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Winterizing is Not a Foreign Word — Except Maybe Here in California

Winterizing is Not a Foreign Word — Except Maybe Here in California


Winterizing your bike is a term that’s taken very seriously by our motorcycle-riding friends outside of sunny Southern California. It’s a ritual that bikers in most states must undertake this time of year, and before you get all jealous about us being able to ride year-round, you should see the masses of humanity on our freeways each day! That should bring you some comfort.

But back to winterizing your bike for the winter months: There is a traditional set of rules for tucking your bike in for the winter and while it’s pretty universal, it’s important to follow a checklist. Miss one item and it can make the difference between starting spring off with a brisk ride or starting the season off in a repair shop.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of the most familiar — and most important procedures for winterizing your bike:

Oil Change and Lube: Change your motor oil prior to winter storage.  Run the bike for a few minutes to circulate new oil around the engine. Also, lube moving parts (cables, etc.) with recommended lubricants. Some people also use a fogging oil to spray into the cylinders and intake(s) to eliminate potential corrosion. Change the transmission/primary fluids if applicable (this is less important these days due to the extended life of these fluids).

Run Carb(s) out of Gasoline: Purge the carb(s) before storage anytime and add gasoline stabilizer to your tank per the instructions. For EFI bikes, simply add the fuel stabilizer and run the bike for a few minutes to clear the fuel lines of untreated fuel.

Wash Motorcycle (thoroughly): A motorcycle needs a thorough washing before storage. Otherwise, corrosive material remains on the surface all winter, creating flaws that cannot be removed come spring.

Windshield:  Remove bugs as soon as possible. Besides guts and broken wings, some insects leave chemicals behind that will etch the paint and ruin a windshield. Besides that, it’s just a lot easier to remove a bug in its final death throes than when it’s glued down and dried up. And always use an approved cleaner for your motorcycle windshield.

Painted Areas and Frame:  Apply a coat of wax on painted areas to keep condensation from collecting and damaging your bike. Note: Don’t neglect the motorcycle frame. It should be waxed prior to winter storage just like the other painted parts. Be sure to touch up any scratches or dings in the paint that may expose raw metal that could be subject to corrosion.

Chrome and Rims:  Clean the chrome and aluminum parts and then coat them with a good polish. The polish will make it easier to shine up come spring. If you find yourself hard-pressed to do a thorough job on these areas and want to keep the tarnish off (especially aluminum), a coat of silicone lube will give some protection. Just wash it off in the spring.

Chain and Drive Belts:  Adjust the chain or belt per spec.  If you have a chain drive, lube the chain with a chain lube (SAE 90 works just fine) or a lightweight grease (clean thoroughly in spring).

Leather: There are several leather cleaners and conditioners. Leather riding gear should get a thorough cleaning, and then coated with leather conditioner before storage.  Note: Several light coats are better than a heavy one. Buff the leather with a soft cloth after the cleaner/conditioner is dry.

Vinyl: Clean vinyl with a vinyl cleaner, and then use a protector. There are several products on the market.  Buff with a soft cloth when dry.

Battery: Tending the battery is advisable. Remove the battery. Clean the terminals.  Check the fluid level by shining a flashlight into the battery to determine the level. Then attach a battery tender to keep the battery charged. Place the battery on a wood plank (not concrete).

Exhaust Pipes: Little critters and bugs do not know any better — so be sure to stuff a clean soft cloth in the end of your pipe, and/or cover the end with a plastic bag (secured with a rubber band).

Tire Pressure: Check the tire pressure and inflate to the recommended pressure. If you can put your motorcycle on a lift that cradles the frame and lifts the wheels off the ground, so much the better. This takes the load off the tires and suspension components.

Cover: Protect your motorcycle with a breathable cover, or use a soft cotton bed sheet . This won’t prevent condensation, but it will keep the bike dust free.


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