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Winter Storage & Maintenance Tips

by Carl Boockholdt
Originally Published in the IAMC Newsletter, January 2018

[Editor’s Note: If you haven’t already, it is time to think about winter maintenance and storage of your bike. This article originally appeared in the Big Twin Newsletter, November 2017, and is reprinted here with permission of the author and Big Twin Newsletter editor.]

Wow , it’s November already. That’s the time of year when we are whisked away to Never – Never – Land on the melodic strains of seasonal music and frantic over consumption. On Thanksgiving Day , after the feast, somewhere in the midst of gorging on football, we slip into a coma that we never seem to fully recover from until the abrupt return to normalcy slams us awake in February , a broker, more tired , fatter but somehow more satisfied version of the October us.

And, what of our motorcycle? It seems like only yesterday it was a gallant and reliable partner on those perfect fall riding days. Now it rests peacefully amid empty Christmas decoration boxes, tucked away in the garage, awaiting spring. But, how gallant and reliable it will be on that first spring ride may depend on how well it’s stored this winter.

To help insure your bike is eager to go when the weather improves we have provided the following winter storage tips.

Fuel System Protection

Adding stabilizer to the fuel system is an important component of bike storage. Today’s gas, with its complex blend of additives, just doesn’t seem to be as durable as it once was. And while there are several brands of stabilizer available, if you ride a modern bike be sure to pick one that is compatible with the fuel injectors, O2 sensors and catalytic mufflers found on recently manufactured bikes.

A good way to add stabilizer is to ride your bike until it is up to temp. Fill the gas tank and add the recommended amount of stabilizer to the tank and ride it a little more. The idea is , once the tank is topped off you want to ride enough gas out to be certain the stabilizer is circulated throughout the fuel system and to create a small air space in the tank to allow for some fuel expansion during warm winter days but leaving the tank mostly full to ward off condensation and corrosion.

Internal Component Protection

Change your bike’s oil and filter. The normal by-products of combustion routinely find their way into the oil. In addition to lubricating all those internal parts the job of engine oil is to carry away accumulated contaminants, which include acids and water that can be very corrosive to some pretty important internal components. If you don’t change your oil before storage those corrosive chemicals can settle out of suspension and coat the surfaces of engine internals where they do nasty things over the time your bike is sitting unused.

Some riders like to introduce lubricant into the cylinders to protect the upper end of the engine from corrosion. The old way of doing this was to run the engine at fast idle while spraying lubricant into the carb until blue smoke came out of the tail pipes and the engine stalled from fouled plugs. Nowadays, with fuel injection and multiple sensors it is best to use a fogging oil that is made to be safe for fuel injection systems, sensors and catalytic converters.

Liquid Cooling System Protection

Check your coolant. Make sure your engine coolant is changed at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals and is kept at the recommended level, even when the bike is sitting. As with engine oil, normal chemical reactions create contaminants in the coolant that will cause corrosion in the cooling system, leading to expensive and inconvenient failures.

Muffler Protection

Mufflers can rust from the inside out. One of the reasons some experts don’t recommend starting and idling your motorcycle during storage is because heat cycling in a cold garage causes condensation in the exhaust system that ends up as moisture in the bottom of your mufflers. This can increase the poten?al for mufflers to rust from the inside out. Even the normal process of the bike heating and cooling due to the changes in ambient temperatures can cause muffler condensation. Some people like to coat the inside of the mufflers with lubricant to mi?gate this. If you choose to coat your mufflers inside, be sure to use a lubricant that is safe for O2 sensors and catalytic converters. Also, fogging oils may stay where sprayed better than aerosol lubricant sprays, which may run down pipe walls and pool in the bottom of the muffler, leaving most of the pipe unprotected.

It is said that mice will not chew through steel wool. If you wish to protect your mufflers from becoming a habitat for rodents you can plug the open ends with steel wool, diao for air intakes and any other invi?ng mouse house openings in your bike.

Battery Protection

Keep your baaery charged during storage. With an older bike or one without sophisticated computers the battery can be removed and placed on a charger. However, if your bike has a brain or security system that must be kept energized you have the option of trickle charging the battery in the bike. Smart chargers take a lot of the guess work and fiddling out of the process. And, if you want real baaery charging ease hook up a quick connect charger harness for unplug and play convenience. Check with the manufacturers of the bike, components, battery and charger for their storage recommendations.

Exterior Protection

Thoroughly clean and wax your bike before storing it. As you probably gathered from the number of times it has been mentioned already, corrosion is the undesirable applies to a bike’s exterior as well. Dirt and gunk can hold moisture and contaminants next to the painted and plated surfaces of your bike. Over time paint can fade and discolor, plated surfaces can pit and rust, rubber and vinyl can deteriorate. In addition to the undesirable stuff trapped against your bike’s shiny parts by unwashed goo, the air and sun can take their toll on your bike’s appearance too. A deep cleaning followed by an applica?on of wax and protectant will help defend your bike against degradation from the environment.

A good bike cover will enhance your efforts to protect your motorcycle during storage. Covers are an imperative if the bike winters outside and a benefit inside. Consequently, there are inside and outside covers. Inside covers are suitable to protect against dust particles and some are UV rated in case your bike sits next to a window. Outside covers will also keep moisture at bay. Using an inside cover for outside storage leaves the bike exposed to moisture and using an outside cover for inside storage can actually allow moisture to condense on the bike under the cover. There are some covers that can be used for both applica?ons. Be sure to choose the cover that is right for your needs.

Don’t Forget Your Bike’s Chain

Clean and lube your drive chain if you happen to have one. Chains can corrode and the rubber o-rings that are common in most modern motorcycle drive chains can deteriorate if leL to winter caked in grime. A clean and well lubed chain will last longer and with a spritz of lube be ready to roll when spring has sprung. Keeping your chain clean and lubed will add life to your bike’s sprockets as well.

It is clear that properly storing a bike involves a lot more than just shoving it into a corner and draping a sheet over it. This additional attention to your pride and joy can help in other ways. As you go over the bike and perform the necessary tasks for storage be alert to other needs that may become apparent. Also, check to see if services are current. Winter is a great time to get needed maintenance up to date. A well maintained and properly stored motorcycle is a great way to assure that your bike will be as ready
for that first spring ride as you are.

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