Tech Tuesday: Corrosion

NEWS February 28, 2012


Tech Tuesday: Corrosion

Photo by Brian J. Nelson

This week’s Tech Tuesday covers an issue that is common to all motorcycles, corrosion. This article will cover how corrosion occurs, what your motorcycle’s manufacturer does to prevent it and what measures you can take to further prevent the onset of corrosion, which could cost you money in repairs.

How Corrosion is Possible:
Corrosion is an electrochemical reaction. Metal is oxidized and moves from a solid to a liquid (ionic) state resulting in the solid losing mass. This corrosion eats away from the solid creating a reduction of flow in voltage which creates resistance. Take a motorcycle’s handlebars for an example. Common to most motorcycles are handlebar switches and buttons, which contain small gaps to allow button movement. Overtime, moisture will seep through these gaps into the control housing and begin to corrode wires and connectors. The corroded wire will have increased resistance, leading up to loss of connectivity resulting in malfunctioning. Corrosion will also make the wire connection brittle and eventually break. This problem could cause further issues or risk of fire if an electrically charged wire/connector were to be severed or be loosened and come into contact with a negative point of contact, like the frame or a bolt.

How Corrosion is Prevented from the Manufacturer:
Newer model motorcycles are manufactured with special corrosion resistant coatings and coverings that prevent the effects of corrosion. Though, over time, these coatings and covers wear down or become less affective. With more electronics packages on motorcycles like traction control, Anti-lock braking systems, electronic assisted suspension and steering dampers and engine management systems, it is essential to maintain the barrier between critical connectors and the environmental elements that cause corrosion.

How to Prevent Corrosion:
To help prevent or reduce the onset of corrosion, keeping your motorcycle out of the elements is the best advice. If not stored in a climate controlled area, a water resistant cover will help protect connections and wires. Lubricating your motorcycle’s connections with dielectric grease once a year will greatly improve corrosion protection. If you see any corrosion, take a small wire bristle brush and lightly rub the connector. If you do have to perform this step, ensure your connection is solid, apply dielectric grease and make sure the boot that covers the wire connection is not ripped or torn. If you are not sure how to do this type of maintenance, take your motorcycle to your local dealership and have it performed by a certified motorcycle mechanic.


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