5 Steps to Store Your Bike For Winter

snow covered motorcycle This is bike abuse; please don't.

Not everyone lives in a place where they are lucky enough to ride their motorcycles all year round. If you live in a place with seasons like most of the world, there comes that heartbreaking time to store your bike for the winter.

winter motorcycles in snow

You might start off in denial and try to see how late in the season you can push it, but one or two rides like this will make you realize that bitter cold winds and icy roads make it dangerous and difficult to enjoy the experience.
So, it’s time to face reality and figure out where you will store your motorcycle. But, before it can go into peaceful hibernation, there’s a few must-do’s if you want it to wake up happy in the spring. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as throwing a cover over it if you want your motorcycle to remain in top condition.

motorcycle wash

1. Wash and Wax

Start by giving the bike a good wash and wax. The object here is to remove any road grime or dirt that might trap water and cause corrosion. You also want to protect the finish. Extra time spent detailing your bike now will pay big dividends over the cold dark winter. This is especially important if the bike will be stored in non-climate controlled area. Give all the rubber parts a wipe down with Armor All or some other silicone based rubber preservative, and make sure you polish any aluminum to forestall corrosion. You can use WD-40 to protect metal parts. Give your chain a good cleaning if you have a chain drive. Avoid spraying water directly into the muffler as baffles could rust. Make sure your bike is thoroughly dry using a chamois or leaf blower. Moisture is the enemy. Lube cabals, suspension, pivot points, and moving parts.

2. Fuel Stabilizer

Once the bike is clean, add the recommended amount of Fuel Preservative. This prevents the fuel from creating thick gunk that can clog your carburetor. Stabil, Star-tron and Sea-Foam are three that come highly recommended. Next, take the bike for a short ride to the nearest gas station and top off the tank. This will dry out all the nooks and crannies, as well as warm up the oil. It will also get the fuel additive flowing through the carburetors or injectors. A full fuel tank will prevent corrosion caused by condensation forming in the tank. Although, the majority of fuel tanks now come with internal coatings, so this isn't as big of a problem as it once was.

oil change on motorcycle

3. Oil Change & Fluids

A pre-storage oil change is never a bad idea. Drain the oil and change the oil filter. If the bike uses a separate oil supply for the transmission, you need to drain that as well along with the rear end if you’re riding a shaft driven bike. Refill with the proper viscosity and amount of oil and you’ve made a major step towards a good start to the next riding season. As always with an oil change, go ahead and check the air cleaner and fuel filter to see if it needs cleaned or replaced.

If your bike has carburetors and a petcock, turn the petcock off and let the engine idle until it stalls. The object here is to circulate the fresh oil throughout the engine so that all of the engine's internal parts spend their off time bathed in clean, fresh oil, rather than the old contaminated stuff. It will also drain the float bowls and prevent the gasoline from turning into a festering pool of jet plugging varnish over the winter. If the bike has EFI, or doesn’t use a petcock as some older bikes do, run the engine and let it idle for three minutes and then shut it off.

Note: An air cooled engine should never be left to idle for more than five minutes. If you’d rather not run your carburetor equipped bike out of fuel, you can simply drain the float bowls by removing the drain plug, which has the added advantage of letting any water or dirt drain out with it. Use an appropriate container to catch the drained fuel and be particularly careful if the engine is still warm.

Now is a good time to check other fluids as well. If you have a liquid cooling system, check the level of your anti-freeze with a hygrometer. For best practice, drain and replace anti-freeze every two years.

battery charger


Nothing is more irritating than pushing out your bike for your first spring ride, only to discover it won't start because of a dead battery. Fortunately, maintaining your battery is simple. If you’re going to store the bike with the battery in place, check and clean the terminals as needed. Then, connect the battery to a battery charger, also called a battery tender, maintainer or “smart” charger. If you remove your battery for storage you can service it at your leisure, but don’t forget that even a battery stored in a warm, dry place will still require periodic charging.

motorcycle stand

5. Storage

Park the bike where you want it to sit, preferably in an area where the temperature remains constant and out of the direct sunlight. Exposure to sunlight causes the temperature to change, which can cause condensation and rust. A garage or storage shed that can be locked is ideal. If you don't have a garage or shed, you can purchase a portable motorcycle shelter. A quality motorcycle cover can go a long way to protect your bike. If you are parking your motorcycle on concrete, laying down an old piece of carpet or plywood will help keep moisture off the bike.

If possible, the bike should be stored with the tires clear of the ground using a stand to avoid flat spots, though that isn’t a strict necessity. Reduce the tire pressure by 10%. Avoid storing motorcycle near ozone-emitting devices, such as motors, freezers, furnaces, or electric heaters because the gasses can deteriorate rubber parts.

It's a good idea to tape over any openings, such as the air intake, and insert a muffler plug (or some steel wool) to prevent rodents from taking up residence over the winter. Rodent damage can be a serious matter.

Motorcycle Superstore Logo

Winter is a great time to buy parts, perform maintenance, and upgrade your motorcycle. I like to file my taxes as soon as possible, so I can get my return early and get all the parts I've been wanting. This way, I can finish my bike before the next riding season and start with a fresh look. Visit Motorcycle Superstore for the latest parts and trends.

Follow these steps and your bike should be ready to ride come spring. It's always a good idea to go through a Pre-Season Maintenance Checklist before jumping back on the road.

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