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To make sure you can see—and be seen—motorcycle light maintenance is key.

Added February 28, 2018
Motorcycle Headlights
Riding during winter’s shorter daylight hours mean depending more on your motorcycle’s lights. Beyond helping you see where you’re going, your lights help others see you. Often, other drivers don’t expect to see motorcycles on winter roads. And with fewer riders out during those months, you’ll want to make sure you’re as visible as possible.

Check your lights often

We all know a pre-ride motorcycle inspection is important. But it’s not just something to do in the morning—you should do it every time you start a ride. To make sure you don’t miss anything, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation created a checklist called T-CLOCS. The L is for lights. Here’s what you should look for:

  • Cracked lenses
  • Clean lenses
  • Undamaged headlight reflector
  • Working headlight high beam and low beam
  • Proper headlight aim
  • Functioning running lights
  • Operating turn signals
  • Correct brake light operation—both hand and foot control

Be sure to check out the whole T-CLOCS list for other safety check recommendations.

Know your lights

Every motorcycle has at least two types of bulbs—headlight and turn signal/brake lights. It’s safe to say most riders will know their motorcycle’s horsepower and torque specs before knowing their headlight part number. You’ll be able to find the common bulb numbers, sometimes called the trade number, of all of your motorcycle bulbs in your owner’s manual. Write them on a card and keep it with your registration. That way it’s handy if you need to buy a bulb while traveling.

Be prepared

Bulbs will burn out—most likely while you’re out for a ride. It’s not a problem if there’s a motorcycle shop or auto parts store nearby. But what if your headlight fails after dark on a remote country road and shopping for a bulb isn’t an option? That’s why it’s best to be prepared and carry spare bulbs for the headlight and turn signal. Most headlight and signal bulbs are small and can be easily stored on most motorcycles.

Have a strong connection

Lights sometimes stop working not because the filament burns out, but because of corrosion on the light socket. You can greatly reduce this problem by using dielectric grease when you install new bulbs. It’s available at auto parts stores in a tube size for your garage and in small packets perfect for carrying with your spare bulbs.

Stay bright

 The good news is, modern motorcycle lights and electrical systems are so much better than years ago. New LED lighting options offer long life, bright light, and low power usage. But whatever lighting system your motorcycle uses, remember that even though lights are low maintenance, they do require some attention to keep you safe on the road.

Till next time, ride safe!


Related links:

Winter riding isn’t just about bike maintenance. You also need to look out for road surface hazards. Here are more articles on how to deal with winter riding challenges:

Four winter surface hazards to avoid on your motorcycle

Why you need to keep road salt off your motorcycle