How to Prepare a Motorcycle for Winter Storage

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Introduction: How to Prepare a Motorcycle for Winter Storage

Properly preparing your motorcycle for winter storage can save time, headaches, and money when nice weather rolls around. Since each motorcycle has different designs and specifications, these instructions are designed to provide an overview of the process -- refer to your motorcycle's owner's manual and repair manual for additional information.

For this set of instructions, I'll be showing you how I prepare my 1997 Honda Magna VF750C2 for a few months inside the garage. 

Required equipment:
  • A bucket
  • Car washing soap
  • A sponge
  • A hose and running water
  • Motorcycle oil
  • Oil filter
  • Oil funnel
  • Oil pan
  • Gasoline container with enough gasoline to fill your tank
  • Gasoline stabilizer (e.g. Sta-Bil)
  • Screwdrivers and socket wrench set
  • Plastic bags and rubber bands OR motorcycle exhaust plugs (recommended)
  • Battery trickle charger
  • Motorcycle cover (recommended)
  • Your motorcycle's owners manual AND a repair manual

Step 1: Change the Oil

After your last ride of the season, change the oil in your bike. That way, when spring rolls around, you know in advance your bike is ready to ride.

Each motorcycle is different, so be sure to consult with your owner's manual and repair manual for the specifics (particularly the type of oil, size of the oil filter, amount of oil, etc.) for your particular model.

Needed for this step:
  • Oil filter
  • Motor oil
  • Socket wrench
  • Oil pan
  • Oil funnel
  • Owner's manual and repair manual
Instructions:
Typically, each oil change will require these basic steps:
  1. Remove the oil drain plug using a socket wrench, and allow the oil to completely drain from the engine into the oil pan.
  2. Unscrew the old oil filter from the engine.
  3. Take your finger and dip it in the old oil, then rub some oil around the O-ring on the new oil filter. (Doing this will help it seal properly against the engine.)
  4. Screw the new oil filter on, tightening as much as you can with your hand.
  5. Replace the oil drain plug, tightening it with the socket wrench.
  6. Remove the oil cap (see owner's manual for the specific location on your bike) and, using the oil funnel, pour the proper amount of oil into the engine.
  7. Put the oil cap back on, tightening it with your hand. 
Note: A friend of mine highly recommends cleaning the carburetors as well, so they don't get gunky over the course of the winter. If you plan on storing your bike for more than 3 months, this idea makes a lot of sense.

For additional information about cleaning your carburetors, visit thickneckarts' Instructable. If you don't plan on storing your bike for more than three months, take a look at the note at the end of this Instructable.

Step 2: Wash Your Bike

Cleaning the previous season's grit off your paint will ensure it won't damage the finish over the course of the winter.

Needed for this step:
  • Soap 
  • Sponge
  • Bucket
  • Hose
Instructions:
  1. Using the soap, sponge, bucket, and water, thoroughly wash the dirt, grime and bugs off your motorcycle, and leave it out in the sun to dry. 

Step 3: Fill Your Gas Tank

A half-empty gas tank and untreated gasoline can create major, expensive issues over the course of time. A full gas tank helps prevent rust from forming inside the tank, and treated gasoline will help prevent gunk and varnish from forming in the engine.

Needed in this step:
  • Gasoline can with gas
  • Gas-stabilizing chemical (e.g. Sta-bil)
Instructions:
  1. After your bike has dried in the sun, remove the gas cap, grab the gas can and fill 3/4 of your tank with gasoline.
  2. After consulting with the directions on the gas-stabilizing chemical, pour the appropriate amount in your gas tank as well. For example, my gas tank holds 3.7 gallons. Sta-Bil recommends using 1 oz. (30 mL) for every 2.5 gallons of gasoline, so I typically add approximately 45 mL of Sta-Bil in my tank. 
  3. After adding the stabilizing chemical, fill the rest of the gas tank with gasoline. A full tank will help prevent the inside from rusting over the winter.
  4. Put the gas cap back on, start your bike, and let it run for about five minutes so the stabilizing chemical will have a chance to treat the entire fuel system. At this point, I typically drive the bike to the location where I will be storing it for the winter.


Step 4: Move the Bike to the Storage Location

Needed in this step:
  • A dry storage location or parking spot
Instructions:
  1. Drive your motorcycle to its winter storage location -- a warm, dry spot is best (e.g. a garage or shed). If not, a parking spot will do.
  2. Turn the motorcycle off and allow the engine and mufflers to cool down.

Step 5: Cover the Mufflers

Little critters love to climb in cozy locations over the winter - like a motorcycle muffler.

Needed for this step:
  • Motorcycle exhaust plugs OR plastic bags and rubber bands
Instructions:
  1. To prevent critters from nesting in your mufflers, place motorcycle exhaust plugs (recommended) in them. If you don't have motorcycle exhaust plugs, simply put a plastic bag over your muffler and use a rubber band to hold it in place.


Step 6: Remove the Battery

Needed for this step:
  • Socket wrench set
  • Screwdriver
  • Owner's manual and repair manual
Instructions:
  1. Remove the seat from your motorcycle. For exact instructions, refer to your owners manual or repair manual. 
  2. Use a screwdriver to unscrew the connectors to your battery, and lift it out of the battery case. Remember which side the red wire was attached to (and remember that red = POSITIVE). 
  3. Replace the seat.

Step 7: Connect the Battery to the Charger

A trickle charger will provide a steady, low stream of electricity to a battery, which enables it to stay charged through long periods of inactivity.

Needed for this step:
  • Trickle charger
  • Electrical outlet
  • Battery
Instructions:
  1. While the charger is unplugged, connect the red clamp to the location you removed the red connector from (some batteries have a "+" sign, indicating POSITIVE. As we remember from the last step, RED = POSITIVE.) 
  2. Connect the black clamp to the other side (the "negative" side).  Make sure the clamps do not touch -- this can result in a spark or electric shock.
  3. Plug the charger in to an electrical outlet. 

Step 8: Cover the Bike

Needed for this step:
  • Motorcycle cover
Instructions:
  1. Finally, take your motorcycle cover and cover the motorcycle. For those of you storing your motorcycle outside, this step should be mandatory. A cover will help shield the bike from the elements, namely snow, ice, and other particles that may scratch the paint or cause rust. For those of you storing your motorcycle indoors, the cover will also add an extra layer of protection -- but hopefully your bike will not be as susceptible to winds or snowstorms. 
And that's it! Your motorcycle is now properly prepared for winter.

Final note: If you plan on storing your motorcycle for a few months (3 or so), it's a good idea to re-install the battery, remove the muffler covers and start the motorcycle about once a month, letting it run for five or ten minutes. Rev the engine a few times to help clear gasoline that has been sitting out of the carburetors, then shut the engine off and allow it to cool down, then repeat steps 5 through 8.

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17 Comments

It is important to perform proper storage procedures for your vehicles and electronics to ensure they are still in a good working condition after the season ends. Another alternative is to rent self storage units with a climate control feature that can help maintain the tools and equipment throughout the entire season so you can rest at ease.

This would be a good instruct able for me to keep handy in the office. We get customers coming by to the storage facility every once in a while looking for automobile short term storage like over the winter months and such. It makes sense to take the proper steps to ensure your bike or car or even boat is properly taken care of and will last through those months in storage!

While if I owned a bike, I would be really sad if I had to put it into storage every winter, it's necessary to take the proper steps to preserving your performance vehicle if you have to do it!


But you can also: drive thru the winter, a real character builder.
or
Move to a year around climate?
or
Sell the bike every year?
or
Let the dealer do it and negotiate a deal for a new bike each year until you both reach critical mass!

P.S. Don't wrap the pipes with air tight plastic wrappings to avoid condensation/ corrosion: just plug the hole to keep the critters out and the corrosion in? You can? Stick a couple of silica packs: on a string into the exhaust before the critter plug too. 8-)

Thanks, I needed this as I just got into riding.

And, btw, that is a great looking bike. Colors look awesome and the drag bags look cool. A real improvement on the original.

Thanks for this instructable. Previously my lawn mower died on me after I forgot to put it away during winter. Even after much thawing was done, it did not get revived as I had hoped it to. It wasn’t because I didn’t know about winter storage but it was because I didn’t know the proper methods to do it. Well, now I know just how! It is time to save money by preventing rather than cure.

Great tips! I think they can also be applied to your electrical devices being left there in the open. Even those already up in your storage shed could still be open to risks of damage if the cold gets in. Just treat them like living things and you will know what to do. Always remember they need the heat as much as you do and need to be protected throughout winter like how you need to. Actually, even your car needs some loving like that and should not be left out in the open.

love that supermagna!

why not ride all winter? Store a bike in Las Vegas, fly in and I'll pick you up at the airport. You can be riding in 10 minutes. LasVegasMotorCycleStorage.vpweb.com

Thanks for this set of step-by-step guidelines. Motor vehicles and electronics definitely require proper preparation prior to winter. The sudden drop in temperate can cause a lot of harm to these machines and tools. If you do not wish to see your precious belongings losing their quality or totally cannot be used anymore, then performing these processes are necessary to properly prepare them for winter storage.