Tech Tips

Winterization Tips

Written by  October 31, 2005

Now that the weather is a constant 40 degrees in the mornings, at least here in the Midwest, it's a great time to perform maintenance that we have been putting on hold. Winterizing your motorcycle can be done in a short amount of time, and it is relatively easy to do.

In this process you must consider that our bikes are expensive and they need to be treated with respect. We must not neglect the fuel system, oiling system and electrical system.
If you choose to have a qualified tech perform this procedure, that’s OK! Most of the riders who I have met throughout my travels know a little about this subject but might not have time to fully winterization for their bike or 4-wheeler. For the purpose of this article, I will not separate different classes like 2 cycle or 4 cycle.

Fuel systems can be overlooked and contaminated due to moisture in the tank; this will cause a possible rust problem in the spring. I suggest before filling the gas tank full, add STA-BIL Fuel Stabilizer to your fuel and let the motorcycle run for at least 15 minutes. This will circulate the fuel preservative and it will enter the carburetor or fuel injection system. This will give the fuel injectors a dose of STA-BIL and this will also protect the fuel pump and fuel pressure regulator.

Now that you have the engine at operating temperature, this is a great time to change the oil and filter. Depending on storage time, this is a great idea due to the contaminates in the oil pan. Dirty oil can be corrosive if left for long periods, and if you change the oil and filter it will be done for the spring or when you decide to take your bike out of storage.

If your motorcycle is equipped with a chain, belt or shaft final drive, this needs to be addressed as well. Chain adjustment and lubrication of the links is critical for extended life of the chain. Belt tension must be adjusted correctly to meet the tolerances of the manufacture. Also visually inspect the belt for missing teeth or damage. Shaft systems are usually maintenance-free; they, however, need to have the gear lube replaced periodically. This can be done easily, and this usually does not require more than 300 cc of gear lube to refill.

The battery in your motorcycle can be removed from the bike and checked for correct water level and dirty terminals. Use only distilled water when refilling your battery. This is also a great time to check for sulfation (the white stuff that accumulates in the bottom of the battery); this is a normal process that comes from discharging. If you have a maintenance-free sealed battery (the most common battery used today), this needs to be treated with the same TLC as a normal lead acid battery. If you do not have a warm, dry place to keep the battery like a work bench, I suggest you purchase a Battery Tender. This device will maintain the current state of charge and not overcharge the battery. This device can be purchased for around $45, and according to this manufacturer, battery life can be doubled by using this product. Batteries are getting expensive these days, and if you apply these quick steps, your battery will be fine for spring.

Adding tire pressure is probably the most neglected item. By checking and adding 5-8 psi more than max load capacity, the tires will not tend to drop pressure as fast, and it also makes the bike easier to push around. When adding more air to your tires, take a good look at the sidewalls and the tread looking for cuts, cracking and uneven wear patterns. This is a great time to get the tires changed if you find any of these problems. Remember, you only have two tires to deal with.

You have now covered four of the basic items for winterization. While you are still going over your bike, check the throttle cables for frayed ends and smooth action. Check brake fluid and change if necessary. If you have front disc brakes, look at the pads with a light, and if they are thicker than ¼ inch you are in service range. Anything less than this measurement, the brake pads will need to be replaced. Another thing you need to check is the fork seals for leakage. Leaking seals will result in contaminated brake pads and a decrease in front brake stopping power, which is an unsafe condition. Fork seal replacement has been covered this year, and you can do this.

So if you take a little time and follow these simple steps, your bike will start up in the spring and you will be able to get right out there and get busy riding. Now, I want to stress that if you are storing your motorcycle for longer than six months or more, I would suggest draining the float bowls of the carburetor or your fuel injection fans. You will most likely need to remove all of the fuel from the fuel system and run the engine until the bike stalls. Gasoline has a habit of turning into varnish after so long, and that repair is very costly. These items are a sure winner for winterizing your motorcycle and will give you an opportunity to do a self-inspection and just quite frankly learn more about your bike!

In closing, some people are not equipped with garage storing, so if your bike must be outside, I suggest that you completely cover the motorcycle with a tarp, remove the battery, and then place it inside a warm area. Fill the gas tank full adding STA-BIL then change the engine oil. Also do not neglect the tires, adding 5-8 psi more than max load. This will aid in tire dry rot and keep the tires from going flat. It is okay to spray WD40 on all types of surfaces such as plastic, chrome and paint. This will give a thin coating of corrosion resistance and will keep plastic from discoloring.

I want to wish all of our readers a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

By Dave Miller