Winter is almost here, the most horrible time of the year when we all have to put our bikes away, wear ugly sweaters at crazy family conventions, and pretend to be jolly as we wait for the snow to melt so we can get back to doing the thing we love most. Okay, so winter might not actually be quite that bad, but if you live in an area where you have to winterize your bike, it’s good to know how to prep it for hibernation. Thankfully it’s not that hard, and doing it properly will mean your bike will be ready to go whenever you are, whether that’s on the random sunny winter day or come eventual spring. More importantly, it will keep moisture from rusting and corroding both the inside and outside of your motorcycle while it sits unused for months.
The To-Do List
- Wash and coat the surface
- Change the oil
- Lube it up
- Treat the fuel system
- Take care of the battery
- Get the tires off the ground
- Check the coolant
- Cover the exhaust outlets
- Store and cover the bike
- Lock it up
The first thing to do is wash your bike and apply a sealant to the paint and exposed metal surfaces. Leaving any residues on vulnerable surfaces like paint invites corrosion, and moisture will eat into exposed metals. Apply wax or other sealants to paint, and WD-40 to exposed metal surfaces to keep them safe from the elements.
Changing the oil and filter will help keep moisture out of your engine, protecting them from internal corrosion and rusting. And let’s be real, the last thing you’re going to want to do when it finally gets warm enough to ride is change the oil. If you’re unsure what kind of oil you should use or the best way to change your oil, check out our Resource Center for comprehensive guides on both.
Lubing moving parts before locking your bike up will help keep them from rusting. You’ve probably seen rust spots develop on your chain after a week of not riding if you live somewhere particularly humid, now just imagine what kind of rusting could occur if you didn’t ride for months. Apply fresh lube to your chain, cables, controls, forks, and any other pivot points to keep them from corroding.
Fuel breaks down over time and thickens into a sludge before eventually drying into a kind of shellac if left untreated. Which is literally the last thing you want to happen inside your engine: having gasoline harden into a crystalline substance and locking up all the moving parts is no good at all. Before you tuck your bike in for the winter, fill the gas tank to help prevent moisture from rusting the inside of the tank and treat the gas with a fuel stabilizer. Once you add the fuel stabilizer, let the engine run for a couple minutes to make sure the stabilizer runs through your whole fuel system before turning it off for the winter. We don’t recommend draining the tank and fuel system for the winter: fuel helps keep moisture out, preventing rust and other corrosion from taking place that would otherwise eat into the exposed surfaces.
Batteries will slowly discharge themselves if left unused for a long stretch of time. To avoid having to replace your battery come spring, check your battery terminals and clean them if necessary, get a smart battery tender, hook it up, and forget about it until the weather’s warm. If you don’t want to get a smart battery tender or if you have a normal battery tender, you can disconnect the battery from the bike and recharge the battery once a month to keep it in optimal condition.
If your bike sits in the same position all winter, your tires are going to develop flat spots, which will really screw you up next time you try to take the bike out for a ride. To prevent this, simply get the tires off the ground using a front and rear stand. If you can’t use a stand, make sure to roll the bike a little every couple weeks to change the part of the tire touching the ground. If your bike is going to be outside, try to place something underneath the tires like plywood or carpet to prevent them from getting damaged from absorbing so much moisture.
When temperatures drop below freezing, any water in your motorcycle will freeze and potentially damage any surrounding components. If your bike is liquid-cooled and you live in a place where it gets particularly cold, make sure you swap out the water with antifreeze so that it won’t crack anything when it drops below freezing.
Rodents love to find cozy little holes to sleep in when it gets cold. Cozy little nooks like your exhaust outlets and bellmouth air intakes. If you don’t want to finish your first spring ride by cleaning barbecued rat out of your mufflers, get some exhaust plugs or tie plastic bags over the muffler ends to keep anything looking for a place to keep warm out of your mufflers.
Whether or not if it’s for the whole winter, if your bike is going to be outside, you should cover it up. If you’ve ever owned a cheap motorcycle cover, you know that you get what you pay for. A quality cover will keep moisture from seeping through and getting into your motorcycle, and will keep dust and grime out as well. Make sure that you get a cover that can be tied or locked around the belly of the bike so that a gust of wind doesn’t blow it away, as well as it will help keep dust from getting kicked up into the bike from underneath.
If your bike is going to be left anywhere out of sight for long, it should be locked up. Do some research and invest in a quality disc lock, a swingarm chain, and maybe even an alarm system to help prevent your bike from being stolen. While having even all of these on your bike won’t make it 100% theft-proof, it may discourage thieves enough to make them reconsider whether they really want to go through all the effort to try and steal your bike.
While winter sucks for riders, it doesn’t have to suck for your bike if you properly winterize it. Have any questions about something we didn’t cover or want to share some helpful suggestions? Leave us a comment and take a look around our Resource Center for other how to guides, tech tips, and more.