How to Winterize a Motorcycle: The Expert’s Guide

When winter’s just around the corner, and you know it’s almost time to put your bike in storage for the cold-weather season, it’s crucial to winterize it correctly to ensure you don’t run into any unpleasant surprises when spring rolls around.

No one wants to take out their bike after a long winter, only to find that it won’t start! Keep reading to find out exactly what you need to do to get your bike ready for winter. 

Wash Your Bike

The very first thing you need to do for how to winterize a motorcycle is to clean the surfaces. You may not feel like washing your bike right before you winterize it — after all, nobody’s going to see it for months! However, if you allow debris like insect guts or water spots to sit untouched on your bike throughout the winter months, this could erode the finish of your bike.

As such, take the time to wash and dry your bike thoroughly. Make sure all the moisture is gone. You may want to consider putting on a coat of wax to ward off rust and humidity while the bike’s in storage. Be sure to use WD-40 to spray and metal surfaces exposed to the open air as an additional barrier against moisture.

Switch out the Oil and Filter

No matter what type of bike you own, whether it be a 3 wheel motorcycle, touring motorcycle, or otherwise, it’s vital to switch out the oil and filter as part of your winterizing process. It is more optimal to have brand new oil in your motorcycle’s lubrication system rather than to have used and dirty oil sitting in there for months at a time.

If you live in a region with particularly long winters and plan on storing your motorcycle for 4 to 6 months or longer, safeguard the internal mechanisms of your bike’s engine by applying a coat of oil. Doing so will keep moisture at bay, which could lead to rust formations on the walls of your cylinder and pistons. 

Lubricate — and Lubricate Some More

Speaking of lubrication, you’ll want to make sure you thoroughly lubricate any moving parts on your bike to prevent moisture buildup, binding, or rust during the winter months. You should lube any area that you would typically lube on your motorcycle again before you put it in storage.

Major parts to keep an eye on and be sure to lube include the controls, cables, chain driver, and fork surfaces. While you’re at it, take the time to:

  • Check out the air filter and clean it out or replace it as needed
  • Check the tires and belt for wear
  • Check your chain and brake pads for signs of wear
  • Check the pressure in your tires and make sure they are equal
  • Wax the chrome and paint
  • Apply a leather protectant on any leather areas of your bike, such as the seat

Protect Your Battery

When they sit for too long, motorcycle batteries have the potential to self-discharge. The possibility of self-discharge is particularly real if you leave the batteries hooked up to your motorcycle. To avoid this altogether, consider connecting a battery tender that will track the charge and make sure the battery doesn’t overcharge.

If you use a battery tender, you will want to make sure the electrodes don’t show signs of corrosion and are completely clean. 

Get the Fuel System Ready

Your motorcycle’s gas tank can and will rust if you don’t use it for prolonged periods. When you leave the pump gas alone, it can erode and get gummy and clog as well. Use treated fuel to inhibit rust and make sure the fuel runs optimally after remaining in storage for several months.

When you take your final ride before you winterize, stop over at a gas station near your storage location, fill the tank with fuel stabilizer, and top it off. With a full tank, you’ll prevent moisture buildup on the interior of the tank. The ride home will help to mix the stabilizer and gas so it flows throughout your fuel system before you store it. 

Safeguard Your Tires

If your tires sit for too long all winter, they could gather flat areas over the months in storage. The best way to avoid this issue is to store your tires off the grounds with motorcycle stands. If you don’t own stands and don’t feel like investing in them, you should at a minimum, ensure that you elevate the rear tire off the ground.

You could also rotate your bike’s tires by rolling the tires periodically every few weeks or so. If you have to keep the tires flush with the concrete, you could use a piece of plywood or carpet underneath to prevent moisture from soaking through. 

Use Anti-Freeze If Needed

Depending on where you live, you could be storing your bike in an area where the temperature will drop below freezing. If this describes your situation, you need to fill your coolant system with the appropriate levels of antifreeze. Otherwise, if you just put water in the system and it freezes once temperatures drop, the head could crack during the winter — which could be a real drag for aspects like motorcycle values.  

Use a Quality Cover

A key component of how to winterize a motorcycle is to invest in a quality cover that will ward off dust, moisture, and other corrosive factors. A cover could run you anywhere from $50 to $100. If you intend to store your bike outside, look for a cover that features downs so it won’t blow up and away if wind hits.

On the other hand, if you’ll be storing your motorcycle indoors, you won’t have to worry about weather elements like the wind. However, you should still invest in a cover that will keep dust buildup at bay. 

Plug Your Pipes

Rodents like mice love to hid in air filters and exhaust pipes to get away from the cold. If you don’t want to find any unwelcome furry surprises in your bike’s system when spring rolls around, use an exhaust plug to plug up your pipes. You could also use plastic bags to plug the exhaust ends and air intake. 

Securing Your Bike

One final component to bear in mind when winterizing your motorcycle is to secure your bike from theft. Naturally, you’ll want to take out motorcycle insurance for your bike if you haven’t already.

From a practical standpoint, if you intend to store your motorcycle outside for months at a time where no one will be attending it, your bike is ripe for theft. Besides safeguarding your bike from inclement weather, a motorcycle cover will also hide your bike from open view. You may also want to consider securing your bike with a chain and lock so you can rest easy.

Once you have fully winterized your motorcycle, you may find that the colder months are the ideal period to perform any maintenance that you’ve been putting off in the warmer season, especially if you’re a fan of used motorcycles and have some upgrades to do. By the time spring rolls around, you’ll be ready to hit rubber to the road