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Since 1999, the #1 Motorcycling Magazine for Women and the Men Who Ride with Them









Storing Your Motorcycle for Winter

What you should and shouldn't do to protect your bike during the colder months

By Sara Liberte

Depending on where you live, you might have to store your motorcycle during the winter months. If so, there are several things you should do to care for your bike properly during the cold season. Putting a cover on it is just one part. Before you do that, you must prepare your motorcycle adequately for all the time it will be parked in a garage or storage area unused. 

Here's are five recommendations to prepare your motorcycle for winter storage.

1. Buy a motorcycle cover and use it.
A cover protects your motorcycle from dust while it's being stored inside; and it protects from the elements if the bike is being stored outside. A cover is a good investment to have as a motorcycle owner. If you're only going to use it for inside storage you don't need to one that's waterproof. But you're using it to cover your motorcycle while it's outside, getting one that is waterproof and offers UV protection is the way to go. 

Below are several we recommend that have been used by Women Riders Now over the years. 

There are a variety of motorcycle covers to choose from, including these two from Tour Master. The left "Journey" cover is made of UV protective material and starting at $37.99. The high-end "Elite" cover on the right, starting at $68.99, has heat panels to protect the cover from hot parts on the bike and is 100 percent waterproof. It’s also breathable, which allows air to get through so no moisture builds up when temperatures change. No moisture, no rust.

storing motorcycle for winter motorcycle cover
Invest in a good quality motorcycle cover like this one from Dowco, one that fits completely over your bike, to protect it from dust. This is the Guardian Weatherall Plus starting at 88.99.

2. Add fuel stabilizer.
The first thing to do when storing a fuel-injected motorcycle is to add fuel stabilizer to the fuel tank. Make sure the tank is full of gas. Turn on the bike and let it run idle with the stabilizer in the tank for a few minutes. This allows the stabilizer to work into the injectors and will help to prevent the fuel from gunking up the injectors.

If you have a carbureted motorcycle, follow the same directions as with a fuel-injected bike to allow the fuel stabilizer to work its way into the carburetor and help to prevent the fuel from clogging up the jets inside the carb. Once this is done, be sure to turn the petcock to the “off” position.

If your garage or storage area is not heated and prone to moisture (condensation), it's best to drain all gas from the carburetor. This is important because fuel, after sitting for a while in extreme temperatures, can build up or "gum" up. This can lead to the clogging of jets, needles, and everything else inside your motorcycle’s carburetor. If you don't feel confident doing it yourself, have your local shop drain the carburetor for you. If you’d like to tackle the job yourself, your service manual will walk you through the steps to get the job done.

You can purchase fogging oil (usually priced $3.99–$7.99) and fuel stabilizer ($4.99 and up) inexpensively at your local motorcycle shop or automotive store.
You can purchase fogging oil (usually priced $3.99–$7.99) and fuel stabilizer ($4.99 and up) inexpensively at your local motorcycle shop or automotive store.

3. Check the tire air pressure.
Ensure the tires are registering the correct PSI before storing. PSI information is located on your frame tag and in your service manual. The maximum pressure is listed on the tire sidewall.

One of the easiest tasks for maintaining your bike is checking the tire pressure. It’s a good habit to get into before every ride, not just when bringing your motorcycle out of storage.
One of the easiest tasks for maintaining your bike is checking the tire pressure. It’s a good habit to get into before every ride, not just when bringing your motorcycle out of storage.

When storing the bike for a long time period—more than two or three months—prop up the bike with a motorcycle floor jack so no pressure is on the tires. The K&L MC550 is a good floor motorcycle lift that you could use.

If you don't want to use a lift, move the bike back and forth during storage to prevent the tires from getting flat spots that result when the bike remains in the same position for too long. Garage gadgets like the Pit Stop/Trailer Stop from Condor, and the Wheel Jockey make it easy to move a motorcycle around a garage and into tight spaces.

storing motorcycle for winter wheel jockey
The Wheel Jockey is a cool gadget that easily moves the wheels of a motorcycle without actually moving the bike. Read more about the Wheel Jockey in this article on WRN.

storing motorcycle for winter bike lift MC550
K&L Supply, and Kendon are two companies that offer quality motorcycle lifts. Using a lift is a safe way to get motorcycle wheels off the ground for winter storage. Lifts can also be used for cleaning or doing repair work or maintenance. The K&L MC550 pictured here has a 1,200-pound capacity.

4. Consider pulling spark plugs.
When storing the bike for several months, consider pulling out the spark plugs and spraying fogging oil into the cylinders to prevent rust from forming. Knowledgable homegrown mechanics can follow these instructions. First, remove the spark plug wires from the plug. Use a wrench or socket and ratchet to remove the spark plug. Check your service manual for wrench size.

Spray a light amount of fogging oil straight into the cylinder via the spark plug opening. Dab a little anti-seize (lubricant used to protect bolts, nuts, threaded fittings, and gaskets under extreme loads and temperatures) on the spark plug threads and replace the plug. Check your service manual for the proper torque on the plug when tightening it. Do not over-tighten. If you're not sure what you're doing, have a technician help you with this. 

5. Keep the battery on a charger.
Motorcycle batteries should not sit idle for more than a few weeks at a time, according to motorcycle battery manufacturers. It is very important to charge the battery when your bike sits for longer than a few weeks at a time because the cells inside can lose their current rather quickly. Older batteries that use vent tubes should be removed from the bike for optimal battery maintenance, as removal prevents battery acid from spilling out and damaging your bike (or you) if the battery gets overcharged.  

Most batteries today, however, are a sealed acid type, meaning they don’t use a vent tube and so it’s impossible for acid to escape. If you have a sealed battery, it is safe to charge your battery while it is in your bike. The best way to charge the battery is by using a battery trickle charger like Deltran's Battery Tender. I like the Battery Tender Jr. from Deltran as it comes with a wiring pigtail, which connects directly to the battery terminals, and the connector can now be accessed without having to remove the seat. These items make charging your motorcycle’s battery very convenient, so now you have no excuse for not charging the battery while your bike is in winter storage.

storing motorcycle for winter battery tender
The most convenient way to keep a motorcycle battery charged is with a trickle charger. This Battery Tender Jr. from Deltran (priced at $39.95) has a pigtail wire harness that creates easy access, as there's no need to remove the seat.

The Battery Tender will switch from “charge” to “float” (meaning it will charge when needed and shut itself off on a full charge), so you also don't have to worry about overcharging your battery. One of the best investments you can make is a trickle charger. It will help you protect your investment (i.e., your battery) by ensuring a long and fully charged life. New motorcycle batteries are expensive. If you take care of your current one properly, you won't need a new one until the old one is completely worn out.

storing motorcycle for winter v star 250
Properly maintaining your motorcycle during the winter months ensures you're out on your motorcycle more quickly come springtime. This woman is riding a 2017 Yamaha V Star 250.

Bringing Your Bike Out of Storage 
If you prep and store your bike yourself, be mindful of the following things: 

1.When it's time to bring your bike out of storage put it into first gear, disengage the clutch, and push the bike back and forth a few times. This will ensure the clutch is working properly, and you won't have to worry about the bike moving at initial start-up. 

2. Make sure your bike’s battery is fully charged. If you are using a trickle charger, the green light will indicate a charged battery. If you didn't use a trickle charger, cross your fingers that the bike will start. You can check the voltage by using a voltmeter. Refer to your service manual for proper voltage.

3. Remove and inspect the spark plugs and change them if needed. It is a good idea to take a look at the plugs before initial fire-up, as they could have rust on them or be fouled out from last season, in which case they’d be very black in color. A fresh set of plugs never hurts. 

4. Clean out the air filter. You'd be surprised how much junk can collect in the air filter while a bike is in storage. If the filter is dirty (black or with grime on it), then replace it. If you are a using a cleanable filter, such as one from K&N, use your cleaner and filter oil to freshen that back to life.

5. Start the engine and let it reach normal running temperature. After the motorcycle has run for a few minutes, shut it off and then check the oil level. It's important to check the level after the bike has run for a few minutes to give the oil a chance to lubricate the various parts of the bike. If your motorcycle is not due for an oil change (usually about every 5,000 miles, but check your service manual) then add oil if the dipstick indicates a low level.

If you aren’t comfortable storing your own bike or doing things like removing spark plugs and the air filter, check with your local motorcycle shop to see what storage options are offered and kind of maintenance is included. Some will prep and store your bike for the winter months and have it ride-ready for you when spring rolls around.
  
About the Author:
Sara Liberte is the author of "How to Repair and Maintain American V-Twin Motorcycles" and the creator of Garage-Girls.com, a website developed to encourage women to maintain a balance between their motorcycles and bodies. She is also creative producer for RallyTVOnline.com and a professional photographer (SaraLiberte.com). Sara rides a 1996 Harley-Davidson Sportster.   

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