Tips for Storing Your Motorcycle Over Winter
By Wesley Pestana | Updated Oct 10, 2019
Not so long ago (or maybe it was and I’m getting old!), people used to use their motorcycles all year, often because it was their only transport. But things have changed and motorcycle use has swung more towards recreational use and for some, only in the summer.
So storing your motorcycle over the winter period is something that many now consider the norm, but what points do you need to consider before doing this?
Firstly: You will be storing your motorcycle in winter because of the wet, damp and cold weather, so the first priority is to protect your motorcycle from the elements.
Second, while you’ve been using your motorcycle, mud and crud will have got into all the nooks and crannies, so it’s important to give your motorcycle a thorough clean before storing it.
Third, you need to pay attention to the mechanical parts of your motorcycle and make sure they are ready for storage.
Where to Store Your Motorcycle Over Winter
Ideally, you will have a garage or shed to store your motorcycle over winter.
A garage is perfect as it gives you space to work on your motorcycle out of the elements. In addition, you can either heat the garage or maybe install a dehumidifier to keep damp away. Your garage will also have electricity, which will help you take care of your battery during storage. This is the ultimate in winter motorcycle storage, which only a few bikers will have available.
Second-best is a shed, that may not have space to easily work on your motorcycle, but it will be dry and you will have space for some minor maintenance. If you haven’t the space for a shed, maybe the innovative Hidey Hood Motorcycle Shelter would be suitable?
For many, however, your motorcycle has to be stored outside. Although it’s not the best option, there are things you can do to improve the situation. Maybe you can build a lean-to shelter to keep the worst of the weather off? In any case, you will need a quality motorcycle cover. The cover should be waterproof, windproof and of good quality to last several winters. This XYZCTEM motorcycle cover on Amazon.com is the ideal type of cover to protect your motorcycle in winter.
Once you have a place to protect your motorcycle from the elements, you need to consider what is required to prepare it for winter. Just leaving your motorcycle standing really is asking for trouble in the spring.
Preparing Your Motorcycle for Winter
The aim here is to remove mud or dirt, treat vulnerable areas with protective coatings and make sure all the fluids are topped up. So what’s first?
Change the Oil and Filter
Your motorcycle engine oil serves a couple of main purposes, first, to lubricate of course, but it also filters out harmful deposits by holding them in suspension until the oil reaches the filter. One of the most harmful deposits is carbon, created during combustion. If you store a motorcycle with old oil, the carbon deposits will slowly separate from the oil and they are highly corrosive. The carbon deposits will cause etching damage to any surface inside your engine, including gears and bearings. Drain your oil, replace the filter and refill the oil to the recommended level before putting your motorcycle in winter storage.
Modern ethanol fuels are hygroscopic, which put simply means your fuel will absorb and hold water. If left untreated, the water can cause serious damage to both carburetor and fuel injection systems, leaving you with an expensive repair bill. This can also cause gumming and leave deposits on delicate fuel system components.
The first method of protection is to use an ethanol fuel treatment additive, such as Star Tron Enzyme fuel treatment. Not only is this type of product good for storage, but you can use it year-round to protect your motorcycle’s fuel system. Simply put the recommended quantity of additive into your fuel and run the engine for a few minutes or better still go for a ride.
Carburetors have a particular issue, that even with an additive in the fuel will not cure. Because carburetors are vented to the atmosphere, the fuel will evaporate and leave behind a film. It’s known as gumming up and restricts the flow of fuel in the system. To counteract this, run your engine with the additive as described above and then drain the fuel from the carburetors.
Now top your fuel to the very brim of the tank, adding extra additive as required. This will prevent condensation from forming on the inside surfaces of your tank and causing it to rust.
Clean Your Motorcycle Carefully
By this, I don’t mean a quick hose down and dry with a chamois. This is a great time to give your motorcycle a thorough clean and at the same time check it for damage or wear and tear. Depending on your skills, remove as much as possible. At the very least remove seats, fairing side panels and anything that is easy to disconnect. The more the better. Clean everything thoroughly using a specific cleaner such as this Muc Off motorcycle cleaner.
Once the motorcycle is completely clean, use a wax polish such as this dry wash system to protect all surfaces from damp and corrosion.
Storing Your Motorcycle for Winter
Now you have a spotlessly clean motorcycle, with a coating of wax to protect the finish, fresh oil and additive in your fuel system, you can just put the cover on and forget it, right? Not yet!
Look After Your Motorcycle Battery
Batteries are designed to be charged and discharged continuously, so storing your motorcycle and neglecting your battery will mean it won’t start in the spring. Even if your battery says maintenance free on it, that is not strictly true!
First, take the battery off your motorcycle, and if needed top up the fluid level with distilled or deionized water. This step only applies on batteries with screw caps that you can remove. If your battery does not have them, it is maintenance-free.
Second, find a warm, dry location to store your battery, preferably close to a power outlet so that you can charge the battery periodically. Now clean the battery terminals so that the charger has a good connection.
To maintain a good charge level, you either need to charge periodically or better still buy a battery conditioning charger, such as the Mroinge trickle charger. This type of charger can be left connected permanently and will maintain the battery at the optimum level of charge automatically.
Don't Forget Your Motorcycle Tyres
As the only contact surface between your motorcycle and the road, it really pays to consider your tyres when storing your motorcycle. First, using a cover not only protects your motorcycle, but also shields your tyres from the damaging rays of the sun. Your tyres do have a limited usable life and on the side of every tyre is a manufacturing date.
Tires will generally last around five years after the “born on” date stamped on the side. The born on date is a code, such as 24|18. This code means the tire was born in the 24th week of the year 2018. Now, although tire manufacturers give a life span of five years or so, if the tire is left exposed to sun and the elements, that time can be significantly reduced.
Before storing your motorcycle, check your tires. There’s no need to replace them until you want to start riding again, but at least you will know.
When you store your motorcycle, the best option for your tires is to use paddock stands or jacks to lift the weight from the tires. If you don’t have stands, then periodically move your motorcycle to transfer the weight to another part of the tire.
Tires can slowly deflate over time, and if you don’t move your motorcycle, it could eventually cause a flat spot on the tire which would make the tire unusable. There’s no problem with increasing the tire pressure slightly before you store your motorcycle, and check the pressures now and them.
Remember to cover the intakes and exhaust, either by pushing a rag into them or zip-tying a plastic bag over them. This prevents moisture and animals getting in.
While your motorcycle is in storage, don’t be tempted to start it. A short engine run is very bad for your bike, as it produces moisture in the engine and exhaust system that will cause damage and you’ve just added damaging carbon back into your oil. Don’t do it!
Coming Out of Storage
Even with the best storage preparation, remember that before you first ride your motorcycle in the spring, give it a good check over.
Check the oil level, brake and clutch fluid levels.
Check the tire pressures and inspect the tires for damage. Who knows how many animals have had a quick nibble on the rubber!
Make sure all the controls operate smoothly.
Push the bike around and check the brakes are working.
Go for a low, gentle ride for just a few miles and then come home and check the bike again.
If everything is working, have a great summer of riding!
Tips for Storing Your Motorcycle Over Winter
So there we have it. Your guide to keeping your bike safely stored over the freezing winter months. We hope you enjoyed reading it and most importantly, that you learned something. See you in summer!