Yup, it’s getting to be that time of year when it’s too cold out to ride, and if your idea of putting your bike to bed for the winter entails draping an old sheet over it and calling it good, you’re liable to have some issues when spring rolls around. So, before you park your bike for the season, there are a few steps you’ll want to take to ensure your ride is ready to rip when the weather warms up.
At minimum, you’ve got to attend to the fuel system and the battery. Whenever you’re parking your bike for an extended period of time you run the risk of having your battery go dead and the gas gumming up.
RELATED: How To Tell If You Need New Tires
Luckily, a tank full of foul-smelling swill is pretty easy to avoid. If your bike has carburetors and a petcock, you can drain the fuel system. However, most modern bikes are fuel injected, and there’s really no easy way to empty the tank. Instead, I like to fill the tank to the brim and mix in a fuel stabilizer like Bel-Ray’s All-In-One fuel treatment. A quality fuel stabilizer will keep the gas from going bad and it also helps neutralize the ethanol that’s in today’s gasoline so it doesn’t wreak havoc on your fuel system.
Storing the bike with a full tank does two things: First, it doesn’t leave any room for air inside the tank, so rust is less likely to form. Second, you roll into the next riding season with plenty of gas for that first ride. So go ahead and top the tank off, add some stabilizer, and run the bike for a few minutes so that treated gas makes its way throughout the fuel system.
The next big concern is the battery. Traditional lead-acid batteries self-discharge over time, and, left alone, your battery will probably be too weak to start your bike after a few months. So it’s really, really important to hook the battery up to a smart charger so it stays topped up and ready to crank. There are lots of chargers and maintainers out there, but you want to make sure you get a smart charger that only feeds current to the battery when needed. You can take the battery out of the bike and hook it up, or just install a $5 quick-connect harness. If you’ve got a lithium-ion battery in your bike, you can get away with just disconnecting the negative terminal. Lithium-ion batteries have an extremely low self-discharge rate and can sit for a year or more without losing much juice.
Okay, so if you’re in a hurry or just lazy, then those are the minimum requirements for winterizing your bike. But if you want to do everything you can to preserve your motorcycle’s finish and moving parts, here are a few more things you should do.
Before you mothball the bike, give it a proper bath to wash off the grime and dead bugs and other stuff that can corrode the paint and metal. Then wax the painted parts, apply a silicone protectant to plastic panels, and wipe down chromed, polished, or anodized metal components with a rag that’s been moistened with an aerosol lubricant. The wax and silicone will keep those painted and plastic parts clean and protected, and the light oil in the lubricant will help prevent metal from rusting. Speaking of rust, make sure you thoroughly clean and then lube your chain.
Next, let’s turn to the engine. Extremists insist you need fresh oil in the fall before storage and fresh oil come spring. That’s overkill, and a waste. Of course you don’t want dirty oil sitting in the engine stagnating all winter, so if you’re more than halfway to your next scheduled oil change, go ahead and do it now. That way the engine internals are bathed in fresh engine oil and you’ll be ready to ride in the spring. If the oil is pretty fresh, just make sure it’s topped up.
Another thing may want to do for your motor is close the doors. I’m talking about blocking the muffler and airbox inlet with heavy plastic and a rubber band or zip-ties. This takes care of two things: First, it’ll discourage rodents from nesting in your airbox and muffler, and it’ll seal out moisture that could potentially corrode your valves or cylinder walls. I’ve got it easy with this CB300F because it’s airbox opening is right under the seat, but most bike’s airboxes are a pain to get to. And while we’re talking about pain-in-the-ass procedures, if you really want to protect your cylinder and rings, you can pop the spark plugs out and squirt some fogging oil in the cylinder. In my opinion though, that’s not necessary, especially if you’re already plugging the pipe and airbox.
Okay, next up are your bike’s tires. Sitting still isn’t great for the rubber, so to help prevent flat spots you’ll want to make sure the tires are properly inflated and prop the bike up on track stands so the tires aren’t loaded. If your bike has a centerstand, you’re golden. If not, it’s worth investing in a set of stands since they’re really handy not just for winter storage but also for performing regular maintenance like changing the oil and lubing the chain. The next-best option if you don’t have stands is to roll your tires onto pieces of plywood or cardboard to insulate them from concrete. The concern is that the cold concrete will leach moisture and oils out of the tire and promote dry rot. Putting down a couple of pieces of wood or cardboard is pretty cheap insurance.
Finally, give your bike a comfy blanket to sleep under for its winter nap. Something as simple as an old sheet will keep dust off your bike, but cotton tends to attract moisture and might mildew, so you’re better off with a synthetic bike cover or even a tarp.
Everything I’ve recommended so far assumes you’re storing your bike inside a garage or basement or somewhere else out of the elements. If you’re forced to park your bike outdoors, you’ll want to do everything I’ve mentioned plus upgrade to a heavy-duty waterproof bike cover with grommets at the bottom so you can strap it in place. You’ll also want to remove the battery from the bike and plug it into a trickle charger indoors.
So to recap: Before you park your bike for the winter you’ve gotta mix fuel stabilizer into your gas and you have to keep the battery topped up with a Battery Tender or a similar device. Beyond that, a wash and wax, plugging the airbox and muffler, and propping the bike up on stands will all help keep your bike happy. And that’ll make you happy once the weather warms up this spring.