Cars & Vehicles

What to Check for When Buying a Used Motorbike

Motorbikes are a convenient mode of transportation that is very much popular in Sri Lanka. They are the easiest choice of many people for commuting to and from work, running errands, courier and delivery services etc. Nowadays, you can even see motorbikes as one available option for Pick Me transportation services in Sri Lanka, too. All in all, people look for bikes for sale for all these reasons. Therefore, there is a demand for used motorbikes, too. 

However, you need to be careful when you decide on buying a used motorbike. The reason is, there are many scam artists who would take advantage through unethical actions. This is especially true if you are an inexperienced buyer. So, if you are considering buying a used motorbike, here are a few things that you should do as well as keep in mind!

Research prices

Whatever you do in life, you need to do your own research first. This applies to anything in life, not just looking for a used motorbike. 

In doing your research, list out the types / brands / models of the motorbike you would like to have. Then , you can browse websites with bikes for sale to get an idea of the used bike prices in Sri Lanka. This way, you will be able to find used bike models that are within your budget. 

Moreover, this will also help you identify any bad dealer trying to take more money from you than required. 

First impressions

First impressions are important! When you visit the motorbike, if what you see is a vehicle that looks well taken care of, you should be happy. If it looks like a pile of wreck that the owner is trying to throw at you, you better walk away. 

Yamaha FZ
Yamaha FZ (Source: Motorbeam)

Examining the bike


Giving the outer body of the bike a thorough check will give you lots of clues. Scrapes on the exhaust, foot pedals, handlebars will indicate that the bike has been through an accident. So, if you see any, you need to ask the owner for an explanation. If the answer does not sound honest or realistic, you need to think twice. 

Engine sounds 

Next, get the seller to start the bike engine. In any case, if he does not know how, or fails at it, be VERY suspicious. 

Once the engine starts, listen for two specific sounds:

A low frequency knocking sound from the bottom part of the engine (the sump)

This is an indication that the big end has gone. Moreover, you will also need a complete engine rebuild. DO NOT BUY IT!

A high frequency tapping sound from the top part of the engine (the cylinder head)

Worn out tappets! One, you will need to replace them. Two, you will just have to adjust them. Pray that it is the latter, because replacing is expensive. 

If neither of these sounds are coming, you could be happy, but not just yet! Put gloves on your hand, and hold it lightly over the end of the exhaust. Keep that way for about 5 seconds. If you still can not hear the sounds, it is good to go!


If dark smoke keeps coming from the exhaust, it is an omen that piston rings are going. It needs another expensive replacement. 

Honda Hornet
Honda Hornet (Source: Sri Lanka Motorcycle)

Oil rings 

In addition, if there is oil coming from the cylinder head, well, it is not good news either. 

Next, you should not see oil rings around the shiny parts of the forks. If you see, that means the fork seals have gone and need replacing. This, you can check by bouncing the front of the bike up and down. 

Do the same for the back of the bike. If there are pitted rust holes on the forks, it is an indication that you will forever have to keep replacing the fork seals. 

Fuel Tank

When you open the fuel cap, you should see light amber coloured fuel. Moreover, you also need to clearly see the bare metal interior of the tank. Any dark fuel needs to be replaced and drained. It will be better to change the filter, just to be safe. 


Now move the bike forwards and apply the front brake. Move forwards again and apply the rear brake. If you hear a grinding noise it means that either the drum needs cleaning or new shoes are needed.

Next, take the bike out of gear and roll forward, while sitting on the vehicle. Then, apply the front brakes in a gentle manner. The purpose of this is to check whether the brakes function correctly without little to no noise. On the other hand, if they drag, they need some repair. 


There needs to be about an inch and a half of slack. If there is more, check if the digits on the adjustment nuts are on max. If they are, that means the bike needs a new chain and sprockets.

In addition, pull the chain away from the rear sprocket at the three o’clock position. This is to check the tension of the drive chain. It should not move away from the sprocket tooth any more than about half way. If it does, you need to replace it. 

Moreover, another sign that these need replacement is that the teeth on the sprocket are leaning over. 


The bike’s handlebars should work smoothly. There should not be any cracking, crunching or grinding noises. To check this, turn the handlebars right and lift. When you do, if you hear these noises, it is possible that the bears have gone. 

Bajaj Pulsar
Bajaj Pulsar (Source: CarAndBike)

Tyres and wheels

The tread depth should be minimum 1mm. If it is less, it is illegal. Moreover, the rubber should not have perished. If it has, it is inviting for an easy puncture. 

Check the wheels for dents. Place the bike on the center stand with transmission on neutral. Then, spin back the wheel. Watch it from all sides. This will help you recognize any dings or bends. 

The ride 

You will feel the bike more only once you give it a ride. Accelerate, turn corners, brake front and back, stop the engine and restart, and try U-turns. 


A responsible owner will have all the previous service records and receipts of the bike. This will give you an idea whether the previous owner managed to maintain the bike in proper condition. 

Final thoughts 

Before buying a used motorbike, you need to decide on which brand and model you like the best. Honda bikes including the Honda Hornet and Honda CBR, Yamaha bikes including the Yamaha FZ, and Bajaj models such as the Bajaj CT 100, Bajaj Platina and Bajaj Pulsar 150 are some of the most popular motorbikes for sale in Sri Lanka. Once you decide on one or a few, comes the hardest part. 

Buying a used bike needs much inspection. When you are making an investment like this, you need to make sure that it is worth the while and worth the money. To ensure this, you need to focus on the above mentioned facts. So, make sure that you do not get deceived by the outer appearance of the vehicle. If you are unsure, take an expert with you who will be able to check the motorbike for the above for you.

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