Motorcycle Forums » General

Winterizing Your Motorcycle

    • 5417 posts
    March 6, 2009 1:27 PM PST

    Getting Your Motorcycle Ready For Winter


    Yep, winter is almost here (even though it seems like summer just got here), and for a lot of riders that means the bike is going to be sitting idle for a few months. To ensure your motorcycle is ready for that first spring ride when you are, you will want to take a little time to prepare it to sit quietly in the garage.


    The Gas


    There is a really good chance that just leaving the gas in your tank as is, your bike will still start in the spring after a few months of storage. However the gas may not be all that good, and could cause poor performance or even foul out your spark plugs requiring them to be replaced. Be taking a couple of precautionary steps you can help ensure your gas is ready to go when your are next spring.

    Fill your Gas tank to the top. The less air in your tank, the less likely that water will condense inside the tank (a result of falling and/or fluctuating temperatures) and get in your gas. You also will want to add a good commercial fuel additive (following the directions on the container). This will help maintain the quality of the fuel during the winter.


    The Oil


    The last thing you want to do is put your bike down for the winter with dirty oil. Any dirt in the oil system will settle and clump over time and when you start your engine for the first time in the spring, these hardened clumps of dirt will circulate through your motorcycle's lubricating system clogging and scratching as they go.

    This is an easy one to take care of... Before putting your motorcycle away for the winter, change all of your fluids and filters. This includes the engine oil and filter as well as the transmission fluid and primary fluid. Once you have done this take your bike out for one last ride, or if you missed the last chance to do this run the engine at varying speeds in the garage. This will ensure the cleans fluids have circulated through the engine and the oil filter has picked up any remaining dirt and debris.


    The Battery


    Today's sealed, maintenance-free batteries don't require a lot of attention. But by keeping them fully charged you can almost always increase their lifespan. You may want to remove your motorcycle's battery and store it in a place with less of a temperature change then it will experience in the garage. Whether you keep the battery in your bike or not, it's a good idea to connect it to a battery tender during storage keeping it well charged during the winter.


    The Tires


    The best situation would be to store your motorcycle on some sort of lift, with the weight off the tires. Storing with the tires off the ground and slightly less than normal air pressure will help prevent flat spots and and cracks in the rubber where they bulge at the bottom. If this is not an option, you will want to move you motorcycle a slight bit every couple of weeks to change the area of the tires that are sitting on the ground. If the bike is stored on the ground, be sure to check the tire pressure and ensure they are inflated to the proper level according to your owners manual.


    The Cosmetics


    It's a good idea to give your bike a really good cleaning and wax job before putting it away for the winter. This will help protect the paint and chrome. For hints and how to give your bike a good cleaning, check out our Tech Tip on Cleaning Your Motorcycle.


    You also want to cover your bike to help keep dust and dirt from settling in places almost impossible to clean. We recommend using a proper motorcycle cover available from your dealer or motorcycle shop. Just be sure that whatever you cover your bike with is a breathable fabric (such as an old bed sheet) that will keep out dust but still allow moisture to escape. Never use a plastic sheet to cover your motorcycle for an extended period of time...this will trap in the moisture that accumulates during temperature changes and cause your bike to rust.


    In The Spring


    When spring gets here and you are ready to ride again, be sure to give your motorcycle a complete inspection BEFORE your first ride. Tips on inspecting your bike can be found in our Tech Tip on Basic Motorcycle Inspection.


    • Moderator
    • 16614 posts
    September 28, 2009 12:00 PM PDT
    Once again Lucky has come up with some valuable info. Way to go Dude. Although I live in PA I never really put Rex away for the winter. I keep a battery tender on him and a full tank of gas with a little of that alcohol additive for moisture for those few days of good riding. Some friends and I try to ride every last and first day (weather permitting) so he has to be ready even if I am not.
    • 191 posts
    October 3, 2009 4:07 AM PDT
    I have a question about disconnecting the battery while in storage. If the motorcycle has a digitally displayed odometer, will leaving the battery disconnected for an extended period of time, will that affect the display or is there some kind of back up? Any insight would be appreciated.
    • 1 posts
    October 3, 2009 4:39 AM PDT
    Good question... The vitals of the bike will remained stored even with the battery disconnected for a long period of time (odometer & security PIN). However on the newer bikes with clock in the display, you may need to reset the clock. On the baggers with stereos, you will loose you preset radio stations.
    • Moderator
    • 16614 posts
    October 4, 2009 1:12 AM PDT
    I think it is a good idea to run the engine occasionally but I have one warning. I noticed that in the winter when I was riding to work (a short 2 mile run) the engine never got really hot enough to boil out the condensation in the exhaust and engine oil tank. As you know this will shorten the life of exhaust and engine components. I noticed this when I checked my engine oil and saw that muddy brown gravy looking goo on the dip stick. So I suggest if you do run the engine be sure it is long enough to get the engine hot enough to get rid of the condensate. Actually driving my bike the short distance was probably most of the problem. It would allow the engine to run a lot cooler. So if you have an oil temp guage get the temp up around 250 degrees. Of course this applies to air cooled engines. I have no experience with bikes with radiators.

  • September 21, 2010 10:42 AM PDT
    Wow, it's been a year since the last post here and it was mine.

    Well now I have another question. Last year when my bike sat I had a rat or mouse crawl in the muffler and die. Luckily I noticed the smell of the dead animal and tracked it down before starting the bike.

    So my question is...Will it do any harm if I plug my exhaust with rags during winter storage?
    • 1 posts
    September 22, 2010 3:29 AM PDT
    Wow, that's a new one. never heard of a rodent crawling in the mufflers before. Although I have heard of squirrels crawling up in car engines and chewing on the wires.

    With a rag, you may just be providing bedding. However I am not sure if I would use a plug that provided an air tight seal. I would think that would trap moisture as the temp went up and down and cause rusting, and/or condensation to build up. I would recommend getting a couple pieces of nylon window screen and cover the exhaust with them using rubber bands to hold them in places.
    • 844 posts
    November 10, 2010 6:49 AM PST
    When I was working off-shore I had to sometimes store my bike for a couple of months. One other thing I would recommend is to spray the tires with WD40 to keep the rubber soft. By the time you are ready to ride, the oil should have completely absorbed leaving no slippery film.
  • November 1, 2011 4:10 AM PDT
    I see you recommend filling the tank to the top, but a buddy of mine suggested draining it all the way and just putting fresh gas in when I ready to ride.

    Any feedback on this?
  • November 1, 2011 9:09 AM PDT
    An empty tank has all washed steel surfaces open to the air which carries the moisture that will cause the steel to rust. As the air pressure raises and lowers the open air space "Breathes" the moisture into the tank and the cool tank can condence the moisture. A full tank will not breath as the gas fumes will pressurize the vent and hold moisture out and a treated gas will also protect the steel. Fill it and use Stabil.....
    • 1855 posts
    October 3, 2012 1:36 AM PDT
    Chaps? Just kidding. I have a wood burner in my garage and that's where I keep the bikes. They are also parked on a carpet remnant to separate the bikes from the concrete; a little known detriment to the underside of any vehicle. I move them around when it's too nasty to ride so they aren't sitting on the same spot on the tires. If for some reason the wood burner isn't doing the job I do not periodically start them over the long cold spells as I will have already removed the battery. I do not treat the gas. I loosen the gas cap and cover the tank. This prevents condensation. I just make all is "fresh" when it is good to go. I remember the days when all I had to ride was a motorcycle and it was an adventure in w central Ohio.

  • December 5, 2012 6:45 AM PST
    don't have to winterize here as we only have a couple of weeks we cant ride... but read with all this mixed gas now... be sure to fill the tank as said before, but if ya have gasahaul (sp) it will separate over time and actually attract moisture to rust the tank, even if full... so gas stabilizer is a must... for those that think starting the bike every couple of weeks or so helps... stop... as the bike sits for periods of time the oil drains to the bottem of the engine... starting and the first few rev's the top end is running with no oil, causing wear, with the really cold oil temps of winter.. this just gets worse.. causing excessive wear on un-lubed parts... last.. a good battery tender and ya don't have to disconnect the battery, thus saving your clock and radio settings....
    • 1855 posts
    December 10, 2013 6:05 AM PST
    I don't winterize anymore. I've got a wood burner in the garage and it keeps the 2012 Heritage nice and cozy. I will move the bike from time to time but I keep very little gas in the tank, less than 1/2 gallon. I open the gas cap a bit and I cover the bike with a sheet. There's no condensation going on in the tank. It breathes quite well.

    • Moderator
    • 16614 posts
    October 23, 2014 12:46 AM PDT
    I have found the best winterization is to move where the winter only lasts a few days.....HA!
    • 2981 posts
    October 23, 2014 6:35 AM PDT
    LOL I am sure Rex agrees !!!! :)
    My only winter routine is to make sure to throw her on the charger when I have to put her up for more then 2 days.
  • November 26, 2014 1:05 AM PST
    When storing your bike for a long period pf time, be careful of the fuel stabilizer you use. Recently I had my fuel filter changed in my tank, as the mechanic pulled it out, there was this green slime all covering the filter. He wanted to know if I used a stabilizer? I said I use STA-BIL. However it was the older version I was using. Now they have one specifically for gas with alchohol. Make sure you all read the fine print... Now, I my not use any at all. This new gas doesn't turn to turpentine like it used too, now it just "phases", meaning the alcohol will separate from the gas and the alcohol will go to the bottom. Gas that sits for over two months, this can happen...So, if your in an area that sells gas w/ 10% alcohol, beware
    • 5417 posts
    November 4, 2015 1:05 AM PST
    Sorry to say for some it is getting to be that time of year again where winterizing means more than just putting on a jacket and cloves like it does here.
    • 1855 posts
    November 4, 2015 5:13 AM PST
    Like Rex said. I moved out of Ohio to Lower Alabama. Now I have to worry about humidity levels for my guitars.