I have owned plenty of bikes over the years, and each fall, I take the time to store them properly so they are ready to go when spring arrives. I’d like to share some advice and tips for winterizing your bike this year. I am not a mechanic, but I am a backyard enthusiast who loves to tinker. I have yet to experience one of my bikes failing to fire-up in the spring … so I must be doing something right. Here is my list of winter motorcycle storage tips:
1. Fill your gas tank with fresh premium fuel that contains no ethanol (Shell premium contains no ethanol … or so says the sign on the pump). I recommend premium because most regular grade fuels contain ethanol and there are a bunch of folks saying it is not the best for power sports applications … especially if you are not using them everyday. More importantly, add the recommended amount of fuel stabilizer. Make sure the tank is completely full for final storage … it will prevent condensation during winter temperature fluctuations.
2. Either take your bike for a short 5 to 10 minute ride or warm your bike up in the driveway and change your oil and filter (this will also insure that the fuel stabilizer has worked its way through the entire fuel system). Refer to your owner’s manual for oil change info. Unless you have recently changed your oil (1,000 kms or less), it is a good idea to store your bike with fresh oil … it will also save you from having to do it next spring when you are itching to go riding. A bike should not be stored with old, well used oil … its acidity levels will be elevated and could harm your engine internals. Start your bike after the oil change for a minute or so to get the fresh oil circulating.
3. Once your bike has completely cooled down, if the float bowl drain screws (on non- fuel-injected bikes) can be accessed, drain the float bowls (it is a bit of extra “insurance”). There is no draining required on fuel injected motorcycles, since it is sealed from the outside air.
4. Wash your motorcycle before storing. A coat of wax on the painted parts is a good idea. Always inspect your bike as you wash it. This is a great time to look for damaged, loose or missing parts. If your bike is being stored in a damp environment, consider using some light oil on the chrome bits … just make sure you remove it prior to starting the bike in the spring.
5. Lube your chain (if applicable) after you have washed and dried your bike. Once again, it is not a bad idea to adjust your chain at the same time … it will save from you having to do it next spring. Please note, chains are not tightened, they are adjusted to a specific tension spec which will be outlined in your owner’s manual.
6. Find a safe, secure spot to store your bike. If your bike has a centre stand, it is best to put it on this stand in order to get as much weight off the wheels and suspension as possible. If you own a sport bike, there are various types of stands available that can raise the wheels off the ground. If not, the side stand will have to do. Remember to store your bike in a well ventilated area away from open flames, sparks, electric motors, etc. (as high ozone levels will degrade the rubber in tires). While talking of tires, the very soft compounds used for high performance sport bikes become easily damaged when the ambient temperatures get really cold. Even a gentle bump down a curb can crack the surface of the tire.
7. Remove the battery, and if applicable, check the electrolyte level and top it up to the correct level with distilled water. Put the battery on charge and fully charge it. The battery should then be stored in a warm, dry place. Never store your battery directly on a concrete floor … this could damage or permantely kill the battery. You can use a 2×4 to keep it up off the concrete. The battery should be charged every 4 to 6 weeks while in storage. [Note: Some MF (maintenance free) batteries require a special charger. There are some very good chargers that can be left connected to the battery for the whole storage period. Perfect if you want to connect and forget it until spring.]
8. Since you have warmed the bike up to change the oil, double check to see if the gas tank needs to be topped up again. If so, make sure you use stabilized premium fuel … this will help prevent condensation and corrosion in the tank. If your bike has a fuel petcock, make sure it is in the off position during storage.
9. Cover your bike with a breathable cover to help protect it and keep it clean. Careful of using a non-breathable cover (plastic tarp etc.) which could cause condensation and corrosion.
10. Depending on where your bike is being stored, if vermin are a concern, take the time to tape up the intake opening and exhaust outlet and put some moth balls under the cover … this will help keep the critters away. (I have also been told that dryer sheets do the same thing … keep vermin away … but have never tried them.) Make sure you remove them before starting in the spring.
11. Some folks go the extra step and remove spark plugs, put a small amount of oil (about a teaspoon) into each cylinder and then rotate the engine a few times to prevent rusting. I have never done this, but some folks feel it is very important. If you are storing your bike for more than just the winter this could be a good idea. [Note: Be careful … removing spark plugs can be a tough job on the newer high-tech bikes, and do not put too much oil into the cylinders.]
12. If you are storing a race bike that has water or water wetter in the cooling system, (read: road race bikes) make sure you drain the water from the cooling system and replace it with proper coolant to prevent freezing and a very costly engine repair.
Finally, remember that thieves don’t go away in the winter. Keep your bike locked up at all times and out of view if possible.
[Note: Lots of riders get an itch to go for a ride on that beautiful mid winter day … if you do this, remember to go through most of the storage procedure again. Also, be aware that if you ride through a puddle or wet area you may have just sprayed your bike with salty water … do not put it away without thoroughly washing it again. Otherwise you will be in for a surprise when you pull the cover off it in the spring … the salt will not only corrode your chrome but may also pit any aluminum parts too.]
Thanks for reading! If you have some tips of your own, feel free to share!