Winter Tips: Storage & Maintenance – Dennis Murphy, Educator

Yes it is here, the days are getting shorter and cold. The nights are longer. For some of us it is time to put the bike away for a few months. But for many others, all it means is that they will be putting on a few more layers. Yes there are motorcyclists who enjoy riding even in the cold. I personally am afraid of snow, black ice and sub-zero temps.

I do have a few precautionary tips for you if you want to read them. Many riders discover too late that their bikes were not properly stored for those winter months and the results are not good. Dead batteries, gummed up carbs, dirty oil that can cause corrosion can all plague improperly stored bikes.

First, before you put your bike away take a little time to check a few things.

  • Gas – make sure the gas in your tank is fresh. Top off the tank and add the right amount of fuel stabilizer, such as STA-BIL. This will keep your gas from breaking down and leaving a gummy mess inside the tank, lines and carburetors.
  • Oil- starts out golden brown and clean, but it does not stay that way. After a few thousand miles it turns black and gray. The trapped contaminates that are in the oil can turn very corrosive. That is not what you want sitting inside your engine crankcase. In a few months it will do damage. My advice is to always change the oil and filter before you store the bike.
  • Coolant – Always check the coolant. Make sure it is not old.  And then check the mixture to see that it will not freeze during storage.
  • Battery – Again, check the age of the battery and make sure it is not too old. Some of the newer bikes can put a drain on a battery just by sitting. A lot of bikes have a clock, computers for engine management and radio preset. If you have some of these accessories you should think about buying a good battery maintainer. Not a charger there is a big difference.
  • Clean and wash your bike. Clean your bike thoroughly from top to bottom. Try to get all the dirt, grease, and dead bugs. All these things can ruin good paint or be the start of a rust spot. After you wash the bike, polish it. The wax will help protect against rust. Also, I might suggest that you either plug, bag or seal any of the openings on the bike. This will prevent any rodents from causing any damage to your bike.

If you feel the need to take the bike out, go ahead. But ride it long enough to reach operating temperatures and long enough to charge the battery. Anything that is short of that will cause damage to your bike.

Warning, do not start your bike and let it idle in the garage. To charge your battery you have to run about a mile on the street. Motorcycles do not charge at idle. And remember you have to let the bike get hot enough to burn off all the water and unburned gas that is caused by idling. Most importantly it is not safe to start your bike in a closed garage because of fumes.

Remember, stay safe.

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