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How to Clean Aluminum Fins on a Motorcycle

by Chris Gilliland

The aluminum fins cast into the cylinder head of an air-cooled engine act as a radiator, drawing heat away from the combustion chamber and into the surrounding air. Unfortunately, the fins also collect dirt, grime and oil over time, resulting in an unattractive mess that can reduce the fins' ability to cool the engine. Use one of several spray-on cleaning products on the market to some degree of success; however, the degreasing agents in these cleaners can affect the paint applied to the engine. As an alternative, clean the cooling fins using household cleaning products.

1

Park your motorcycle away from direct sunlight. Allow the engine and exhaust to cool to the touch.

2

Fill a small, clean bucket with warm water and a grease-cutting dish soap.

3

Rinse the engine's cooling fins with a low-pressure stream of water to dislodge loose dirt and debris, avoiding the motorcycle's air box or air cleaner.

4

Scrub the cylinder head, using a medium-bristled plastic brush, working the soapy water between the cooling fins. Rinse the cylinder often to remove the loosened buildup.

5

Rinse the cylinder head thoroughly, then blow dry the engine and exhaust system, using an automotive blow dryer set to Low. Wipe any remaining water droplets with a lint-free shop towel to dry.

Warning

  • Do not ride the motorcycle until the engine and exhaust have dried completely. The heat generated by the engine and exhaust can boil any remaining water droplets to bake into the heated metal. Do not use metal-bristled brushes on your motorcycle's engine. The metal bristles will scratch the cylinder head and can leave deep gouges that cannot be repaired easily.

Items you will need

About the Author

An avid motorcyclist, Chris Gilliland has immersed himself into the two-wheeled world while balancing work life and raising three daughters. When he is not managing the parts department of a local, multi-line motorcycle dealership, Gilliland can often be found riding, writing or working on his motorcycle blog, Wingman's Garage.

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