How to Winterize a Motorcycle: The 11-Step Guide
Written by Carolyn Jackson
Table of Contents
Summer is coming to a close and fall is in full effect. The leaves are changing, the air is cool and crisp and pumpkin spice everything is dominating. As enticing as the fall season may be, we all know what comes next (for most of us anyway); the brutal winter months full of below zero temperatures, snow, ice, and gloomy days. As motorcycle riders get in their last few rides of the year throughout October and November, it is time to start thinking about winterizing your motorcycle.
In this article, we will explain why it is important to winterize your motorcycle, break down how to winterize your motorcycle in easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions and then we will get into some winter motorcycle gear that you might be able to utilize if the conditions allow.
Why Do I Need to Winterize a Motorcycle?
Just like any other motorized vehicle that is seasonal (think jet skis, RVs, or boats), they will likely sit in storage for an extended amount of time each year. While your vehicle sits in storage, it is at risk for corrosion, battery failure, engine failure and many other expensive damages caused by cold temperatures and lack of use.
Performing the steps we outline below will help ensure your motorcycle avoids any major issues while it’s hibernating. Winterizing a motorcycle will also help you get out on the road faster when the air and roads warm.
Can I pay someone else to winterize my motorcycle for me?
Sure you can. Most motorcycle dealerships with a service center will winterize your motorcycle for you. Keep in mind they will be busy this time of year, so you might have higher wait times. It will also likely cost you anywhere from $200-$400 to have your motorcycle professionally winterized.
List of Items You Will Need to Winterize a Motorcycle
- Fuel Stabilizer
- Synthetic Motorcycle Oil and Filter
- Fogging Oil
- Plastic Tupperware or Container
- Steel Wool
- Sandwich Bags
- Wrench Set
- Flexible Funnel
- Motorcycle Cover
Is Winterizing a Motorcycle the Same for All Brands?
More or less, the answer is yes. Although the better question might be, is motorcycle winterization the same for all types of motorcycles? Well, the answer is still mostly yes. The steps and recommendations we detail below are common needs for all types and brands of motorcycles. However, each bike comes with a manufacturer owner’s manual, which will detail the exact steps and brands they recommend for you to use when winterizing your bike.
The most notable difference to consider is that this list is not a one-size-fits-all list. Sorry! Some people will need to follow this list to a “T” to store and prep their bike to go into full winter storage while others might ride their bike once a month instead of 3 times a week. The needs of each person are unique and the below instructions are a guideline.
How Do I Winterize a Motorcycle?
Winterizing a motorcycle is something that is easy to learn. It will take a bit of time and patience, but trust us, anyone can do this in less than an afternoon. The peace of mind is worth it. We will walk you through the process step-by-step.
1. Clean your motorcycle with soap and water
Be sure to use automotive-specific soap, like this one at Walmart, instead of traditional hand soap or dishwashing soap, which will leave a residue behind and can cause corrosion and buildup over the winter. Washing your motorcycle is important because leftover water residue or bug guts can do permanent damage to paint. Make sure you fully dry your bike after washing it, or consider a rinseless wash, like this one.
Pro Tip: To really seal the winterizing deal and get an A+, add a coat of wax after the wash, which will act as a barrier against moisture and rust and then spray all the exposed metal with WD-40 to wick away all moisture and to give your bike a protective coating against corrosion.
2. Add fuel stabilizer fluid to a fresh tank of gas
We recommend doing this step at the last gas fill-up of your riding season. This way, the stabilizer will get mixed in with the rest of the gas on your remaining drive home. Fuel stabilizer, easily found at any Walmart or on Amazon, maintains the moisture content in your gas tank so condensation does not occur over the winter, damaging the engine.
3. Change the oil and oil filter
If you do not change your oil, acid will begin to form and damage your motorcycle, requiring expensive repairs and delaying your time on the road. To change the motorcycle oil, first, get your empty plastic container ready and below the oil tank to catch the drainage. Then, remove the engine oil cap so the oil can easily flow out of the chamber. Next, use a socket wrench to remove the drain bolt and the oil filter and then wait for the oil to finish draining into your container.
Once the old oil is fully drained, use a flexible funnel to refill the oil tanks with the suggested amount and brand noted in your bike’s manufacturer manual. Most bikes will have a sight glass that you can use to see the oil levels. Turn on the bike and check to make sure the oil tank is adequately full.
4. Drain the carburetor
Note: Only do this step if your bike has a carburetor. Fuel-injected engines do not have a carburetor.
To drain the carburetor, turn off the main gas valve from the tank. Then look for the nozzle or drain screw on the bottom of the bowl. Have a towel ready to catch any drainage and then open up the draincock. Once the nozzle is opened, you should only expect about 10-15 seconds of drainage. Close the valve when the gas stops flowing. Let the towel dry outside and then throw it in the garbage.
5. Change the gear lubricant
Remove the drain plug and let the gear lube drain out. Then replace the plug, level the bike and refill with fresh lube. Use a bendable funnel and pour slowly until you see oil seeping out of the opening. Then use a rag to catch the end of the funnel as you remove it from the drain plug so nothing leaks onto the ground. Last step is to replace the filler plug, and voila, done with step 5.
6. Seal the mufflers and intake pipes
Unfortunately for your bike, small animals, bugs and other rodents like to crawl inside of open motorcycle pipes and make their home there over the winter. This can cause extensive damage to your bike. To prevent this, you can buy an exhaust plug or you can simply stuff steel wool inside a plastic bag inside the exhaust. Either way, make sure it is fully sealed and that you have some sort of indication to remind you to remove the plug before your next ride.
7. Lubricate the outside of the bike
You already re-lubed the inside of the bike, but now it is time to lubricate the outside of the bike. Using a store-bought chain lubricant spray, coat the chain and all pivot points with this spray using gloves to work it into the nooks and crannies. This step will prevent rust from building up on your bike over the winter season.
8. Remove the battery and store properly
If batteries are left to sit over a long period of time, they will often lose their charge and can even completely die. To combat this over the winter months, you can use a battery tender, which uses tech to monitor the battery’s charge and keep it full without overcharging or overheating. Depending on the battery tender you use, you might need to remove the battery and store it in a cool (not cold) dry place, but many battery tenders allow you to leave the battery in the bike.
Pro Tip: Clean the battery electrodes from dust and corrosion before hooking it up to the tender for the winter, grease the ends if necessary.
9. Add antifreeze
If you are storing your bike in a garage, storage facility or outside, antifreeze will be your best friend. If you expect your bike to be in an area that might get around or below freezing temperatures, you need to do this step. Check your antifreeze levels in the coolant system and top them off if needed. If your bike runs out of antifreeze, it could cause cracks and serious damage from water expansion.
10. Put on a motorcycle cover
Motorcycle covers will keep dust and harmful moisture off your freshly cleaned and prepped bike. Water and dust buildup can cause corrosion and rust to form, causing unsightly and expensive damage to your bike. If you have to store your bike outside, make sure the cover fully encloses the bike and is attached either to the bike or to the ground so that it seals the bike and does not blow away.
11. Store in a cool, dry, and safe place
If you have a motorcycle stand, we recommend storing your bike on the stand throughout the winter to maintain the integrity of the tires. Otherwise, they may develop flat spots and require repair or replacement in the spring. If you do not have a stand, it is a good idea to rotate the tires every few weeks.
Pro Tip: Prevent moisture from getting to your bike by putting it on an extra piece of carpet or plywood or even a workout mat, if you don’t have a motorcycle stand.
Winterizing your motorcycle might seem like a daunting and unenjoyable experience, but we can assure you it is well worth it. You might even grow to like the routine over time. The process we outlined above will ensure you spend less time at the mechanic and more time on the road, where we all want to be. Some simple and inexpensive steps taken once a year will keep your beloved motorcycle working in tip-top shape for years to come.
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