Protect your motorbike from winter damage

Snowy bikes winter - BMF

Published on 20 November 2016 by Mike Waters

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Filed under Category: Tips and advice

It seems to happen all too soon, doesn’t it? The end of riding season often arrives before we’re ready for it. And once again, it’s time for many of us to put our beloved motorcycles away for the winter. Don’t make the mistake, however, of just sticking your bike in the garage until the snow and ice melt. By taking a few simple steps to prepare your bike for storage, you can help ensure that your motorcycle will be ready to roll when spring rolls around and you’ll be doing everything you can to help extend your bike’s lifespan too.

Motorcycle's winter clean - BMFLet it shine
Does a motorcycle really run better when it’s clean? Not necessarily, but it may last a little longer. Getting rid of rust and corrosion causing dirt and grime on your motorcycle can help it look good for longer and extend its functional life. There’s no better time to do it than before you put it in storage, which presents the perfect opportunity for you to remove the offending filth before it has several months to ferment on your bike’s shiny surfaces.

To start with, clean and dry all surfaces. Yes, it can be difficult getting into all those nooks and crannies, but it’s worth the effort. It’s a job best done by hand. High-pressure washers do a good job of dislodging dirt, but a direct high-pressure spray can also compromise engine sealing surfaces and electrical connections, short out switches or damage your radio. It’s also important to choose the right cleaners for this important job. Standard household cleaners – or even commercial car wash solutions – can contain chemicals that could corrode bare metal or harm chrome or other finishes. There are many brands of cleaner that are specially formulated to provide optimal cleaning power, as well as ultimate protection.

You can also buy various polishes and sealants to clean and protect your bike’s glossy, painted and chrome surfaces as well other parts of the machine.

Motorcycle fuel tank - BMFFuel and go
Even though the fuel in your tank will probably still `work’ in the spring after being stored for several months, it will work better if you take a few steps to keep it from going stale.

For starters, make sure your tank is full. The less air in your tank, the less likely it is that water will condense inside the tank (a result of falling and/or fluctuating temperatures) and get in your fuel, which can cause poor performance. Second, add some commercial fuel stabiliser to the fuel, following label directions closely. This will help prevent your fuel from deteriorating during storage, and help ensure that your bike starts quickly and runs well in the spring too.

Big oilMotorcycles winter oil - BMF
To prevent contaminants in dirty oil from damaging your engine, put your bike to bed with fresh oil and a clean filter. If you change the oil but not the filter, you’ll be recirculating about a cupful of dirty oil back into your cylinders. To make sure the clean oil is circulating throughout the engine, consider removing the spark plugs and squirting a bit of oil into each cylinder. If you don’t do this, be sure to turn the engine over to circulate the new oil. Oil is a great rust preventative, so if your engine is coated with fresh oil it will help prolong its life. Sealed, maintenance-free batteries don’t require a lot of attention, but you can prolong their life by making sure they stay fully charged. Consider removing your battery for the winter and keeping it someplace warm but, whether you keep the battery on your bike or on a shelf, it’s always a good idea to connect it to a battery tender over winter.

Under pressure
If possible, store your motorcycle on some sort of lift with the weight off the tyres. This will help prevent flat spots and excessive deterioration. In any case, use a tyre gauge to make sure your tyres are filled to the proper air pressure level, according to your owner’s manual, before you put your bike away.

Winter cover - BMFUnder cover
Covering your bike for the winter not only helps keep it clean, it prevents dust from settling into places you’d rather not find it. Do not, however, just throw a plastic tarp it and call it `good enough’. A proper motorcycle cover is breathable; that is, it allows air and moisture through, while stopping dust and dirt. Plastic non-breathable covers can trap moisture, leading to rust-causing condensation. An old bedsheet actually makes a much better motorcycle cover than a plastic tarp.

Winter riding
If the weather gives us anything we can ride in, it’s always worth heading out for a ride – even a short one – just to keep the skills up. You don’t want you going rusty as well!

Got protection?
Finally, make sure you have year-round insurance coverage for your motorcycle. If you don’t, you may not be covered if you decide to take it out for a ride during an unexpected warm spell.

If you happen to ride while there’s still salt on the roads, be sure to wash any salt from your bike before returning it to storage.

Year-round insurance coverage is also important because, even though your motorcycle is tucked away and not being ridden, bad things (such as fire, theft, etc.) can still happen.

Ready to ride
All things considered, preparing your bike for storage really isn’t that much of a hassle or even that time consuming. By taking a few simple steps, your bike will be ready when you are next spring.