For riders in the northern tier of the states known locally as “the snow belt”- and other parts of the country about to succumb to the cold months – there comes a time when the motorcycle needs to get tucked in for the winter.
But first, some things need to be done, which may vary somewhat from one type of bike to another. Proper winter motorcycle storage provides for minimum hassle when it comes time for that first ride of spring, as well as preventing certain kinds of non-use damage that can occur.
With that in mind, we present out top 10 winter motorcycle storage tips.
1. Have a storage facility: A good shop or shed that protects the bike against the elements prevents a world of problems in terms of corrosion — dry and heated, if possible, though heating is optional.
Extremes of temperature and humidity lead to condensation and possibly even freezing of any water in any locations in the bike, which can cause physical damage in terms of cracking and corrosion. Covering the bike with a dust cover is good—avoid plastic that could trap moisture against the bike. Storage close to salt water can also contribute to corrosion problems.
2. Have Insurance: Make sure your insurance covers the bike year-round and while in storage and/or the storage facility has insurance that covers contents.
3. Properly prep the engine and other internals: A fresh oil and filter change is helpful in preventing any sludge or contaminants in the oil from building up in nooks and crannies in the engine and transmission.
If there is a separate sump for transmission lubricant, draining and refilling that with fresh lubricant before storage may be indicated. For shaft drive bikes, drain and refill the rear drive unit with fresh fluid. A fuel stabilizer and/or fuel line antifreeze to prevent condensation from forming in the fuel system may be worth considering for long-term storage. Some manufacturers may recommend draining carburetors for storage. Now may be a good time to replace in-line fuel filters and crankcase breather filters.
4. Cylinder bore protection: Take out each spark plug and put 15-20 cc of motor oil in each cylinder. Put a rag over the spark plug hole and rotate the engine briefly to coat the cylinder bores, then reinstall the spark plugs. Be sure to ground the plugs when rotating the engine. This is a great time to check the condition of the spark plugs and replace them, which can really make a difference when it comes time to start the bike up in the spring. Similarly, if there is evidence of cracking or other wear/damage to spark plug wires and caps, now is a good time to change them.
5. Prep the cooling system: Check the service interval for the coolant and if it’s due for a change and flush, take care of that. In any event, check the coolant for proper level and check the system for leaks getting those taken care of before storage. Clean bugs and other crud out of the radiator.
6. Charge the battery: can be removed for storage in a cool, dry place and placed on a battery tender or charge up once a month, or left in the bike with the same charge preservation options. Follow battery manufacturer recommendations.
7. Cover exhaust and intake openings: Exhaust outlets can be covered with a plastic zip-lock or other similar bag. Check, clean or replace the air filter.
8. Apply protectant coating: to plastic, rubber and vinyl exposed materials. Lubricate cables, pivots and controls according to manufacturer’s recommendations. Check hydraulic hoses and fuel lines for leaks, cracks and wear. All these steps are best done after a good wash, dry and wax treatment.
9. Inflate those tires: Keep the tires inflated to normal pressure and if parked on side stand, move the bike a bit to keep flat spots from forming on the tires. If on a center stand, rotate the front tire periodically. Some manufacturers may recommend deflating the tires by 5 to 10 PSI from normal operating inflation and putting wood between the tires and ground or cement floors — check your owner’s manual.
10.Lubricate the final drive: If the final drive is a metallic chain, lubricate it with chain lube according to manufacturer’s specifications. Grease any zerk fittings on the suspension or drive system.
There may be other steps for your bike depending on the year, make, model, accessories, special equipment and so on. Check the owner’s manual for the bike and for any added equipment for further directions.
Proper long-term winter motorcycle storage can add years of life to your bike and make spring start-up a lot faster!
And if you do ride through winter, make sure to check out our Top 7 Tips for Winter Motorcycling Riding.