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Winter Motorcycle Maintenance – Put Your Bike to Bed for the Winter

Save big $$ by winterizing your motorcycle yourself

winter motorcycleFamily Handyman
Having a shop winterize your bike can cost over $200. But if you can change the oil in your car, you can easily winterize your own bike and save most of the cost. Just pick up the items we show here and gather up your tools. The winterizing process takes less than two hours and starts at the nearest gas station.

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Time
A full day
Complexity
Beginner
Cost
$51–100

Step 1: Fill the tank and add fresh fuel stabilizer

Fuel stabilizer

Fuel stabilizer works best with fresh fuel, so add it to the tank right at the station. That’ll give the stabilized fuel a chance to run through the carburetor on the way home. Make sure the stabilizer itself is fresh—it’s only good for two years once the bottle’s opened.

Step 2: Change the oil and filter

Change engine oil

Combustion gases collect in your oil and form acid. You don’t want that acid sitting in your crankcase all winter eating away at bearings and other expensive parts. So even if you’ve recently changed it, you need to change it again for winter storage. Yes, it’s that important.

Bikes have low clearance and car drain pans won’t fit. So get a low-profile plastic food storage container (no, not from the kitchen) and use that as a drain pan. Spin on a new filter and refill the crankcase with fresh oil.

Step 3: Fog the engine

Coat internal parts with oil

Some shops think this step is overkill, but it can’t hurt. Fogging prevents corrosion by covering internal engine parts with a light coat of oil. There’s no downside to it. Just make sure you do this step outdoors—it creates a lot of smoke. If your bike needs new spark plugs, install them before you fog the engine. Start fogging by removing the air filter (the fogging oil will clog the filter material). Then start the bike. Spray the fogging oil directly into the air intake as you increase the idle speed to 2,000 rpm. Stop spraying when the engine quits.

Step 4: Drain the carburetor

Carburetor

Even though you’ve added stabilizer to the gas, you still have to drain the carburetor. Turn off the main gas valve from the tank. Then look for the petcock or drain screw on the bottom of the bowl. Place a folded rag under the bowl and open the petcock. You won’t see a flood of gas—a carburetor bowl only holds about 2 ozs. Close the valve when the gas stops flowing. Spread the rag out to dry (not in direct sunlight) before tossing it into the trash.

Step 5: Change the final drive lube

Final drive lube

On shaft-driven bikes, 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 cap the funnel end with a rag (to catch the rest of the oil in the funnel) and replace the filler plug.

Step 6: Critter-proof the air intake and exhaust pipes

Keep mice out of mufflers

Mufflers and air cleaners are “homes of choice” for critters. Keep them out by stuffing a sandwich bag with steel wool and then pushing the bag into the air intake and tailpipes. The bag keeps steel wool strands out of the engine. Use bright-colored caution tape as a reminder to remove it in the spring.

Step 7: Lube the chain and all pivot points

Spray chain lube

You should already be doing this several times during the biking season. But it’s especially important to spray chain lube onto the chain and into all pivot points (brake and clutch levers, kickstand, fold-up foot pegs, etc.) before storing your bike for the winter. That’ll keep rust from forming on the parts during the winter.

Step 8: Install a ‘battery maintainer’

Keep the battery charged

A battery maintainer won’t damage your battery like a trickle charger. They have smart monitoring circuitry that charges the battery only when it needs it. So connect one to your battery and it will be fully charged and ready to fire up in the spring.

Step 9: Check the coolant freeze protection

Test antifreeze and coolant

This is one step most people skip. Don’t. Dip the suction tube of the coolant tester into the radiator or coolant reservoir and suck up enough to make the indicator (or balls) float. Then read the protection level. If yours isn’t up to the task, change it now.

Step 10: Spray the bike with WD-40

This may sound strange, but a light coating of WD-40 over the entire bike does a great job of preventing corrosion. I got this tip from a bike shop service manager who swears that his bikes come out of storage looking better than customers’ bikes that aren’t sprayed. In the spring, just drive it to a self-service car wash and hose it down. It’ll look great.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Allen wrench
  • Rags
  • Socket/ratchet set
  • Wrench set
You’ll also need an oil filter wrench, oil drain pan, rubber gloves, oil funnel, bendable funnel, a battery maintainer and a coolant tester.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • Chain lube
  • Engine oil
  • Fogging oil
  • Fuel stabilizer
  • Gear lube oil
  • Oil filter
  • Pink tape
  • Sandwich bag
  • Steel wool
  • WD-40