Published October 15, 2013
| Consumer Reports
Cooler weather means another riding season is drawing to a close in northern regions, for all but the most hardcore motorcycle riders. And unless you count yourself as part of that hearty group, now is the time to think about proper winter storage for your bike.
Whether you’re hanging up your riding gear for just a few weeks or several months, taking care of some basic needs will make getting your motorcycle or scooter going again in the spring that much easier, and it will help ensure trouble-free riding for years. (See the results of our motorcycle reliability and owner satisfaction survey.)
Shelter. Figure out where your bike is going to take the big sleep. Inside heated storage is best, either in your own garage, or at a commercial storage facility. Your local dealership may offer this service. If that’s not an option, the next best place is an unheated garage or shed. If you don’t have access to indoor storage, make sure you at least park the bike on a sheet of plywood and cover it up.
Clean up and service. Give the motorcycle a good wash and wax job, and perform any needed maintenance as outlined in your owner’s manual. Lube the chain and cables, and check your tires for wear and inflate them to the proper pressure. If your tires need replacing, now is the time to do it, so you don’t lose riding time in the spring.
Change the oil. Even if your bike won’t be sitting for long, change the oil. Dirty oil contains contaminates that can increase corrosion, leading to premature engine wear. Start by firing up the engine and let it run for several minutes to get everything up to operating temperature. Then, drain the old oil, and refill the engine with whatever viscosity is recommended by your owners manual. There’s no need for any special “winter” blend or oil additive.
Add fuel stabilizer. Measure fuel stabilizer into your gas tank according to the instructions on the bottle, and then start the engine. Let it run long enough so the stabilizer can work its way through the fuel system and get into small parts and passageways. You’ll find stabilizer at an auto parts store or big box retailer. It can be more convenient to mix stabilizer and fuel in a separate 5-gallon gas can, as it simplifies the math for the additive.
Get proper coverage. Plastic tarps trap moisture, risking corrosion on chrome and painted surfaces where you can see it and inside mechanical parts where you can’t. The best bet is to Invest in a good breathable cover designed for your motorcycle. Check with your dealer or look for one from an aftermarket supplier online.
Mind your battery. Your battery will last a lot longer if it’s kept charged, but you don’t want to overdo it, either. Overcharging will not only kill a battery, it can boil the fluid inside—that can cause it to overheat and can even lead to an explosion. The best bet is to invest in a battery minder and charger that will cycle on and off as needed to maintain a proper charge. You can find them online starting at about $50.
Following these few basic tips can help keep your motorcycle in good condition and ensure it is ready to ride when spring arrives.
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