Why 9 tips on winter motorcycle storage? Because everyone has lists of 10 and 11 is too hard! Huh!
The first frosts have already stuck, and the leaves are almost completely gone from the trees in the northern Virginia area of the United States. While I am sure there are more than a few good riding days left …. Those days are going to be departing soon. It is important to make sure your motorcycle is well taken care of in the winter so it will be ready to roll in the spring!
Riding season, depending on what you are willing to put up with, is either over or nearly so. There are thousands of suggestions and tips out there on winterizing your motorcycle, such as putting a teaspoon of oil in your cylinders and filling the tires with nitrogen, so do your own research to find out what works for you with manner and place you store your bike. If it is time for you to store your bike until the spring thaw here are some of the things you should consider.
1. Stabilize the fuel or drain the tank. Almost all gas, especially the ethanol “enhanced” stuff, has a short shelf life. While many believe that draining the tank (and carb system if equipped) is all that is needed to prevent the gasoline from turning too muck, I am not one of them. I just don’t think it is possible to burn all the fuel in the system, small despots will always remain. I prefer to fill the tank and add fuel stabilizer, I then run the engine for at least 15 minutes to work the stabilized fuel through the entire fuel system. After the short ride to get the stabilizer through the system I then refill the tank as much as possible to limit the amount of air in the tank.
2. Change your oil. Do this as close to your final days of riding as reasonably possible. If you are a do-it-yourself guy, consider doing the oil change right after you complete the ride to mix in the fuel stabilizer. Why change the oil before storage? Because changing the oil now removes the sludge, dirt and residual contaminants in the oil that could oxidize during storage. Make sure to run the engine for a few minutes to distribute the new oil throughout the engine.
3. Prepare and Protect the Battery. Most motorcycle batteries are lead-acid and should be kept under a constant charge in order to maintain their life. Be aware there is a difference between a battery tender and a tickle charger. A battery tender is a specialized charger that has special circuits to prevent overcharging your battery. You can use a trickle charger but check the instructions carefully; many cannot be used on your battery for more than 30 minutes each day. If your motorcycle is stored where freezing temperatures will likely occur often, consider removing the battery and placing it in a warm dry place. You will still need to keep it charged, but the cold will have less effect on the life of the battery.
4. Check your anti-freeze. Harley Davidson riders this includes a lot of you too. Make sure you have the proper amount and type of anti-freeze in your bike. Depending on what type of coolant your manufacture uses, it could be one of several colors. Rules of thumb if it is a light color or clear you need to change the fluid. If you are a do-it-yourself kind of person, remember to “bleed” the system to get all the air out. It would be a bad thing if on your first spring ride your bike overheats.
5. Clean your bike. Whether you keep your bike clean all riding season or give it a bath once a year now is the time to do it (again). All that evil road crap (dirt/sand/salt/oils/roadkill) attaches to your motorcycle’s metal surfaces and will begin to corrode those parts. A good cleaning before storage will make it much harder for the forces of evil to work their powers on your bike. If your bike uses a chain, now is the time to clean it as well.
6. Wax, polish and lubricate. After the good cleaning I think it is important to put a nice coat of polish on the paint and chrome. This will help protect the surfaces from any condensation that might occur during storage. Lubricate the chain as described in your owner’s manual. Lube all moving parts such as cables and your side stand pivot. Use a metal protectant spray on the underside of the frame and drivetrain, I prefer to spray it on a rag and wipe it that way I can also get some of the dirt I missed while cleaning the bike. These actions will help you combat rust on any areas exposed from pitting or scratches.
7. Put a sock in it. When I was a kid, I was helping a friend start his bike in the spring and shortly after starting we heard a lot of rattling in the exhaust. A few moments later out shot a handful of lightly roasted acorns that some chipmunk had hidden there. Depending on the area you are storing the bike, cover your exhausts or insert exhaust plugs to protect yourself from critters.
8. Check your tires. Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Now I am not sure about this step but, many people recommend that you let some of the air out of the tires, to allow any condensation to escape. Of course, you need to add more air to the tires after you bleed them. Also, many folks think you need to get the tires off the ground if you are going to be letting them sit for long periods to avoid “flat spots”. I am not sure I agree with this thinking, and I have read in several places that Harley Davidson does not recommend this as it places stress on the front suspension. Check with your manufacturer if this is something you are not sure about.
9. Cover your motorcycle. Even when stored inside, your bike should be covered while stored. Use a cover that can breathe, don’t use a plastic tarp. Moisture should not be allowed to become trapped under the cover on your bike’s metal surfaces.
Ride on / Ride safe