What to Know About Winter Motorcycle Storage

If you live where you can't ride your motorcycle in the winter, you need to store it properly, just like your lawn mower and outdoor grill.

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Motorcycles weren’t designed for winter use. Cold starts are hard on engines, salted roads can corrode paint and metal finishes and motorcycle tires offer poor traction on snowy, wet roads. Many people choose to store their motorcycles during the cold winter months to prevent these damaging effects.

Unfortunately, failing to properly prepare your motorcycle for winter storage can damage it as well. Make sure you take the following steps to keep your motorcycle safely stored until warmer weather returns.

Winter Motorcycle Storage Checklist

Perform these tasks before storing your motorcycle.

Change the Oil

Used oil contains contaminants that can be corrosive to a dormant engine. Change the engine oil and filter before putting your motorcycle into storage, regardless of how recently it was last changed. You should also consider changing the transmission and driveshaft oil if it’s going to be stored longer than four months.

Protect the Fuel System

Stagnant fuel can break down and turn gummy over time, potentially damaging your bike’s fuel injectors or carburetor. While fully draining the gas tank might sound like a logical solution, an empty fuel tank can oxidize and rust, which creates its own set of problems. Instead, add fuel stabilizer to a full gas tank to avoid the breakdown of gas and a rusted tank.

Clean & Protect the Finishes

Dirt, bugs (dead and alive) and moisture that remain on your bike prior to storage can corrode painted and metal surfaces/finishes. Give your bike a thorough cleaning, then dry it off completely. Apply a coat of wax to painted surfaces and a coat of WD-40 to exposed metal surfaces for moisture and corrosion protection.

Keep the Battery Charged

A motorcycle battery that remains inactive for long periods of time will progressively lose its charge and lead to permanent damage. Hook a battery tender up to your motorcycle’s battery to maintain its charge while in storage.

Take the Weight Off the Tires

Tires that remain in the same position can develop bald spots from the bike’s weight continually pressing down on one spot. The best way to prevent balding tires is to remove all the weight from the tires, with the center stand (if equipped) or motorcycle stands.

Cover the Bike

Whether you store your bike inside or outside, invest in a good motorcycle cover. It will protect your motorcycle from the abrasive action of dust inside, and the corrosive effects of moisture outside.

Different Places to Store a Motorcycle

Now that you’ve prepped your motorcycle for storage, all that’s left is finding the right place to keep it. Consider the following options:

  • Inside Your Garage: Storing your motorcycle in your garage is one of the safest and most convenient ways to store your motorcycle. It will keep your motorcycle protected from the element and theft, and will be readily accessible for any routine maintenance or periodic inspections. The only downside? It can take up a lot of space you may not be willing to sacrifice.

  • Outside on Your Driveway: Storing your motorcycle on your driveway is another convenient way to keep it readily accessible for maintenance and inspection. The downsides are that your motorcycle will take up parking space on your driveway, and it leaves your motorcycle vulnerable to possible weather damage and theft.

  • Outside in a Portable Shelter: Portable motorcycle shelters offer an affordable way to store your motorcycle at home, partially protected from the elements and safe from theft if stored in your backyard. The main drawbacks? Less weather protection than indoor storage. And portable shelter, while usually affordable, is an additional expense.

  • Inside a Storage Unit: If you can’t or don’t want to store your motorcycle at home, you can keep it locked away in a unit at a storage facility. This is a great way to protect your motorcycle from inclement weather and theft without taking up precious storage space at home. But storage units cost money, and inspecting or maintaining your motorcycle won’t be as convenient.

As painful as it is to give up riding for a few months, damaging your bike from improper storage practices can be costly. By taking the time to do all the necessary preparation, you can ensure your motorcycle will be in good working order when riding season returns.

James Fitzgerald
James Fitzgerald is a handyman and freelance home-improvement writer with a passion for DIY, gardening, and anything involving working with his hands. He has over a decade of professional experience in a variety of trades, including construction, tree work, landscaping, and general maintenance. When not in search of the next enticing DIY project, he may be cooking, lifting weights, riding his motorcycle, hiking out at the coast, or nose deep in a great book.