Whenever you store your motorcycle for an extended period, a little TLC up front will save you time and money when it’s time to put that bike back on the road. Lots of motorcycle shops profit every spring from owners’ failure to prep their machines for the off-season. We recommend the following steps to prepare your bike for long-term (more than a month) storage. For a few bonus tips, check out the video down below.
Long-Term Motorcycle Winterization Storage
1. Surface Prep
Give your bike a thorough cleaning before putting it away — letting bug guts or water spots sit on your paint can corrode the finish. Wash your bike and dry it completely to get all the moisture off the surfaces, then add a coat of wax, which will act as a barrier against moisture and rust. You might also consider using a corrosion inhibitor like Scottoiler FS365 to protect plastic, metal, rubber, carbon fiber and anodized surfaces from oxidation and/or corrosion.
2. Tend to the Battery
Your battery is a vital part of your motorcycle. While you may not think about it much, you’ll quickly become aware of it when it’s not functioning properly. Proper maintenance and storage will help you get the longest possible service life from this critical and costly part of your bike.
For starters, check the battery fluid level. (This step applies only if you have a lead acid battery with the screw-on type caps on top.) Low battery acid causes sulfation that can lead to a short between the internal plates. This is a common failure for this type of battery, and it’s the result of neglect. If you never check the fluid level until there’s a problem, by that time, it’s usually too late to restore the battery.
Maintenance-free batteries are not exactly as the name suggests. While the fluid level of this battery cannot be adjusted because it is sealed, these batteries still require upkeep in the off-season. Warm storage and periodic charging will provide you with the longest service life from your battery. Battery maintenance systems like the Battery Tender Junior or Oxford Oximiser 600 will keep your battery as fresh as possible when not in use.
3. Prep the Fuel System
You’ve probably all heard (or have experienced yourself) horror stories of pricey carburetor or injector repairs needed after fuel was left stagnant in a motorcycle for too long. With the introduction of ethanol into today’s fuels, storage has become an issue whether it be your motorcycle or your lawn mower. Ethanol is much more hygroscopic than regular gasoline, meaning it holds dissolved or suspended water. This can lead to component corrosion, gum, varnish and carbon deposits that wreak havoc in both carbureted and fuel-injected systems.
The best way to deal with this is to fill your tank and treat your fuel and fuel system with an additive that is specifically designed to deal with the problems created by ethanol fuels. Star Tron Enzyme Fuel Treatment by StarBrite and Sta-Bil Ethanol Fuel Treatment are both proven products that will help you avoid fuel system problems while your motorcycle is taking its nap. If you don’t already use one of these products on a regular basis, be sure to take your bike for a short ride after adding the product, to get the treatment completely into the fuel system before storing the bike.
Carbureted motorcycles need special consideration, even if the fuel is properly treated. Carburetors vent directly to the atmosphere, which means that the fuel left in them will evaporate, leaving behind a thin film that will restrict the flow of fuel through the small jets and other fuel passages. The best preparation for carbureted systems is to run fuel treatment into the system, switch the petcock to the “off” position (if it’s not a vacuum unit), and then drain the carburetors. For vacuum petcock systems, you only need to drain the carburetors.
4. Replace Engine Oil
Many riders are not aware that the motor oil in their engine not only acts as a lubricant, but also aids in the filtration system. The oil holds small particles in suspension until they reach the filter, where most of them will be trapped and removed from circulation. One major deposit that ends up suspended in your motor oil is carbon. Carbon is created in the combustion chamber and is pushed past the piston rings every time a cylinder is fired. When a motorcycle is put into storage with used motor oil, the carbon will slowly separate and rise to the surface. This deposit is extremely corrosive and will cause etching on metal surfaces, such as transmission gears and bearings.
The engine oil and filter should be replaced before storage to remove dirty oil and the harmful carbon deposits suspended within it. Bel-Ray, Maxima and K&N all offer top-quality products to help keep the inside of your engine clean.
5. Don’t Forget the Tires!
Ever think about your tires when you’re putting your bike away for a while? If not, you should – tires are porous and will lose air while in storage. A soft or flat tire will develop a permanent flat spot if left weighted in one position for an extended period of time.
Prevent this by storing your motorcycle on its center stand (if it has one) or paddock stands, like these front and rear Elevation Paddock Stands from R&G Racing. If neither one of these are an option, consider slightly overinflating the tires and moving the bike from time to time, so the tire is not in the same position for months on end.
6. Cover It Up
A properly fitting motorcycle cover provides both outdoor and indoor protection. Indoors, it will protect your bike’s paint and body from abrasive dust as well as minor impacts that can occur when a bike is in storage. It will also keep moisture out so it doesn’t get trapped underneath and create corrosion or rust.
Mice and other rodents are notorious for hiding inside exhaust pipes and making nests out of air filters. To avoid any furry surprises when it’s time to ride again, try covering up your air intake and exhaust opening(s) with plastic bags. Just don’t forget remove the bags before you fire up the bike! Strategically placed moth balls will also help keep those nasty, wire-eating mice away.