How To Maintain Your Vespa? DIY tips to save costs


repairing a Vespa V40 dove blue brake cables

When we rented out our Vespas we had to ensure that they would drive smoothly the whole day, sometimes 7 days a week for months on end. We made sure they were fully serviced before the season started. This way we had no problems at all. Seriously, all our Vespa Primavera and Sprints never had any engine trouble whatsoever.

For the scheduled maintenance we always brought our Vespas to our regular workshop to have them fully serviced. Other than that we ensured ourselves that the tires had the proper pressure and we always kept the Vespa clean. The latter might sound minor, but a clean Vespa avoids dust from getting into little parts which in the end will cause trouble.

Manuals are often disregarded. But reading the Vespa manual will teach you many things and save you a lot of trouble.

The Vespa is an extremely reliable scooter as long as you give it some TLC every now and then. If you stick to the maintenance schedule as listed in the manual you will be all right. However, there are a lot of things you can do yourself to ensure your Vespa is happy without spending too much money.

We have listed a couple of DIY maintenance tips that everybody can do if they have the patience and the correct tools. These are maintenance checks that should be conducted on a regular basis. Remember the scheduled period is only an indication. If you drive every day on the highway then you need more maintenance than if you would drive your Vespa on your day off only.

Generally speaking, a large frame modern Vespa such as the GTS should be serviced every 3106 miles/5000km. The small frame modern Vespa needs to be serviced every 1864 miles/3000km. These models are the ET, LX, Primavera, and Sprint.

Classic Vespas need more attention. If you drive often then weekly checks might be necessary, followed by monthly.

For yearly maintenance checks, we do recommend taking your Vespa to an authorized service center. This is to avoid long-term damage and it will save you time in the end. If you don’t feel like getting your hands dirty then you should just surrender to the idea of bringing your Vespa to a workshop whenever needed. Don’t worry, that is what a lot of people do.

If you have just purchased a brand new Vespa then it has to be serviced already after 621 miles/1000km. Adjustments need to be made and oils need to be replaced. To keep the factory warranty on your Vespa you must not do this yourself. Make sure that the initial service is included in the Vespa price and that the workshop and/or dealer will do it for you at no cost.

Prevention is better than cure. Read our article on how to keep maintenance low

Check-list monthly DIY Vespa maintenance

If you do regular checks yourself you will prevent your Vespa from needing extra repair and so avoiding extra maintenance costs. The more you can do the better. However, from our own experience, we understand that maintenance isn’t the most fun thing to do. Especially if you don’t have the space or right equipment, such as many Vespa owners who live in the city.

That said, try to do these checks at least on a monthly basis. You will be happy you did in the long run.

  • Cleaning
  • Tires
  • Fluid levels

DIY maintenance Cleaning your Vespa

white Vespa Sprint 50cc looks best when cleaned properly
A clean Vespa is also much more fun to ride

You might not think cleaning is considered maintenance, but surprisingly by cleaning your Vespa regularly you will avoid a lot of trouble. If you clean your Vespa you will get rid of dust, debris, sand, and other little particles that can eventually get into the narrow and tight spaces of your scooter. You just don’t want any dirt to accumulate or corrosion to take place in the carburetor, filter, hoses, etc.

When cleaning your Vespa don’t immediately use a sponge with soap to rub off the dirt. This can lead to scratches on the paint. The best is to start off by rinsing the Vespa with a water hose. Afterward, softly apply soap with a sponge. Then rinse it off again. Try to avoid getting certain parts too wet such as the engine and filter.

Once your Vespa is shining like new, take it for a drive again. This is better than wiping it dry with a cloth. During a short drive, the water will evaporate, even in parts that you can not reach with a cloth. This will avoid rust and parts getting clogged.

DIY checking tires on your Vespa

The tires are just as important as a well-maintained engine. Tires with a good profile and correct air pressure ensure safety on the road and burn less fuel.

Check the Quality of the tires

Vespa tire thread looks very good on this scooter
A healthy tire tread ensures safety on the road

Ideally, after every ride, you should check your tires for bits and pieces stuck in the tire tread. As you can imagine, if this isn’t removed the quality of your tire will deteriorate much faster.

At the same time, if you notice that the tire tread of the Vespa is not optimal it might be time to get it changed. To change the tire you need to go to a workshop to get the tire removed from its rim.

You can easily remove the front and rear wheel from a classic Vespa. All you need to do is unscrew the bolts. Unfortunately, this is not the case with modern Vespas. The front wheel can be removed by yourself, but the rear takes much more time. You need to remove the exhaust pipe first before getting access to the wheel.

Check the tire pressure

correct tire pressure on a Vespa is very important

A Vespa drives at its best if the tires have the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. It is important you check regularly, especially if you drive often.

Low tire pressure can slow down your Vespa, you will use up more fuel or battery power (for the Vespa Elettrica) and it will damage the tire. If the tire gets to a point where it feels soft, then you will damage the rim of the wheel.

High tire pressure affects the driving and it will damage the tire profile as well. It can eventually crack and burst. So look in the manual what the correct tire pressure is. Write it down on a sticker and stick it somewhere under your scooter seat so you will never forget the correct ‘bar’ once you are on the road.

The best time to check the tire pressure is in the morning before driving off. Heat can give a higher reading.

Tires are one of the most expensive parts of your Vespa you need to replace them regularly. However, you can do a thing or two to extend the longevity of the tires. Read more here on how how to check the tire pressure and maintain the tire quality as long as possible.

Classic Vespa owners need to check the wheel bolts often to see if they are still securely tightened. The bolts will loosen over time, especially since everything shakes a bit when driving a classic Vespa. The four bolts are the only thing holding the wheel in place.

four bolts which you can use to remove the front wheel on a classic Vespa
The four bolts that keep a tire in place on a classic Vespa

DIY checking the fluid levels of your Vespa

Engine oil is important for a Vespa as it lubricates and cleans all moving engine parts. For 2-stroke engines, the oil is directly mixed with the gas. It will evaporate eventually. This is not the case for the 4-stroke Vespa. It will return back into the casket, only to travel again through the engine parts.

So 2-stroke owners do not need to check the engine oil, others do. There is a low-oil indicator on the dashboard, but you shouldn’t wait until this starts to illuminate. You should look at your driving style to decide how often you must check the oil. If you drive full acceleration all the time then it will increase oil consumption.

Owners of a brand new Vespa also need to check the engine oil level after 300miles/450km.

When adding oil always use factory-recommended oil which is mentioned in the manual. Piaggio recommends 5W-40 synthetic oil for the Vespa 4T engine. We always stuck to the Castrol brand.

The best time to check your oil is when the engine is cold. If it is hot then it will give a lower indication. So after a ride, wait at least 10 minutes before doing the oil check. Place your Vespa on its center stand at leveled ground.

oil filler cap en dip stick on the Vespa 4-stroke is located on the left side near the central stand
Location of the oil filler cap and dip-stick on a Vespa Sprint

Depending on the model and the year, the oil filler cap can be found at two different locations.

  1. the right side of the Vespa, just above the muffler or
  2. the left side of the Vespa, just left above the center stand.

Once you unscrew the oil filler cap, the dip-stick/ oil measurement gauche will reappear. Pull the dip-stick out completely and wipe it off with a clean cloth. Then reinsert it back to its original position. Once that is done, pull it out again so you can read what the oil levels are.

On the dipstick, you will have a low and a top mark indicator. It should be dry above the high mark and wet above the low mark.

A little point that usually is overlooked yet very important to keep your Vespa running smoothly is the type of gas you use. If you are unsure which gas to use, read the following article. Wrong gas can damage parts and/or break down your Vespa.

Checklist 6 months DIY Vespa maintenance

Piaggio recommends getting your Vespa serviced every 6 months. Or if you have a GTS every 3106 miles/5000km. Modern Vespa small frame owners need to have their scooter checked every 1864 miles/3000km. This is of course a general indication provided by Piaggio. You might want to have it serviced sooner or perhaps later depending on how much your drive and the road conditions. For instance, Vespas that have had a performance engine installed will need more maintenance as well.

Those who want to save costs might want to consider doing the 6-month service themselves. As mentioned before we do recommend that parts that need to be checked and replaced during the yearly service should be done by a workshop. Especially if you don’t have any background in scooter engines.

During the yearly service, the workshop will be doing a lot of checks and replacements such as checking the brake fluid level, throttle control or cleaning the air filter, etc. Something a newbie should avoid doing themselves.

So let’s have a look at what you can do yourself on a more regular basis.

  • Engine Oil and Filter change
  • Wear and tear check
  • Sparkplug check
  • Cool level check (large frame modern Vespa models)
  • Gearbox change (classic Vespa only)

DIY Engine Oil and Filter Change for your Vespa

oil drain plug location on a Vespa Sprint
Location oil drain plug on a Vespa Sprint

Engine oil is crucial for the optimal performance of your Vespa. It lubricates and cleans all engine parts. After running through the engine, oil can get dirty and needs to get changed at least six months or every 6000 miles or 9656 km for the GTS models.

This is one of the things that you might be able to do yourself. Once you have the hang of it you will have it done in no time. Remember though that oil spillage is very harmful to the environment. Be careful not to drop anything and bring the old oil to a proper recycling center or auto parts store.

The oil filter doesn’t need to be replaced that often. However, while you are at it, you might as well change it too.

Tools you will need to change the engine oil of your Vespa:

  • Motor oil 5W-40 synthetic
  • 2 fennels
  • low profile 24mm socket wrench
  • drain pan
  • new oil filter
  • channel lock wrench
  • old clean rags

To replace the engine oil and install a new oil filter on your Vespa, follow these next steps:

  1. Warm-up your Vespa by running the engine for 5 minutes and leaving it to cool down for another 5 minutes. The oil will be nice and warm, making it easier to remove.
  2. While you wait, it is a good time to check the oil levels to see how it has performed over the last 6000miles/9656km.
  3. Remove the oil fill cap as well. This helps to oil to drain out. Double-check if the cap isn’t broken or damaged before placing it back later on.
  4. Use the 24mm bit torque wrench to loosen the drain plug and place the drain pan under it in order to catch the engine oil
  5. Once the drain plug has been loosened a bit, you can remove it by hand. If you have your Vespa on the center stand, you need to use a funnel to direct the oil. Otherwise, the oil will drip down along the stand. Another option is to place the Vespa against a wall so you don’t need to use the center stand. The best option is of course a table lift where you can secure the front wheel.
  6. Once the majority of the oil is out, remove the strainer out of the drain. Wipe it clean and check for damages. Then reinsert it. Make sure you turn it back into place.
  7. Now it’s time to remove the oil filter with the channel lock wrench. Slowly and gradually loosen it to avoid damage.
  8. Unpack the new oil filter and put some oil on its rim with the tip of your finger. A slight layer of oil will make it easier to remove the filter for the next change. Then place it in the correct location of the Vespa. Turn it hand tight plus half a turn. Too tight will damage your casing, not tight enough will lead to leakage.
  9. Place the drain plug back. Before doing so, make sure the rubber ring is still in good condition and that you lubricate it with grease.
  10. Tighten the drain plug by hand then tighten it with a torque wrench. The specifications are 14.7Nm to 16.7Nm. Just like the oil filter, make sure you don’t screw the plug too tight as this will cause damage. Too loose will lead to leakage.
  11. Now refill the Vespa with new engine oil. Use a clean funnel to do so and place the oil fill cap back on.

Once you have done all these steps, it is time to check if the oil has been replaced correctly. Have the engine running for a few minutes. At the same time check if the oil level light in the display is off. Then check for leaks under the Vespa. If all is well, it is time to check the oil level as we described earlier.

DIY Check For Corrosion and Wear on your Vespa

Vespa sprint 50cc in top notch condition

As you can imagine after driving 6000 miles/9656km to 10.000 miles/16093km, engine parts will show some signs of wear. You should especially be on the lookout for corrosion and rust. You can’t fully see what is happening inside the engine itself, but connectors from the hoses to the engine can be checked. Just as cracks in rubber parts and rust on metal parts.

Unlike motorcycles, the brake, clutch, and gear cables on a Vespa are all covered by the frame and are less prone to dust and moisture. So that is another plus side of having a Vespa.

When you are checking engine parts, remove the helmet bucket. Then slide your finger along with the parts that are connected with each other and along the hoses and cables to find any leakages or cracks. Also, check if the visible bolts and screws are still tightly in place.

Since a Vespa has a lot of moving parts you might want to lubricate some areas to avoid corrosion and rust. Classic Vespa owners should take extra care in this department.

However, don’t make the same mistake we did. We used the WD-40 on almost everything. While WD-40 is often thought of as an ideal lubricant, this isn’t its purpose. WD-40 is ideal to remove rust or other grime. It is a water displacer. So while it will work as a lubricant for a short period of time, it isn’t as effective. So after using WD-40 always apply a lubricant such as grease.

grease prevents:

  • dirt adhesion
  • drives out/prevents moisture build-up
  • prevents corrosion
  • protects moving and metal parts
  • spray grease to reach hard to get places

Grease is especially important for classic Vespas and should be taken seriously. Preferably every three months grease all fittings and lubricate all moving parts such as clutch, brake lever pins, and cable connectors.

There are many types of lubricants on the market. You can have a lookout for the following:

  • Grease silicone spray clutch and breaks lever pivot points, clutch cable, throttle cable
  • copper grease for discs and pads wheel, on nuts and bolts, apply with a brush
  • protective sprays
  • There are all kinds of specific lubricants aimed for specific parts such as cable lube.

DIY cleaning and changing your Vespa sparkplug (every 6000 miles/9656km)

The sparkplug is a small engine part, yet essential for your Vespa to start and run. A clean spark plug ensures enough power to spark the fuel to initiate the combustion process. A bad spark plug will give trouble starting the engine, use up more fuel, or even disable your Vespa to run.

A dirty spark plug is caused by a wrong fuel mixture, clogged air filter, oil level too high, low oil quality, etc. As you can imagine, you need to get it fixed quickly before it will affect the engine.

GTS Piaggio recommends changing the sparkplug every 6215 miles/10000km. For a small frame Vespa, they recommend replacing it every 3725miles/6000km. The spark plug of a classic Vespa needs to be replaced at least after 4000 miles/6437km. Vespa with a 2-stroke engine will have to clean the spark plug more often, as it tends to get dirty much faster.

So while the modern Vespas owner does not need to check their sparkplug that often compared to classic Vespas and 2-stroke Vespa owners, if your scooter has trouble starting you might want to have it cleaned. It will save you money if you can do this yourself.

Where can you find the spark plug on a Vespa?

location of the spark plug on a classic Vespa
Once you pull the boot cap (1) off you will find the spark plug (2). They are easier to find on 2-stroke Vespas.

Generally speaking owners of classic Vespas, the ET, and the LX with a 2-stroke engine will need to check their spark plug more often as they tend to get dirtier than the 4-stroke Vespa. You will also need to replace them more often. Luckily the spark plug of a Vespa 2-stroke engine is easily accessible.

In the classic Vespa, the spark plug is located under the right cowl. There is a spark plug boot cap that you need to remove to enable you to see the plug. Once you have located the spark plug, you need to get it out by using a special tool called ‘spark plug spanner tool or wrench’.

As for the 2-stroke ET and the LX, it is located behind the cap right under the seat. You will need to use the wrench to get the spark plug out. This is provided by Piaggio and is always found stuck under the seat of the Vespa.

spark plug wrench for a Vespa
Standard spark plug wrench provided by Piaggio

It is more difficult to reach the spark plugs in modern 4-stroke Vespas. For the Vespa LX, you need to open the cover below the seat to reach it. It is located just right, under a black cover.

For the GTS, Primavera, and Sprint you need to remove the seat bucket and find the green plug boot cap located on the right side. It is really a pain to remove and reinstall the spark plug, but luckily you don’t need to do this that often for these types of Vespas.

The Primavera and the Sprint have the wrench under the seat. For the GTS is located in the dashboard.

We always had a spare spark plug on us when we would go on a day trip with our classic Vespa. At one point our Vespa LX 2-stroke had trouble starting, but once we changed the spark plug it was up and running again. Luckily you will notice slight changes in how your engine starts and run, so before it gets too bad you will know that you should clean or change the spark plug.

So how to clean the spark plug?

NGK spark plug is the preferred spark plug for a Vespa

If you need to change it often then you might want to check the cause of a dirty spark plug. Dirty spark plugs can be caused by wrong fuel mixture, clogged air filter, oil level too high, low oil quality etc. As you can imagine, you need to get it fixed quickly before it will affect the engine.

To get the spark plug out you need to switch off your engine and let it cool down before removing it.

Once the spark plug is out clean it softly with a wire brush and then wipe it off with a cloth. Then twist it back and tighten it slightly with the wrench. Cleaned spark plugs do not last as long as new ones. So always make sure you have a spare one on you.

When buying a spark plug, double-check if the spark plug fits your Vespa model. Classic Vespa have different sparkplugs than modern Vespas. We always use NGK sparkplugs. They are one of the best.

You can also test if your spark plug is working or if there is something wrong with the wiring. First, remove the spark plug and then insert the correct side back into the spark plug boot cap. Place the other end of the spark against something metal, for instance, the Vespa frame. Then try to switch on the engine. You should be able to see the spark.

If there is no spark then your spark plug is broken. Change it. Still no spark? Then there is something wrong with the wiring. Best to have it checked by somebody.

When you do this test, make sure your hands are not near the spark plug. I can tell from my own experience that it is extremely painful if you accidentally touch it while starting the engine.

DIY Checking Coolant Levels on your Vespa GTS

location of the coolant levels on a Vespa GTS

Coolant keeps the engine cooled and is only necessary for the Vespa GTS models. You can find the fixing screw of the coolant on the right of the leg shield, just under the steering wheel. Remove the black cover so you can add coolant if the levels have dropped below the MIN. When checking the coolant levels, make sure the level is between the MIN and MAX levels.

Piaggio recommends a coolant with a “mixture of 50% de-ionized water and 50% glycol ethylene-
based antifreeze solution with corrosion inhibitors”. Corrosion inhibitors ensure that metal parts, including aluminum, are protected.

The best is to get yourself a premixed coolant which you can pour into the reservoir directly.

There are so many types and brands of coolant to choose from. In the Vespa manual, Piaggio recommends using Monoethylene glycol-based antifreeze fluid.

zerex valvoline anti-freeze coolant for the Vespa scooter

DIY Changing the Gearbox Oil on your Classic Vespa

While classic Vespas do not need to worry about the levels of their engine oil, they do need to replace the gearbox oil level. Preferably every 3000 miles/4828 km. The gearbox oil lubricates the gears, clutch, and drive. Gearbox oil is not the same as engine oil. When shopping around, make sure you get the scooter transmission oil.

Those who use the classic Vespa for commuting or live in a hot climate will need to change the oil more regularly.

small gearbox filler plug is located on the back of the engine of a classic Vespa
Location of the gearbox filler plug on a Vespa V50

Tools you will need to change the gearbox oil on your classic Vespa:

  • scooter transmission oil/gearbox oil SAE 80 gear oil (also known as SAE 30 weight motor oil)
  • flathead screwdriver
  • 10mm wrench
  • oil syringe, unless it is already attached to your oil container
  • drain pan

The filler and the drain plug are located at different locations for each Vespa model. The drain bolt is always located on the lowest point of the engine block. In most cases, it has OLIO written on it. An ideal place, so the oil can easily flow out into the drain pan.

The filler bolt is found slightly higher up. It is usually the bolt located just behind the selector box. Our Pistachio Vespa V50 also has OLIO written on it so it was easy to find, but this is not always the case.

gearbox drain plug on a classic Vespa
Location of the gearbox drain plug on a Vespa V50

Once you have located the important bolts, continue doing the following:

  1. Make sure to run the engine for 3 minutes a while so the oil can get hot. It will flow more easily. Place the Vespa on the center stand on level ground.
  2. Unscrew the filler bolt with a screwdriver
  3. Locate the drain bolt under the engine. Open it with the wrench and let the oil flow into the oil pan. Make sure you remove the sealing washer found around the rim of the bolt. If it is broken you will need to replace it.
  4. Once the oil has almost stopped flowing, insert some new oil into the filler hole to ensure that all the old oil is out.
  5. Once the oil is drained, place the sealing washer back. Lubricate the rims of the bolt. Place the oil drain plug back and tightened it slightly. Not too tight. Hand-tight plus half a turn.
  6. Then use open the filler hole and fill the gearbox with oil. If you have your Vespa on level ground you will need to fill it up until the oil starts to flow out. Then you know it is full.
  7. Refit the filler bolt after lubricating it with some grease.

You can tell by looking at your old oil about the condition of your engine. The old oil should be dark brown and thick. There shouldn’t be a lot of metal particles on the bottom of the tray.

Be aware if you find the following in your old gearbox oil:

  • A lot of metal particles: an indication that your gears or clutch are getting worn out.
  • Water floating in your oil: an indication that a seal or gasket has been broken
  • Other colors of liquid floating on the oil: gas is mixed with the oil and is an indication that the main seal in the engine is broken. The seal prevents the gas from mixing with the oil. It is expensive to fix but if not taken care of, can damage your engine.

While it will save you a lot of money if are able to do a lot of maintenance on Vespa yourself, always remember that if you do not have the experience you might do more harm than good. Think first if you have the time and tools to do the maintenance. If not, then best to bring it to the workshop so you drive off again the very next day.

Matt

I'm the co-owner of Vespa Virgin and enjoy riding my Vespa on the backroads.

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