Winterize your ride: Tips to storing your bike over the winter

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by Bruce Anderson, Oct 28, 2013.

  1. Bruce Anderson

    Bruce Anderson Adventurer

    Apr 12, 2011
    The best way to keep your bike in good condition in the winter is to ride it, but that isn’t always possible unless you live in sunny climates. Motorcycle and other off-road vehicle owners should not only prepare their rides for winter storage, but also for any non-riding period that is longer than 2 months. The correct preventative measures and maintenance will ensure optimal engine health and function after storage.​
    The most reported issues arising from long storage are body and parts rust, fuel becomes contaminated, battery power drains, and corrosion of the engine.
    In an ideal situation your motorcycle or dirt bike should be stored in a low humidity, temperature regulated environment away from UV light. Some motorcycle dealers or bike shops for a nominal fee offer winterizing and storage service. Most people will store their bike in their freezing garages. That is why proper winter preparation and maintenance is absolutely necessary. By covering any windows in your garage, it will help to prevent temperature changes and condensation from the sun's radiant heat.[​IMG]

    Clean your motorcycle:

    Wash your motorcycle thoroughly. Then you can ride it around for about five minutes to help dry the moisture in the wheels and linkage. Waxing your motorcycle before storage is very important as it will create a protective barrier against rust and moisture. Also a light spray of WD-40 or similar lubricant on the engine parts and the frame will protect your motorcycle against corrosion.
    Cover your bike:
    Choosing the right material for covering your motorcycle is very important. Plastic sheets absorb moisture and hold it against your motorcycle that can cause rust. Condensation is trapped by tarps or plastic sheets by not allowing air exchange. Another problem with tarps or plastic sheets are that they often attach themselves and bond to your motorcycle's body paint in the cold. This ruins the paint job when removed costing you extra money to repaint your motorcycle. There are specially designed motorcycle covers that prevent moisture absorption and allow air exchange keeping your bike in top condition. If you can't afford a motorcycle cover you can use an old blanket or cloth tarp instead to keep dirt and grime off your motorcycle.
    By changing your oil to a winter grade oil it will ensure that you have an easy start up in the spring. Even if it is not time for an oil change, it is a good idea to perform an oil change. While riding the internal combustion created acid byproducts in your existing motor oil which can cause corrosion to your motors inner surfaces. Take the used oil to a recycle location in your community for proper disposal.
    Engine Fluid:
    Even though it is not a must-do, it is very smart to drain the water from the engine and replace it with fresh coolant. Bikes that are water-cooled need to have the correct antifreeze in the cooling system. Keep fluids full in your motorcycle. Do not drain the bike of water, oil, air or gas.
    Gasoline breaks down overtime and creates compounds that clog the fuel system. Fill your tank with fresh gas, drain the fuel line and carburetors and add a fuel stabilizer. By following these steps it will prevent gasoline from decomposing and stop moisture collection inside your fuel system.
    Brake Fluids:
    Brake fluids are hygroscopic, or water-absorbing. Chances are, if you haven't changed your fluids in the past year or two, a lot of moisture has been absorbed which cause engine corrosion.
    The battery should be disconnected and removed from your motorcycle to prevent current drain. A dead battery is a very common start-up problem motorcycle riders face in spring. By charging your battery every few weeks it will maintain its charge.
    Cold temperatures affects tire pressure. Remember: The colder it gets the more the air in your tire compresses. This lowers your tire pressure and will causes premature wear. By lowering the tire pressure to 15 PSI, monitoring your tire pressure and using a motorcycle paddock, lift, or stand to lift your bike's tires off the frigid garage floor will help with the decrease in tire pressure. It also doesn’t hurt to spin the tires once a week or so. It will help in spreading the chain lube and move the wheel-bearing grease around.

    Make sure to lube your engine's cylinder walls with engine oil. This will prevent corrosion and rust. By not lubricating your motorcycle's cylinders, premature ring and piston wear is a very likely possibility. Spray chain lube on the chain and spin the wheel in both directions. Makes sure to take the lubricating oil and spray the foot peg pivots, shock threads, shift lever, and any other folding, moving or bending part on the bike.
    Start her up:
    Any chance you get to start your engine during the dead of winter, do it. But you need to be sure to let it run for as long as you can. Running the engine is good during the winter and running it for about five to ten minutes will get it hot enough to achieve the sealing and lubrication effects you need. If you are unable start it and let it run for the recommended time, don’t start it at all.​
    When you decide that winter is over and you are ready to hit the trails again, you should follow these steps before heading out:

    • Drain the fuel and replace it with new fuel.
    • Change the engine oil once again. No, it didn’t get dirty, but it is best to change it after it has collected moisture over the winter.
    • Fill up your tires with air. They will be at a lower PSI and will have also lost pressure over the winter.
    • Re-lube everything that you lubed before you stored the bike. It is also a great time to check under the bike for any signs of leaks. Do this after you warm up the engine.
    • Change any fluids that don’t seem up to snuff on the first ride.

    If you followed every step provided, your motorcycle will work exactly as it did on the last day you rode it. How perfect is that?
  2. lynch180

    lynch180 Adventurer

    Apr 5, 2011
    Thanks for the tips:clap
  3. H96669

    H96669 A proud pragmatist.

    Nov 20, 2009
    Hiding off Hwy 6, B.C.
    Don't forget about the critters. Plug them openings and tag the bike so you'll remember to unplug them.

    They don't start too good in the spring with an airbox full of something's nest or an exhaust packed full of mouse droppings.:wink:
  4. Powershouse

    Powershouse Flower Sniffer

    Jul 21, 2006

    Dryer sheets :deal
  5. H96669

    H96669 A proud pragmatist.

    Nov 20, 2009
    Hiding off Hwy 6, B.C.
    Yeah right...sure did not keep them out of the shop.:lol3
  6. sprocketjock

    sprocketjock Long timer

    Feb 12, 2011
    Personally once I've winterized mine I don't start them again until the spring. Running the engine and then letting it cool in a freezing environment causes condensation and invites more problems than if you just let it sit. If you have heated storage the harmful effects of letting it idle a bit are negated, but really, if you winterize it properly you don't need to start it again until you're preparing for the riding season.
  7. broncobowsher

    broncobowsher Long timer

    Apr 21, 2010
    Baking in AZ
    I am not in with the cut and past instructions. Location is a huge factor that really is not addressed in the generic instructions.

    Take the fuel system. Claim is to fill it and add stabilizer. Personally I prefer 2 different methods. The Kawasaki method is to drain the tank and slosh around some motor oil to protect the tank walls from corrosion. The other is to fill with AV-gas. I prefer that over stabilizer. I have left that stuff in a tank for years, including a couple AZ summers. Never went skunk. After all that it still started and ran fine. It happen to be a boat, but same general concept as a bike. If the tank is plastic, just empty it. Not going to rust and not worries of fuel going bad.

    Drop tire pressure? Trying to make flat spots? Fill to the max. Keep that tire round. Not going to have any wear sitting still. As it bleeds down (time and temp) it will be less likely to get flat spots. Starting with a lowered pressure is just asking for flats and flat spotting from sitting.

    As Sprocketjock mentioned, avoid running if not actually going to ride. It isn't really going to warm it up completely. It may get the water warmed up, but the oil is still going to stay cold and now get contaminated with moisture since the bottom end will never really get up to operating temperature. Better to just let it sit.

    If you are too worried about cylinder wall corrosion, hit the local boat shop and get some fogging oil. Shoot a little down each plug hole, turn the engine over a few times to spread it around, plug it up and park it. That stuff is designed to protect cylinder walls in nasty marine environments for long term storage.

    Why do you need to exercise the grease during the winter? If you have anything that isn't total junk in there it will be fine all winter. I really don't understand this. If you prepped the bike right it should be able to sit all winter, if not for years, without ever being touched.

    Or go someplace warm where you can ride all winter, just to put the bike in storage in the summer because it is too hot.
  8. qkenf4u

    qkenf4u Been here awhile

    Jul 25, 2009
    nice warm bike riding COTTONWOOD ARIZONA...
    having lived in a crap enviroment called rainsylvania.. heres what i used to do for the 8 months i couldnt ride cause or rain/ice/snow/cold/crap weather...

    on a stand,
    tank full
    STA-BIL (the green ethonal type for boats) in full gas, run bike for a few minutes to get it mixed into carbs
    i personally started the bike a couple times a month and just let it idle outside for a half hour or so... since its not moving its gonna get more than warm enough to burn off any moisture... as for creating moisture never had a problem myself...
    if you can put the bike on front & rear stands to help with NON-FLAT spotting the tires...
    my bike was in the basment that didnt get to freezing temps and personally if i didnt have a place i would find a buddy/rent a spot for the winter....

    but the biggest is keeping the carbs clean/clear and thats why i recommend the STA-BIL to every customer that goes thru my shop here in az and dont ride year round (:huh)... draining the bowls can just cause seals to dry out and maybe still cause problems once riding weather comes around again... just run it 10 mins a week and youll never have a plugged pilot from varnish or sour gas...
  9. Gripsteruser

    Gripsteruser Got a handle on it

    Jul 12, 2013
    N. Colo
    Bruce- nice copy and paste from the Total Motorcycle Forum. And you deleted their name from the text. Are you the TMF article author?

    qkenf4u- Running the engine without going for a ride to get it fully hot only condenses combustion products (WATER) into the oil and exhaust system leading to corrosion.

    In the lightplane world this is highly discouraged and well known as a bad practice because it damages engines that cost upwards of $25,000 to replace.

    You can do as you wish with your property but you might want to reconsider.

    I change the oil and filter then I fill the gas tank then treat with Stabil. Then drain the carbs. Then put about 2 tablespoons of Marvel Mystery Oil down the spark plug holes and crank the engine for a few revs to flail the cylinder oil around. Then remove battery and take it inside where I can charge it every month. Bike is stored in the garage.
    In storing vehicles this way for over 30 years I've never had a failure to start and run cleanly after storage of up to 7 months at a time.
  10. 30Bones

    30Bones Long timer

    Oct 5, 2005
    Cedar Rapids, IA
    I try to run Staybil and premium gas the last few tanks of the season to be sure there is staybil in the system. Top off the tank, change the oil, lube the chain and cover it up :cry

    Others prefer seafoam, I have yet to try it, but may once my jug of Staybil is gone. I also run staybil in my snow thrower in every tank since it does not get used a ton and sits unused for 8-9 months out of the year.
  11. manic mechanic

    manic mechanic Been here awhile

    Aug 31, 2011
    up nort' somewheres
    No real need to remove the battery, either, as long as you have the means to keep it charged. What isn't mentioned is that batteries self-discharge, even when disconnected. As they do (in the case of lead-acid batteries) the electrolyte becomes more dilute, effectively raising the freezing temperature of the electrolyte. So a partially-discharged battery doesn't have to get as cold before it freezes. I keep my bikes plugged-in when parked.
  12. 30Bones

    30Bones Long timer

    Oct 5, 2005
    Cedar Rapids, IA
    I've done both, removed and left them in with the same good luck. I will probably remove mine this winter as I just bought the bike and plan to do some TLC this winter and take the batter in to have it bench tested for a guesstimate on usable life. Then it will sit on a shelf in the basement on a charger.
  13. ibafran

    ibafran villagidiot

    Apr 16, 2007
    Just thought that I would take a moment to be a complete asshat on topic.

    "Winterizing" your bike is what you do to it so that you can ride it in the Winter.

    "Storing" your bike is what you do to it when you are planning on not riding it for a while.

    Confusing terminogy is the first sign of an idiotic noob. :rofl
  14. Pakanml

    Pakanml n00b

    Apr 3, 2013
    You could move here to Las Vegas where we ride all winter and "summerize" our bikes for July and August... Gotta love those triple digit days...