How To Treat Motorcycle Exhaust Burns

We’ve all been there. Whether it happened while you were trying to get on or off the bike, or while you were doing some quick maintenance, or maybe you just wanted to check if motorcycle exhausts actually get hot or not, motorcycle exhaust burns hurt!

So how do you treat a motorcycle exhaust burn? What are some quick home remedies that could save you a trip to the emergency room, and what are some life hacks for when you get a motorcycle exhaust burn on the road? 

If you want the answer to those questions, keep reading. 

How Serious is the Burn?

Let’s start with the obvious. The first thing you’ll want to do if you get a motorcycle exhaust burn is ascertained how serious it is. If you just accidentally touched the exhaust, immediately retreated, and only got a slight stinging sensation, we might be able to help you. 

However, if you sustained a severe burn and currently resemble Nic Cage’s Ghost Rider, get yourself to the doctor right away!

Let’s look at what you can do to treat different levels of motorcycle exhaust burns. 

Mild Exhaust Burns

So you accidentally touched the hot motorcycle exhaust. It doesn’t look too bad, and you’re not in excruciating pain. The first order of business is to get under some cool running water. Notice we said cool, not cold. And don’t get any ideas about using ice, either. You will just do more harm than good. 

Position your calf (because let’s be honest, it’s probably your calf) under a tap, shower, or garden hose for 5-10 minutes. This will help you clear away any contaminants that may have been on the exhaust’s surface. The cool water will also have a numbing effect to soothe the burn. 

Next, dry off the affected area with a soft, ideally sterile cloth. DON’T use wiping motions to do this. Patting the wound dry is better, but don’t pat too hard, either. This should also help you better gauge the severity of the wound. If it’s just a slight stinging sensation, you should be good. If every touch makes you feel like screaming out in pain, maybe bite the bullet and call an ambulance. 

Again, we highly recommend getting professional medical assistance if you think it’s necessary. 

If not, finish drying off the wound and look for some antiseptic liquid. Apply the antiseptic with care and bandage it up with some gauze. Don’t make the bandage too tight. Just make sure the wound isn’t exposed to the air. Now just leave it be and repeat the process regularly for a couple of days. 

Expect to get some slight reddening of the affected area and possible swelling. This is normal and shouldn’t concern you. 

And for all of the wannabe survivalists who carry a tube of toothpaste in their saddlebags because they heard it is good for exhaust burns, please don’t apply any ointments, pastes, or other such substances on a fresh burn. 

Any evidence of toothpaste being good for motorcycle exhaust burns is anecdotal and has little to no scientific backing. 

Holy Mother! That hurts!

Ok, so let’s say that exhaust pipe got you good. The affected area is a bit larger and already swelling and turning red. 

If the burn is a little bit more serious, you will want to follow the same steps as described above, but be wary of a few things. 

Firstly, there is a chance that the burn has caused blisters to form on your skin. DO NOT try to pop these blisters. They are your body’s natural defense mechanism against burns and are actually helping you. 

Secondly, make the bandage a little bit loose. This will keep pressure off the wound and prevent the bandage from popping the blisters. 

Additionally, it may be a good idea to get a tetanus shot. Motorcycle exhausts aren’t exactly the most sterile things on Earth and collect a lot of road grime. The burn may have punctured the skin, and the wound could become infected. Again, this isn’t necessary, but get a shot just to be safe, consulting with a doctor first. 

Severe motorcycle exhaust burns

If you or someone else has sustained heavy motorcycle exhaust burns, possibly in the event of a crash or accident where the skin was in contact with the hot surface of the exhaust for an extended period, call an ambulance IMMEDIATELY. Even if the person who has been burned tries to protest, get them immediate medical attention. 

The situation is dire if the skin has been punctured and there is an open wound. Similarly, if the affected area and its surrounding skin look charred, be very careful how you move as it could cause a lot of pain. 

Here are some things to keep in mind until medical help arrives. 

Firstly, do not try to remove any of the person’s clothing, even if it has been burned. In extreme cases, the burn could have caused skin and fabric to adhere to each other, causing pain if it were to be removed. 

Secondly, do not submerge the wound under cool water. This could cause hypothermia or shock. 

Dress the affected area with clean, cool, moist bandages, being very careful not to tie them too tightly. In fact, depending on the size and severity of the burn, you may be better off just lightly resting the bandages on the wound. 

In such extreme cases, there will probably be severe swelling. If so, elevate the affected area, ideally above the level of the person’s heart, to reduce swelling. 

Again, we should reiterate that professional medical help should be sought immediately.

Hugo Alais

Hi, I'm Hugo, I'm a motorcycle enthusiast who’s been riding for the last 10 years. I'm passionate about all things motorcycles and started Bikes Future to help other riders make the right motorcycle moves. I ride a white Kawasaki Ninja 400. You can find out more about me and my experience with motorcycling here.