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
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
  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)
  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
  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
  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
  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
  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
  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.