The Ultimate Guide
This article outlines the best methods to clean a motorcycle exhaust.
If you have been riding for any amount of time, you will have noticed a lot of dirt and grime build up on your motorcycle’s exhaust. What’s more, there may even be burn marks or discoloration of the metal.
All of the above contribute to your exhaust looking nasty and neglected. But getting the pipes back to their original condition isn’t as easy as soaking them in water and detergent and calling it a day.
We have been riding and working on our motorcycles for over ten years. We have come up with some effective ways of thoroughly cleaning a motorcycle exhaust.
Keep reading for more info on how to clean a motorcycle exhaust.
When it comes to motorcycle exhausts, there are various materials that the pipes could be made of. Stainless steel and chrome are the most common, but titanium and aluminum pipes are also pretty popular. Carbon fiber mufflers have also become mainstream nowadays.
It makes sense that each different material calls for different cleaning methods . Here, we will focus on the most common motorcycle exhaust types: stainless steel and chrome.
Regardless of the metal used for your exhaust, there are a couple of things you will want to do before you start cleaning them.
Agitate any surface contaminants
That’s just a fancy way of saying ‘wash your pipes!’ Start cleaning your motorcycle exhausts after the bike has been sitting or wait for it to cool down. This will enable you to get into every nook and cranny without getting burnt! It also prevents water from leaving spots on the surface of the exhaust that are tough to get out.
To wash the exhaust, use lukewarm water at a neutral pH. Feel free to use a medium pressure washer to break up any dirt clods or remove some stubborn stains.
1. Use an insect remover spray or foam to agitate any dead insects or remains of bird droppings. These sprays break up the insects so that they are easy to wipe down without leaving micro scratches on the metal surface of your exhaust. Plus, you can use the spray anywhere on the bike, including the windshield and plastic fairing parts.
2. Be careful not to get any water in the exhaust. Believe us, that’s a problem you do not want. It’s easy to get water in the exhaust, especially when using a pressure washer. Some motorcycle and exhaust manufacturers offer a closed end cap that prevents this problem. However, we found that a small plastic bag and rubber band work just as well in a pinch.
How To Clean Stainless-Steel Motorcycle Exhausts?
While chrome exhausts need tons of care and attention to clean correctly, stainless steel pipes are more forgiving. You can clean most stainless steel pipes with a mildly acidic solution.
For stainless steel exhaust pipes, you can use a variety of mild acids. You might have something lying around the house that you can use. We recommend some toilet cleaners that have around 9% HCL content. Vinegar also works quite well, though you will need to do more passes for the weaker acid to work.
Before soaking the exhaust in acid, make sure there are no large road deposits left. Using a steel scrub might be a good idea, but be careful to get one softer than the stainless steel so that it doesn’t scratch your exhaust.
Now, soak the entire exhaust in the acid and wait for it to take effect. Multiple passes may be needed with milder acid solutions. Next, rinse off the pipe with water, and voila, you’re halfway done.
By cleaning your exhaust with acid and agitating surface contaminants with the steel scrub, you may have inadvertently damaged the top layer of the metal. This is totally normal and just a cost of doing business.
To make sure the metal surface of the exhaust is no longer exposed, use a polish to seal it. Please don’t overdo it and use too much polish. You want just enough to make a layer on the surface of the exhaust.
Use a microfiber cloth (or something similar that won’t leave any fibers or micro-scratches on the exhaust) to polish it.
Get Rid Of Burn Marks
If you notice any burn marks on your motorcycle exhaust, they also need to be removed. Burn marks are made when the extremely hot exhaust gasses cause the metal to discolor. Use a metal polish to remove the burn marks, and feel free to use a soft wire brush for some more stubborn spots.
For a quick fix, you can probably use oven cleaner to remove burn marks.
Lastly, you will want to go over the whole exhaust with a soft microfiber cloth. This will wipe off any cleaning products on the surface and give you a perfectly clean exhaust!
How To Clean Chrome Exhaust Pipes
Chrome exhaust pipes require more care and attention than stainless steel pipes. One wrong step, and you could permanently damage the chrome finish. Refrain from using abrasive acids and other strong cleaning solutions as they could tarnish the chrome. Instead, you should use a mild soap solution. Detergent and automotive shampoos are also pretty effective.
Use a mild soap solution to break up any minuscule dirt or road debris that might still be clinging to the surface of the exhaust. We also recommend using automotive cleaning shampoos, as they are specifically made to be used on metal such as chrome or steel.
Use a microfiber towel to get the best coverage, and get behind the exhaust as well. While you’re at it, it is best to go over the underside of the exhaust too. This area will be the most heavily affected by dirt and debris, so consider using a separate cleaning cloth.
Be sure to get a nice thick layer of foam on the exhaust, taking care not to let it dry too quickly. Next, rinse it off with water, and you should be good.
This also applies to stainless steel exhausts and any metal surface. Drying the exhaust after you have washed it might seem straightforward enough, but there are a couple of things to remember.
Firstly, use a microfiber that will not leave any lint or cloth fibers on the exhaust.
Next, use a pat-down method to dry the water. Work in sections by positioning the cloth on a section of the exhaust and patting it down so that it absorbs excess water. This prevents scratching and swirl marks that are common with wiping down the exhaust in circular or back and forth motions.
Remove any excess water from the towel after doing each section to have an easier time soaking up water in the next section.
After cleaning the exhaust, you should apply a polish on it to rejuvenate the chrome and have it look pristine again. There are many chrome polishes you can use, but we recommend these.
While you can use any automotive polish on chrome exhausts, the ones we reviewed are specifically made for them, so they will perform a lot better.
Apply a small amount and spread it evenly over the exhaust. Use a clean, dry microfiber cloth to pick up the polish. And just like that, you have a perfectly clean chrome motorcycle exhaust again.
If you notice your motorcycle exhaust becoming discolored, especially blue, then regardless of the type of exhaust, you will have to do some extra work to remove it. Here, we have outlined the most effective ways of dealing with the ‘blue-ing’ effect that some exhausts exhibit over time.
When it comes to cleaning your motorcycle exhaust, it isn’t as straightforward as you might think. You need to be mindful of many factors and use the best products to achieve the best results.
If you don’t feel up to the challenge of cleaning your motorcycle, have it done professionally. Your bike will thank you!