Someone whose advice I trust (Google his name) wrote this a while back:
HINTS ON BUYING A SECOND-HAND BIKE
by Neil Murray
PRINT THIS OUT AND TAKE IT WITH YOU WHEN YOU BUY A BIKE
Look at it!
Don't just start the engine and take it round the block. Start examining the front end and work your way through to the tail light. Note every single fault you see on a piece of paper (so you don't forget) and also note its likely cost.
Looking at the bike first will also allow the engine to cool slightly, if the seller has warmed it up before you arrived, and engines should always be started from cold just to see if they do start easily!
1) Front tyre:
Should have plenty of tread. Look for cuts and gashes. Budget ï¿½-100 for a replacement (according to model)
Check thickness of disc pads by squinting down the caliper. Budget ï¿½ a set for replacements (ie: ï¿½ for a double disc front end).
Drum brakes - see if the adjuster at the brake end has been fully wound in. If so, the linings are close to the limit. Again, budget ï¿½ a set for new linings
Squint at them sideways to make sure they are straight and parallel. If not, the bike has been in a crash, and the frame may be bent as well.
Look for any oil leaks from the seals and signs of pitting on the fork stanchions (the polished bits) themselves. People sometimes replace the seals but leave the pitting and the pits will wear out new seals in days. Budget ï¿½ per seal (if you do the work yourself) and ï¿½ per stanchion
4) Head race bearings:
If the bike has a centre stand get someone to push down the back of the bike to lift the front wheel off the ground. If not, pull the bike towards you on the side stand to lift the front wheel. Turn the bars gently. If you feel a notch, or worse still, several, the races are shot and need replacement. New races will cost ï¿½ and mean stripping down the front end to fit them. A dealer will charge about ï¿½0 for the whole job.
5) Lock stops:
These are the lugs welded to the steering head that stop the bars turning before they bash into the tank. If the bike has been dropped or crashed, they will be bent or otherwise damaged. This is a danger sign!
6) Bar ends, mirrors, lever ends:
Look for scrape marks as a sign that the bike's been down the road. These are easy and cheap to replace, so don't take an absence of scrapes as a sign that the bike's never been dropped.
If it's non-standard, be suspicious: it might have had a respray after a crash. In any case, non-standard paint generally knocks down the resale value of a bike.
On alloy beam frames look for any signs of deformation where the rails bend towards the headstock. Alloy is softer than steel and much harder to fix. Any signs of damage - walk away
9) Rear suspension:
Grab the rear tyre and try and move it from side to side. Play here means wear in the rear suspension bearings. This can be easy or difficult to fix, depending on how complex the rear end is and whether the bearings will be all seized and rusted into place. Assume the worst.
Bounce on the seat. A dry creaking noise from the suspension indicates worn and seized linkages. This can cost up to ï¿½0 to fix. The rear end should also bounce once, returning to its former position. If it boings up and down two or three times, or just sags, the rear shock(s) is/are worn out. This will cost at least ï¿½0 and maybe as much as ï¿½0 to replace with a decent aftermarket unit on a big bike. Twin-shock bikes are cheaper, but still allow ï¿½0
10) Rear tyre:
Should have plenty of tread. Look for cuts and gashes. Budget ï¿½-ï¿½0 for a replacement, according to size of bike!
11) Rear brakes:
Check and budget as per front
12) Rear wheel bearings:
Grab top and bottom of rear wheel and try to move it from side to side. If it does rock slightly, the rear wheel bearings are shot. Easy job, but still budget ï¿½ for replacements
13) Chain & sprockets:
Look at the wear indicators (if fitted) and the chain adjuster marks (if not). If the rear wheel is pulled far back on the adjusters, the chain is worn out.
See if you can pull a link off the rear sprocket. if you can, it's shot.
A dry slack rusty chain will also cast doubt over how the rest of the bike has been looked after.
Look for wear and hooking on the sprocket teeth. A new chain will cost ï¿½-80 for a big bike. A chain and sprocket set will cost over ï¿½0
Before starting, look for any signs of oil leaks and the presence of gasket cement (usually red, sometimes clear). If you see gasket goo oozing from joints, walk away. The engine has been rebuilt by a bodger. The Japanese don't use the stuff except on crankcase joints and sometimes on camshaft end caps, after all. Even then, they use it very sparingly. Someone who's slapping the stuff around like cement is too tight to buy proper gaskets, and too careless to worry. Gasket goo is good stuff, but excess goo can get sucked into the lube system and filter and block them, and wreck the engine. It just isn't worth the risk.
It should start instantly. If it churns away on the starter for ages before firing, or if the starter rattles and clunks, just walk away. Again, it's not worth the risk.
Let the engine warm up properly. There should be no rattles. Rattles from the top end indicate camshaft or camchain wear. This can be expensive to fix.
Rattles or rumbles from the bottom end of the engine indicate crankshaft or main bearing wear. This can be very expensive to fix. Walk away.
When test riding, rev the engine hard in as many gears as you can, then shut the throttle off, go down hard on the over-run, and whack the throttle open again. If it's going to jump out of gear, this is when it will do it.
Also, as you whack it open after going down on the over-run, look behind you for smoke. This action forces oil into the bores. A little puff of smoke is normal. A cloud isn't, and means the rings and/or valve guide seals are worn.
See if it steers properly hands-off. Beware wobbles! If it shows a reluctance to turn in one direction and a tendency to dive into another, the frame is probably bent from an accident.
Try the brakes, hard, several times. Make sure you aren't being tailgated when you do this....
When you get back, listen again to the engine. It should sound quieter and sweeter than it did when it was started from cold.
Check every single function. If you have a multimeter, put it across the battery terminals and measure. It should read about 12.5v and rise to maybe 14.5v as the revs rise. If it doesn't, or if it shoots up past 20v, the regulator/rectifier is fried and maybe the alternator with it. Cost: maybe ï¿½0 for a reg/rec and ï¿½ for a rewound alternator.
If you haven't a multimeter, turn the lights on and see if they brighten when the engine is revved. It won't tell you if the reg/rec is fritzed, but it will tell you the alternator is working
The V55 (the registration document or logbook) is vital. It tells you everything you need to know. It should bear the bike's registration number, the engine number, the frame number, the colour, and the name and address of the seller. Check all of these. Be very suspicious if there's a discrepancy. Engine and/or frame numbers not tallying mean it's almost certainly stolen. If the seller isn't the guy or gal mentioned on the logbook at the address mentioned there, he or she may possibly be dealing on the side. On no account believe the "I'm selling it for a mate" or "I haven't got around to changing the logbook" stories. This may not matter to you, but it will probably mean that he's working on a profit margin and will not be amenable to offers. The logbook also carries the name and address of the last owner and the date the bike last changed hands. If this was very recently, be suspicious. Why is the seller getting rid of it so fast? Check for DVLA watermarks on the logbook - forgeries exist.
ON NO ACCOUNT BUY A BIKE WITHOUT A LOGBOOK. DO NOT ACCEPT PHOTOCOPIES.
If the bike is several years old, you will want to see past MoTs to verify the mileage. Ideally, you will want to see a service record or receipts for work done. On older bikes, this is generally lacking. If someone says he does his own maintenance, ask him what the valve clearances should be or what grade of oil he uses - competent mechanics know these details. Ask if he has a manual. If not, how does he do the work? If so, oily thumbprints on the relevant pages are a good sign (but oily thumbprints on pages detailing, for example, gearbox rebuilds, may not be!)
Tot up the cost of every single worn or damaged component you have noticed, using the guide above. Compare the resultant figure to the cost of an equivalent bike in a dealer's advert in MCN. Point out that the dealer will sell the bike with decent tyres, brakes, etc, plus a warranty. You want to aim for a price that's 20% less than what the dealer is asking, when all is said and done. If a lot of work needs to be done, make that 30%, to cover the hassle factor. If the seller can't see the logic of your arguments, walk away. You might as well buy from a dealer
Some add to the value of the bike: most don't. Almost every BMW ever sold comes with panniers - they're worth less if they aren't. A Harley that's got the usual desirable mods done - carb, pipe, brakes etc. - will fetch more than one that doesn't. To a lesser degree this applies to some Italian bikes as well. Apart from these exceptions, extra money spent on tuning, go-faster, handle-better, look-neater, weigh-less mods will not add one penny to the value. They may even detract from it. On some Japanese bikes (Yamaha FJ1200, 900 Diversion, Honda VFR750) a decent luggage kit may add ï¿½0 to the value.
To sum up, you can spend five grand on gold-plating a CBR600, but you won't sell it for five grand more than an unplated one
19) If humanly possible, take someone with you when you buy:
A sceptical mate will not be blinded by the shiny paint and the "I-wannit-now" syndrome, and may save you a fortune.
20) Finally ......
You've seen a bike that you fancy in an ad but you need to find out a full address from a postcode then try http://www.postcode.co.uk/html/body_demos.shtml or you have a phone number but no area then try http://www.brainstorm.co.uk/utils/std-codes.html You've seen a bike that you fancy in an ad but you need to find out a full address from a postcode then try http://www.postcode.co.uk/html/body_demos.shtml or you have a phone number but no area then try http://www.brainstorm.co.uk/utils/std-codes.html