If you’re not going to be riding over the winter months, you can’t just park your ride and expect it to be ready to go when the weather breaks months from now. So, unless you’re preparing to hibernate with you bike, take the time to protect your pride and joy with some simple preventative maintenance.
Gasoline degrades quickly. As it breaks down, deposits can build up in your fuel system, attracting water – which, in turn, can rust components inside of your bike. To combat this problem, you will need to prep your gas tank. There are two main schools of thought on this topic. Some advocate completely draining the tank and treating it with gas soluble oil to prevent rust. Others say to just fill the tank all the way to the top to prevent condensation and treat the gasoline with a fuel stabilizer, such as STA-BIL®, so it doesn’t go bad.
Old oil contains contaminants that can be corrosive, causing damage as the bike sits over the winter. You should change the oil and filter before storing. Make sure to run the engine, allowing the new oil to circulate.
Coolant and other fluids
Check your coolant for protection against winter freeze-up. Use a floating-ball tester to make sure your coolant will resist the freezing temperatures where you live. If you need to add more, it is important to use the type of coolant recommended by your manufacturer. If your brake fluid or hydraulic clutch fluid is in need of changing, do so now to prevent damage from moisture.
A word on carburetor engines
If you own a motorcycle that has a carburetor, draining the float bowls helps prevent the fuel from thickening. To drain them, turn on the engine and shut off the fuel, which runs through the fuel in the float bowls, or use the drain screws (if your bike has them) to release the fuel. Be careful – draining the bowls could be messy – and make sure to dispose of the fuel properly.
Remove and store your battery in a warm, dry place and charge it monthly. If you prefer to keep the battery on the bike, use a trickle charger or battery tender to keep it charged. Check the battery’s water level and top off the cells if needed. If you see corrosion on the battery posts, clean and grease them lightly to prevent any more corrosion.
Store your bike with the tires off the ground if you can do it safely. If not, check the tire pressure and inflate them as necessary. Put the bike on its center stand and rotate the front wheel every few weeks to avoid flat spots. If the ground may freeze, put the bike on a piece of plywood.
Wash your bike, removing any built-up bugs or debris. After washing, make sure to dry the motorcycle thoroughly – a shop vacuum or air compressor can help get at the stubborn nooks and crannies. Wax the tank, polish the chrome, apply a moisturizing leather dressing to the saddle and treat rubber tires and parts so they won’t dry out in storage.
Obviously, heated, indoor storage is best, so consider paying for professional winter storage with a dealer or professional motorcycle storage company. You can also rent a storage unit if you don’t have room in your garage. If all else fails, and you’re storing your motorcycle outside, be aware that plastic tarps and grill covers can trap moisture and may do more harm than good. Opt for a breathable cover with vents instead.
Then there’s a completely different approach – bringing your baby inside the house. Even if you can get your significant other to agree, it’s not a good idea to bring flammable liquids indoors… besides, it may tempt you take a spin indoors!
Where do you keep your motorcycle during the winter?
“How to Store Your Motorcycle for the Winter” by Basem Wasef, About.com