How to Put Your Motorcycle Away for Winter
Updated: Mar 11
Proper winter storage of your motorcycle helps ease starting in the spring
I'm not a quitter. I stay to the very end of the game, regardless of how obvious it is that my team is losing. And every year, I ride to the bitter end, knowing that team motorcycle loses to team ski season every year -- and every year -- I'll have to put my motorcycle away for the winter.
To store my motorcycle for winter , I follow steps learned from years of guessing, talking with pro's and researching. The process takes an hour and you'll need these supplies: fuel stabilizer, distilled water (if your battery isn't maintenance free), chain lube (if you have a chain), WD40, engine fogging oil, fresh gasoline, oil and filter and a motorcycle battery tender.
Begin by washing your bike. Washing not only gets the grime and grit off before storage, but helps you notice if something needs your attention. Take time to dry off your bike to remove moisture.Compressed air or a Shop Vac can be a big help here.
Gasoline degrades after about 30 days. As it degrades, it leaves sticky deposits in your fuel system and it attracts water. The deposits are bad and you'll want to combat their presence. Water in the fuel can rust components inside of your bike.
Some advocate draining your fuel tank completely and coating the inside of the tank with oil as a method of avoiding condensation and rust in the tank. This technique is difficult to do properly. Filling your tank with fresh, stabilized fuel is an easier and effective alternative.
Using an empty gas can, fill it with a known amount of gas. The stabilizer mixture will be in ounces per gallon. If you know how many gallons you have it is easy to get the mixture right. I like to treat five gallons, since the formula for Sta-Bil brand stabilizer is 1 ounce treats 2.5 gallons of gasoline and using five gallons makes the math easy. Fill your gas tank to the top with the treated gas.
The next step is fogging the engine with engine fogging oil. Remove the air filter to expose the air intake for the carburetors or fuel injection system.
Start the motor. For carbureted motors, spray the fogging oil directly into each carburetor. Spray for approximately 12 to 20 seconds, until you can see smoke coming out the tail pipe. Switch to the other carburetors and repeat until all have been fogged.
As you move through your carburetors, you should rotate back to the earliest ones spraying additional fogging oil. The rotation is needed, because you are burning off fogging oil as you run the engine. Run the engine just long enough to see the smoke come out of the tail pipe. The smoke coming from your pipe is your indicator that the oil has reached the combustion chamber.
For fuel injected bikes, the procedure is the same, except all of the injectors have the same air intake. Spray the fogging oil into the air intake and look for the smoke coming from your tailpipe.
Top-off your gas tank with treated gas so there is no room for condensation to form.
For carbureted bikes you must drain the fuel from each carburetor.
Locate the drain port on each carburetor. The drain port is usually a philips head screw, allen screw or a bolt on the carburetor bowl, near the bottom. This screw or bolt must be loosened, allowing the fuel to drain out. If you're unsure which screw is the drain, use a repair manual, the owner's manual or ask someone who knows to confirm your suspicion before loosening the wrong screw.
The screws on your carburetor are often small and easily stripped. If you find your screwdriver slips out easily, stop immediately! You do not want to strip these screws. If your bike is not a Harley, it is likely that these screws are the JIS standard (Japanese Industry Standard). You will want to make sure that you have a JIS screwdriver set.
Turn off the fuel valve before opening the drain port screw to prevent fuel from entering the carburetor as you drain it. You only need to loosen the screw enough to allow fuel to flow. You do not need to remove the screw.
You will drain a surprising amount of fuel - several ounces -- from each carburetor. If possible, run a hose from the drain port to a container. If you drain into a rag, be prepared to deal with a gasoline soaked rag. Repeat the drain procedure for each carburetor, draining all of the fuel from each one.
Next, remove the battery. If you have a non-maintenance free battery, fill the battery with distilled water. The water level in each compartment should be up to the full marker.
Store the battery in a warm, well ventilated place with electricity. Follow the instructions on your battery tender to connect the battery and maintain the battery's charge throughout the winter.
When purchasing a battery tender, look for a one that will not overcharge your battery. Cheap trickle chargers supply a constant level of charge, regardless of battery condition. These types of charger are not sensitive to the condition of the battery and can overcharge them. Overcharging can overheat the battery, drying out the fluid and damaging the battery.
There is some disagreement among experts about whether to change your oil or not. One side argues that the oil isn't circulating in the engine and therefore doesn't harm the engine. If you change the oil at the start of next season you will do no damage to your engine.
The second camp says change your oil, because used oil contains contaminants, water and acids. These are by-products of combustion. You should change your oil to prevent corrosion, sludge and varnish from forming inside of your engine.
I take the conservative approach and change my oil. While this is more expensive, I am not expert enough to comfortably ignore the experts who claim used oil can damage my engine. You can decide for yourself.
If you have a chain, lubricate it to prevent rust. Leave more lube on the chain than you normally would for riding, but not so much that it attracts dirt.
To protect your chrome, spray WD-40 on the chrome and wipe off any excess. WD-40 can also be used to repel water from hinge points and other connections.
Your air boxes and exhaust pipes are great homes for mice. If you don't want to be a landlord this winter, tape off these openings.
As a final step, put your bike on stands to get your tires off the ground and then cover the bike.
We'll see if next year team motorcycle wins. I'm betting they won't.
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