Learn how to prep your motorcycle for winter storage from the pros at RideApart. Get tips and tricks that make it simple.
The summer is officially gone. Long faces replace long days, and for some of us, it’s time to start thinking about packing away the old motorcycle for the winter to come. If you live somewhere that gets seriously cold, then you’ll need our tips on how to prep your motorcycle for winter storage.
There’s No Place Like Home
There are many places you can store your bike. Whether it’s a dedicated heated storage facility, or a local bike shop that offers winter storage in bulk. Some of us use our garage some of us with more forgiving partners use our living rooms.
The bottom line is this: You need somewhere warm, dry, and where critters, thieves or small children can’t get at it. Believe it or not, you should protect your bike from the sun too. Even in winter, the sun’s rays beating through a non-polarized window can damage your rubber and your plastics.
Some people simply park their bikes outside, under a cover. Modern covers made from high tech materials do a good job of keeping the elements at bay, while allowing air to circulate so moisture doesn’t stick around. That can leave your bike vulnerable to harsh winter weather like high winds, falling limbs and drifting snow – not to mention rodents and other critters looking for somewhere warm and sheltered to hang out.
Many a bike has succumbed to the sharp teeth of mice as they attach the wiring loom, which is why inside is your best option. Next comes the actual act of preparing your beloved for its lengthy hibernation.
Putting Your Bike to Bed
Step 1: One Last Ride
Go for one more ride and make sure you get the bike up to temp. Stop at the gas station on the way home and get the tank 95 percent full. When you get home, carefully wipe the tears from your eyes, making sure they’re nice and dry before you add fuel stabilizer to the tank. This will prevent the fuel from degenerating and also inhibit rust from forming inside your tank. Some people note that fuel stabilizer is more important for bikes with old carburetors and steel fuel tanks. I still use it on my 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 race bike. Some people also advocate running the bike for a few minutes to run the stabilizer through the entire fuel system – do that after step 2.
Step 2: Oil and Water
After that ride, (and before you put your bike in the living room) it’s a good idea to change the oil and filter. This doesn’t necessarily do anything special for the winter, but it does mean your engine parts have a fresh coating of new oil before you put the thing away. Some recommend using an inexpensive oil for this change as you’ll want to change the oil again in the spring – here’s why I don’t: Because you might forget to do it. Let’s say cheap oil is $15 and expensive oils is $60; an engine change is several hundred. So spend the money.
After that, make sure you have anti-freeze or some other fluid in your bike’s cooling system that won’t freeze or deteriorate over winter. You should follow your owner’s manual for all these tasks.
Once you’re done, start the bike up, let it warm up and the oil and cooling fluid will circulate through the engine, providing protection against corrosion. This will also spread the stabilizer at the same time.
Step 3: Wash Your Bike Thoroughly And Dry It Off
Dirt is more than just dirty. It’s a trapper of moisture, bacteria, and other nasties that can seriously impact your motorbike over the course of a winter. Before you store–you must clean. Wax the paint too in order to keep it from staining or pitting over the winter. Dry your bike thoroughly. If there’s any water left pooled anywhere on your bike, all your work will be for naught. Consider using a can of compressed air to blow any remaining moisture out of nooks and crannies in and around the engine, as well as from around suspension and brake components.
Step 4: Grease Me Up Woman!
“Have ya got any grease?” A quick coating of dielectic grease or even a quick spray of WD40 over the tip of the spark plugs and into the exhaust openings can help prevent corrosion. Clean around the cylinder heads and remove the spark plugs. Wipe them down with something like WD40 and squirt some into the cylinders via the spark plug holes. Reinstall the plugs and, if your bike has carbs, now’s the time to make sure the float bowls are drained and the fuel is switched off. You can plug or cover the exhaust with a plastic bag and a rubber band, this will prevent moisture from creeping through the exhaust and into the engine.
Then, go over the metal parts with WD40, applying a light mist to the chain, frame and wheel rims. Don’t apply WD40 to brake rotors, brake pads or tires.
Step 5: Charge!
Mission one is to prevent your battery from freezing. If you’re storing your bike somewhere that isn’t heated or can freeze, you should remove the battery from the motorcycle and store it where the temperature does not drop below freezing. If you’re storing your bike in a heated garage or other place where it will not freeze, there’s no need to remove the battery. However, you should clean the terminals and leads, then lubricate them with dielectric grease to prevent corrosion.
A battery tender is a good idea, too. There’s plenty available online and they’ll maintain your battery’s charge, keeping it in good condition and ready to go once spring arrives. I cycle mine between bikes once every week.
Step 7: Park ‘er Up.
Some people like to place their bikes on a stand for storage, unloading the suspension and tires, while getting the bike off the ground. It is perfectly acceptable simple to park the bike as usual on it’s side or center stand. If you do, put a couple of extra pounds of pressure in the tires. My street bike will be stored that way, my race bike will be on peg stands and a front stand to keep all the pressure off the suspension. I’m told this is completely unnecessary, but I do it because it makes me feel good. Then, cover it with a breathable cover to keep dust and damp away. This part does not make me feel good.
Step 8: Scotch
Give your bike one last longing look. Maybe touch it a bit. Make sure you remain stoic though, and save your tears for when you’re away from your bike and can’t leave any moisture behind. Pour yourself a drink, sit yourself down, and consider moving to California where you can ride all year around.