Snow Bound: How to Winterize
Words: Randy Bolig
If you don’t have a garage, or shed to store your motorcycle, the Cycle Cabana by Rhino Shelters could be great alternative. It is made with reflective marine-grade material, and this easy to use motorcycle shelter is designed to be used both indoors and out. The shelter is designed so that it never touches your bike, and the material is water proof and protects against damaging UV rays. Covered ventilation on both sides of the Cabana allows for air flow, and the shelter is lockable.
For many, the joy of being able to ride a motorcycle year round is not an option. For you guys in the North, when the snow starts to fly, the time has passed when you should have prepared your bike for the long winter’s nap. What this does mean, is that you’ve put off winterizing your bike long enough. If you haven’t already, you need to put it away for the winter, and make sure that it’s ready to go when summer arrives.
Making sure that you do a few simple things to your motorcycle now, means that when summer finally comes back around, firing it up for the new season will be much easier.
The Long Slumber
A big issue plaguing many riders is storage. Leaving your bike outside to face the elements can wreak havoc on it. You really need to find some way to properly store it. If you don’t have covered storage or a garage that you can park you bike for an extended amount of time, you might be able to rent a storage unit. Most storage units that are large enough to house a motorcycle can be had for around $10.00-$20.00 a month. Since you will only need it for a few months—depending on where you live, it’s a minimal expense.
Another idea might be to ask your local motorcycle dealer if they offer storage. Some dealers do, and sometimes, this option can come with extras like them prepping it for storage, actual storage, and we have even heard of some that will have the bike ready for you to ride when you are ready for it.
If you store your bike in a home garage, keep in mind that ultraviolet light from the sun can fade paint and plastics. So, even while stored inside, another good idea is to cover your bike with a bike cover. It’s not a good idea to use a bed sheet or even a tarp, because a sheet will absorb moisture. If it absorbs the moisture and retains it, your bike will rust. A tarp on the other hand might prevent moisture from getting in; it also keeps any moisture that is already there, under the tarp. If moisture is trapped under the tarp, it will rust the bike.
Before you store your bike for an extended period of time, it is a good idea to install a fresh filter and oil. Even if it is not time for an oil change, the used oil in the engine/transmission contains byproducts of combustion (acids). If the engine is not run and the oils circulated, the acids in the oil can and will harm the metal surfaces.
Stabilizer Fuel and Empty Carbs
Filling the tank with a fuel stabilizer and fresh fuel eliminates any excess room for condensation to form, and ultimately water in the fuel when it’s time to start the engine, or worse, rust. The fuel stabilizer keeps the fuel from going stale. Once the tank is full, if your bike is equipped with a fuel shut off, close it, and make sure that the carburetors are empty. You can do this by running the bike until it shuts off, or by draining them. Stale fuel is what is left when the additives evaporate and leave a thick, sour smelling liquid. Eventually, stale fuel will even turn into a gumming gel, plugging your carburetor.
If your bike will be stored for a very long period of time, it might even be a good idea to give the cylinder walls a good coating of oil. Fuel is a solvent that cleans things, and since the oil scraper ring just cleaned the cylinder walls just as you shut the engine off, most of the oil protecting the cylinder walls has been removed. This leaves the cylinder walls unprotected for a long period of time, and rust can form.
To do this, remove the spark plugs and pour a small amount of clean engine oil (a teaspoon is good) into each cylinder. Now, turn the engine over for just a revolution or two (make sure the fuel shut off is just that before you crank the engine). Now reinstall the spark plugs.
Saving the Juice Box
With so many different brands of trickle chargers, there is no reason that you shouldn’t own one.
A trickle charger keeps the battery charged, and many are designed to help to de-sulfate the battery when needed. Before parking the bike, if you have a conventional lead-acid battery, the electrolyte level should be checked. If you need to add water, use only distilled water.
If you don’t have a trickle charger, charging the battery should take place at least once every two weeks. You will need a battery charger that has an output of around 10-percent of the battery ampere hour rating (AH). What that means is, if the battery has an AH rating of 12 Amperes, then the charge rate of that battery should not exceed 1.2 amps. If a higher rate is used, it can cause the battery to overheat. If it overheats, it will at a minimum, swell, and possibly explode.
You might think that applying a coat of wax and/or polish to a bike that will be stored for several months is a waste of time, but you would be wrong. A coat of wax and/or polish will act as a barrier against rust and moisture. You can also spray other metal surfaces (frame, chrome wheels, or engine) with a very light spray of WD-40. WD is a great metal protectant and moisture inhibitor that will keep these areas shiny, and even protect them from corrosion.
If you want to replace your exhaust system, just let your bike sit for a while. An exhaust will corrode extremely fast if the engine is not periodically run. This is because condensation will form in an unused exhaust, and that condensation present in the pipes will cause them to rust. If you want to make sure that your exhaust pipes are properly stored for the winter, you can spray a light oil (again, WD-40 works great) into the muffler ends and drain holes. Also, if you loosely place a plastic bag (shopping bags work great) over the end of each muffler, this will help to keep moisture from getting inside the exhaust. Remember, when you start the bike in the spring, it might smoke a little until it cleans off the oil. Exterior oils can be washed off of the bike before you start it.
Make sure that each tire is inflated to the manufacture’s recommend pressure. Rubber is flexible, and does not like to freeze (Yes your tires can freeze, and they can crack when they freeze). If you place a piece of cardboard or wood under each tire, this will help keep the rubber off of a freezing floor. Finally, do not put a tire dressing on your tires just before you store your bike. Tire dressings are typically petroleum based, as the tires will get hard and slippery.
If the brake fluid (or clutch fluid if the clutch is hydraulic), haven't been changed within the last two years or 15,000 miles), now would be a good time to do it. The fluids in these system are hygroscopic (they absorb moisture). If your fluids are extensively contaminated, this will cause corrosion inside the systems. If you’re riding a bike that is liquid cooled, the coolant should be changed every two years or 20,000 miles.