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As the fall comes to an end and winter sets in, riders think more about their motorcycles' safety more than any other time of the year.
It marks a crucial time for more in-depth maintenance, irrespective of whether you’re going to hibernate the bike for just a week or until the spring.
Unfortunately, some riders winterize their bikes wrongly and end up spending more money on repairs and replacement of parts when it's time to hit the road again.
This article is a detailed guide on the best way to winterize a motorcycle and keep it safe and in working condition until you're ready to use it again.
Quick Questions Before Starting
Before we go deep into the guide on proper motorcycle winterization, here we answer three important questions you want to keep in mind.
How Difficult is This to Do?
Motorcycle winterization majorly entails thorough cleaning and servicing. It's an easy task once armed with the right tools, equipment, and proper knowledge of the process.
How Long Does It Take?
A complete motorcycle winterization will last a few hours. Cleaning and drying up parts may extend the whole process to about six hours (half a day) to finish up everything.
How Much Do Materials Cost?
You’ll need different materials such as oil, filter, DW-40, among other equipment. All the equipment required for complete bike winterization will cost you between $177 and $200.
Items Needed to Winterize a Motorcycle
Motorcycle winterization is a step-by-step process that requires prior preparation with the appropriate equipment at hand. Below are essential items and the estimated prices you'll need for successful bike winterization.
Trickle Battery Charger
New Oil Filter
Chain Lube (for chain drive)
High-quality Oil (four or five quarts)
Plastic or Vinyl Gloves
Breathable Motorcycle Cover
Note: Above are average prices and may vary across states.
Do I Have to Winterize My Motorcycle?
Every rider has a unique winterizing routine. The sole goal is to always keep the motorcycle in its top shape during the cold season. The practice helps the bike run longer and remain on standby for use when hot summer rolls backs.
Below are more reasons you need to winterize your motorcycle.
Protects all the motorcycles moving parts from premature wear and tear
Prevents the motorcycle tires from cracking and developing flat spots
Prevents premature expiry of the motorcycle battery (consider removing from the bike and hooking up into a trickle battery charger)
Protects the chain from rusting and eating away (clean well and lubricate before storage)
Prevents deposits in the cooling system for liquid-cooled motorcycles
Steps to Winterize Your Motorcycle
Below is a step-by-step guide to winterizing your bike before long periods of storage.
1. Clean Thoroughly Beforehand
Leaving water spots or bug guts on your motorcycle for long can corrode the paint finish permanently. Give the bike a gentle wash and avoid spraying water directly, especially on areas like the muffler.
Ensure the motorcycle is completely dry before storage. Wet baffles can lead to internal rust. Also, ensure the air cleaner housing is completely dry—saturated housing may act as a choke, preventing the motorcycle from starting.
To be safe, use appropriate clothing or an electric leaf blower to get all the crannies and nooks completely dry. Buff all stainless and aluminum surfaces with a good metal polish and coat chrome and painted surfaces using a wax polish.
WD-40 offers good protection against corrosion.
2. Add Fuel Stabilizer in the Gas Tank
Chemical reactions will cause fuel to degrade when stored for a more extended period. It can lead to ignition problems next time when starting the bike. Consider filling the tank with gas and adding a fuel stabilizer as per the manufacturer's instructions.
Next, run the bike to ensure the fuel stabilizer and the gas reaches fuel injectors and the carburetors. Fuel stabilizer helps keep the fuel fresh and prevents ethanol and gas from separating, thus causing damages.
Always consult the manual on the right amount of fuel stabilizer to add to your gas tank.
3. Change the Oil
Old oil develops acidic qualities, which may corrode engine parts.
As a result, consider changing the oil and filter in your bike before storage. Winter weight oil such as 5W30 will help your motorcycle start quickly if you want to use it.
However, you may need to consult your manual first if the oil is appropriate for your engine model.
If you intend to store the bike for an extended period of four to six months, consider protecting the engine's internal with light coatings of oil. Note that the cold winter air may gather moisture in the engine and corrode pistons and cylinder walls.
To coat the engine internals, pull out the spark plugs and add some engine oil into the holes.
Turn the engine over several times for even coating on the cylinder walls. You can speed the process by spinning the rear wheel with the gear engaged. Once done, replace the spark plugs.
4. Lubricate Moving Parts
All moving parts should remain lubricated to prevent moisture build-up, which may cause rusting. Ensure to lubricate all parts immediately once the bike is clean and dry before storage.
Areas to pay close attention to include chain drive, controls, cables, fork surfaces, and other pivot points.
5. Remove the Bike Battery and Plug It into a Trickle Charger
Your bike battery will self-discharge when left sitting idle for a more extended period. To combat this, consider removing the battery entirely from the motorcycle and hooking it up to a trickle charger throughout the winter season.
But first, ensure the electrodes are clean. You may use some grease coating on the electrodes. Store the battery in an area with steady temperatures.
However, if you decide to leave it attached to the motorcycle, turn on the bike at least once every month and leave it to charge the battery before turning it off again.
6. Raise the Bike to Protect the Tire
Consider taking the weight off the bike tires by raising the bike to avoid flats spots. To achieve that weight relief, use the motorcycle stand to elevate the motorcycle or hoist the motorcycle on the front tire if you don't have a stand.
That helps alleviate the weight on the rear tire. You should rotate the tires after every few weeks.
Line the floor with a carpet or plywood if your only option is to leave the bike on the ground. But first, inflate the tires to capacity.
7. Stuff Exhaust Pipes and Air Intake with Muffler Plugs
Rodents and mice are notorious for finding homes inside exhaust pipes for warmth during cold seasons. Use muffler plugs to fill in such openings or any other material available for that purpose.
If you opt for plastic bags, keep them bright or tie something bright around that region to alert you next time you start the motorcycle.
8. Get a Quality Motorcycle Cover
With the bike ready to hibernate from the cold, the final step is investing in a quality motorcycle bike to protect it from dust, rodents, and accidental scratches. For outdoor storage, get a cover with tie-downs to protect the bike from blowing loose on a windy day.
Tips and Safety Considerations When Winterizing a Motorcycle
Below are important safety tips worth considering when winterizing a motorcycle.
Avoid storing your motorcycle on bare concrete. Instead, line a carpet, an MDF (medium density fiberboard), or plywood on the floor first to protect your bike tire from cracking and developing flat spots.
During cleaning, avoid spraying water directly on the motorcycle. Water may get into the exhaust pipe, which, apart from the difficulty of drying, prevents the bike from starting.
Remove the battery off the bike and hook to a trickle battery charger in an area with constant temperatures. Leaving the battery attached to the bike is an option if you can run the bike at least once per week but may not be 100 percent reliable in preserving the battery.
Winter is the perfect time to do the motorcycle upgrade and full maintenance project you’ve had in mind for a long time. Besides, storing a motorcycle fully serviced saves you a lot of money on repairs and parts.
Riders can always look forward with confidence to the warm season to roll in so they can hit the road again. Winterization is a necessary procedure that any rider looking to keep their bike in good shape and running for long should not overlook.
People Also Ask
Winterizing a motorcycle may require you to spare a few minutes to go through all the steps to get it ready. Some people tend to forget some of the most critical steps and end up paying dearly. Below we answer common questions about motorcycle winterization.
How Cold Is Too Cold for a Motorcycle?
Motorcycles are highly susceptible to ice. Cranking the engine in freezing climates of 32°F or 0°C may not be easy, thus not the ideal time to get out a motorcycle on the roads.
Should You Cover Your Motorcycle?
Whether you decide to store your motorcycle inside a garage or outdoors, covering it up with a quality material designed for the bike model is the last critical step.
The cover also prevents moisture from getting trapped underneath, causing corrosion if you're storing it outside.
What Should I Do If I'm Storing My Bike Outside?
After preparing your motorcycle for storage, your best option is inside the garage. Outside storage exposes the bike to more risks, such as extreme cold and wind.
To be safe, first, spray the engine, frame, and tailpipes with a good coat of wax such as WD-40. Then invest in a high-quality motorcycle cover that is breathable and has underneath tie-downs to prevent moisture from getting in. Always remember to keep the tires raised.
Is It Better to Empty or Fill Up My Motorcycle's Fuel System?
Your fuel system is prone to rust and becoming gummy when left unused for some time. To prevent that from occurring, fill up the fuel system and add some fuel stabilizer to mix the gas. A full tank prevents moisture build-up on the tank walls.