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For hardcore motorheads, vibe is as important as riding skills. And one of the biggest contributors to a good vibe is a stellar-looking motorcycle, including a clean and clear windshield.
But achieving this pristine hot rod look is easier said than done, as the motorcycle windshield is responsible for shielding riders from dirt, grime, and the onslaught of insects.
So, how do you clean a motorcycle windshield? Rinse the windshield and soak it with a water-drenched cloth. Use appropriate cleaning products, scrub areas with accumulated grime and dirt, and apply a protective coat.
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of how to clean your motorcycle windshield:
- Gather the necessary materials.
- Rinse the windshield.
- Prepare the cleaning solution.
- Apply the windshield cleaner.
- Clean the motorcycle windshield.
- Rinse off the cleaning solution.
- Dry the windshield.
- Treat surface scratches.
- Inspect for cleanliness.
- Apply a protective coating.
Indeed, there is no recommended interval to do this periodic task. But I wouldn’t space it out too much. Aside from the fact that motorcycle windshields are not impervious to the elements, it is no fun straddling a two-wheeler with a windshield that you cannot see through!
Different Types of Motorcycle Windshields
Before we delve into the article, let’s first revisit the various types of motorcycle windshields. There is a range of options beyond the commonly known polycarbonate or bolt-on types as far as these add-ons go, as highlighted below:
Acrylic or Plexiglass windshields are commonly used on motorcycles due to their affordability and lightweight nature and have been a top preference for some time.
They are created from a type of plastic that offers good optical clarity and are generally resistant to shattering. (Remember those bulletin/poster casings in your workplace? They are of the same material.) However, they may be prone to scratching over time.
Polycarbonate windshields like the National Cycle Special Edition VStream Windshield N20014 (view on Amazon) are known for their exceptional impact resistance.
They are highly durable and offer better protection against rocks, debris, and other hazards on the road (no wonder they are an extremely popular option on cafe builds and off-roading motorcycles).
Polycarbonate windshields are also lightweight and provide good optical clarity. However, they may be more susceptible to scratching compared to other materials.
Fiberglass windshields are crafted by layering fiberglass material strengthened with resin. This construction gives them remarkable durability and strength, making them ideal for off-road or adventure motorcycles.
While offering effective defense against wind and debris, it is worth noting that fiberglass windshields may not deliver the same level of optical clarity. This is due to their inherent properties, as the layering of fiberglass and resin can introduce slight distortions that affect the windshield’s transparency.
Tempered Glass Windshields
Tempered glass windshields undergo a specialized treatment involving heating and rapid cooling, resulting in enhanced strength compared to regular glass.
Consequently, they boast excellent optical clarity and are highly resistant to scratches. However, their relatively heavier weight and heightened fragility make tempered glass windshields less frequently employed in motorcycle applications.
Adjustable windshields enable riders to adjust the height or angle of the windshield according to their personal preferences and varying riding conditions.
To make this possible, these windshields are equipped with mechanisms or brackets that facilitate effortless adjustments, empowering gearheads to customize airflow and protection while ensuring optimal comfort and a superior riding experience.
Laminated Glass Windshields
Among the windshield types described here, laminated glass windshields incorporate the most recent advanced tech in windshield construction.
It utilizes a layer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB) sandwiched between two layers of glass. This construction reduces their fragility upon impact by a huge margin, as the PVB holds the glass pieces together. Additionally, they provide excellent optical clarity and increased durability over other windshield materials.
While I will leave you to do further research on these motorcycle windshields in your own time, this is what I have to say. Some designs will not be as clarion as others due to their inherent properties, so don’t overdo your scrubbing.
Conversely, other windshield types may be more fragile than others, eliminating any possibility of a thorough cleaning with the windshield still attached to the motorcycle.
But more importantly, no matter how seemingly impervious to damage, all these materials are not as scratch-resistant as the glass windshield you have on your four-wheeler. That said, you cannot just use a paper towel and a sprinkle of water to ‘touch it up,’ which brings us to the next section.
How to Clean a Motorcycle Windshield
Before you start on this periodic task, set that paper towel roll aside and have all these essentials instead, as follows:
- Water source (hose or bucket) for rinsing the windshield
- Mild detergent or windshield cleaner for creating a cleaning solution
- Bucket or basin
- Soft microfiber cloth or sponge
- Additional microfiber cloth or towel for drying
- Protective gloves for handling the windshield and cleaning solutions
- Soft-bristle brush or soft sponge for removing stubborn dirt or debris (optional)
- Screwdriver and other appropriate tools for removing and reinstalling the windshield
Once you have all these items handy, proceed with the steps below:
1. Gather the necessary materials.
Start by gathering the above cleaning materials, including a mild detergent or windshield cleaner, a soft microfiber cloth or sponge, water, and a bucket. Also, pick a spot with cool temperatures, as some cleaning products may react differently on your windshield due to the sun’s heat.
2. Rinse the windshield.
It’s a rinse-and-soak approach you’ll need to do for this step. Begin by rinsing the windshield to remove loose dirt, debris, and bugs using a hose or a gentle stream of water.
Once you rid your windshield of bigger particles, address the smaller, more stubborn ones by soaking a non-abrasive towel in water and soaking the windshield with this homemade ‘wet wipe.’
Your cleaning/soaking cloth should ideally be made of “microfiber, terrycloth or cotton flannel,” according to Rider Magazine. If everything else is unavailable, a clean cotton shirt from your washer should be your last resort.
3. Prepare the cleaning solution.
In a bucket or deep basin, mix mild detergent or windshield cleaner with warm water according to the product instructions. Ensure the cleaning solution is suitable for motorcycle windshields and won’t cause any damage.
According to Motorcycle Cruiser, avoid glass-cleansing agents or petroleum-based chemicals. They can be harmful to some shields. This is especially true for acrylic windshields, which do not work well with abrasive cleaners that can strip off or damage their hard coating.
Other cleaning product contents to avoid are ammonia and kerosene since they have the same effect on windshields — even those of polycarbonate material.
4. Apply the windshield cleaner.
Whether using warm soapy water or a commercial windshield cleaner, the first rule of thumb is to go easy on scrubbing or applying pressure on your windshield. As mentioned earlier, motorcycle windshields are not as tough as those on four-wheelers and tend to be more easily susceptible to scratches and abrasions.
The second thing to remember is to use the least aggressive cleaning product first if you are using an array of windshield cleaners.
5. Clean the motorcycle windshield.
Now for the cleaning part — dip your microfiber cloth or soft sponge into the cleaning solution you pre-mixed earlier and gently apply it to the windshield.
Starting from the top, work your way down in side-to-side motions while covering the entire windshield surface. Do not use circular motions when cleaning — doing so will only grind dirt on the windshield, potentially causing you scratches.
After which, allow the cleaning solution to sit for a few minutes to loosen any stubborn dirt or grime that may have failed to remove by soaking the windshield in a drenched cloth.
6. Rinse off the cleaning solution.
Thoroughly rinse the windshield with clean water, removing the cleaning product or soapy solution and any loosened dirt. Remove all traces of the mild detergent or cleaner, leaving the windshield free from any residue or remaining contaminants.
Even for experienced motorcycle owners, steps #5 and #6 of this list are done repeatedly until they are certain no spots are missed and they find the cleanliness of their windshield satisfactory.
7. Dry the windshield.
After thoroughly rinsing, use a clean and dry microfiber cloth to gently dry the motorcycle windshield. Wipe in a blotting or sweeping motion to avoid streaks or water spots. Also, apply moderate pressure on the surface when wiping to ensure you do not inadvertently damage the windshield.
8. Treat surface scratches.
Once the motorcycle windshield is spic and span, it’s the perfect time to inspect it for scratches (if you aren’t aware of any yet). The approach to treating scratches depends on how deep or severe the scratch is. Nonetheless, the trick is to remove the scratch without going through the motorcycle windshield’s hard coat.
Most motorheads remove scratches by breaking out a soft clean cloth with a fine-grade buffing compound. Meanwhile, others do a three-step treatment using Novus Plastic Clean & Shine, Novus Fine Scratch Remover, and Novus Heavy Scratch Remover (view on Amazon).
Given the construction and fragility of most windshields, hand buffing is recommended when treating scratches. But for really damaged windshields that cannot be salvaged, it would be better just to replace them.
9. Inspect for cleanliness.
Once the windshield is dry, inspect it for any remaining dirt or smudges. Repeat the cleaning process on specific areas until the windshield is clean and clear.
10. Apply a protective coating.
For added protection and repulsion of water, dirt, and little winged intruders, you may apply a specialized windshield coating or polish on your freshly cleaned motorcycle windshield. Choose a compatible variant, and follow the product instructions carefully to apply the coating evenly and effectively.
Still, on the topic of prevention, use a polish containing wax (a variant that’s OEM-recommended) to prevent bugs from sticking. If the unthinkable has already occurred and you simply try to remove a dead bug stuck to your windshield immediately, it will smear if wet or may scratch the windshield surface if it has dried and hardened.
What you need to do instead is create your own ‘wet wipe’ and give time for the dried insect carcasses or squashed bugs to get soaked in water and soften. After which, you can wipe them off your windshield using the same drenched microfiber towel they were soaked in. Then apply your polish or protective coating after to help stop recurrences.
Cleaning a Motorcycle Windshield Without Removing It
Removing the windshield allows for better access to both sides of the windshield, making it easier to thoroughly clean and remove any dirt, bugs, or grime that may have accumulated. It also allows for more detailed cleaning of the mounting hardware and areas typically hidden when the windshield is in place.
However, if removing the windshield is not feasible, it is still possible to clean it while still attached to the motorcycle — although it may require more careful maneuvering and attention to ensure a thorough cleaning.
Should you go this route, the only procedural difference it has is that you’ll need to remove the windshield from the motorcycle, clean, rinse, and dry it, and then reinstall it on your thumper once you have applied a protective coating or polishing wax on its surface.
Top Picks — Windshield Cleaners
- Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze, Clear Plastic Polish, and Detailer
- Muc-Off Nanotechnology Motorcycle Cleaner
- Novus Plastic Clean & Shine, Fine Scratch Remover, and Heavy Scratch Remover
- Plane Perfect Eyes Outside Plastic and Glass Windshield Cleaner
- Pledge Multi-Surface Cleaner Aerosol Spray (view on Amazon)
- Plexus Plastic Cleaner, Protectant, and Polish
- RainZip Water Repellant
- Rolite RPAC16z Plastic & Acrylic Cleaner
- S100 Total Cycle Cleaner
Conclusion — How to Clean a Motorcycle Windshield
Alongside the information in this guide, I strongly advise consulting your owner’s manual for manufacturer-approved methods, tools, and cleaning schedules specific to your stock windshield.
Likewise, for aftermarket windshields, refer to the accompanying instructions. Doing so ensures that you follow the correct procedures and derive satisfaction from cleaning your motorcycle windshield, restoring it to its optimal condition.