ForceFlow Cylinder Head Cooler can automatically turn on when the temps rise too high. The ForceFlow can lower the head temps on your Harley by up to 100 degrees.
With these things in mind, you won’t have to worry about overheating your bike and getting stranded in the middle of the desert. Just make sure you keep your body cool too.
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