How do you store a motorcycle properly for winter? Our guide outlines all the steps you need to take for every aspect of your bike.
Modern motorcycles can actually cope with longer idle times. But if it is foreseeable that the machine will not be used, you should store a motorcycle properly for winter. Winter operation, on the other hand, means increased contact with moisture and possibly road salt. Aluminum and chrome parts, but also paintwork and electronics, can suffer from this. After all, winter also offers a good opportunity to carry out more complex maintenance work and repairs on the motorcycle in peace, to make improvements or modifications or generally to bring the look back into shape.
Steps to store a motorcycle properly for winter
Dirt stores moisture like a sponge and thus automatically promotes corrosion. The motorcycle should therefore be cleaned as gently but thoroughly as possible – do not use a steam jet or high-pressure cleaner, this is poison for bearings and electrics! The chain also deserves special attention.
After removing dirt with a special chain cleaner and, if necessary, a nylon brush, the chain is well lubricated. The same applies to all lubrication points on the motorcycle that are specified in the maintenance schedule, such as levers, joints, etc. It is best to use clean engine oil, grease or similar.
In theory, at least, tires cannot tolerate long-term stress in a particular place. Therefore, place the motorcycle on the main stand and support the front wheel on the fork (e.g. with a piece of wood) so that both wheels do not come into contact with the ground. If you don’t have a main stand, you need a corresponding assembly stand. Alternatively, you can turn the loaded wheel a little further every few weeks, but it’s very easy to forget.
The air pressure is also increased by 0.5 bar. Tires: If the tires only have a low profile, it is advantageous to change over the winter. In contrast to spring, when you have to be happy to get the tire you want, there is usually scope for prices and no time pressure for assembly.
Tank / fuel system / engine
A normal steel tank is not painted on the inside and would rust on contact with moist air. This initially only slight rust film then dissolves in the gasoline and later possibly clogs the bores and channels in the carburetor / injection system. To prevent this from happening, the tank is filled to the brim with petrol. Logically, if you have a plastic tank, you don’t have to do anything. In the case of carburettor engines, the float chamber should also be emptied. Suspended matter and water collect here.
During hibernation, the gumming then forms deposits, which can also cause problems when the system is restarted. Each float chamber has a special drain plug for emptying. This screw sits at the lowest point of the float chamber. It is enough, Unscrew the screw a little with the fuel tap closed and let the fuel drain. Conveniently, you can often put a hose on the drain (sometimes it is already there). Then turn it off – done! The accessibility of the carburettors is not always optimal when you plant to store a motorcycle properly for winter.
Often a piece of the frame, cladding or other component is in the way. With four-cylinder carburetor batteries you usually need an extra long screwdriver in order to be able to reach the drain plugs of the inner carburetor at all. In the spring, the empty carburettors must be flooded again before starting. Logically, the fuel supply is opened again for this.
On some motorcycles with a vacuum fuel cock, the cock must be set to PRI in order to be able to properly supply the carburettors with fresh fuel. After a successful start, however, do not forget to return the fuel tap to the normal position. Of course, owners of motorcycles with fuel injection systems do not have this option. You should therefore use a petrol stabilizer to control the fuel system, that is mixed with the fuel. Observe the manufacturer’s information on use and mixing ratio.
If you do not want to shorten the life of your battery unnecessarily, store it frost-free, clean the poles thoroughly and hang it on a charger with a maintenance function. If you do not yet have a maintenance-free battery, you must also check the acid level and top up with distilled water if necessary. Winter drivers leave the battery installed, of course, but also connect it to a suitable permanent charger. Otherwise, start problems are programmed at low temperatures.
A Battery Guard can also be used to check the state of charge (not only during winter). Connected to the battery, a small transmitter transmits information about voltage to the smartphone via Bluetooth via an app. Handy when you have several motorcycles but only one charger. The installation of the transmitter is child’s play, as is the app installation. Checking the voltage display with a good voltmeter confirmed the exact display. However, the range of the transmitter is limited to two to five meters.
Oil change / coolant
If the engine oil change interval is almost reached anyway, an oil change makes sense right now. Older oil only has a part of the corrosion protection that fresh oil has, which also does not contain any aggressive components resulting from combustion.
In the spring you can start the new season with new oil. If you own a motorcycle with water cooling, you shouldn’t forget to check the antifreeze, similar to a car. A corresponding test spindle is used for this.
Very picky people interrupt any possible air circulation in the engine / intake / exhaust tract. To do this, an oil-soaked rag is inserted into the intake port of the air filter and into the openings of the exhaust. As was customary in the distant past, dripping some oil into the cylinder is nowadays unnecessary.
Modern cylinder alloys can withstand longer service lives without complaint. Even in a dry garage, the motorcycle should also be covered with an air-permeable dust cover.
Winter operation / corrosion
The biggest problem in winter is corrosion. Even an actually dry garage is not a good choice if you regularly park a wet car next to the unprotected machine. Anyone who drives regularly in winter or does not have a dry parking space (garage etc.) should take additional measures. Outdoor parkers should protect the machine with a waterproof tarpaulin. However, make sure that there is sufficient air circulation.
All unpainted metal parts are protected with a thin layer of oil (oil can plus rag or spray oil). Caution: do not spray anything on brake discs or tires! The best way to protect painted surfaces is with standard car polish. The electrical system is also preserved as far as possible and accessible with WD 40 (switch and plug connections, spark plug connector).
Worst of all, however, are the corrosion damage caused by road salt in snow areas. Rust attack on the exhaust system, “blooming” aluminum or light metal and short circuits in the electrical system are the usual problems. For this reason, the motorcycle should be washed thoroughly with plenty of water after using it on roads subject to road salt (engine block from below and exhaust system).
The addition of heated handles is not only recommended for the winter time. This is not only comfortable, but also a safety gain, because with clammy fingers the feeling of accelerating and braking is missing. When assembling, however, do not connect the cables directly to the battery, but prefer a circuit via a relay so that they only work when the ignition is switched on.
Classic winter repairs
Even when you thoroughly clean your motorcycle, you often notice that the machine has suffered more than expected during the season. Some maintenance work may also have been postponed in order to drive rather than screw. And botch caused by lack of time can now be corrected in peace.
Chrome and aluminum, but also all other unpainted metal parts, become unsightly over time without proper care. Typical examples are the dip tubes of the telescopic fork and the exhaust system. If you continue to drive through the winter with already tarnished parts, their condition worsens considerably. So it is better to prevent. There are two options here. If you can get to the relevant areas well, you can tackle the problem with appropriate care products. Simply apply a thin layer and polish the surface with a cloth for a few minutes.
There is also a practical range of brushes that you can use to get to the last nook and cranny. Alternatively, a polishing set is also available from many brands. With the help of the appropriate attachments, polishing wax and a drill, you can get good results, but less gently and dismantling of the corresponding parts is usually necessary.
The exhaust system is often a particular problem. In the areas that are not easily visible and difficult to access (collectors etc.), severe rust can be observed. This is not only visually very unattractive, the exhaust system can also rust through. The only thing that helps here is complete dismantling, diligent rust removal, polishing and painting.
Whether pending maintenance work with a longer time interval (such as a telescopic fork oil change, replacement of brake lines, replacement of the chain set) or systematic overhaul due to a high mileage (replacement of steering head bearings, wheel bearings, etc.), the winter break can be used for this. The same applies to the installation of accessories as well as conversions and changes to the chassis, exhaust and paintwork.
Materials needed to store a motorcycle properly for winter
- Oil can
- Ballistol / WD 40
- Chain spray / chain cleaner
- possibly oil and oil filter
- Battery charger with maintenance function
- Battery guard for voltage control via smartphone
- Polishing set
- Polish coarse and fine
- Range of brushes
Gerhardt Richter is a writer and a trainer at trade technical colleges, specializing in carpentry, plumbing, mechanics and construction.