How to Prepare a Motorcycle for Winter Storage


Snow, ice and rain are common winter conditions that cause most motorcyclists to delay motorcycle rides for spring.
If you decide to leave your motorcycle to hibernate, it’s a good idea to prepare it beforehand. This will avoid situations such as battery discharge, rusting of the fuel tank, or more serious damage to your favorite two-wheeler.

1. A warm garage for a carefree winter

When it comes to the ideal conditions for your two-wheeled pet to spend the winter, then it would definitely be a dry, warm, airy and secure garage. If you are unable to secure these conditions, do not despair. To avoid expensive repairs in the spring, it is necessary to meet the minimum requirements for maintaining your motorcycle.

A plastic, metal or wooden shed can be a good alternative to a garage if you have enough space in it. However, there is a difference. While a shed will protect the bike from sun, wind, rain and snow, it won’t be as effective against temperature changes. When it comes to temperature fluctuations, a garage that is physically connected to the house will be better because it will be warmer due to heat transmission.

2. Do not delay service

In the spring, there are often crowds in motorcycle repair shops. Avoid them by doing great service in the winter. Before winter, be sure to check all the key mechanical components, regardless of when you plan your ride again.

3. Clean the motorcycle thoroughly

Before storing your motorcycle in the garage, it must be thoroughly washed. Dirt, insects and grease can harm some parts. You can wash plastic and metal parts with dirt and dust remover.

There are specialized cleaning products for grease removal and dust protection. These will best clean your engine and protect it from winter conditions. I recommend using the affordable Meguiar’s Motorcycle Care Kit from Amazon for the best protection of the entire surface.

However, if you are cleaning your bike with regular shampoo or regular detergent, be careful not to damage it. Avoid spraying the liquid directly in the exhaust, and be especially careful with ‘electronics’. Clean the metal parts with the appropriate means, then wax all painted and chrome parts with wax.

After you have cleaned your bike well, it is recommended that you take a last ride that will warm it to its operating temperature. This is essential in order to condense residual moisture from the engine and exhaust.

After you have finished driving and it’s cooled down, remove the spark plugs and pour 25 milliliters of pure engine oil that you normally use for cylinders. Drive the bike without ignition and then engage it in the highest gear. Then replace the spark plugs. This is how you create one type of oil shield.

4. Change oil based on these criteria

Opinions about the oil change are divided and depend on the preferences of the service technician and the driver. Thus, some claim that after a certain mileage, the oil will become contaminated and thus remain contaminated in the engine, causing sediment to form during standstill.

Others say it’s not a bad thing to change it so you can start the new driving season without going to service and oil changes. For those who decide to change the oil, be sure to do so when the engine reaches its operating temperature.

Don’t forget to check the oil level in the brakes, which you can do several times a year. If you haven’t changed the brake fluid or clutch oil in the last two years or 19,000 miles, now is a great time to do it. The fluids in these systems absorb moisture, which could otherwise lead to corrosion or subsequent problems.

As brake fluid can damage the paint and plastic, protect these surfaces during the replacement and refilling process. If there is little liquid and drip where not needed, immediately clean the area with a mild detergent and some water.

5. Prevent the accumulation of dirt

Empty the fuel tank and spray the inside with anti-corrosion agent. If you have a fuel injection model, you can fill the tank up to the fuel filler cap.

For all those who are sure that the engine will not run for more than 3 months, you can empty the tank and close all the inlet valves. Otherwise, the fuel may form a precipitate that could clog the inlets. When you add stabilizers, you prevent such a scenario from happening to your engine, but also from moisture accumulating in the fuel tank.

When operating the fuel supply system, select rooms with good ventilation. Do not approach cigarette butts in workplaces where you hold gasoline, and avoid flames and sparks. Proper preparation of a fuel tank is vital when preparing a motorcycle for winter. There are two ways to prepare your storage tank:

  1. The first method is to completely empty the tank, and if you choose this approach, spray the inside of the tank with anti-corrosion agents.
  2. The second method (recommended for fuel injection models) involves filling the tank to the top (literally to the shutter) with “fresh” fuel. If you are sure for at least 4 to 6 weeks, add a stabilizer or similar means to the tank before refueling. If the standstill period is longer than 3 months, completely empty the tank and close all valves on the inlet.

When the fuel is stored in the tank for a long time, it breaks down, that is, it creates a deposit that can clog the inlets and even penetrate the carburetor itself. Adding a stabilizer prevents such a thing and also prevents the accumulation of moisture in the tank.

6. Take care of the battery

During the winter sleep of your engine, it is advisable to remove the battery especially if temperatures fall below zero. From time to time, you can turn on the battery to recharge.

If you do not have time to do this, there are smart chargers that control the voltage and charge the battery as needed. I use this 12 volt automatic battery charger (link to Amazon) that prevents overcharging.

7. Check the cooling system

To keep your engine quiet in the garage during the winter, regularly check the coolant and antifreeze. The coolant should be changed annually to protect the engine from freezing, to prevent corrosion within the cooling system and the radiator. If your motorcycle has a water cooler and the fluid has not changed in the last two years or 38,600 miles, now is the right time.

The coolant must be clean and mixed with distilled water in a specified proportion. If you are not sure what temperature your liquid can withstand without freezing, check the measuring devices that can now be purchased at any auto parts store. If the coolant is frozen, it will expand, which can permanently damage the engine.

Use distilled water to make adequate mixtures, because only in them will you not find minerals that in the second case can lead to reaction with aluminum parts of the engine and radiator and lead to corrosion.

If the planned standstill period of the motorcycle is more than 6 months, completely drain the fluid from the system, thus completely preventing corrosion. It is important not to forget to replenish the liquid after this time. If the fluid is fresh, you can store it for later.

8. Cover the motorcycle

After you’ve done the necessary preparations for the winter, it is advisable to cover the bike with a suitable cover. Motorcycle tarpaulins are available in many stores, and protect the engine from rain, dust, moisture, and rust and mildew that could cause damage. Cotton fiber is not a good substitute for tarpaulin as it retains moisture.

Moisture retention results in rusting and mold formation, which should be avoided. It is important that your bike is on a dry surface. Condensation from the substrate retained by the tarpaulin can occur on concrete or natural substrate, which can rust the material. If this is possible, it would be best to put the engine on a specialized stand.

This is the motorcycle cover that I’ve been using for the past 2 years to keep my Suzuki dry and ready in any conditions, and it works like a charm.

9. Prevent bike theft

Your motorcycle may be sleeping in the winter, but thieves are awake. Some ways to protect your motorcycle are by placing a padlock, alarm or even a bike chain. Here’s a full guide on security products for motorcycles.

There are also wheel locks that can be placed on both wheels that prevent the motorcycle from being driven, although it could still be lifted up and placed in another vehicle. Removing the battery will also help in the same way.

Either way, it’s recommended to keep it inside a garage or behind locked doors in general, whether inside or in the yard.

10. Cylinders (internal corrosion protection)

Cylinder walls can rust if the engine has not been running for more than a few weeks. The first thing to do is start the motorcycle and bring it back to normal operating temperature to allow the moisture to evaporate.

It would be ideal to drive it a bit and then turn it off. After the motorcycle has cooled down, remove the spark plug (s) and pour about 25 milliliters (one tablespoon) of pure engine oil from the one you normally use into the cylinder (s).

Manually “drive” the bike while inserting into the highest gear. This will create a kind of oil pan in the engine and then replace the spark plugs.

Final Word: How to Prepare Motorcycle for Winter Storage

Preparing a motorcycle for winter storage involves a few steps. First of them is finding a relatively airy, yet warm garage or a similar area where you’ll store the motorcycle.

Secondly service your bike by following the steps outlined in this article. Mainly changing the oil, lubing the chain and the cables, running a fuel stabilizer and removing the battery. Lithium battery should be charged during a long break because if they are drained completely sometimes they won’t work at all.

Lastly, make sure to prevent your bike from being stolen. Secure your garage door and use additional motorcycle security methods to keep the bad guys away at any time of the year.

Extra tip – Check out the following motorcycle winter storage tutorial for a rundown of these tips and a few others:

Luka Barron

Motorcycle mechanic, writer and Heineken lover. A bit like Hank Moody on a Suzuki.

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