We’re getting to that time of year that most bikers dread. In the states that aren’t blessed with riding season that lasts all year round, you’re probably getting ready to put your motorcycle into storage for the winter. It’s getting colder, days are shorter and it’s just a matter of time before the snow starts to fly.
But before you shut ‘er down for the year, there are a few steps that every biker should take to prepare their motorcycle for the winter. And if you tackle these in the right order, they shouldn’t take you all that long to cross off the list. Here are seven steps that you should take to make sure your bike fires up and is ready to ride on those longed for days when the ice is off the roads and your hands won’t freeze around the throttle.
1. Change your oil and oil filter
Changing your oil and replacing your oil filter is an important step to winterizing your motorcycle. Old oil can contain contaminants and moisture which can start corroding your engine from the inside.
You’ll want to ride the bike for at least 15 minutes, more if it is already pretty cold outside, in order to get the old oil hot. This makes it much easier to drain the bike and also will ensure it all gets removed. Plus, who doesn’t want to get one last ride in for the season? Drain the oil into a pan. You can typically recycle oil for free at most autoparts stores, just call ahead and ask.
There are two trains of thought on what you should do once you drained your oil, and really it depends on what you’re comfortable with and what your motorcycle’s owner’s manual tells you to do. The first is that you should remove the old oil, replace the filter and fill it with the oil you plan on riding the following season with. Proponents of this method recommend running the bike for a few minutes AFTER changing the oil as well, just to work out any of the residual contaminants from the old oil.
The other method is that once you have the oil drained, you fill your bike back up with cheap oil. Then, at the start of the following riding season, you replace the oil again with the type of oil you regularly plan on using.
2. Stabilize your fuel
Use a fuel stabilizer such as Sta-Bil in your gas tank. Some people will completely drain and then fog their fuel tank, but using stabilizer should accomplish the same goal. The idea is to prevent moisture from entering your tank and fuel system, causing corrosion.
Read the directions on the fuel stabilizer that you plan on using. You’ll want to put your bike into storage with a full tank of gas, so make make sure you’re using the right ratio of stabilizer to fuel. Then move onto the next step!
3. If carbureted, drain the carbs
Not all bikes have carburetors. While bikes first started becoming fuel injected in the 80s, it wasn’t until the turn of the millennium that fuel injection really took off in motorcycles. If you’re riding a bike that has carburetors, it is important to drain them of fuel. Not doing so increases the risk of your gumming up your carbs which can create issues down the road.
Some people will physically remove the carbs in order to remove and drain the float bowls. It is the most effective way to ensure all the fuel is out of carburetors, but you can get similar results by simply turning off the fuel petcock and running your bike until it shuts itself down.
4. Give it a good wash
Next, wash your bike off before letting it sit for the winter. Not only does it give you one more chance to see your motorcycle all nice and shiny for the season, it protects your paint job and finish. Any road grime or dead bugs (if you do a lot of riding in areas like Minnesota, where we’re located, your bike might look like it’s covered in them) can cause your paint to fade.
Use a good cover!
Additionally, invest in a good, breathable cover like these. Covering it up will keep the dust off your bike and will also protect it from getting scratched while sitting in storage. You don’t want to put a scratch down the side of your bike while taking out your snow-blower, would you?
5. Bring the battery in from the cold
This is one thing that many inexperienced motorcycle owners will neglect to do. If you’re storing your bike for an extended period of time, it is important to take care of your battery. If your bike is being stored in a cold climate, you should bring your battery inside your home or another warm location.
Batteries will start to lose their charge if they have been sitting for an extended period of time, so it is also important to maintain their charge with a device like a battery tender. They’re relatively inexpensive and well worth the money considering how much they can wind up saving you.
6. Take a load off the tires
First, make sure your tires are filled up to the factory recommended PSI. This differs from bike to bike, consult your owner’s manual and/or the sidewall of your tires.
Some people say that your tires can “flatten out” if they sit stationary too long. For that reason, bike stands are a great way to keep pressure off of your tires and that will prevent most issues that can occur when storing your bike for a prolonged period of time.
Ultimately, what can really wreck a good tire is moisture. In areas that have dramatic temperature changes, like in Minnesota, the humidity level can change quickly. That can leave the surface of your garage floor or wherever you’re storing your bike to become moist. If your bike is sitting directly on that surface, it can damage your tires. Find a piece of plywood or another type of wood that won’t wick up the moisture from the floor to set your tires on for the winter.
7. Don’t invite pests in
Even if you’re an animal lover, don’t let your bike become a nest for rodents. Those chrome pipes, that upgraded intake and all the other nooks in your bike can be inviting to a small creature who is left out in the cold all winter. Prevent them from making their home in your bike by either using specialized plugs or by plugging up your intake and exhaust pipes with a clean rag that won’t leave debris.
When seeking answers, turn to the experts
And when in doubt, turn to your Clymer repair manual, your owner’s manual or the experts. Certain bikes may need extra steps beyond these seven and if you’re not feeling comfortable with performing any of these tasks or not quite sure you’ve got the right tools, it is best to leave it to an expert.
If you have questions about any of these steps or don't feel comfortable, we can help you out! Check out our winterization and motorcycle storage services.