We bikers are a pretty hardy bunch. We long for the open road, the wind in our faces and the feeling of being one with our rides. Being closed up inside a four-wheeled, climate-controlled cage? That’s a last ditch choice for those of us who favor the two-wheeled freedom of a motorcycle. And yet for those riders who live where the winters are harsh, snowfall is measured in feet and temperatures can dip well below freezing for weeks at a time it’s often necessary to park the bike for the winter.
But simply putting your motorcycle in the garage for the winter can mean having a ride that’s hard to start come spring. If it starts at all. It can also lead to an expensive trip to your local dealership if you don’t take a few simple steps to get your bike ready for the winter. By taking a little time to prep your bike for a couple of months of inactivity you can ensure you’re ready to ride when the weather finally breaks.
Pick Your Spot
The best place to store your motorcycle for the winter is a garage or a storage shed. It should be dry with a door that locks. If there are windows in the garage be sure to put the bike in an area that isn’t exposed to direct sunlight. That sunlight will cause the temperature to rise and fall which can lead to condensation and rust forming on your motorcycle. If you don’t have a garage or storage shed or renting a size-appropriate storage area isn’t feasible, consider buying one of those portable motorcycle shelters. These units are sort of like a tent for your bike. If you have no choice but to let your bike spend the winter outside be sure to put a high quality cover over it.
Do An Oil Change
If you’re comfortable doing your own oil change, and saving a few bucks, you should do one before putting your bike up for winter. If you’d rather not bother doing it yourself have one done at your local dealership. When doing your own oil change first start your bike and let it warm up to normal running temperature. This will make the oil drain easier and dry out any internal moisture that might have developed since your last ride. Drain the crankcase and properly dispose of the old oil. Be sure to replace the oil filter while you’re at it. Then fill the crankcase with fresh oil. Do not use any oil additives as most motorcycles use the engine oil to lubricate the clutch as well and those additives can cause the clutch to slip.
Lube The Cylinders
If it will be six weeks or longer that your bike sits idle you’ll want to take out the spark plugs and pour about a teaspoonful of new engine oil into each spark plug hole. Then shift the motorcycle into its highest gear and turn the rear wheel a couple of complete revolutions by hand. This spread the oil so it coats the cylinder walls, piston rings and valve seats, protecting them from moisture. Don’t forget to put the spark plugs back in.
Fill Her Up
If your motorcycle is fuel-injected then on the way home from your final ride of the season stop at the gas station closest to home and fill the tank all the way up. If your motorcycle has carburetors instead of fuel injection you’ll need to loosen the drain bolts on each carburetor and drain the fuel before you fill the tank. Be sure to tighten the bolts. A full gas tank will prevent moisture and rust from developing inside the tank. It’s also a good idea to add a fuel stabilizer, especially if you have to store the bike for six weeks or longer. Fuel stabilizer will keep the gasoline from getting thick and clogging fuel jets or carburetors.
Wash And Wash
Give the bike a thorough wash and wax, making sure to dry it completely. You can spray a light coating of WD40 on all the chrome to help prevent rusting. Once you’re sure the mufflers are completely cool you can gently push a clean plastic grocery or trash bag into each muffler to keep moisture from collecting there. Cover each muffler with another plastic bag for further protection. Give a shot of WD40 to all cables, the pivot points of the clutch and brake levers, pedals and the side stand.
Prep Your Tires
Fill your tires to the recommended maximum psi. Then place a few half-inch thick squares of cardboard under each tire so that they’re not in direct contact with the floor. By doing this you keep your tires from coming into contact with the potentially freezing temperatures of a concrete garage floor. Those temperatures, over a prolonged period of time can cause the rubber to degrade and crack.
Prep You Battery
If there’s an electrical outlet in your garage that’s close to where you’ve parked the bike you can leave the battery in the motorcycle and hook the battery up to a batter tender or trickle charger. If you don’t have electricity conveniently located or if the temperatures inside the garage will dip below 30 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period you’ll need to take the battery out of the motorcycle and store it somewhere warmer where you can still attach it to a battery tender.
After you’ve done everything else and the bike is parked, put a cover over it to add one layer of protection from moisture and dust. Be sure to use a cover made specifically for motorcycles. A simple tarp or old sheet will trap moisture on your motorcycle. Covers manufactured expressly for motorcycles are made from porous materials that allow moisture to escape.
After The Winter
Once the snow has melted, the temperatures have worked their solidly back into 40 degree plus territory and the days start getting longer you’ll be very tempted to rip the cover off the bike, punch the starter and hit the road. Do yourself a favor and take a couple of minutes to do a little prepping. Check tire pressure and inflate as needed. Do a thorough visual inspection. Pull the plastic bags off and out of the mufflers. Then roll the bike out of the garage and start it up. Before you kick it into gear check your brake lights, blinkers, hazard flashers, high beams and horn. Once you’re sure everything is working order you’re good to go for another riding season.
Not A Do-It-Yourselfer
Maybe you don’t have room in your garage or an out-of-the-elements spot to store your motorcycle. Or you may not be comfortable with or have the time to change your own oil. Check with your local dealership. Many of them offer both winter prep and storage services. This will be more expensive than doing it yourself, but much cheaper than what you’ll spend on repairs if you don’t store your bike properly for the winter.