This article will cover how to prepare your motorcycle for winter storage. We’ll go over the most commonly discussed issues like battery, fuel, and tires. We’ll also go over how you can totally protect your motorcycle including chrome, paint, chain, and more!
For those who aren’t motorcycle riding year round, November usually means it’s time to start preparing your motorcycle for winter storage. The goal of storing your motorcycle for the winter is to have it in as good a shape (or betfter) in the spring as it was when you put it away in the fall. That means no new corrosion (rust), no flat spots on your tire, and no unnecessary wear done to your battery. Here are a few tips on how to prepare your motorcycle for winter storage.
1) Take care of your battery
The best way to do this is by connecting your battery to a trickle charger. A trickle charger charges your motorcycle battery only until it is full, and then it stops charging and rechecks your battery periodically. It also charges at a very low amperage, unlike a car battery charger which is too powerful and will damage your small motorcycle battery.
Some trickle charges cost as little as $35 and are super reliable, like this Battery Tender Jr. Others have special features, like this Ctek battery charger that can desulphate your battery to make it last longer and can also be used for cars as well. I own both of these chargers and love them.
If you can’t afford the $35 for a battery charger, at the very least, disconnect your battery from the motorcycle so there won’t be any draw from the bike. If you can, you should also bring the bike indoors and out of cold temperatures for the duration of the winter.
2) Wash your bike and apply wax to protect the paint
Stuff pitted onto your motorcycle for months is the perfect storm for pitting and fading. Get rid of dirt, grease, and grime, and protect your surfaces with a quality wax or other appropriate product.
3) Protect your metal and chrome
Likewise, you’ll want to clean everything metal, especially if it’s shiny and chrome! You can apply WD-40 to the metal, chrome, and other non-plastic parts to prevent corrosion during the winter months.
WD was never intended as a lubricant and it isn’t one. It stands for water displacement, and it’ll keep your metal and chrome from rusting and pitting. Spray it on and wipe it off in the spring.
4) Lube and oil chains and cables
Lubricating your cables can help you to avoid sticky or inconsistent operation of your controls, while lubing your motorcycle’s chain (if it has one) helps to avoid rusting and kinks while stored.
When it comes to a quick way to lubing your cables, Motion Pro’s $10 cable luber is king.
5) Take care of your fuel and gas tank
Rust can form in your gas tank if there’s too much empty space and moisture gets in. Rust forming in your tank is bad, and any rust that does form can flow down into your engine. Is that what you want? Nope! Instead, fill up your gas tank to avoid this problem.
But what if the gas goes bad? That’s right. Gas can start to gum up. This can block your fuel lines, or block your carburetors or fuel injectors (see: How To Increase Motorcycle Fuel Economy for more on that). Using a fuel stabilizer keeps your fuel fresh and free of deterioration for up to two years before it should be drained. Bonus, if you get one like the Sta-bil 22208 Fuel Stabilizer it’s super easy to pour the exact amount and only costs $5.
6) Don’t neglect your tires
Sitting still for long periods of time, especially in the winter, is hard on your tires. Whether you’re storing your motorcycle in a warm or cold environment there are a few things you need to do.
First of all, fill up your tires. Not only will this help you get better mileage on your last few rides of the year, it’ll help to avoid premature damage from storage as well. Second, if you’re storing your motorcycle in a cold environment, use pieces of carpet, wood, or find other ways to keep your tires off of frozen surfaces to help them avoid freezing and cracking.
Lastly, whether you’re storing your bike in a warm or cold environment, be sure to roll the bike forward every few weeks. This will help you to avoid any flat spots.
7) DON’T change the oil
Stop changing the oil BEFORE you put your motorcycle away for the winter! Changing the oil before your storing your motorcycle is one of those pieces of advice new motorcyclists take without ever questioning why they’re doing it. Stop it.
Let’s think about it. You’re spending money on oil, and on a new filter, and you’re either spending your own time too, or else you’re spending money on labor at a shop, right? So you get the fresh oil in. Now what? You run the bike for a moment, it gets hot. Then it gets progressively colder. Some days are above freezing. Other days are below. Some days are dry. Some days are raining. And still the bike sits.
What’s happening and around that oil? Condensation. Moisture. Stuff that you don’t want getting into your oil! How do you get rid of it? You do an oil change in the spring time and put fresh oil in! So now it’s spring time, and you’re doing an oil change, and you’re wasting money again, and wasting time again… Wouldn’t it have been better if you had only done this once?
Do your oil change in the spring, people. Not the fall. Your wallet, and more importantly, your motorcycle, will thank you.
Can’t be bothered? If you’re looking for winter motorcycle storage in the Toronto area, check out this $399 motorcycle winter storage with free pick up and drop off. Of course, if you ride your motorcycle through the winter, you might want to look at some motorcycle winter tires.
I wanted to find a sweet spot between being both informative, and brief. I hope you found this article helpful.
Do you have any comments or tips on motorcycle winter storage? Is there anything I missed? Is there something you do differently? Let me know in the comments!
Oh contraire mon frere…….As much as I dislike contesting the opinions of a friendly, fellow bikers, lots of “sources” will take issue with your comment about when to change the oil of a vehicle being stored.
You say to do it coming OUT of storage.
Many others say going IN to storage. (That’s MY camp.)
Still others say BOTH! (the rich guys, apparently…OR, the guys who really LOVE their mount!)
There’s precious little air inside an engine. The amount that is “breathed” in and out by expansion and contraction is MINISCULE.
How much moisture do you suppose is contained in the cubic inch or two of air that might pass in and out of your crankcase ventilation valve over the course of 4 or 5 months? How much water do you suppose the average crankcase is going to suck out of the universe?
To NOT change your oil in the Fall, before storing, means you’re leaving a whole season of pollutants, including gas, dirt, water (from humid SUMMER air) inside the engine to eat away at metal surfaces…most importantly rings, cylinder walls, gears and bearings.
So I say, change it BEFORE storage and get the clean stuff spread over all the internal workings by driving the vehicle for half an hour before “putting it away.”
Then, in the Spring, if you want to test the theory about “water settling in the pan over the Winter”…pull your drain plug and let 4 or 5 ounces of oil (and the single of moisture that might be in there) flow into your catch-pan. I guarantee a mouse’s thirst wouldn’t be quenched by the amount you’ll get!
It would be tough to get an unbiased answer about this from an oil company (they want you to change in the Fall AND Spring, of course!)…but Edmunds, the renowned automotive info company and even Ford Motors instruction manuals (as just TWO major, credible experts) agree with the “pre-storage” change method.
Still not convinced? Just Google the hell out of the topic…but watch for “credibility” in the sources. (i.e. avoid “My uncle Harry always said…….)
Cheers, and be safe, whatever you decide!
Contesting opinions are always welcomed here! Thanks for sharing!
Oh…..and one other thing…when you said in item #1 “If you can, you should also bring the bike indoors and out of cold temperatures for the duration of the winter.”….I thought for sure you were getting ready to say “bring your BATTERY indoors…”.
That’s what I do….and the reasons are simple and sensible:
1. The battery is small and could easily fit in a kitchen cupboard or a dresser drawer….(if no workbench is available)
2. You can conveniently check your battery’s condition once a month throughout the Winter with a cheapo voltmeter and charge briefly if/when necessary
3. Bringing the entire bike inside is impractical for most owners but the small size, easy portability and temperature-sensitive nature of the battery make it a logical candidate for moving indoors
That’s a good option too!