So you plan to buy or just have bought Ducati. Great job, you've made a good choice! Now all you need to do is to keep your Ducati in a proper condition. Just as well as cars, bikes require maintenance. Usually manufacturer establishes time intervals when some routine things like changing oil or replacing filters are done. These intervals depend on a brand. Ducatis are great bikes and many say they're simply best ones, but prepare to go through maintenance more often then with most bikes.
First thing that scares almost all new Ducati owners is valves. «How do those valves perform?», «Do Ducati valves require frequent maintenance?» – these questions arise from time to time on various motorcycle forums. Many riders confess they’d like to buy Ducati bike, but are deterred by specific valves and their maintenance. Indeed, all Ducatis have an exclusive desdromonic valve system. It has been created in attempt to make 2 cylinder engines as powerful as 4 cylinder ones. The main idea is in reducing valve float. All Ducati engines don’t have any valve springs, special rockers are used to open and close the valve. With no valve spring your bike can run at tremendous 18,000 rpm and even higher! You can read detailed information about Ducati valves and their desmo system in official Ducati website. If you use your spare time to read this information, you will see what exactly requires adjustment and understand desmo is not scary at all. I bet you can even do it yourself. Certainly, there's nothing bad to pay to professional to get your valves adjusted, but prepare to pay around $250-$300 for 2 valves per cylinder and twice as much if you own a superbike with 4 valves per cylinder. If you decide to adjust valves yourself there are plenty of web sites describing how to do it. You can even watch a video showing this process. If you’re a person who wants to know everything about the bike you own, then don't hesitate and do it. Anyway, valves adjustment must be done every 4,000-6,000 miles and that is pretty often comparing to other bikes. Typical Japanese bike owner will probably make 12,000-16,000 miles before valves adjusting and certainly it is not so complicated. Ducati is a real bike of the dream, but it's not cheap in maintenance, so if you need to make frequent bike rides on a daily basis, think of buying second motorcycle with cheap adjustment costs.
Ducati chart tells how often you need to change oil, but checking its level each 1000 miles is a good idea. Basically, oil change is something you should learn to do yourself. The choice of oil is indeed a source of debates. Manufacturer recommends using between 10 and 20W-50 oils. Although Ducati manual doesn’t tell oil must be a synthetic one, I’d recommend using synthetic oil for motorcycles.
When your bike exceeds 5,000 miles prepare to adjust carburetor needle jets. You might notice they work improperly in case your Ducati has poor fuel economy and is fouling plugs. The needle jests become worn-out after 5,000 and more causing the abovementioned symptoms. Also while using your bike, pay attention to some probable weak points. First these are clutch slave cylinders as they can leak in some models. 4 valve Ducatis can suffer from flywheel nuts. You might think of them in case your engine makes loud knocking sound. Finally, a problem with oil plug can appear on some bikes. Plug can be not staked properly and in this case it vibrates. Surely, these problems don’t concern all Ducatis and it’s more a matter of luck whether you have it or no.
Taking care of your bike and trying to find the cause of possible abnormal noises, sounds or vibrating is a great idea that can save you plenty of money. Ducati parts are expensive and more than that they are hard to get. Sometimes you need to order them directly in Italy and wait until the detail you need finally reaches you. It usually takes 2 weeks to get the package. Before making an order from Italy be sure to check your local dealer, they usually have some parts like oil filters (average price is $8-10), air filters ($13-15), brake switch ($45), valve cover gaskets ($5), etc.
If you still have no idea whether go to service tech or do maintenance yourself, try to start making some simple adjustments yourself enhancing your skills steadily. The truth is there are just a couple of things competent Ducati owner cannot make. Learn theory to understand how your bike works, buy necessary tools and start from basic tasks following instructions.
I must agree Ducati maintenance requires more time and money then many bikes, but this is Ducati! This bike is a real treasure and once you get it you will never want to replace it with another brand.
- 13 May 2009, 15:20