Checklist for Winterizing Your Bike

Oct 23, 2009 View Comments by

Because most mechanical systems perform best when they’re used regularly, the most effective way of preparing your bike for winter is to simply keep riding and maintaining it. But most of us, unfortunately, don’t live in a climate that allows a 365-day riding year. Consequently, we need to prepare our rides for some period of winter storage. Here’s a quick checklist to help you make sure the job gets done properly:

  1. Store Properly: Indoor (heated if possible) storage is best for guarding against moisture and rust. To prevent flat spots from developing on tires, store the bike on its centerstand with most of its weight off of the wheels. If that’s not possible, move the motorcycle slightly every month.
  2. Stabilize the Fuel: Fill gas tank and add fuel stabilizer to the gas. With fuel-injected bikes, run the engine so the treated fuel gets into the injectors. With carburetor(s) turn off petcock, drain float bowl(s).
  3. Tend to the Battery: Attach maintenance charger to battery. If battery is a non-sealed type, check fluid levels and add distilled water if needed. Avoid using trickle chargers, which overcharge batteries in storage
  4. Lubricate Controls and Other Mechanical Parts: Lubricate cables, change front fork oil as required by 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 necessary.
  7. Inspect/Service Cooling System: For water-cooled bikes, test the coolant for freeze protection. Look for any signs of rust or leakage, ensure that coolant level is at the proper level–drain and flush and replace coolant every two years.
  8. Inspect/Service Brakes: Remove the brake pads and check the calipers for corrosion. If left unchecked, corroded parts can eventually cause brakes to seize up. Replace faulty parts as necessary.
  9. Inspect/Replace Tires: Check condition of tires, including tread depth. Tires with wear bars showing or 3/32 or less of tread remaining, or older than six years should be replaced.
  10. Inspect/Service Electrical System: Look for any signs of corrosion on exposed electrical connections. A thin coating of silicone dielectric grease can help prevent corrosion.
  11. Replace Brake/Clutch Fluids: Brake fluid can absorb moisture over time, causing corrosion and loss of braking effectiveness. It’s best to replace those fluids yearly, 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.
  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 and then apply a protective coating.
  14. Inspect/Replace Air Filter: Inspect the air filter to determine if it needs cleaning or replacement.
  15. Clean and Treat Leather: Using a high quality dressing to clean and preserve all leather surfaces.
  16. Treat Cylinder Walls: To help prevent cylinder wall and piston ring corrosion, 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. Reinstall spark plugs and tighten to the specified torque.
  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.

Many, if not most, of the above procedures will be within the mechanical knowledge and skill level of the owner. However, if you’re ever in doubt about something, it’s always advisable to consult a trained professional technician.

Ride safe,
Your RoadRUNNER team.

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