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Winter Storage Tips

Posted By JDawg     November 10, 2015    
(864) 278-8499


I have been writing about the meaning of Motorcycle Friendly for a few the past months. The articles look its meaning form both the bikers and the merchant’s point of view. But because of the time of year, I want to take a break from that series to talk about placing your motorcycle in storage for the winter months.

Here at the North American Motorcycle Alliance we consider both major Daytona events as the bookends of the motorcycle season, and the quasi-official end of the season has come and gone with the completion of Daytona’s Biketoberfeast Rally. As it is now November and less than 7 weeks to the first day of winter (Tuesday December 22nd) most bikers, not all, but most will now store their bikes until March 4th Daytona Bike Week. I thought it’s would be a good idea to share with you different ideas for Motorcycle Storage Practices (MSP). This month’s article (Blog) is going to be about that very subject. Here are what we believe to be important issues when preparing your ride for a couple months of storage. These tips will help prevent issues long term and the next motorcycle season.

Clean Your Ride
This step is an extremely important and often overlooked. Wash and clean the motorcycle before putting it in storage. Experts tell us bug guts, bird droppings, tar, some rain water and tree sap left on the motorcycle’s finish can mar and stain the paint and chrome if ignored. It is always a good idea after washing the bike to put a fresh coat of wax on theses surfaces as well. Make sure when you are washing the bike to clean the undersides of the fenders to get rid of mud, grease or tar in as many places as possible. Make sure the motorcycle is completely dry and that any standing water on the bike components is drained and dry. Failure to dry the bike can

One practice that I was told years ago and that you may have heard of is to apply wax to the finish and leave it on until the bike is taken back out of storage. I contacted a couple of well-known wax/finish experts and their opinion is “not to do that”. They informed me that although leaving the wax on might not damage the finish it certainly does not give it any extra protection while in storage. They also mention that leaving the wax on for longer than an hour can increase the level of effort to remove it. As always for the best results refer to the manufacture’s recommendations when using their product.

Engine Oil and Chassis Lubrication
Consider getting the oil changed. Manufacturers recommend a fresh oil and filter change prior to storage. The reason you would want to do this is used that engine oil has contaminants that can be corrosive and cause damage to the engine. So removing the spent oil and replacing it before storing the bike can help prevent damage. If you are running synthetic oil, some experts believe that it is not necessary to change your it before storing the bike. However, a good rule of thumb is to change the oil before storage.

Also, equally important, is to remember that whenever you start the engine the engine will need to be brought to operating temperature and run for 15 minutes before shutting it down and/or placing it in storage. This is true anytime you run your engine not just when you are getting ready for storage. If the engine is not run at operating temperature after starting the engine premature engine failure can result and exhaust systems can rust form the inside out. Combustion by-products and moisture buildup found in the oil of a cold engine is a toxic soup of contaminates and is remedied only once the engine is hot enough to cook it off.

When change the oil this is a good time to lubricate all of the lubrication points. Check the manufactures lubrication chart found in the service manual for location of lube points and the type of lubricant to use. Lubricating the bike prior to storage can flush or wash away contaminants and purge and prevent moisture on the working surfaces. This is a good way to prevent rust and to also keep you bike lubricated so it is ready to go in the spring.

The Battery
All unattended batteries will eventually lose their charge. There are two options to deal with this issue. A low-tech (LT) solution is disconnecting the negative battery cable. Unfortunately, you are probably going to lose the radio presets, clock settings and other electrical settings. Another issues that this LT solution causes is any of the components on your bike that have a battery backup are now going to use and drain that backup battery. When this occurs it depletes the effectiveness and efficiency of the backup battery and may even require its replacement. The other drawback to this method is that on some of today’s motorcycles the battery is buried deep within the motorcycle. This fact can be the cause of a fair amount of effort just to see the battery, let alone disconnect the negative cable.

If Low-Tech (LT) is your solution, then keep in mind that in three to four months a new or newer battery will suffer a slight discharge and an older battery could experience a total discharge. The LT solution only slows the discharge it does not eliminate it. Also, remember to completely charge the battery before putting it back into service. Failure to do so can cause premature battery failure. When charging the battery at the beginning of the season, always consult the battery manufacture specifications for proper charging procedures.

The other choice however, is to purchase and install a battery tender or trickle change device. The good news with this device is that once installed connecting it to the motorcycle is effortless. Another advantage is that you get to keep all your presets and it will also maintain the backup batteries mentioned in the low-tech paragraph of this section. But the best advantage to this method is that your battery will perform right out of the storage area with no pre-maintenance. This is, in our opinion, the best solution and provides the best battery protection against premature failure. To find out more about purchasing this equipment Click Here to review options being offered by our sponsor and motorcycle gear experts JAFRUM.

One very important point for both solutions is that prior to storage the battery will need to be cleaned. There are different products out there that will sufficiently clean the case and its terminals prior. Here at the North American Motorcycle Alliance we are old school whe it comes to cleaning the battery. We clean the battery with soap and water and we use a wire brush in the cable ends and terminals. Failure to perform this step can lead to premature battery failure during storage and operation. Good Battery maintenance always includes keeping it clean!

Tires and Wheels

Be sure to clean both tire and wheel prior to storage. The accumulation of dirt, caused by brake dust, lubricants, fuels, and other grunge and grime coming from the road can cause tire damage if it sits on your tires for a long period of time. Use soap, water, and a brush to clean your tires. This is also a good time to give the wheel a good onceover as well. Be sure to use only approved cleaning agents and brushes that will leave your tire and wheels looking good. Never use tire dressing or tire shine products when placing the bike in storage. Wipe the tire and wheel down with a towel, then let them dry completely before storing. When wiping down the tires and wheels this is a good time to inspect and note any issues that are present that might need attention prior to putting the bike back on the road.

Check tire pressure and inflate the tires to the recommended specs. Tire manufacturers recommend inflating tires to the recommended operating pressure plus 15% to 25%. Ensure that the rim manufacturer’s inflation capacity is not exceeded. The proper air pressure will help prevent “flat-spotting” which is prevalent with high performance and bias ply tires (Non Radial). This condition is when the tire flattens out where it contacts the floor. This condition usually works its self out after a couple of miles and when the tire warms up. However, it can become permanent when storage is long term or there is undue stress on the tire during storage. Another way to help prevent “flat-spotting” is by maintaining the air pressure during the storage period and to move the bike 6” to 8” every month or so. Never add weight to the motorcycle during storage by storing other items on the seat or rack.

Care for the tire during storage. Intense heat, caused by the sun coupled with its ultraviolet rays, can cause the rubber to break down and can lead to premature failure. Never store a tire in direct sunlight. If you have no other choice but to store the bike outside, consider a motorcycle cover that will cover the tires to protect them from direct sunlight.

Ozone is another issue that can damage tires and cause premature failure. It is best to keep your tires away from machinery that can generate ozone, like electric motors, furnaces, central vacuums, or your basement sump pump.

Tire friendly storage environment. Make sure to store tires in a cool, dry place like a basement, climate-controlled garage, or workshop. Avoid storing outdoors, or any place that could be very hot, wet, humid or very cold.

The Fuel System
Fill the tank with gas preferable with non-ethanol gasoline. This will prevent moisture from accumulating inside the fuel tank due to condensation from temperature swing. Inspect for leaks and replace any seals that have dried out or failed. By filling the tank (leave room for expansion) with non-ethanol fuel you help prevent any of the ethanol damaging characteristics from destroying your fuel system. Storing your bike with an untreated ethanol blend of fuel can lead to very expensive repair cost come spring. You can find free apps for your smart phone that will help you locate filling stations in your area that offer Non-Ethanol choices. You should always add a fuel stabilizer such as Sta-bil, to prevent ethanol buildup from older fills and protect the engine from gum, varnish and rust. The fuel stabilizer advertises it will prevent gasoline from deteriorating for up to 12 months. Follow the instructions carefully when adding the stabilizer. Be sure to run the bike after adding the stabilizer as this will insure proper disbursement throughout the fuel system. Remember to bring the engine to operating temperature before turning it off, as mentioned this will protect the engine components and exhaust from water and contaminants.

Your Motorcycle Insurance
Even though it might be tempting, don’t cancel your motorcycle insurance when it is in storage. The insurance will still protect your investment from costly damage that can happen while in storage. If you move the location of where the bike is housed be sure to inform your insurance agent to confirm that it will still be covered at the new location. Also, contact your insurance agent and ask about any discounts or a lower insurance rates that might be offered because you have taken the bike off the road for a couple of months. If your insurance company offers a reduced rate for reduced coverage during storage, make sure you reactive full coverage prior to putting it back on the road.

Miscellaneous Storage Tips
Whenever possible, a temperature controlled garage is the ideal place to store a motorcycle. This will protect it from the elements and keep it at a temperature that is stable. If you don't have a garage and you can find accommodation at a reasonable price, consider putting the bike in a public storage facility. Some motorcycle dealerships and repair shops offer temporary bike storage for a nominal fee and this might be the best solution when consider offsite storage. If you have to leave the Motorcycle outdoors, consider getting a weatherproof cover to help keep it clean and dry. The cover should be designed to handle moisture and not trap it. A cover that traps moisture will cause parts to rust during storage. When deciding on where you will store the bike make sure there is no open flame in the area. Leaking gas fumes could cause a potential hazard.  

A garage will keep your bike dry and relatively warm. Unfortunately, those are also two things that make it attractive to rodents as well. There are plenty of places on a motorcycle for rodents to nest and things for them to chew on. Try to cover any gaps where a mouse could enter, such as the exhaust pipe or an air intake. Steel wool works well for this. Next, spread mothballs or cotton swabs dipped in peppermint oil along the perimeter of the bike. The smell is said to drive mice away.

If your bike has a cooling system make sure that the antifreeze protection level is adjusted properly to protect the bike from freezing in your climate. Failure to complete this step can lead to catastrophic engine failure. Or at the very least engine component failure due to freeze up.

In the spring we will provide tips on how to prepare you bike for the road after storing it for months.

While you’re waiting for the thaw, check the RideNAMA website frequently for motorcycle expos and shows that you might want to attend during the winter. You might also post your favorite rides or destinations or search our event, ride and business sections to plan you trips next spring.