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Winterizing Your Motorcycle

Written by  December 22, 2015

For many motorcyclists across the country, this time of year marks a crucial maintenance time for their rides; winterization. Some fortunate riders farther south enjoy a year round cycling climate, but if you’re not one of the lucky ones, you need to follow a few important steps to protect your bike over the winter months ahead. The following steps should help to assist you in winterizing your motorcycle so this spring you can hit the road with no trouble.

Step 1
Gather up the tools and associated products you’ll need for your winterizing task. You’ll need:

  • Cleaning cloths
  • Spark plug wrench
  • Trickle battery charger
  • Motorcycle oil
  • New oil filter
  • Oil can or accessory to get oil in the cylinders
  • Chain lube (if you have a chain drive)
  • Fuel stabilizer
  • WD40
  • Breathable motorcycle cover
  • Kitchen plastic wrap
  • Rubber bands
  • Vinyl or plastic gloves
  • Items to clean and wax your bike
  • A dry, secure, and preferably heated area to store your motorcycle

Step 2
Clean your bike thoroughly. A gentle detergent and water works fine. By removing road grime and bugs you’ll protect the finish of your bike. Avoid spraying water directly into the exhaust because if the baffles get wet prior to storage, it could develop rust. It’s also best to not get water in the air cleaner. If the air cleaner housing gets wet, it could act as a choke, making your motorcycle difficult to start. Dry your bike completely with a good chamois, clean and polish all aluminum and stainless surfaces with an approved metal polish, and apply a coat of wax on all painted and chrome surfaces. Spray WD40 on the drive chain to remove any debris, and then spray chain lube on the entire length of the chain.

Step 3
Add fuel stabilizer to your gas tank and then completely fill your gas tank with fuel. This is very important step because as fuel ages, more volatile components tend to change, leaving sludge and gummy substances that can affect the carburetor. After filling the gas tank, run the bike so the fuel and stabilizer gets into the carburetor and fuel injectors. Turn off the fuel and then let run it dry.

Step 4
If you have a carburetor, drain the float bowls, shut off the gas petcock, and drain the gas from the carburetor bowls. Refer to your owner’s manual for the location of your drain screws. If you have a fuel-injected bike there isn’t anything to drain.

Step 5
Start your motorcycle and let it run until the engine is warm. You can now change the oil and oil filter. The reason for this is because over periods of extended storage old oil can develop acidic qualities, which can corrode engine components.

Step 6
Use an oil-squirting device to apply oil over the stationary tubes on the front forks. Get on the bike, hold the front brake and press the front end up and down to work the front suspension. This keeps the rubber seals from drying out and protects the exposed fork tubes.

Step 7
Remove your spark plug wires and remove the plugs. With your oil-squirting device, squirt some motor oil in the cylinders. Approximately one teaspoon of oil will work well. Tuck the plug wires away somewhere safe so they do not arc, then spin the motor with the starter for a few revolutions to get the oil spread around. Remember to keep your face away from the spark plug holes. Oil will squirt out! Clean and gap the plugs, put them back in, and attach the plug wires.

Step 8
You may want to remove the battery. Some batteries may require charging every four weeks with a battery tender type of charger. Built up sulfates on the plates can ruin a battery during cold storage and inactivity. A thin coat of Vaseline to the terminals on the battery can prevent corrosion. This small step will mean an easier spring start up and no extra cost of battery replacement.

Step 9
If your bike has a liquid cooling system, check its level of anti-freeze with a hygrometer. Drain, flush and replace antifreeze if necessary. We suggest this replacement be done every two years. Do not leave the antifreeze level low or empty, this could lead to rust or corrosion of the cooling system. Check all other fluid levels at this time.

Step 10
Lube your cables, suspension, pivot points, and drive shaft if you have one. Also make sure to check the air cleaner and fuel filter, and inspect the brake pads.

Step 11
Clean and treat all leather with a high quality dressing.

Step 12
If your storage location is bare concrete, we suggest using a piece of plywood, MDF, or old thick carpet to insulate the bike from becoming damp. You may also want to remove weight from the tires by placing your motorcycle on a bike stand or placing it on the center stand if you have one.

Step 13
Using a soft clean cloth, wipe a good quality light machine oil over all the metal surfaces, except the disc brakes. Spray WD40 in the exhaust pipe and cover it and the air intake with plastic wrap and a rubber band. You can also cover drain hoses as well to prevent pests from making a nest in your exhaust system.

Step 14
Do not start and run the engine for short periods of time over the storage period because this can lead to condensation due to engine and combustion byproducts in the oil.

By following the above steps you’ll protect your motorcycle during storage so when the riding season gets here you all you have to do is remove the shield or storage cover, check your tire pressure, give the bike a good wash, install the battery if it was removed, remove the plastic cover, give it a good tune up, and you’re ready to ride!

By Mike Schweder

Mike Schweder

Editor-in-Chief - Kansas City, MO

Mike is the original founder of Cycle Connections Online Motorcycle Magazine and an avid motorcycle enthusiast. He has been riding for over 40 years, belongs to several local and national motorcycle organizations and travels to numerous rallies and events throughout the US each year. Mike has been a writer and editor for many years and has a passion for sharing his motorcycling experiences and stories with you. Contact Mike at mikes@cycleconnections.com