Many of us live in a climate where we must, regrettably, put our motorcycle into storage for the winter. Storage defined as both inside or outside in a protected garage, heated or not. Leaving your motorcycle to sit for many months without preparation, can have serious side effects. The results usually end up costing you repair fees or worse, prevent your motorcycle from running at all.
By following our guide on How to Prepare Your Motorcycle for Winter Storage you’ll ensure proper care for your motorcycle and a great start to the new riding season.
Give It a Good Clean
Wash and wax your motorcycle. Washing your motorcycle allows you to check fasteners, bolts, cables, etc. for loose and wear issues. After washing, and when the bike is dry, use a lubricant such as WD40 – or a metal protecting spray on the underside of your chassis and exposed surfaces. A fine coat applied on rubber connections, hoses, on all chrome/metals will assist greatly to avoid rust eating away at the surfaces. Use a higher quality lubricate on your cables and switch gears. And don’t forget to spray your fork seal areas and fork lowers also with WD40. This will help prevent rot on your fork seals. View our article on cleaning your motorcycle.
Clean and Lubricate Your Chain
It’s best to remove the grit and grime from your chain (if you have one) before you grease it up for the long winter. After it’s clean, be sure to lube your entire chain. Use effective grease, thicker than your usual chain lube; is a great water repellent!
Read our article on MOTORCYCLE CHAIN CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Change Your Oil and Oil Filter
Changing the oil (and we always change the filter at the same time) will get rid of all the sludge and dirt before it begins to deteriorate your bikes innards. You’ll also be changing the oil again in the early spring, so it’s not necessary to use the most expensive top notch oil available. Remember to get the correct oil weight designed to handle the low cold temperature ranges relevant to your area.
Empty (or Fill) Your Fuel Tank
There are two methods you can utilise pertaining to the care of your gas tank – leave the tank full of gas or drain it. You’ll decide which is more relevant to your personal storage situation. Some elect to drain the tank, completely, then starting up the bike and running it out of fuel. An empty tank can rust inside due to condensation (there are substances you can use to the coat the inside of the tank to prevent this).
Most commonly, the tank is left full but a “fuel stabiliser” needs to be mixed in with the fuel accordingly. The brand STA-BIL or Seafoam for example are such products.
Generally without a fuel stabiliser, in 21 days fuel left in the tank starts to deteriorate. This can lead to oxidation and varnish harmful to our fuel system. Follow the fuel stabiliser products directions and add the specified amount depending on your tank size. Be sure you are adding the stabiliser to a full tank of fresh fuel. Follow this up by running or better yet riding your bike for about ten minutes to ensure the fuel runs all the way through the fuel system. Turn off the bike and you’re set. If applicable make sure your fuel tap is in the off position, and you may also consider draining your carburettors again, if relevant to your motorcycle model/year.
If your motorcycle is liquid cooled, then you’ve got a radiator. It should be filled with a proper coolant (summer use) or in this case, antifreeze. If you’re a track rider, check these as often substitutes are placed in the radiator, for example “Water Wetter” as used because anti-freeze is prohibited on the track. These substances are not anti-freeze and will freeze up in cold temperatures. With water expanding when frozen, there’s a chance to affect enough pressure to damage inner workings of your engine.
Remove or Maintain Your Battery
Remove your battery and store in a warm dry environment. Use a battery tender /charger. You can schedule a full charge once a month or simply keep it plugged in all season depending on the charger you have. If it’s not a sealed battery, keep an eye on the electrode levels in each battery cell and fill them with distilled water if they get low.
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Pump Up Your Tires
Make sure your tyres are properly inflated – in fact, a wee bit more air than normal because low tyre pressure can damage them over the winter. If you’re going to store your bike in an extreme cold situation, try to elevate the bike to minimise the load on the tires as this can leave “flat” marks. Double check the bike is firmly secured and that the method you’ve chosen won’t fail from long term standing. If you have a centre stand use this, but place blocks of wood between your tyre and the ground to alleviate some of the weight job off the centre stand.
Plug Your Exhaust
Stuff old clothes into the exhaust to prevent small rodents from moving in over the winter. Be sure you do this properly to ensure there are no holes as mice will find a way to burrow into your air box or exhaust pipes – even the foam of a motorcycle seat! It’s also been proven that placing moth balls around the air box or elsewhere (under seat storage) will discourage mice.
Cover It Up
Use a breathable cover (specific motorcycle designed covers are best!) even if you store your bike indoors so that you won’t trap moisture on metal surfaces. You’ll want to avoid condensation and ensure good ventilation (for example, wrapping your bike in a plastic cover can cause condensation during temperature changes, not ideal). Be sure the cover you purchase is waterproof- many are just water resistant.
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A Little Extra TLC – Tender Loving Care
Lube the cylinder(s) – Another important task is to lubricate the engines cylinders. Gasoline is an excellent solvent and removes most oil from the cylinder walls if the cylinder wall is left unprotected for a long period of time it can rust causing premature piston and ring wear. It may be easier for you to have this done by your mechanic if you are not set up to do this yourself.
Remove the spark plugs and fill each cylinder with a teaspoon of oil. Screw the plugs back in hand tight and don’t attach your plug wires to remind you to change the plugs first thing in the spring. You may want to kick the bike over with the kill switch engaged to spread the oil throughout the cylinders.
Operate your Controls. Try to flex your levers every once in a while and rotate (if on centre stand) your rear wheel.
When indoors, avoid placing your motorcycle near heating or hot items. Heat will dry out and harden your tyres. **Tip: I’ve wrapped my tyres with cooking foil to deflect heat and protect them from light.
Buy A Motorcycle Storage Package At Local Dealership
Most all dealerships provide winter storage packages which include all the above and/or simply a warm dry space for your bike. This usually costs about $299 for the season.
Out of Storage and Back on The Road
When the warm weather arrives once again, before you head out, you’ll want to perform a thorough safety check to ensure your motorcycle has not sustained damage through the winter. Check all fluid levels and if applicable, turn on the fuel. Check for anything wrong on the motorcycle (cracked tyres, broken parts/plastic, leaking oil, etc.). Set the tyre pressure back to your usual riding specs.
Remember that your riding skills will be rusty so your first ride is best done straight to a parking lot. Take yourself through small sharp right and left turns; emergency braking and push steering manoeuvre exercises. It will all come back to you quickly!
And on that first ride, watch out for dirty road surfaces, there’s usually a lot of debris and sand left on the roads from clearing the snow over the winter. Until the first spring showers wash it away roads can be hazardous – especially at corners.