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Getting ready for winter

Storing Your Bike

If planning to put your motorcycle away for several months, the main issues are preventing corrosion where it’s most likely, ensuring the fuel won’t evaporate or gum things up, maintaining the battery, and for liquid-cooled bikes, making sure the coolant is clean, mixed to correct proportions, and won’t freeze.

Get any of these wrong, and you may need expensive repairs before that machine of yours sings down the road again as well as it did this year.

Internal corrosion prevention

Cleaning potentially corrosive road dirt and bugs, then waxing and polishing the bike are a good idea before stowing it away for months at a time.

You will want to protect your bike’s internal surfaces – piston rings, cylinder walls, valve seats, etc., as well as external surfaces that can oxidize.

The first thing to do is start the bike and bring it to normal operating temperature to boil away any aqueous moisture. Ideally, take it for a short ride, then shut it off. After the bike has cooled, pull the spark plug(s), and pour about 25cc of clean engine oil (the same kind you normally use) into the cylinder(s). With the plug(s) still out, cycle the engine by pushing the bike in top gear. This will provide a coating of oil as a rust barrier. Then reinstall the plugs.

An oil change is a good idea now too. Used oil contains corrosive substances, and you don’t want them sitting for months on end. Optionally, if next spring you want to dump the oil, you can leave the old filter in. On the other hand, if you want to use the oil, then install a new filter now. It’s your call. Some people recommend starting with fresh oil and filter again in the spring as the most conservative choice, but this is open to debate.

If the hydraulic lines haven’t been flushed and filled in the past couple years or 10,000 miles or more, doing it now is also quite copacetic. Moisture from the air is attracted to brake fluid, and could corrode the system if it is left unused for a length of time.

External Corrosion Protection

As bugs and grime may be detrimental to a bike’s various finished parts, it’s best to wash and completely dry the bike. Then wax the paint and chrome and polished pieces, as applicable.

While avoiding the brake rotors and calipers, spray WD-40, silicone lube or a similar protective agent on metal pieces to provide an extra barrier against corrosion. Applying a vinyl protective solution on vinyl saddles is also helpful.

To keep rodents from making your exhaust into their winter retreat, and prevent corrosion, spray a light coating of WD-40 or similar water-displacing lubricant inside the exhaust. Then soak a clean rag with it, and stuff it in the end of the exhaust. Finally, wrap the exhaust with a plastic bag and tie it off to keep out moisture. Alternately, you can seek a plug for the exhaust.


The fuel tank should be filled with fresh petrol . If storing a carbureted bike longer than two months, the fuel supply should be shut off at the under-tank petcock and the float bowls should be drained completely. Otherwise run the fuel through the system, and it should keep for a couple months. If in doubt how long the bike will be left sitting, err on the safe side and purge the fuel.

If you don’t take these steps now, the fuel will slowly evaporate, and clog the system, necessitating components be removed and cleaned by hand – a time consuming and costly project.


Make sure your coolant is clean and mixed to correct proportions. If in doubt, flush and re-fill. Motorcycle engines do not have freeze plugs like car engines do, and frozen coolant can expand and crack the engine.

Electrical System

A few smart chargers are available. The CTEK is among the best we’ve tried.

It’s not necessary to take the battery out of the bike, but you can if desired. Unless you keep batteries replenished, they soon drain their charge and sulfate. This permanently reduces their ability to hold a charge thus leading to a battery’s early demise.

The easy solution is a microchip-controlled “smart” battery charger that monitors the charge and keeps the battery topped off. While you’re at it, make sure your connections are clean, bare metal, and greased.

If it’s a sealed battery, you need only hook the charger to the positive and negative terminals and turn it on. If the battery is an open type, with caps covering the electrolyte, first top off the individual chambers with distilled water, then connect the charger.

Chargers we’ve tested, and recommend are made by CTEK or TecMate or the granddaddy of them all, the Battery Tender.

Final Steps

Additional things to do include filling the tires to recommended pressure, and thoroughly lubing the chain, if applicable. Leaving it over-lubed or even greased is okay, but write yourself a note to clean the chain in the spring.

Remember, in the cold, air becomes denser, and combined with inevitable slow leaking, tire pressures will drop, and need to be refilled in the spring. Checking and topping them off mid-winter is not a bad idea either.

If you have a centre stand, or rear paddock stand– and ideally, a front stand too – lifting the bike off the floor will prevent potential flat spots on the tires. At least placing wood or cardboard under the tires to protect them from a freezing floor is advisable.

If storing the bike in a shed or garage that will experience sub-freezing temperatures, placing a portable, thermostatically controlled, oil-filled electric radiator or ceramic heater or other safe heater in the storage space will prevent your bike from experiencing the depths of winter’s cold.

Placing a cover over the motorcycle – even if it’s to be stored in a garage – will keep dust off, and protect it from things that might brush up against it.

Or, Ask Someone Else To Do It!

We're always happy to prep your bike for winter, or any long period of storage, give us a call or email us to talk it over.