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Preparing Your Motorcycle for Winter Storage

Written by  December 31, 2007

Well it’s that time again. Winter officially started on December 22, and here in the Midwest, we've already had our share of snow and ice. If you're experiencing the same type of weather where you are, have you thought of putting your motorcycle in storage for a siesta or thought you may just let it go? I have been pretty thorough in the past on this subject and would like to explain just how simple and inexpensive this procedure can be. It can also be done in a relatively short amount of time.

Winterization is not only a great way to identify maintenance items; but is also a good way to learn more about your motorcycle. This is also a great opportunity to fix a few items that need to be addressed now that the weather is cold and gloomy and you are going stir crazy sitting around the house.

Below are some of the main factors you should take into consideration when preparing your motorcycle for storage:

Location - You should store your motorcycle in a dry location if possible. If you have to store your bike outside, I recommend that you invest in a specially designed bike cover that breathes so your investment will not rust. Some of the cheaper covers on the market will not let moisture in or out and this will tend to make your motorcycle rust much quicker because of temperature changes. Also, avoid cotton-type covers because these will trap moisture in, that will eventually mold and cause the fabric to bond to expensive material such as seats and backrests. If you are storing your motorcycle indoors, I highly recommend that you not store the bike next to windows because of the ultra-violet rays that can fade paint and plastic parts, and can also raise the ambient temperature of the area. You may want to put some kind of plastic sheeting over the window to keep the ambient temperature down as well.

Storage Preparation - Change your oil and replace your filter. Used oil can be very corrosive over time and that is why I highly recommend changing your oil before storing your bike. It's much easier to drain the oil if you start and run your motorcycle at operating temperature. Remove your drain plug and oil filter and drain your oil into a suitable container and dispose of it properly. You are then ready to top off to the specified amount that the engine requires.

Fuel tank preparation requires special attention and brings up safety concerns because gasoline is highly flammable and explosive, meaning you can be burned or seriously injured when handling it!

The first method is to completely drain the tank and spray an anti-rust inhibitor inside the tank. This is a procedure you may not want to tackle yourself and I suggest if any part of this procedure seems too complicated, take your motorcycle to the shop of your preference to have this done.

The second method is to fill the tank completely with fresh fuel and add a fuel stabilizer. Whichever method you use is a choice only you can make. If you know for sure you are not going to ride your motorcycle for at least four to six weeks, you should add the stabilizer to your fuel tank. If you won’t be riding your motorcycle for three months, in addition to adding fuel stabilizer, you should drain the fuel shut off valve bowl, fuel lines, and the carburetor float bowls. This will help starting your engine in the spring.

Battery maintenance - Before removing the battery from your motorcycle, an alternative is to install a simple battery tender pigtail lead to the battery posts and route the wiring under your side cover or seat where it can be hooked up very easily. This keeps the battery maintained and charged throughout the winter season. If you choose to remove the battery from your motorcycle, this is a great time to clean the battery box with a mixture of baking soda and water. This neutralizes the acid that can accumulate over time and cleans the area so it will not corrode the wiring and metal parts of the motorcycle. This is also a great time to look at the level of water in the conventional battery. If this level is low it must be serviced and replaced with distilled water only. The reason being that normal tap water is packed with minerals; and those guys just love the aluminum in the battery, turning it into a sulfated mess! Maintenance free batteries are just that: no maintenance. However, the same rules apply about corrosion so don’t skimp on cleaning the battery area.

Coolant Servicing - If your engine is liquid cooled and the coolant has not been changed in the last two years or 24,000 miles, do it now. If you are storing the bike for longer than six months I suggest you drain the system completely. Draining the system will assure that no corrosion takes place during the storage process.

If you are changing the system because of mileage or years of service, I suggest you let the engine cool down to the touch and remove the filler or pressure cap, and according to the manufacturer, drain the entire system through the drain valve into an appropriate container.

Final Preparation - If your bike is moderately dirty, you should clean it using a good cleaner that is safe for all finishes. If your motorcycle is equipped with a chain, you will need some clean chain lube. If you have a windshield on your motorcycle you will need to clean it as well. Use a cleaner that is safe and won't turn the Plexiglas into a clouded mess.

At this point, you can push your motorcycle into its storage area, place the appropriate cover on it and call it good!

I hope all of you had the most blessed Christmas and a safe and happy New Year!

B-safe out there!

Dave Miller