Man working on his motorcycle

Tips for Motorcycle Winter Storage

Updated January 4, 2017 . AmFam Team

Winterizing your motorcycle at the end of the riding season is a key way to keep it running great. Take a look at our tips on hibernating your motorcycle the right way.

Sadly, most motorcycles aren’t made for winter riding, and simply throwing a cover over your baby isn’t really enough to protect it. So, as the temperature drops and the snow begins to fall, it’s time to put away your toys. But what’s the best way to winterize your motorcycle? Follow these easy steps to get your bike ready for hibernation.

Do You Need to Winterize Your Motorcycle?

In the colder climates, preparing your bike for winter can really help extend its life and decrease the size of maintenance bills. And you may be doing the bike’s resale value a favor, too. Winterizing your motorcycle is a great idea because you’ll have a chance to thoroughly inspect and maintain it. And in the spring, you may find your ride starts up more dependably and stays healthier all summer long.

Ways to Winterize Your Motorcycle

If you’re able to keep your bike indoors, be sure to store it in a low-humidity environment if possible. Fire up a humidifier to keep the moisture — and corrosion — to a minimum. Here are a few other key pointers on overwintering your bike:

Start with the long view

Keeping your bike in good shape during riding season has a lot to do with the way you manage its storage in the off season. Before you start prepping your bike for its long winter nap, put a list together of everything you’re going to do. When it’s time to wake the bike up in the spring, refer to this list and use it in reverse.

Wash and towel dry your motorcycle

Built up dirt will corrode and damage metal surfaces over time. A thorough wash and dry will leave your bike grime-free, and a proper wax will help keep moisture at bay.

Replace spark plugs

After you’ve pulled the old plugs out, pour about a tablespoon of winter weight engine oil, like 5W30, into the holes of the cylinder head. After you’ve gapped and installed the plugs, let the engine run for a moment to coat the cylinder walls.

Check moving parts

This includes things like the chain, kickstand and the throttle and shifter – all need lubrication to prevent rusting. Keep those areas lubricated and moving during the winter to keep them loose. Wipe them down with WD40 and help lock out corrosion.

Get fuel stabilizer

Condition the fuel with an ethanol stabilizer. In doing so, you’ll be protecting your motor, fuel lines and tank interior from corrosion. Be sure to run the motor for several minutes after topping off the tank — or take the bike for a quick ride — to ensure the fuel treatment penetrates into the engine and fuel injectors.

Change the oil

Old oil can ruin an engine, especially after sitting for too long. Switch over to a quality winter-weight oil that will last well into the riding season, and don’t forget to change your oil filter, too.

Top off all fluids

This small step can make a big difference in the overall health of your bike. Proper fluid levels are crucial in the cold to protect your bike from rust and freezing temperatures. But fluids aren’t the only levels you’ll need to check before throwing your cover on and calling it day.

Flush your coolant system

Refilling your coolant system with antifreeze will not only protect your engine from cracking in freezing temperatures, it’ll protect your nerves and sanity, because replacing your engine is the last thing you’ll have to worry about when it’s time ride again.

Turn the fuel valve to “off”

If your bike’s got a petcock that controls the flow of fuel into your carburetor, be sure to turn it to the off position before retiring it for the winter. You’ll help to prevent fuel from leaking into the cylinders and stripping away that key coating of lubrication.

Plug the tail pipe

Use a wash plug or steel wool to keep mice from making a winter home out your hibernating ride.

Charge your battery through a SAE lead

If your bike’s equipped with an SAE lead, you can hook your trickle battery charger right to it. Your SAE lead saves the day by heating your gloves and charging your phone during the riding season. Put it to work when you’re riding out the winter, too.

If you can’t charge your battery in place, be sure to take the battery out of your bike and hook it to a battery tender to keep it charged all winter without overcharging it. And if you’re worried about corrosion, put a little dielectric grease on the battery threads to stop rust in its tracks.

Protect your tires

Start by filling them with the maximum amount of air to avoid under-inflation from the cold. Then, prop your bike on a rack to keep your tires off the ground so they don’t go flat or take in moisture that can destroy them from the inside out, where they can go flat on the road. If you don’t have a rack, park your bike on a piece of plywood or carpet, and make sure to spin your tires a quarter turn frequently.

Cover your ride

If you go in on a storage locker with a few other friends willing to store their bikes on site, a cover can help protect it from bumps and scratches. Choose your cover wisely. A cover that ties will stay in place and do the best job keeping out dust and moisture. And a breathable fabric won’t trap moisture and encourage corrosion in like a tarp would.

Make Plans to Wake Up Your Bike Now

Mark your calendar for a warm spring day and set time aside to get your bike ready for another year of touring. After looking so closely at your ride, you may have noticed the brake pads need changing or other items need attention. Over the winter, you’ll be able to order parts that need to be replaced and have them ready for installation next spring.

Get a Motorcycle Insurance Quote

Now that you’ve done what you can to protect your bike as it rests all winter long, take the time to protect your investment, too. Reach out to your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) for a quote. You’ll find peace of mind cruising on the open road knowing you’ve got great coverage that fits your bike’s needs.

Tools & Resources

Explore our tools and smart tips.