How to Store Your Motorcycle for the Winter

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Long Term Motorcycle Storage Tips for Winter, or Any Extended Period of Time

Not quite our idea of proper winter motorcycle storage. Photo © Terje Rakke / Getty Images

If you won't be able ride your motorcycle for a while, don't despair: this step-by-step will help you prep your bike for long term storage.

Depending on how long you'll be storing your bike, you'll want to make sure your bike emerges from deep storage as undamaged from rust, corrosion, and inactivity as possible.

Things you'll need:

  • Cleaning items, including water, soap and towels for the exterior, and chain degreaser, engine cleaner, and WD-40.
  • Fuel stabilizer, such as any manufacturer recommended brand or Sta-Bil.
  • If you'll be changing your oil, the items listed in the oil change article.
  • A battery tender or trickle charger.
  • Wax for paint finishes.
  • A bike cover or breathable fabric sheet.
  • If your chain needs cleaning and/or lubrication, the items listed in the chain maintenance article.
  • If you're willing to go the extra mile, so to speak, wood blocks or devices to lift the tires off the ground if your motorcycle isn't equipped with a center stand.

This tutorial is broken down into parts; to jump to a specific task, click on the appropriate link below, or go through the entire step-by-step process.

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Prepare Your Engine, Exhaust, and Battery for Long Term Storage

Photo © Basem Wasef

The first thing you'll want to do to prepare your engine for storage is make sure the engine oil is clean. Old oil can trap contaminants which damage rubber seals, and performing an oil and filter change before long term storage will help preserve your engine.

If you won't be riding your motorcycle for several weeks (if it's carbureted) or several months (if it's fuel injected), you'll want to make sure your fuel delivery systems are ready for inactivity. With a carbureted engine, you should turn the petcock into the "off" position, loosen the float-bowl drain screw, and catch the fuel in a container. If draining it isn't possible, you can run the engine with the petcock in the "off" position until it dies. Because moisture can accumulate in half-empty tanks, fill up with gas and top it off with a manufacturer-recommended fuel stabilizer or Sta-Bil. Some believe draining the float plugs isn't necessary if stabilizer is added to the fuel and properly run through the fuel system; do whichever process you feel most comfortable with.

If you're storing your bike for more than six months, you might want to protect your piston and cylinder rings from potentially rusting. To do so, remove each spark plug and pour a tablespoon of fresh engine oil or spray fogging oil inside. Ground the ignition leads and turn the engine several times to spread the oil before replacing the spark plugs.

Spray some WD40 into the exhaust pipe(s) in order to keep water away; the "WD" stands for water displacement, and keeping moisture out will prevent rust. You can also keep water and critters out by stuffing intake and exhaust with crumpled plastic bags.

Clean battery leads and attach a battery tender to your battery to keep it charged and ready to go when you're ready to bring the bike out of storage; if you don't have a tender, a trickle charger is better than nothing.

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Cleaning Your Motorcycle for Long Term Winter Storage

Photo © Basem Wasef

Dirt and grime will damage motorcycles, both cosmetically and mechanically, so use these tips to preserve your bike during long term storage:

  • Wash your motorcycle before storage; check out our How to Wash a Motorcycle tutorial, and be sure to let your bike completely dry before covering it, as trapped condensation can cause rust.
  • In order to ensure that your chain doesn't corrode, follow our Chain Maintenance Step-by-Step tutorial.

  • Use a degreaser to clean sludge from the outside of the engine.
  • After washing your bike, apply wax to any paint surfaces, and chrome polish to chrome; this will keep moisture away.
  • Hopefully you'll be able to keep your bike away from the¬†weather; if you do, use a breathable piece of fabric or a bike cover to keep dust off.
  • If you can't avoid leaving your bike exposed to the elements, you might not want to cover it since covers can trap moisture and do more harm than good.

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Brake, Clutch, and Coolant Fluids

Ensure fluids are fresh and full. Photo © Basem Wasef

If your brake fluid is in need of changing, do so before long-term storage. Similarly, hydraulic clutch fluid should be changed before you store your bike; both systems may suffer failure if moisture gets in.

Also make sure your coolant is fresh, as deposits can form from old fluid. For service intervals, consult your owner's manual.

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Unload the Suspension

Using a centerstand or propping your bike up on blocks will alleviate stress on suspension and tires. Photo © Basem Wasef

If your motorcycle has a center stand, use it for long term storage.

If you're not riding for several weeks and don't have a center stand, you may want to consider carefully propping up the bike using blocks. Don't do more harm than good by dropping your bike while attempting to prop it up! If done correctly, lifting your motorcycle will alleviate stress on the suspension and tires.

Inflate your tires to the maximum recommended pressure will maintain their shape, since cooling temperatures will make the pressurized air contract. If the ground might potentially freeze, try to keep the tires off the ground using wood blocks.