How to Winterize Motorcycles
Winter is coming. No, seriously. It basically boils down to this: rust is the sworn enemy of the motorcycle, and the winter season is just full of opportunities to wreak havoc on your bike. Granted, the winter season can be particularly brutal to some more than others, but there should be more attention paid to your motorcycle maintenance during the winter months, regardless.
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No one really wants to admit off-season is just around the corner, but it’s something we have to make peace with every year. It's better to get your motorcycle ready for storage during the winter than to worry about what to do when your motorcycle breaks down the next time you take it out. Here’re some reminders on how to winterize a motorcycle and ensure that as soon as the first sign of spring rolls around, you will be rust-free and road ready.
Fill the gas tank.
Leaving half a tank of untreated gasoline in your motorcycle during the offseason can cause damage. Full tanks will prevent rust from forming on the inside of the tank, and, even better, treated gas will prevent gunk and grime from building up in the engine over the time the bike is not being used.
Use a gas stabilizer chemical such as STA-BIL, etc., to keep the fuel fresh after storage. It also assists in removing water, preventing gum and rust, and cleans the carburetors and fuel injectors.
After filling up the tank and adding the stabilizer, fire her up. Let the bike run for about five minutes to make sure the stabilizer mixes with the fuel and gets all through the gutty works of your fuel system.
Inspect your tires and inflate them to the proper pressure. A soft or flat tire can develop a permanent flat spot if left weighted in one position for extended periods of time. To prevent this, store your bike on a center stand, or front and rear elevation paddock stands if you are able. If you don’t have a stand, just prop up your bike on some blocks.
Cover it up.
You and your bike might not like the cold, but you know who else doesn’t? Critters like mice. Cover the exhaust with a plastic bag and rubber band to prevent winter stowaways from making a nest in your bike during the off season. Covering your exhaust can also prevent moisture from getting in the exhaust and sneaking into the engine.
Remove the battery and connect it to something like a battery tender so it won’t die or drain over the period of non-use. One of the most important parts of how to maintain a motorcycle battery is storing it where it won’t drop below freezing. It’s also a good idea to clean the terminals and leads and apply some dielectric grease to prevent corrosion.
Pay a visit now and then.
If you’re able to pay a visit to your motorcycle a few times during the off season, it is a good idea to start her up every month or so. If you're in a closed garage, open the door and let the engine run for five or ten minutes. Rev the engine a few times to flush out any old fuel that’s been sitting in the carburetors. Remember to make sure your bike cools down before re-applying the bike cover and muffler cover.
Lube it up.
Re-lube any moving parts such as the fork surfaces, chain drive (if applicable), cables, and controls to prevent rust or binding. While you’re at it, give your motorcycle a good ol’ oil change.
Old oil can trap contaminants that can damage things like rubber seals. Changing the oil can help preserve your engine. Cold temperatures are also the perfect catalysts to allow moisture to buildup in your engine and cause rust to form on cylinder walls and pistons.
Check the fluids.
Change brake and clutch fluids; these can cause failure if moisture is allowed in. While you’re at it, go ahead and change the coolant if applicable. Old fluid can sometimes cause deposits and buildup.
Give your bike a bath.
Yeah, spring cleaning is a thing. But as you wash your motorcycle, consider it like a one-last hurrah before you board it for the winter. Spend some time with your bike, polish the chrome, wax the paint. Whisper sweet nothings in its ear, I don’t care. Just make sure it’s dry before you put the cover back on. It’s no fun when some sneaky condensation to get trapped under the cover and undoes all your hard work.
Cover it, and start the spring countdown.
Invest in a good motorcycle cover; it will be worth it. My suggestion is to use a breathable fabric cover. These help prevent any moisture or buildup of condensation like a plastic tarp would.
Now, here is the part where you say your goodbyes. Parting is such sweet sorrow, but it’s just a matter of time before you can ride again. Plus, I know you’re already counting down until next season. It’ll be here before you know it.
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