That’s right – it’s time to prepare your bike for its winter rest.
Spend an afternoon doing this correctly, and you’ll be able to avoid an even worse dread – the springtime ritual of trying to get your bike started again, and correcting all of the flaws that neglect caused over the winter months.
Here’s a step-by-step guide for preparing your bike for winter storage.
1. Change your oil and oil filter. Storing your bike with clean, fresh oil in the crankcase is good insurance. Leaving tired oil with contaminants in your oil tank is just asking for trouble.
2. Drain your gas tank, or use a fuel stabilizer in a full tank. I prefer the latter. I use Sta-Bil, which claims to keep fuel fresh for up to 12 months. I put in Sta-Bil, then fill my tank to the brim and seal it with my gas cap. The less air space is in the tank, the better. A half-full tank is bad, even with treated fuel – the walls of the tank above the fuel level can corrode and rust due to condensation within the tank. Treat it, fill it up and seal it.
3. If your bike is carbureted, drain the carbs of fuel. The easiest way to do this is to turn off the fuel supply petcock while the bike is running, and then let the bike run until it burns the remaining fuel in the line. It should only take a minute or so. If your bike doesn’t have a petcock, follow the instructions in the service manual to drain the float bowls. You do have a service manual for your bike, don’t you?
4. Wash, dry and wax your bike. A good coat of wax is a great protectant for the winter months. For winter storage, I polish my chrome and brightwork, and then put a coat of wax over the polished surfaces, too – even on exhaust pipes and engine parts. I just have to remember to clean them off again in the spring before I start the bike again, because I don’t want wax on parts that are going to get hot.
5. Connect your battery to a smart charger, like a Battery Tender. Treat your battery well, and your battery will treat you well. With the state of current battery technology, you should be able to get years out of your battery if you maintain it properly. Let your battery go dead, and you’ll have to replace it in the spring.
6. Get your wheels off the ground. If you have the space, invest a hundred dollars in a motorcycle lift, like this one from Sears Craftsman. Use a good set of motorcycle tie downs, and secure your bike to the lift under the frame. Get your wheels an inch or two off of the ground, then lock the lift in position. Make sure that your tires are properly inflated, and you’re set for storage.
7. Cover your bike. Hopefully, you can store your bike indoors – in your garage, in your basement, in your dining room. If so, use a soft, breathable cover designed for a motorcycle. Ventilation is important. Sealing a bike under a tarp or non-breathable cover may result in rust and corrosion, because the cover will trap condensation. If you must store your bike outdoors, try and protect it from the elements as much as possible. Look for an overhang, car port or awning that can shelter your bike. At the very least, park it against a wall that will protect it from wind from at least one direction, and use a good outdoor cover.
8. Check on your bike while it is in storage. Don’t ignore your poor bike for the whole winter. Check on it once every few weeks to make sure that no rodents or insects have decided to make it their home. Make sure it hasn’t been knocked over or uncovered. Give your bike some love. It’s lonely.
Don’t worry – in just a few months, the temperatures will start to warm up again, and you’ll be glad that you spent a few hours getting your bike ready for winter, because you’ll be have a bike that’s clean, fueled, charged and ready to ride while your buddies are all trying to figure out why their bikes have rusted and failed.