It’s that time of year again where some of you might be considering storing your motorbike away for the winter. If that is what you plan on doing in the coming days or weeks, here are eight jobs you might want to undertake to ensure your bike is ready to ride right away once it warms up.*
1. Fill up the fuel tank and add fuel stabiliser
Untreated fuel can break down and turn into a gel like substance over time due to introduction of ethanol into today’s fuel which holds dissolved or suspended water. This can cause components to rust (fuel tank), gel/gum up and varnish that will create havoc for both fuel injected and carburetted fuel systems. To protect your bike’s fuel system, you should fill your fuel tank to the recommended level and add fuel stabiliser treatment. Let the engine run for a few minutes or go for a short ride after adding the fuel additive to get the treatment fully circulated through the system. Having a near full tank also means that you can go out and ride straight away once the weather conditions improve.
Motorcycles with carburettors need particular attention, even with treated fuel. Fuel that is still in the carburettors will evaporate, leaving residue that can limit the movement of fuel through the various jets and components. To combat this, it is advised that fuel treatment is run into the carburetted fuel systems, then switch the petcock to off and drain the carburettors. For vacuum petcock systems, you only need to drain the carburettors.
2. Check your fluids
Double-check your motorcycle’s clutch, brake, and coolant fluids, replacing or refilling if necessary. Remember to always use the brand and quantity of fluid recommended by your motorcycle’s manufacturer. If it’s likely your motorcycle will be exposed to freezing temperatures make sure you check your anti-freeze and top up if necessary. This is extremely important, if you use just water in your coolant system and it freezes, you could come back to a cracked head and hoses. So, save yourself the hassle and remove it from the coolant and replace with the recommended coolant for your motorbike which you should find in your bike’s service manual. Use a concentration of at least a 50:50 mix of antifreeze and distilled water as antifreeze below 40% will not offer adequate protection from corrosion and cold temperatures. If you live in colder climates, it is advised that you use a 60% concentration of anti-freeze for better protection.
3. Oil/Lube Moving Parts and protect your engine
Keep moving parts lubricated such as the throttle, drive chain, kickstand, gear lever and cables to prevent moisture building up and resulting in rusting or binding. Pay particular attention to your chain (if your bike has one) as this is the part most likely to corrode while in storage and treating it regularly can extend its life.
Consider using fogging oil or engine oil to protect your engine’s internal components against corrosion if you’re storing the bike for months on end in a damp climate and/or if your bike is an older model (refer to your owner’s manual). To protect your engine’s internal parts, remove the spark plugs, then add some fogging oil into the holes and turn the engine over a few times and don’t forget to refit the plugs or maybe now is the time to replace them.
4. Tend to your tyres
If you can get stands and store your bike with the tyres off the ground, that’s the ideal scenario. Taking the weight off your tyres is the best way to avoid flat spots or uneven wear. However, if you don’t have the right equipment, don’t worry. You can fill your tyres to the maximum recommended pressure and place your bike on its centre stand. This also keeps the suspension from being loaded which should aid its longevity.
If your bike needs to rest on the ground, be sure to rotate the tyres to keep flat spots away. To ensure your tyres are not resting again on the same spots, mark it with chalk or something else so you know what section of the tyre it was last resting on. If you are leaving your tyres rest down on concrete, put a piece of carpet or plywood under them to keep any moisture from seeping into them.
5. Wash, Dry and Wax
While all these jobs are being taken care of, this is an ideal time to give your motorcycle a clean and wax. While it may seem counterproductive to clean a bike that won’t be on the road, it is however an important step. Insect remains, water spots, dirt and grime can corrode the bike’s paint and metal, affecting your bike’s appearance. Once the bike is clean, make sure it is dry and then it is ready to wax. You can fix any stone chips or tar on your body work and give it a good coat of good quality wax and polish. The metal on your motorcycle can accumulate moisture, which can cause rust if your bike is left unattended for an extended period. Check welds for corrosion and clean away and repair rust forming to stop it spreading. Spray your exhaust pipes with WD-40 to keep moisture and rust away.
6. Safeguard Your Battery
Batteries while out of use can tend to discharge over time meaning it will probably be too weak to start after a couple of months. The cold weather also can cause damage to battery cells and can leave you in need of a new battery come spring. The best way to safeguard against this is to invest in a battery trickle charger or maintainer such as the Honda Optimate. You can leave this plugged in over the winter months and when you are ready for your first spin in Spring, there won’t be any delay while you go and replace the battery. Before putting on the trickle charger, make sure the battery terminals electrodes are clean and corrosion free; if necessary, clean them off and give them a light coating of grease. If you have a lithium-ion battery in your bike, you can just disconnect the negative terminal as these batteries have an incredibly low discharge rate and can hold its charge for up to a year.
7. Pick a good dry dark place
Sunlight can damage your seat covering/leather and cause paint to fade, so if you have a window in your garage, try to park your motorcycle in a cool, dark corner. You could go a step further with a proper fitted, breathable motorcycle cover that’ll prevent dings and scratches and protect your motorcycle from dust, grime, and moisture. Using tarp, plastic, or bedsheets to cover your pride and joy can cause more harm than good, as they hold and attract moisture which will heighten the possibility of corrosion and mould issues.
8. Block Out Pests and Moisture
Rodents and other unwanted pests are notorious for hiding from the cold inside exhaust pipes and making homes out of air filters. To avoid any surprises when it's time to ride again and seal out moisture, plug up your pipes with an exhaust plug. Alternatively, you can simply stuff your air intake and the ends of your exhaust with some plastic bags or something similar. Use brightly coloured bags or tie something to them or leave a note on your key or on or near the ignition to ensure you don't forget to take out the plugs before you start the bike again. Pests are also known for chewing seats and burrowing into places you definitely don’t want them to be, so investing in pest control for your garage can save a lot of bother and expense.
Do you need to start your motorcycle when it is in storage? / How often should you start your motorcycle when in storage?
You may have seen or heard advice telling you that you should start your bike and run it for a few minutes every so often (about once a week) whilst your bike is in storage to keep it running smoothly. However, you may be doing more harm than good as you won’t get your bike up to full operating temperature to burn off moisture and recharge the battery to gain the benefit of running it. So, unless you can commit to giving it a decent ride out to get it to operating temperature, it is best to leave the bike in storage until you can commit to a proper ride to avail of the benefits of doing so. This is more pertinent if you live in colder climates, as running your bike in cold weather means the heated engine and parts will attract condensation as it cools off.
*Please remember to check the advice in your owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s instructions, after all they designed and manufactured your motorcycle, so they know best. Only perform tasks that you are capable of doing safely and at your own risk.