There was an old mechanic saying “You can pay me now or you can pay me later”. It referred to the fact that if you paid for maintenance when it was due you wouldn’t have to pay for repairs when you had a breakdown. The same goes for winter storage work. If you do the work in the fall you can avoid having to do it in the spring when you want to ride. Usually 15 minutes of work in the fall will cost you 60 minutes in the spring or potentially a lot of money because you didn’t prepare your bike for storage.
Here is a list of the pre-storage work;
- Fill the tank with fuel to minimize any air space that could collect condensation. Use a premium ethanol-free fuel like Shell premium.
- Add fuel stabilizer to the fuel tank and run the bike long enough to spread the stabilizer through the fuel system. Most modern bikes don’t have the option to turn off the gas and run the fuel system dry so the fuel stabilizer is your safeguard to prevent the gumming up of carb jets or injectors. If your bike does have a fuel shut-off or drain you may choose to remove all fuel from the system by draining or running the bike until it runs out of gas. Conversely, not prepping the fuel system will result in a costly job in the spring when your bike won’t start.
- Wash your bike and wax it or spray with a motorcycle approved protectant. This 15 minute job in the fall might take you an hour in the spring to remove the caked-on dirt & grime. Always run your bike after a wash to evaporate any condensation.
- Clean & lube your chain if you have one. Adjust it too if required so you’re ready to go first nice day in the spring. If you have a belt drive check the condition and adjust if necessary. If you have shaft drive see #5.
- Change the oil. The products of combustion cause acidic conditions in the oil. You are better to change the oil and filter before the winters nap than after. Your bike will like sleeping with fresh clean oil. This applies to motor oil, transmission oil, and driveshaft oil.
- Hydraulic fluids may need flushing as well. Your brake and clutch fluids should be honey coloured. If they are blackish coloured they should be flushed with clean fluid. Systems with DOT 5 or mineral oil are non-hygroscopic so they don’t attract water. They can be flushed in the fall without fear of the fluid collecting moisture all winter. DOT 4 fluid does attract water. It’s your call to flush it before you put it away or just before you ride in the spring. Your owner’s manual or the top of the reservoir should indicate the type of fluid required.
- Protect your battery by either charging it in the bike or removing the battery and charging it. The best charger is a smart charger that won’t overcharge the battery. Most of the smart charger companies make pigtails that permanently attach to the battery so you can just plug it in anytime the bike is stored for prolonged periods. These are a great add-on. More and more bikes are coming stock with Lithium-Ion batteries. Make sure you have the right charger for the job. If you don’t have a smart charger do not use high amp chargers. Use a 2 amp or less charger and don’t leave the battery on charge for extended periods of time. Rotate the charging, say one day a week. Unsealed batteries (have a vent tube) contain corrosive battery acid that is dangerous to the eyes, irritating to the skin, and absolutely fatal to any clothes it contacts. Handle with care.
- Protect your tires by removing contact with the cold hard ground. Bike or centre stands are ideal. If you don’t have that option use an old piece of carpet, rubber matt, or cardboard underneath the tires. You should also bring your tires to maximum rated inflation as indicated on the sidewall. Don’t use chemical cleaners on the tires.
- Lube pivot points.
- Do a quick once over to determine if anything needs to be replaced. It’s better to order parts off season than to wait until spring and expect to have them next day.
- Remove your key and store it where you can find it in a couple months.
- Lock your bike with a lock & chain, cable or disc lock.
- A cover is also a great form of security. Tuck your baby in with a promise to use it first nice day in the spring.
If all of this sounds like way too much work or if you don’t have a proper storage place you can always check with you local dealer. Many dealers offer storage plans that can include all of the above plus additional work. Dealers like to keep their good mechanics busy & employed over the winter months. Putting new tires or accessories on bikes in storage provide work for the mechanics off season. In return most will offer discounted parts, accessory & labour rates.
Finally if you are of the school of thought to run your bike periodically over the winter, make sure you run the bike long enough to bring it up to operating temperature and flash off any accumulated condensation.