Winterizing your Motorcycle
Although storage procedures vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, there are some general processes that you should do for your ride before you put it into storage.
- Find a place - How long are you going to store your machine? Is this for the cold winter? Going on a business trip for several months? Consider location security at a premium. Ideal locations include vehicle garages and storage facilities that are secure and climate controlled. The environment should ideally be dry. Another consideration is the amount of human traffic in this area. More traffic means more chances for somebody to accidentally tip the machine. Put the machine in an area in the garage that is away from traffic.
- Fix it up - Any mechanical problems should be fixed now. Don't wait until the motorcycle can come out... you're going to want to ride!
- Check your pressure - Make sure your tires pressures are to manufacturer specifications. Some riders advocate removing or adding a few PSI of pressure to the tires. Be sure to follow the instructions in your manual. Of course, take readings when the tires are cold, otherwise the reading is going to be an inaccurate one.
- Lube and filter - Change that dirty oil! You don't want spent oil to become acidic and damage engine internals. While the engine is still warm, drain the oil and remove the filter. Once most of the oil is drained, hit the starter a couple of times to get the excess oil on the gears to fling off and drain out. Replace the drain plug, add fresh oil, fill a new stock oil filter to the top with oil and install it. Now that you've got fresh oil in the engine, don't start your bike !! The moisture and acids that are the by-products of combustion will contaminate your new oil and can cause corrosion during the months ahead.
- Stabilize your fuel - Fuel stabilizer protects your fuel system from gumming and varnishing. Add some stabilizer to the tank and then top off using the recommended octane gas. By adding the stabilizer solution to the tank before filling up and running the engine for a few minutes, you allow the stabilizer to penetrate into the fuel lines and combustion chambers.
- Check the antifreeze - If you are going to be storing your bike in a cold environment make sure to check the antifreeze. It's possible the cylinder heads could crack or the water pumps burst if someone has replaced it with lower than a 50% glycol anti freeze(most likely straight water). You can normally buy an antifreeze tester at an auto parts store, they normally consist of a bulb attached to a tube, and if enough balls float then your antifreeze is good.
- Clean your machine - Your machine should be cleaned thoroughly. Use conventional car wash or whatever you typically use to clean your ride. The chain should be cleaned, lubed and adjusted as needed. Metal polish can be used on the exhaust pipes and chromed metal parts. A good wax job is recommended on plastics and tank. Clutch cables and alike can be lubed.
- Secure your machine – Flip the fuel petcock to “off”, run switch should be set to “kill” or “stop”, lock the bars, and chain the bike to a fixed object or something that would otherwise be difficult to move. Commercially available chains like Bully and Kryptonite can be used for this purpose. The chain should ideally be wrapped around the machine’s frame and rear wheel. A brake disk lock can also be used on the front or rear brake rotor. A motorcycle alarm (Chatterbox, Scorpio, etc.) can be used if the battery remains in the machine in storage (see below).
- Battery power - Remove the battery if the bike is in a relatively cold environment for storage. You don't want the battery to freeze; it's a costly replacement. An automatic charger/maintainer Battery Tender is ideal; it keeps the battery unit in tip-top, The advantage of the Battery Tender is that you can leave it plugged in, and it automatically maintains the optimal charge all winter. Some Battery Tender units come with cable assemblies that allow you to maintain the battery without removing the battery from the actual machine.
- Get some lift - If your machine does not come with a center-stand, get set of race stands; basic sets start at $100. Many self-maintainers use them to help with chain adjustments and oil changes. Putting your bike on stands during periods of inactivity will protect expensive tires from flat spotting and warping. Additionally, moisture on the ground can be trapped beneath the tire and can corrode the rubber compounds.
- Covers – Machines that are going to be stored outdoors require more sophisticated covers. Some riders use an old, clean bedsheet to simply protect against dust for garage-stored machines. Get the cover that's right for your storage environment. Tires also need to be covered; the rubber compounds are sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun.
- Plug it up – Used T-shirts or any dry rags can be stuffed into the air intake(s) and exhaust pipe(s). This prevents dust, debris and moisture from entering the engine. Blocked access to the exhaust and air intakes can also discourage vermin from taking up residence in your dormant ride.
- Remove all documentation - Take out your vehicle registration, owner’s manual, proof of insurance, etc. and put it in a safe place. In the event the machine is stolen, the spineless thieves won't have your personal information. Contact information ought to be left with the facility owner in the event of an emergency.
- Ask your MOM - The motorcycle owner’s manual has a wealth of information. Some manufacturers recommend removing the spark plugs or removing the engine coolant before storage. Above all, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for storage.
- Gas rots, so you must put in fuel stabilizer and run the engine long enough to get it completely through the carbs. Then, either fill up the gas tank to full ( To the bottom of the filler neck ) with gas that has no Alcohol ( Oxygenated ) in it, and has the proper mix of fuel stabilizer in it. Or drain all of the gas out of the tank and spray some gas soluble oil on the inside of the tank to keep it from rusting. The choice is up to you. Either way is OK.
- Drain all the gas out of the carbs. Most carbs have a drain screw on the bottom of the carb.
- Take the battery out and, if necessary, add distilled water to it and clean off the outside ( Battery Box Too ! ) with a mixture of baking soda and water. Then put the battery on a trickle charger ( No more than one AMP ) and charge it till it is fully charged. Do this at least once a month, till you start riding again.
The Maximum - Add The Following
- Wash and wax your Motorcycle.
- Change the engine oil and oil filter.
- Change ALL other oils and fluids, such as rear end oil, radiator fluid, brake fluid, etc.
- Take out all the spark plugs and put about a tablespoon of engine oil down each spark plug hole. Now, before putting the spark plug(s) back in, turn the engine over several times to ditribute the oil around the cylinder. Be sure and ground the spark plug wires when you do this. This is to protect the ignition system. Now reinstall the spark plug(s).
- Use a breathable motorcycle cover to keep dust and moisture out. Plastic tarps that don't breath trap moisture in, causing rust.
- I like to put some type of water displacing, penetrating oil in each cylinder to sort of dry it out, before I put in the engine oil. Combustion makes a lot of water, and some of it always seems to get into the piston ring area.
- I like to use some kind of Armor All type preservative on all plastic and rubber parts.
- If you change the fluid in your bike's radiator, use distilled water and a motorcycle type anti-freeze(silicate free). Car type anti-freezes use additives that can wear out your water pump.
- If you change your brake or clutch fluid, use the type recommended for your system, Dot 3, 4, or 5. Which one ? It's in your Shop Manual. You do have one, don't you ?
- It costs a bit more, but you can get a trickle charger that will shut off automatically when the battery is fully charged and start up again when it's charge goes down. You can leave it connected and on all the time.
- Aluminum does rust...sort of, so an application of spray wax or the like, to all surfaces of the engine, wouldn't hurt.
- Keep the bike in a dry, heated garage, if possible.
- Once a month or so, turn the engine over a couple of times, to keep things loose and lubed ! Don't do this if you're in a cold climate and have fogged or oiled the cylinders.
- Keep it in the dark... sunlight thru a window can fade paint and the like.