How to properly store a motorcycle?
How to winterize a motorcycle?
I consider myself lucky because I live in the city that doesn’t get much snow (last winter we’ve had a total of 4 days when the roads were icy), so I get to ride year-round. However, most of us still have to put our beloved bikes away for the colder months.
The reason I’m familiar with the proper storage techniques is simple. I’ve had more than one bike at a time, but only the main commuter was insured. The other bike was quietly sitting in the corner by itself until it got sold.
A lot of stores offer winterizing kits, and winter storage options. But I prefer doing my own work; especially when it is that easy.
Note, that if you do not have a garage, and it rains/snows a lot during the period you will have the bike waiting for you, it makes sense to arrange somebody to store it for you.
Otherwise, read further.
Things you will need:
WD-40, silicone-free grease, battery tender, fuel stabilizer.
Things you should get:
Tire foam, breathable cover, battery terminal harness.
Winterizing your motorcycle should not take more than 1-2 hours. I follow these simple instructions:
1. Wash your bike entirely. Allow some time for the water to dry. The dirt left over winter will become times more difficult, if not impossible to clean. Do not polish or add wax coating to it yet, because you will need to briefly clean it again after you finish steps 2 through 7.
2. Top up the fuel tank. This will help to prevent the inner tank corrosion. Add some fuel stabilizer, so the fuel does not gum up the fuel system. Run the bike for about 5 minutes so the fuel with the fuel stabilizer replaces the old fuel.
There are several options for the fuel stabilizers. STA-BIL seems to be what a lot of people choose. I use Sea Foam, because I always have a can on hands that I periodically (every month or so) add to my fuel to clean the fuel system form the gunk buildup.
If you have a carburetor, make sure to shut off the petcock and drain the carb; otherwise it may gum up, and you will have to rebuild and clean it (and it takes A LOT longer than draining it). If you have a fuel-injected bike – congratulations, you get to skip this step.
3. Change the oil. Changing oil in the motorcycle is an imperative maintenance procedure, and it is no good for your bike to spend the winter with the old and dirty oil in her. When you change the oil, put in a new oil filter too (they are usually really cheap; I bought 3 oil filters for my DRZ for just $12.26).
Before I change my oil, I like to add some Sea Foam to the old oil and go on a 30+ minutes ride so it cycles through. If time allows, add some Sea Foam and go for a ride the night before you do the final oil change.
Changing the coolant and brake fluid wouldn’t hurt either, but may not be necessary – use your judgement.
4. Check the tires. Inflate them to the proper air pressure, and if possible, store the bike elevated from the ground, so the tires do not touch the ground. This way you are minimizing the chances of them developing lumps.
If you do not have a way of lifting the bike up, make sure to balance it evenly (put something under the kickstand so it stays straight), just be careful not to tip your bike over. It is also a good idea to rotate the tires a little every 2-3 weeks to avoid tire lumps.
5. Take care of the battery. Even when your bike is turned off, the battery still works. I have a digital speedo and odometer, and a digital clock, so some energy is required to keep the numbers memorized. The battery will likely drain, and you may not be able to start the bike if you just let it be.
A battery tender typically costs around $20-30. It will charge the battery to an appropriate level if needed, and should keep it in the standby mode to maintain the charge (cheap tenders may not have the standby mode, so look out for that). To use the tender, you need to either take the battery out, or run a terminal harness to the surface.
There isn’t really a place where you have to have the plug. On my old CBR (that is in the picture above) I’ve had the previous owner wire it under the passenger seat, so it was accessible by removing the rear cowl. On my DRZ I wired this cable from the battery to the top of the seat so I can also plug my heated vest in it. Use your imagination; just make sure to not have the open end come into contact with metal.
6. Add extra lube onto all the moving parts that require it: the gear shifter lever, the rear brake lever, etc. I use WD-40 Lithium Grease for that.
7. Clean the engine. I use tire Tire foam for detailing, any tire spray would do, as long as it it silicone-free. If you can only find ones with silicone, you just need to be careful to not spray it on any air intake holes, so it would require some knowledge of your bike. An engine degreaser is another option.
8. Wash the bike again, if needed. Allow the water to dry, and polish the bike. Inspect the bike for leaks and loose wires
After the bike is dry, coat all the engine parts in a light layer of oil / grease to prevent the rust from building up. First I put on a layer of WD-40 to remove the existing moisture, let it sit for 5 minutes, wipe the rest off; then put on a layer of WD-40 Lithium Grease, and wipe the excess off.
9. Pack the exhaust (insert a clean rag or a piece of foam) to prevent rodents from occupying it. I would spray some WD-40 over the metallic part, put a dry clean rag over it, and secure it with a rubber band.
[optional] 10. Cover the bike. This will reduce the amount of dust accumulated. I use the Tour Master Journey breathable cover that I can recommend. Try to not go for a cheap cover, because if the cover isn’t waterproof and breathable is a shortcut to rust. Besides, what is the point of spending $20-30 on a piece of crap that doesn’t really do what it is meant to do, if you can get exactly what you need for $40?
Boom! Now you’re done. Now go watch or read the Twist of the Wrist: The Motorcycle Roadracers Handbook until it’s warm again.
P.S.: You may have the urge to run the bike for a short period of time while it is stored.
YOU MUST RESIST IT – this will create unnecessary condensation.
Do you want rust? Because that’s how you get rust. It would be stupid to go through all the preparation only to let it go to waste.