Touring Tip: Preparing Your Bike for Winter

Nov 07, 2014 View Comments by

Touring Tip: Preparing Your Bike for WinterTemperatures have started to decline in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, and it’s time to consider storage and maintenance of our favorite mounts. Because most mechanical systems perform best when they’re used regularly, the best way of preparing your bike for winter is to simply keep riding and maintaining it. But many riders in northern climates don’t have a 365-day riding year. Consequently, many will need to prepare their rides for some period of winter storage. Here’s a list of some of the most important maintenance items to perform (most should be done at least once a year regardless of riding frequency):

  1. Store Properly: Indoor (heated if possible) storage is best for guarding against moisture and rust. To prevent flat spots from developing on tires during prolonged storage periods, support the bike with its weight off of the wheels.
  2. Stabilize the Fuel: Fill the gas tank, turn off the petcock, drain carburetor(s), and add fuel stabilizer to the gas. Fuel injected bikes only require a full tank of gas and fuel stabilizer. Finally, run the bike so the treated fuel gets into the injectors or carburetor(s).
  3. Tend to the Battery: Attach a trickle charger to the battery. If battery is a non-sealed type, check fluid levels and add distilled water if needed.
  4. Lubricate Controls and Other Mechanical Parts: Lubricate cables, change front fork oil as required by the owner’s manual, and oil other exterior unsealed moving parts.
  5. Change Engine Oil and Filter: Because old oil can develop acidic qualities and cause corrosion, change it prior to storage and possibly again in the spring.
  6. Inspect/Lubricate Final Drive: Chains should be cleaned, checked for proper tension, and lubricated. Check the oil level on shaft drive bikes and add or replace it as directed by the owner’s manual.
  7. Inspect/Service Cooling System: For water-cooled bikes, look for any signs of rust and ensure that coolant level is at the proper level—flush radiator and replace coolant every two years.
  8. Inspect/Service Brakes: Remove the brake pads and check the calipers for corrosion. If left unchecked, corroded cylinders can eventually cause brakes to seize up. Replace worn pads as necessary.
  9. Inspect/Replace Tires: Check the condition of tires, including tread depth. Tires with 3/32 of an inch or less tread remaining or that are older than 10 years should be replaced.
  10. Inspect/Service Electrical System: Look for any signs of corrosion on exposed electrical connections. A thin coating of Vaseline or other petroleum-based preservative can help prevent corrosion.
  11. Replace Hydraulic Fluids: Because hydraulic fluids can absorb moisture over time, causing corrosion and loss of braking effectiveness, it’s best to replace those fluids at least every other year, but be sure to use only the recommended fluid from a sealed container.
  12. Check Torque of Threaded Fasteners: Ensuring that key nuts and bolts (i.e., those that could threaten life or limb if they became loose) are at their proper tightness is especially important for bikes ridden off-pavement.
  13. Clean/Protect Surfaces: Give your bike a thorough cleaning and then polish and wax all painted and chrome surfaces; clean and polish aluminum and stainless steel surfaces with the appropriate metal polish.
  14. Inspect/Replace Air Filter: Inspect the air filter to determine if it needs replacement or cleaning.
  15. Clean and Treat Leather: Use a high quality dressing to clean and preserve all leather surfaces.
  16. Treat Cylinder Walls: To help prevent cylinder wall and piston ring corrosion on bikes that will be stored for an extended period of time, remove spark plug(s) and add 25cc of motor oil. Then, with plugs removed, use the starter to turn the motor over several times to distribute the oil.
  17. Consult Owner’s Manual: As a final check to make sure you haven’t missed anything, review the maintenance schedule in your Owner’s Manual to determine if any other services are required.

Most of the above procedures will be within the mechanical knowledge and skill level of many owners. However, if you’re ever in doubt about something, it’s always advisable to consult a professionally trained motorcycle technician.

Photography by Ken Freund

 

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