Don't Let This Be Your Bike - Winterize!

Wintertime can bring on the biker blues when snow, ice and frozen temperatures blow into town and send your motorcycle into hibernation. But you can be ready to fire up the bike and take off at the first sign of a warm spring day when you give your motorcycle a proper winterization before putting it away for the season.

Depending on the type of your motorcycle, the specifics for winterizing your machine may vary but the general steps are the same across the board. We’ve laid out the process in the video below, as well as provided written steps to help you prepare your bike. Take a look to learn how to keep your motorcycle in top shape as you wait out the winter.

Winterizing Your Motorcycle

Step 1: Change Fluids, Oils and Filters

Changing out the Oil in a Harley

The first step of winterizing your motorcycle is to basically perform a full service on your bike. You’ll want to change out the oils and fluids to prevent any possible contaminants or break down of the chemicals from causing damage to your engine. When your engine is warm, change out the engine oil and replace with fresh motorcycle grade oil. It’s a smart idea to change out the oil filter while you are at it.

Replacing the Transmission OilReplacing the Oil in the Primary Case

Depending on your machine, you may also have separate compartments for the primary case oil and transmission oil. Make sure to change them out as well and replace with clean, fresh oil.

Check the Final Gear Oil in Shaft Driven Motorcycles

For shaft driven motorcycles, check your final gear oil and change it out if it needs it or if it has been a couple of years since it was changed. Check your service manual for proper oil levels if you are unsure of what they are. Don’t forget to recycle your used motor oil. Most local auto parts shops allow you to bring in oil for recycling.

Changing out the CoolantReplacing with Fresh Coolant

If your bike is liquid-cooled, your antifreeze or coolant typically lasts for a couple of years. But if you are not sure about its current condition, go ahead and change it out. Now is a good time to check the other fluids in your motorcycle such as brake fluid and clutch fluid. Change them out as needed.

Step 2: Clean Your Motorcycle

Cleaning Your Motorcycle is a Must!

Next on the list of things to do is to give your motorcycle a thorough cleaning. Make sure you scrub it well and wash off all dirt, bugs and grime.

Polishing the Chrome SurfacesWaxing the Painted Surfaces on the Bike

Wax all of the painted surfaces and polish all of the chrome surfaces on your motorcycle. The main purpose for this is to help protect against condensation that can cause rust and corrosion, as well as protect against dust and scratches. Plus, your motorcycle will look great when you pull that cover off come spring! On bikes without chrome, you can rub a small amount of clean oil or WD-40 on metal surfaces to help protect against corrosion.

Make Sure to Use a Chain Lube or Wax for Chain-Driven Motorcycles

If you have a chain driven motorcycle, make sure to give your chain a good scrub to remove dirt and grime. Follow that up by giving it a good coat of high-quality chain lube to protect it from rust and corrosion.

Treat the Leather with a Good Protectant or Conditioner

Don’t forget to coat any leather on your bike with a good leather protectant or conditioner. This will keep it soft and prevent it from cracking. To further protect any leather on your motorcycle such as the seat and saddlebags, you will want to bring it inside to store it out of the cold if you do not have a heated garage.

Step 3: Take Care of the Fuel System

Sta-bil Fuel StabilizerAdding a Fuel Stabilizer Will Protect Your Fuel

Properly caring for the fuel system is a very important step in winterizing your motorcycle. The first thing you will want to do is to fill your tank all the way full (to the bottom of the filler neck) with fresh fuel. Extra room in your tank leaves you more likely for water contamination. This speeds up the fuel break down. Extra room in a metal tank is subject to rust when the fuel sweats and causes condensation in the tank. So fill that thing to the top.

Fuel has a tendency to go stale over time, which can cause it to gel or gum up. So adding a fuel stabilizer is a must. Check the back of the bottle for the correct amount to add per gallon of fuel. Once your tank has been treated with a fuel stabilizer, start up the bike and let it run for a few minutes so the treatment has enough time to run through and coat the system, carburetor and injectors. This is probably the best insurance you have for keeping grime and varnish out of your fuel system.

Step 4: Properly Store Your Battery

Battery Tenders Keep Your Battery Strong

Next comes battery storage. Batteries are fairly high maintenance and need attention – not keeping them at a full charge during the winter will mostly likely result in a dead battery come spring. The easiest way to care for a battery is by storing it at room temperature and keeping it on a constant trickle charge with a battery tender. This will ensure the battery is kept at 100% charge without overcharging it. You may have to the remove the battery from the motorcycle if you do not have a heated garage to store the bike in.

Also, if you have a conventional battery, you will want to check the electrolyte level in each cell and add distilled water to any cells that are low before connecting it to a battery tender. The process of checking electrolyte levels does not have to be done with no-maintenance batteries.

Step 5: Prepare to Park the Bike

Check the Tire Pressure Before Storing Your Bike

Just a few final tasks and your motorcycle will be ready to rest for the season. You want to make sure to check that both tires are running the maximum recommended pressure. Cold air condenses in your tires when the temperatures turn brisk, and having your tires fully pumped will help keep them in good shape over the winter.

Built in Bike StandLifting Your Motorcycle Can Preserve Your Tires

If your bike comes equipped with a bike stand, be sure to use it. Rubber can crack when it freezes, so keeping the tires out of contact with the ground can prevent them from getting too cold. Suspending your tires can also prevent them from developing flat spots from sitting in one position too long. There are many types of stands available to help lift your motorcycle off the ground if it does not come with one.

If you do not have anything other than a kickstand to support your bike, a few simple garage scraps can help you protect your tires: an old piece of carpet, a thick section of cardboard or even some blocks of wood can all be used to buffer the contact of your tires with the ground and prevent freezing and condensation build up. Just be sure to go out about once a month and roll your bike a couple of feet forward or backward to prevent flat spots from forming on the tires.

Protect Your Motorcycle with a Quality Cover

The last thing that you’ll need to do to prepare your bike for winter is find a nice, preferably warm place to park it and cover it up. Make sure you cover it with a quality motorcycle cover – these are designed to be breathable to keep moisture out and prevent condensation from forming. A good cover will also protect your bike from dust as well as damage from the sun if it is in any direct contact with sunlight.

Let the Countdown to Spring Begin!

Your motorcycle is officially ready for winter. If you have gone through all of these steps, you will be ready to ride as soon as the spring temperatures allow. Occasionally you’ll find that one day in January where the temperatures reach up in to the ‘50s and you’re DYING to ride. If this happens to you, just make sure that you get your bike up to operating temperature to prevent condensation from building up. Then on your way home, top off the tank with fuel and a bit of stabilizer before you banish it back to the garage for the rest of the winter. Cover it back up and you should be good to go.

Was this article helpful? If so, share it with your friends! We’ll see you on the road next spring!

Technician Disclaimer

By Rachel Bretzing