6 Most Common Motorcycle Problems and What to Do About Them

There are more than a million motorcycles registered in the UK alone and they are certainly a popular way of getting around. Many people ride classic or older motorbikes and take loving care of them.

If you’re a new bike owner, here we look at some of the most common problems you are likely to find with older bikes.

1. Fuel Tank Rust

Rust as a general issue is common in older bikes and can occur practically anywhere. If you leave your bike for a long period with a half-full tank it can lead to problems over time. It’s more likely to happen if you are parked in an area where there is relatively high humidity.

It’s important to check your tank at regular intervals and, if there is a rust problem, get it sorted straight away. The best way to stop it from developing at all is to ensure that your tank is filled with gas most of the time, especially if you are leaving your bike parked up for a while.

2. Vacuum Leaks

Your carburettors produce an air/fuel mix for optimum running. A vacuum leak happens when extra air gets in, most often around the carburettor holder.

This has a rubber seal that can dry out and degrade over time so it’s important to check every so often. Leaks can often be misdiagnosed but if you have a problem with erratic idling or loss of power it’s worth checking out if this is the problem. It’s a good idea to take your bike to your local friendly mechanic to get a proper diagnosis and repair if you are not sure.

3. The Carburettor

These are complex bits of the engine and most older bikes suffer from problems at some point. The carburettor mixes the petrol and air to ensure the smooth running of the engine.

Like most mechanical parts they wear down over the years and that can lead to the carburettor having too much air to too much oil. If the parts are worn down or there’s something like a seal that needs replacing, it’s important to get this carried out by a garage that knows what it’s doing.

4. Fork Oil Leaks

The forks on your older bike are also quite complicated parts. They are filled with a viscous oil that helps handle the weight of the front end. The wrong oil or a leak can cause friction and damage your bike. You’ll know there is something wrong if you start feeling every bump in the road.

The forks are probably the most ignored part of the bike when it comes to riders and problems can often develop because of it. It’s important to have these checked out whenever you have a service. If you do start to feel every contour on the road and your ride becomes uncomfortable, you should check the oil levels or whether there is a leak. On some bikes, the fork assembly can be complicated so if you are not mechanically minded it’s important to consult an expert mechanic.

5. Old Tyres

Perhaps more than with cars, worn tyres are a pretty big danger when it comes to two-wheeled motorbikes. New tyres are a lot tougher than they used to be but it’s still important to check the tread regularly and replace wheels that look worn or have some damage on them.

6. Engine Oil Leaks

Another common problem you might encounter is an oil leak from the engine. This can be down to a faulty gasket on the crankcase, oil pan or cylinder head, for example. It’s critical to get this diagnosed properly, however, if you are unsure where the issue is located. An oil drain plug can be replaced in about 15 minutes but the cylinder head gasket can be more problematic because you have to take the engine apart.

If you want to maintain your motorcycle or have issues that you are unsure of, it’s a good idea to work with an experienced garage. At White’s Bodyworks, we have a fully equipped garage and can ensure we get your motorbike back in tip-top condition in next to no time. Contact us to find out more.

Norton Motorcycles: A Brief History

At White’s Bodyworks in West Sussex, we’ve seen a lot of classic cars and motorcycles come across our threshold and we’ve loved every one of them.

One of our favourites is the Norton, a motorcycle with a rich heritage and one that’s a favourite with classic bike enthusiasts not just here in the UK but around the world. Its iconic logo is easily recognisable and one that gets everyone purring when a bike like this rumbles onto our forecourt at White’s.

Here we take a quick look at the history of Norton motorcycles and what makes them such as great bike to own. While it recently went into administration after some troubled times, there is good news that the brand has been brought by TVS Motor Company in India. We may soon, once again, see some new Nortons with that proud logo hitting the roads around the world.

Early History

The original Norton company was founded in 1898 and was one of the earliest manufacturers of motorcycles in the world. It was only 13 years previously in 1885 that the first motorbike was invented in Germany by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach.

In under 10 years, the Norton company had produced a bike with a Peugeot engine that went onto win the twin-cylinder class during the very first Isle of Man TT. It was to begin a close connection with racing that the Norton brand would have throughout the 20th century.

About the same time, Norton began making its own engines in its factory in Birmingham. By 1913, however, the business was in trouble and had to be bailed out by creditors.

During and following the first war, Norton benefited from orders to provide bikes for the Ministry of Defence. It wasn’t until 1919 that they began to produce civilian models again. The bikes continued to win at events such as the Isle of Man TT and became increasingly popular during the prewar years.

During the Second World War, 25% of all military motorbikes were Nortons, chosen because of the ease of getting spares and low maintenance requirements. For many classic enthusiasts, this was the heyday of the company and one which forged it as an iconic British brand.

Post-War Nortons

After the war, civilian production continued although success in the TT began to wane with competition from more powerful Italian machines. In 1949, the Norton Dominator came onto the market and the bike began to take the shape that classic owners know today. By 1951, these were also being exported widely abroad.

Unfortunately, designing bikes for and taking part in racing so much damaged the companies profitability. Whatever the reason for its losses, Norton struggled in the early 50s and was bought out by Associated Motorcycles (AMC) and eventually the factory in Birmingham was closed and the company moved to London.

AMC put work into the development of the bike, producing an improved gearbox in the mid-50s and launching the 600 cc Dominator 99. Throughout the late-50s and the 1960s, several models came onto the market including the 650 cc Norton Manxma that was designed exclusively for the American market.

The impact of the wave of Japanese bikes that hit the market in the late 60s meant that every bike manufacturer in the UK was under pressure and Norton was no different.

AMC got into financial difficulties and was reformed as Norton-Villiers. In 1967, the company produced the Commando which far outperformed other British makes such as Triumph and BSA.

When Norton produced the combat engine in the early 70s, however, problems that frequently led to broken crankshafts took their toll on sales. By 1972, competitor BSA was also set to fold but was given financial assistance from the Government as long as it merged with Norton-Villiers.

In the 1980s, the Norton-Villiers partnership recovered their winning ways at various races but by the early 90s, the company was again struggling with millions in debt. Despite being reformed as Norton Motors in 1993, for the next few decades production was small and often erratic. The brand was purchased by businessman Stuart Garner in 2008 and moved to Castle Donington.

In 2020 the company went into administration but was bought by the TVS Motor Company in India, currently the 6th largest manufacturer in the world. They hope to put the Norton brand back on the pedestal it once occupied in the mid-20th century.

Time will tell whether we see Norton reinvigorated and new bikes coming onto the market.

White’s Bodyworks for Classic Motorbike Restoration and Repairs

There’s nothing we like more than a classic motorbike at White’s Bodyworks in West Sussex. We handle all repairs, restoration and maintenance for motorcycles of all types and vintages.

If you own a classic motorbike, we understand that you don’t want to give it over to just any garage.

The team at White’s Bodyworks has a vast amount of experience of dealing with classics and we’ve developed a strong reputation over the last couple of decades. From minor repairs and resprays to major renovations, we have all the equipment on-site you could think of and technicians who really know what they are doing.

If you are looking for a garage that can handle all the needs for your classic motorbike, whatever make it is, our team is here, ready to lend a helping hand. Contact us today to find out more.


01273 933633 / repairs@whitesbodyworks.co.uk
Unit 23, Firsland Park Estate, Henfield Road, Albourne, Hassocks, West Sussex BN6 9JJ