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How To Winterize A Motorcycle And Other FAQs Answered

How To Winterize A Motorcycle And Other FAQs Answered

Winter is the season when motorcycle owners start putting their vehicles away. You can’t really ride in the cold, although some would argue this. So, your bike would be just sitting there for at least 3 months. Some motorcycle parts go bad when you’re not riding the bike regularly. Those parts are susceptible to damage in the winter. How do we prevent that? How to winterize a motorcycle?

  1. Clean the motorcycle
  2. Store It Inside
  3. Fill Fuel Tank Completely
  4. Remove And Store Battery
  5. Lift The Bike On A Stand

I’m guessing that most of you are beginners and you want to prepare your bike for its first cold season. Prepping the bike is not an easy task, and it can get complicated. That’s why I’ll explain this as thoroughly as I can. Follow this step-by-step guide to properly winterize your vehicle.

Is Cold Weather Bad For Motorcycles

Now, let’s make something clear. If you’re able to ride in winter, your bike will be completely fine. The thing is, you can’t drive a motorcycle in the snow. Even if there’s no snow, the road conditions are just terrible. So, you can’t ride in freezing temperature, i.e below 32 F/0 C. Two wheels vehicles don’t have a strong enough grip for those road conditions. Even cars have trouble in freezing temperatures.

Hence, the problem is that the bike will not be running for most of the winter season. That’s when cold temperatures start affecting the bike. The first thing that comes to mind is the battery. Freezing temperatures can completely ruin a battery. It’s the same with other parts.

That’s why winter storage is something you need to be ready for, that is if temperatures drop in your area. Ideally, this is something you prepare for before buying a motorcycle. But with the climate we are experience now, even Texas has freezing temperatures. Now that you know why this is so important, let’s get on with the guide.

Cleaning The Bike

The plan is to store the bike somewhere inside, right? Before you do that, you want to make sure that the bike is clean. It doesn’t have to be squeaky clean, just get rid of the dirt that can damage the paint. I’m talking about road grime, goo, etc. 

We already have a guide on how to clean a motorcycle, so I’m not going to spend too much time here. There’s a way to only clean the grime without rinsing 2-3 times. Maybe that will save you some time. Just follow the link below, and you’ll find out everything about washing a bike.

[Related Article: How To Wash A Motorcycle]

Find A Storing Place

Find A Storing Place

Here comes the hard part. Ideally, you would store your bike in a garage. But that’s not an option that everybody has. That’s why it’s best to prepare for this before buying. But, as I said, maybe you weren’t planning on your area actually having freezing temperatures. So, where to store the bike for winter?

Let me start by saying that the motorcycle should be inside. Your yard, for instance, isn’t the ideal storage area. It takes only one winter season for the bike to go from excellent to garbage. The cold will mess with a lot of parts, but most importantly, the engine. The bike will start to rust, the fuel tank will go bad, etc…

So, despite some people saying that just covering the bike will be fine, the storage place should be inside. As I said, ideally, you own a garage. If you don’t have a garage, can you bring it somewhere inside the house? There are other options too, you can rent a storage unit. Ask a friend that has a garage. 

But what if none of these is an available option for you? Can you keep your bike outside in the cold? Let’s face it, some of you will have to do that. If you’re in that situation, you still want to follow the steps below. At least, try to find a storage place for the extremely cold weeks. Once late winter comes, you’ll probably be fine. When spring comes, check for rust spots in the tank and the chain.

Protect The Fuel Tank

One of those parts that go bad without riding is the fuel tank. In general, the whole fuel system. If left empty for an extended period, the gas tank will rust. This is true in all seasons, not just the winter. The freezing temperature just speeds up the process. That’s why you should keep your gas tank full as much as you can. Don’t make riding on low fuel a habit.

On the other hand, the fuel will start to get stale too. It will break apart in gluey parts that are also bad for the tank. We can prevent this though, with fuel treatment. There are a lot of fuel stabilizers that can be added to the fuel to prevent it from becoming gummy. We recommend Sta-Bil Fuel Stabilizer.

To protect the gas tank, before storing, make sure the tank is full. Add a fuel stabilizer. You don’t know exactly when the temperature will fall below zero. Let’s say you wake up to a road full of snow. Did you take a long ride before that day? Is your tank only half full? You can’t go to a gas station. I recommend once the season starts coming, have a jerry can full of fuel-ready. That way, you are always prepared to fill up the tank.

You may want to know that some people choose to go the other way. Instead of filling it up, they empty the tank. In both cases, there are pros and cons. I’m here to argue which way is better. I’m just telling you my preferred way of doing things. This is how I’m used to preparing for the winter.

Safely Store The Battery

Safely Store The Battery

The next part you want to take care of is the battery. The cold is the battery’s worst enemy. In my time working in a repair shop, each spring we person after person coming in with a dead battery. Most of the time, the people that visited us thought that the garage would keep the battery safe. That’s a common mistake.

When hooked up, the battery will self-discharge if not used for some time. The best thing you can do remove the battery and place it somewhere safe, in a room temperature setting. The other thing you can do is, get a Battery Tender. The smart tender will tell if the battery starts discharging. When that happens, you just charge it up. You’ll need a charger, of course.

I don’t need to tell you once again that cold temperatures are bad for a battery. So, don’t leave it in the garage if the garage doesn’t have heating.

If you don’t store the battery in a safe place, I’m not saying that it will definitely die. It’s just that when spring comes, your first ride will be ruined because you need to charge the battery. Its capacity will be lower for sure though.

Use A Bike Stand

Believe it or not, the tires can be damaged during the winter too. While the bike is sitting in its storage place, the tire will gradually lose tire pressure. When this happens, there’s a high chance for the tires to get flat spots. The best way to avoid this is just to put the bike on a stand. 

If you don’t have a stand, try lifting the wheels somehow, just get the weight off the tires. I highly recommend doing this at least to the rear tire. You can also try maintaining the right tire pressure throughout the winter months but this doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get flat spots.

Plug Openings

Safely Store The Battery

While in the garage, the bike is open to damage from a completely another source, rodents. Mice like to hide in places not accessible to humans. While running from the cold, the mice may see the exhaust pipes as a place to hide.  The mice will also poop there, so there’s the damage. They can also start the spark plug wires.

Now, you can make sure that your storage place is free from any rodents. But that’s not entirely possible. Still, you can’t eliminate the danger of a rodent just walking in. To avoid this, plug out the exhaust pipes, the air intake, and the spark plug holes. There’s a product specifically made for this. You can also just cover it with plastic bags.

Things To Avoid

That’s about it, that’s what you need to do to winterize your motorcycle. The step-by-step guide doesn’t cover what you don’t need to do though. So, here are some big no-nos.

  • Do not start the bike while it’s in storage. You may hear someone saying that running the bike once a week will eliminate all the dangers from the cold. The reason being, if you let it heat up, the cold can’t do anything. This is a myth and a mistake. To heat up, the bike needs a proper ride. Starting it once per week only exposes the bike to more damage.
  • Do not leave the fuel untreated. Whether you choose on filling up or emptying the tank doesn’t matter. Just choose one of these options. Going for a third alternative like leaving the tank half-full is a big mistake.
  • Do not wash a motorcycle if you’re going to keep it outside. Washing the motorcycle makes sense only if you keep it inside. The water and solutions will only make things worse if you place the vehicle outside.
  • Do not store the motorcycle in a room with moisture. Most bikes can handle the usual exposure to rain. Problems arise when the bike is exposed to moisture for a long period of time. Moisture damage is a thing in motorcycles.

Additional Tips

  • Change oil filter and air filters. If you’re scared about old oil sitting inside your motorcycle, change the oil and the filters. The oil that’s broken down can cause problems with starting the vehicle. I advise using a winter weight oil.
  • Lube Parts Prone to rust. Since the bike is susceptible to rust, it’s smart to apply lube.
  • Install GPS. This is not necessary if the bike is in your garage. But, if you’re renting a storage place, the bike may be a target for theft. Theft is something every motorcycle owner is worried about. So, hide a GPS device somewhere.
  • Install Heating System In The Garage. Experts advise on using a climate-controlled garage, not just the usual garage. The thing is the garage will still be very cold. A heated garage eliminates all dangers from the cold.
  • Use a cardboard or a carpet if you can’t lift the tires. If you don’t have a bike stand, nor you can lift the bike, place cardboard or a rug underneath it.
  • Check the Coolant Levels. The water that’s in the coolant system can get frozen and cause cracks. That is if it’s plain water. Check the anti-freeze level, if needed, add more.
  • On a carbed bike, turn off the petcock. When it’s turned on, fuel may enter the cylinders because of the pressure.
  • Add a coat of wax to protect metal surfaces from rust and moisture. 
  • From time to time check out the motorcycle in storage.

Related Questions And Other FAQs

Should You Cover Your Motorcycle In Winter

You shouldn’t leave your motorcycle out in the open cold weather. If you don’t have any other choice, don’t cover it with a motorcycle. A covered motorcycle is still prone to damage from moisture. The water pools on the cover can damage the paint. If you still want to get a bike cover, make sure it’s a quality motorcycle cover.

How Cold Is Too Cold For A Motorcycle

Riding a motorcycle in cold temperatures as long as it’s not freezing. Anything below 32 F or 0 C is too dangerous for a bike. Winter riding is possible when the temperature is somewhere around 13 C – 4 C.

What Happens If You Don’t Winterize Your Motorcycle

Not winterizing a motorcycle puts various crucial parts of the bike at risk. The battery, the fuel system, the tires, and even the engine, all can be damaged.

Do Motorcycle Covers Prevent Theft

Motorcycle covers in a way, provide theft protection. The cover doesn’t hide your bike, a thief would still be able to recognize it. However, the other security measures are not visible. So, the thief wouldn’t feel safe targeting your bike.

Does A Motorcycle Battery Charge While Idling

Yes, the battery will charge while the bike is idling, not as much while you’re riding, however. Riding at higher speeds charges the battery faster. Either way, a quick ride should charge it up.

Conclusion

That’s it my friends. I know that this can be really annoying, especially if you’re going to be looking for a storage place. It’s best to be prepared for this kind of stuff, so I hope you’re not doing this too late. Once riding season comes, make sure everything is okay with the bike. Check out the tank walls, the brake pads. Is the bike starting okay? Check for surface rust, make sure the tires are okay, and you’re set to go.

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