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How To Store Your Bike For Winter

An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure.

John Lavina (November 2021)

Old man winter is right around the corner, and winterizing your motorcycle is an absolute must to keep it running right.  Failure to winterize your bike can result in very difficult starting, or worse.  Internal moisture buildup can cause rusting or a gummed up carburetor which could mean serious work and expense.  If you are brand new to this sport, these tips should help you avoid both.

Keep in mind that this doesn't have to be a big project.  There are really only four key things that have to get done before you hit the PlayStation for winter...

  1. Stabilize the fuel to keep your fuel paths from gumming up
  2. Oil the internal and external metal surfaces to prevent rust
  3. Save the battery (if there is one) by disconnecting it and keeping it warm, or continuously charging it
  4. Save the radiator and water pump from freeze damage by checking the antifreeze levels  

Winterized Motorcycle In Storage
Tools and Equipment 

Nothing major here.  You'll need the usual shop towels, enough oil to do an oil change, some chain lube, detergent for washing, lightweight machine oil, fuel stabilizer, and maybe a battery charger.

First things First - Wash that Bike

I've never been one to keep a super pretty bike because for me, washing is more of a maintenance procedure.  But regardless of your preference, this is definitely one of the times you should give the bike a good detailing.  This will not only help you spot any problems, but allow you to coat the vital parts with a light film of oil when you're done, to prevent rust. 

(A good wash doesn't have to be hard labor if you let the chemicals do the work.  I use diluted Simple Green to break loose the dried-on dirt, and a scrubbing brush to make the sides of the seat look new again.  A squirt of WD-40 will easily dissolve away the chain lube splatters, boot rub-off on the frame, or exhaust deposits on the rear fender.)

Stabilize the Fuel

If you want your bike to start easily next spring simply add a fuel stabilizer to the fuel in the gas tank. When fuel sits still for a long time it gums up, and a couple of bucks worth of fuel stabilizer will prevent that.  If you have a steel tank, fill it up to the brim with fuel to prevent rusting.  If you have a plastic tank, do it as well, as this helps prevent condensation from forming.  Water in your engine is never good. 

Run the engine for a few minutes to let the stabilized fuel work it's way through, then drain the carburetor completely by first turning off the gas petcock at the tank and opening up the bottom drain screw on the carb. 

Change the Oil

Oil breaks down over time and should be drained and replaced to remove corrosive contaminants and to prevent possible condensation.  Do a full oil change as normal.  

Disconnect the Battery (if applicable)

If your motorcycle has a battery, you will want to disconnect it, and if possible, remove it altogether and store it in a warm and dry place.  A battery that is exposed to extended cold temperatures will not only discharge but it could crack in severely cold temps.  Another alternative is to use a charger to keep the battery charging constantly.  Be sure it is a regulated charger, as overcharging the battery will not only ruin it, but it will basically start to crackle and eventually explode!  I know, and I like explosions too, but only when it's a cheap piece of crap that deserves it.

Check the Antifreeze

Check the antifreeze levels, and fill if needed.  Antifreeze should be drained and flushed at least every two years.  This will prevent ice from forming in the radiators.  

Optional Things To Do

Other things that can be done is to put the bike on a frame stand to prevent the suspension from settling during long term compression.  Plugging the exhaust helps keep moisture out also.

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