How to Winterize and Store Your Motorcycle

by Emmet Pierce on November 4, 2015  This post was originally published on the SpareFoot Blog


For motorcyclists who live in harsh climates, making sure your bike is stored properly before winter strikes is essential.

“If you don’t do something, later on you will experience big problems,” said David L. Hough, author of Proficient Motorcycling, “If you just like to park it and leave it you can expect a humongous bill to get it running later.”

Each model has its own requirements, but there are general guidelines that can help you make sure your bike is protected from cold weather as well as moisture, the number one enemy when temperatures drop.

Here are six vital tips for safe motorcycle storage:

Choose a Good Storage Site

Storing your vehicle indoors, particularly in a climate-controlled self-storage unit or a heated garage, will protect your bike from moisture and rust.

“You don’t want to store it in a place that is cold and damp,” said Marc Zimmerman, author of The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Maintenance.

If you’ve invested a lot of money in your motorcycle or spent a great deal of time restoring it, storing it indoors will protect your investment. Mike Johnson, a mechanic at Al’s Cycle Shop, Inc. in Los Angeles, says it’s important to keep your bike away from the elements.

Prevent motorcycle rust
Cleaning and drying your motorcycle before storing will prevent rust from forming.
Clean Your Motorcycle Well

It may seem unnecessary to wash a motorcycle when you plan to put it in storage for several months, but it’s important to remove insects and dirt that can damage your bike’s finish, said Zimmerman.

“Dirt can trap moisture,” Zimmerman said.

After washing your bike, take your time drying it to make sure it’s completely free of moisture. For added protection, add a coat of wax to fight rust.

You also can spray exposed metal surfaces with WD-40, a product that protects against moisture.

“WD-40 keeps everything from rusting,” said Johnson.

Prep the Fuel System

To prevent rust in your gas tank, use a fuel stabilizer product.

“The best stuff to use in my experience is STA-BIL,” said Zimmerman. After adding it to your fuel, Zimmerman said to let the engine run a few minutes to circulate the stabilizer through the fuel system.”

A full tank will keep moisture from building up on tank walls. However, some people prefer to remove the fuel completely. Tom Scarda, a motorcycle enthusiast who describes himself as “an old Harley guy” recommends draining the gas tank and fuel lines before your bike goes into storage.

Consider draining your gas tank and fuel lines before storing your motorcycle.
Consider draining your gas tank and fuel lines before storing your motorcycle.
Change the Oil

Scarda says it’s important to change your oil and filter before storing your bike.

“I personally like to change the oil before putting her to bed for the winter,” said Scarda. “I don’t want to leave any gunk in the engine.”

After adding new oil, Zimmerman recommends that you run your bike for a short time to circulate fresh oil throughout the engine.

While you’re changing the oil, make sure your engine has enough anti-freeze to protect the system during the winter,

“Whether you are storing or riding it, you always want to have good antifreeze or your engine could corrode,” said Johnson.

Check the Tires

It’s a mistake to forget about your tires when you winterize your bike. If you do, you may have to replace them in the spring.

Most experts recommend that you check the front and rear tires to make sure they’re properly inflated to the maximum pressure recommended by the manufacturer. To prevent flat spots on tires, use a center stand that takes weight off of the wheels and rotate the front tire every few weeks.

To prevent tire rubber from cracking, some motorcyclists place cardboard or wood under each tire. The idea is to make sure the tire surface doesn’t come in contact with a floor that has dropped to freezing temperatures.

Proper care during storage will help your tires survive the winter in storage.
Proper care during storage will help your tires survive the winter.
Beware of Rodents

If you’re not careful, your motorcycle may become home for rodents. To get away from the cold, mice the often take refuge in exhaust pipes.

In some cases mice may crawl into the engine, Zimmerman said. “Mice urine is highly acidic.”

To keep rodents out of your motorcycle, you can cover your pipes with an exhaust plug or place something in the ends of the pipes.

“Steel wool works really well,” said Zimmerman.

Placing a cover over your bike will both discourage rodents and keep dust off the engine.

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