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Winterization Made Easy!

Written by  December 31, 2008

Now that the temperature is dipping into the single digits here in the Midwest, many riders are preparing to put their road companions to sleep for a few months.

Although this can be a depressing time, on the upside, it gives us a chance to perform maintenance that we may have been putting on hold due to attending so many bike nights and boulevard cruises.

Winterizing your motorcycle can be done in a short amount of time and is relatively safe to do. You should always refer to your owner’s manual for the proper procedures on winterizing your bike; however, if you don’t have your manual, I’ll give you a brief summary of items that need to be addressed.

In this process we must consider that our bikes are expensive, and need to be treated with respect. To do so, we must not neglect the fuel system, oiling system and electrical system. If you choose to have a qualified shop do this procedure, “Hat’s off to you.”

Most of the riders I have met throughout my travels know a little about this subject but might not have time to fully winterize their bike or 4-wheeler. I am not going to separate different classes, such as 2 cycle or 4 cycle, I will give specifics on items that can be done by everyone. If you have a personal watercraft you can e-mail me and I can give procedures on this as well. Now let's move on to the basics.

Fuel systems, if overlooked, can become contaminated due to moisture in the tank, which can cause a rust problem. I suggest filling the gas tank and adding a fuel stabilizer such as STA-BIL to your fuel and let your motorcycle run for at least 15 minutes. This will circulate the fuel stabilizer and allow it to enter the carburetor or fuel injection system. This will give the fuel injectors a dose of fuel stabilizer and protect your fuel pump and fuel pressure regulator. If you are storing your motorcycle for six months or longer, I 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 can be very costly.

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

Final Drive
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 the extended life of the chain. Belt tension must be adjusted correctly to meet the tolerances of the manufacturer. Also, visually inspect the belt for missing teeth or damage. Shaft systems are usually maintenance free, however they do need the gear lube replaced periodically. This can be done easily and normally does not require more than 300ccs 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. Make sure to use distilled water when refilling your battery. This is also a great time to check for sulfation. This is the white stuff that accumulates in the bottom of the battery, and is a normal process that comes from discharging. If you have a maintenance-free sealed battery, which is the most common battery used today, it needs to be treated with the same TLC as a normal lead acid battery. If you do not have a place to keep the battery, such as a work bench or warm dry place, I suggest you purchase a Battery Tender. This device will maintain a current state of charge and not overcharge the battery. It can be purchased for around $45, and according to this manufacturer; your 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. If you do not have a battery maintainer, charge your battery monthly.

Adding tire pressure is often one of the most neglected items. By checking and adding 5-8 psi over the maximum load capacity, the tires will not loose pressure as fast, and will also make your bike easier to push around. I covered this topic in the August issue of Tech Tips, and will go into more detail towards spring. 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 to deal with two tires.

Other Items to Check
While you are 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 most likely in range. Anything less than this measurement needs to be addressed. Another thing you want to check is the fork seals. Leaky fork seals will contaminate your brake pads and decrease your front brake stopping power. We sport bike guys tend to have these leaks more often due to all the wheelies we do! You know who you are!

Clean your bike, cover it with a good form-fitting, breathable cover, and store your bike in a warm garage. If your bike must be stored outside, I suggest removing the battery and placing it in a warm area, fill the gas tank, add a fuel stabilizer, and change the engine oil. It is OK to spray WD-40 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 use plenty of WD-40, which is also recommended by the Federal Aviation Administration. Once you have completed these steps, cover your motorcycle with a good form-fitting, waterproof, breathable cover.

If you take a little time and follow these simple procedures, your bike will start up in the spring and you will be able to get right out there and get busy riding.

B-safe out there!

By Dave Miller