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Winterizing Your Motorcycle - Preparing It For Storage

Disclaimer: The author and website owner are not responsible for any errors or incorrect procedures or advice in this document. By using this document and following the procedures and advice below, the user assumes all risk and responsibility for injury or damage to their motorcycle. The author is not a motorcycle mechanic and has received no formal training in motorcycle servicing. You should consult your owner’s manual and / or service manual for information specific to your bike.

The purpose of preparing your motorcycle for storage is to limit deterioration while it is not in use. Proper preparation will help ensure that your motorcycle is in optimal condition when you return it to service. If you were to simply park your bike for six months without prepping it first, likely you would have trouble getting it to start and / or to run properly later; the finish on your bike may have also deteriorated. A little preventative maintenance will go a long way to preserve your bike’s condition. There’s not that much you need to do.

Before putting your motorcycle away for the season you may also wish to perform any other maintenance that it requires such as checking fasteners, lubricating cables and pivots, cleaning or replacing the air filter, changing brake fluid, etc. You should consult your owner’s manual and / or the service manual for information specific to your bike.

The Steps...
  1. Stabilize the fuel with fuel stabilizer. Either add the stabilizer directly to the gas tank (with gas in it) or premix it with gas in a gas can and then add it to the gas tank. The label on the fuel stabilizer container will indicate the proper ratio of stabilizer to gas. You will need to know the capacity of the bike’s gas tank. I prefer to premix, add the concentrated stabilized gas to the tank and then slosh it around by rocking the bike back and forth while holding the front brake lever. Mostly fill up your gas tank, but don’t completely fill it yet, otherwise you can’t effectively mix it when you rock the bike. You will top up the gas tank later. If you prefer to drain your fuel tank prior to storage (such as when storing the bike inside your house, for instance), and if you have a metal gas tank, it may be a good idea to coat the inside of the empty tank with engine oil to prevent the formation of any rust. Note that it may not be practical to completely drain the fuel systems on some motorcycles, so it may still be necessary to run stabilized fuel through the fuel system (consider the fuel pump, fuel lines, and fuel injectors).
  2. Change the oil and replace the oil filter.
  3. If you have a liquid cooled bike, and the bike will be stored in extremely cold temperatures, you may want to check your coolant and / or replace it to ensure that it will not freeze (see your owner’s manual).
  4. Wash the bike well and dry it. Dirt retains moisture which will hasten rusting. You may also want to wax the painted surfaces.
  5. Run the bike (if the fuel system has not been completely drained). The bike should be run long enough after the fuel stabilizer has been added so that stabilized fuel makes it through the entire fuel system. The time required will vary from bike to bike. I prefer to ride my bikes that have fuel injection and / or a fuel pump for at least 10 minutes. A bike with a simpler fuel system, like one with a gravity fed carburetor, does not need to be run as long – really it just needs to be run long enough to bring the engine up to operating temperature (and heat up the exhaust system) after washing the bike to help dry it out and to limit the amount of condensation in the muffler(s) before putting it away and to ensure that the stabilized fuel makes it to the carburetor. If, for whatever reason, the bike is not going to be run with stabilized fuel before putting it away, you can just drain the carburetor and then prime it with the stabilized fuel (and then draining it again).
  6. Allow the bike to cool down.
  7. If the motorcycle is going to be stored for a very long time it’s not a bad idea to pour a bit of engine oil into each cylinder through the spark plug hole, and then turn the engine over a few times (consult your owner’s and service manual for proper procedures).
  8. If the bike is carbureted drain the carburetor(s). If gas is permitted to evaporate in the carburetor(s), a varnish like residue will form in it, and if that happens the carburetors(s) will likely have to be removed and cleaned later.
  9. Remove the battery if it has one (see owner’s manual). Store the battery in a cool, dry place. It should be charged up at least once a month while not in use. Use a charger suitable for motorcycle batteries.
  10. If the bike has chain drive, clean and adjust the chain if necessary. Lubricate the chain well.
  11. Top up the gas tank (if not storing with a completely drained fuel system – see step 1) to reduce the amount of air space in the tank. This will help reduce the amount of condensation that may form in the tank. Water in a steel tank will cause it to rust.
  12. Use a light oil or WD-40 to coat bare metal and chromed surfaces like the exhaust system, the inner fork tubes, the filler neck of the gas tank and some fasteners.
  13. Inflate the tires to the recommended pressures.
  14. Park the motorcycle in a secure place where it won’t be as exposed to the elements. A heated garage would be ideal, but at least park it in a dry spot if possible. Put the motorcycle up on the centre stand if it has one or use a maintenance stand(s) to keep the tires off the ground during storage. If these are not options then I would suggest repositioning the bike every so often so that the bike does not rest on the same spot on your tires all the time to help preserve the shape of them.
  15. Cover the bike with a breathable cover.
To return your motorcycle to use after storing it:
  1. Wipe off any oil film and / or wash the motorcycle.
  2. Inflate the tires to the recommended pressures.
  3. Install the battery after it has been fully charged (see your owner’s manual).
  4. Visually check it over.
  5. Start the bike up and make sure all lights and controls are fully functional.