Restoring a vintage motorcycle

What is one of the first things to consider if you want to restore your vintage motorcycle? If you’re thinking about restoring your vintage motorcycle, the first thing you will need is dedicated space to work on your bike. You need to have room to walk around the entire bike and have plenty of light. Space inside is best. Along with dedicated space, you will need a basic tool set to start with. You’re probably not going to finish in one day, so it’s very important that you can leave your motorcycle sitting, and nothing will be disturbed.

  • Do I need a lift to restore my vintage motorcycle? Not necessarily, but it will make it much easier not being on your knees all the time. Harbor Freight has a great lift for around $500 or you can build one at a fixed height for around $100.
  • What make and model vintage motorcycle should I consider for my first restoration project?  First and foremost, get a make and model motorcycle that makes you happy and excites you! But please keep in mind, a number of the vintage motorcycles out there are very difficult to find parts for. Some vintage motorcycle parts could very well be obsolete truly nonexistent, or extremely difficult to find. You may want to go Japanese as most of the vintage Japanese motorcycle parts are widely available. This makes Japanese vintage motorcycles desirable for first project bikes.
  • Does it matter if my vintage motorcycle is running or not when I buy it? If this is your first restoration project, you may want to buy a runner or at a minimum a rolling chassis. Try to stay away from a complete motorcycle in a box lol. If the motorcycle at least starts, you are more likely to not lose interest or give up.
  • What if my vintage motorcycles motor is locked or seized up? Well, if you know your motor is locked up or seized, you may get lucky, but probably not. Do not think that marvel mystery oil is a mechanic in a can! Even if you can get the motor to break free, it’s very doubtful that if it runs at all, that it will run for long. If you do not know what you are doing with a seized motor, be careful! You could possibly end up doing more damage and having more problems than you did in the beginning.
  • How do I know if my vintage motorcycle is stolen? When you buy the motorcycle, in order to protect yourself at a minimum you should get a photo of the seller’s driver’s license, and a detailed bill of sale. If there is not a title available check with your local DMV.
  • Dirt bikes, generally do not have titles, but any and all road going motorcycles should have a title of ownership.
  • Where do I find out the types of parts and correct specifications for my vintage motorcycle? Before you start working on your new vintage motorcycle I suggest that you join the relevant Facebook forums and purchase a factory service manual. There are a number of publishing companies out there that will sell you a manual for your bike, but a factory service manual/parts manual will be your best bet. Sometimes the non-factory manuals are vague and missing important information that you will need.
  • What should I do if my newly purchased vintage motorcycle to filthy? If your vintage motorcycle is dirty, greasy and grimy, take the time to clean it up pretty good before you start working on it.  There’s nothing worse than every time you touch your motorcycle, you’re covered in grease. Power wash it, but just don’t spray the water directly into the carburetor or motor.
  • What is the best way to document progress on restoration? I recommend that you start taking photos of your new vintage motorcycle as soon as you buy it. Create a separate folder on your telephone to keep all these photos in one place. I cannot stress enough how important these photos are! It’s real easy to take stuff apart, sometimes near impossible to put it back together correctly. Taking photos as references along the way will be a huge help for you!
  • What is the best way to break down my new vintage motorcycle? Bag and tag everything you take apart! Assume you will suffer from amnesia, Lol! If you have everything, bagged and tagged properly, keep as much assembled as possible when you were taking things apart, and take multiple photos along the way, you are less likely to lose parts or forget how they go back together. By yourself, some quality Ziploc freezer bags with the white label so you can use a sharpie to identify parts. I cannot stress this enough! Bag, tag, and take pictures! You will forget, how things go back together!
  • Should I check the battery in my vintage motorcycle? Yes. Do not assume that it is a 12 V battery! A lot of vintage motorcycles, work off of a 6 V system.
  • Should I buy new carburetors for my vintage motorcycle? Do yourself a favor, go ahead and clean the carbs, at a minimum, remove the main jet and clean. Gas can be nasty, if left sitting, gummy gunk, that will not allow fuel to pass. Do yourself another favor, if the carburetor is just horrible looking, like it sat on the bottom of the ocean, don’t waste your time, find a new replacement. Use fuel filters. Check the fuel tank, if the fuel tank is full of rust, you are fighting a losing battle. Even if you install fuel filters a piece of debris the size of a black pepper flake, will cause your carburetor to not work. Best advice, use fuel filters.
  • You can always rig up a remote fuel tank to ensure you’re getting clean fuel when trying to start. Did I say use fuel filters?
  • Should I replace the spark plugs in my vintage motorcycle? Yes. Replace the spark plugs. Do not assume the spark plug that is in the bike, is the correct one, check the manual!
  • Should I mix the gas in my vintage motorcycle? If it’s a two-stroke, mix your gas. Do not depend on the injection pump! In less than 30 seconds, your motor is toast!
  • Can I leave the old fluids in my vintage motorcycle? No. Drain all the fluids from the motor and replace before trying to start. Pay close attention to the original fluids that come out. Water mixed? Metal flakes? Fuel in the oil?
  • How to check the brakes on my vintage motorcycle? Sometimes brakes can be an issue, disc brakes? Drum brakes? With some of the vintage motorcycles, brake shoes are simply not available. You will have to have your existing shoes relined. Make sure you can stop!
  • Old tires on my vintage motorcycle? Check the tires on your vintage motorcycle, just because they have “plenty of tread” means nothing. It’s strongly suggested that tires be replaced every 5 years regardless of tread wear. The old “original” tires can be quite difficult to remove. Just because they “hold air” DO NOT think youre safe on them!
  • How to paint my vintage motorcycle? When it comes to paint, you may like the original patina. You may want a brand new paint job, but just keep in mind it can be expensive! Painting or powder coating prices will break your budget. You can do wonders with a rattle can, if you prepare the metal properly, prime, paint and clear coat.
  • Vintage Motorcycle Cables? Don’t think replacement cables are easy to obtain, try to salvage all the cables you can. Brake cables, clutch cable, speedo and tach
  • Tightening bolts on my vintage motorcycle? Torque everything to spec if possible, motors and rotors especially! When they are ridden, they vibrate and the fasteners will loosen up
  • Vintage motorcycle drive train? Don’t throw away those sprockets! Sometimes you can’t find replacements with out being custom ordered. If possible replace the drive sprockets and the drive chain
  • How to order parts for my vintage motorcycle? Make a solid list of PARTS NEEDED and a separate PARTS WANTED. Concentrate on the parts needed, get her running first then restore!
  • As much as I know you want to customize your vintage motorcycle and make it pretty… Don’t waste your time until you got it running and can ride it. You’re just upset yourself.
  • What systems are involved with my vintage motorcycle? There are 7 main systems to investigate fuel system, power delivery, exhaust, electrical, steering, braking, and suspension
  • How much will a vintage motorcycle cost me? A new motorcycle will cost you around $6,000 dollars to $10,000, if you pick the right vintage bike you can purchase, repair and ride for less than $3,000

Have any questions for us? call us (919) 614-5414 or fill out our contact form.

close slider
Quick Contact