Motorcycle Winter Storage: How to do it Right

Motorcycle winter storage done right ensures your bike will fire to life in the spring and be ready to ride...

October 22, 2020

Unless you live in the south or you lost a bet, you’re not riding your motorcycle during the winter. Fortunately, motorcycle winter storage is simple and straightforward.

Here’s how to properly store your motorcycle so it’s ready to go in the spring.

Motorcycle winter storage step-by-step guide

1) Change the oil and filter

A minor debate exists in online forums over whether to change the oil and filter before you store your motorcycle or after you remove it from winter storage.

Change it before storage, and here’s why.

Engine operation produces combustion byproducts, such as moisture and acids. Those harmful byproducts can cause problems if they’re left in your engine during storage.

Moisture can lead to rust formation on engine parts. Once rust starts to form, it doesn’t stop. When you fire up the engine in the spring, rust particles can flake off into the oil and scour bearings and other parts during operation, leading to wear.

Adding oil motorcycle. Motorcycle Winter Storage

Likewise, acids in the oil can cause problems. Acids corrode metal, which can lead to engine wear and, eventually, failure. It’s best to drain used oil from the engine prior to storage to prevent these potential headaches.

Fun fact: motor oil doesn’t naturally resist rust formation. Instead, special additives must be added to the formulation to guard against rust.

Not all motor oils contain enough rust inhibitors for storage, which is why it’s best to use a properly formulated oil specifically made for motorcycles.

By the way, AMSOIL Synthetic Motorcycle Oil contains rust inhibitors for maximum protection all season and during storage. Watch the video for tips on changing oil in a Harley-Davidson.

2) Stabilize the fuel

While we’d all be doomed without oxygen, too much of it has a negative effect on gasoline.

Over time, gasoline oxidizes and breaks down. That simply means oxygen molecules alter the gasoline’s chemistry (think of a cut apple turning brown).

Oxidized fuel forms varnish, gums and insoluble debris that can clog tiny fuel passages in the carburetor and fuel system. This can lead to hard-starting and poor operation in the spring – assuming the engine starts.

Use gasoline stabilizer to fight oxidation.

A good stabilizer resists oxidation to keep fuel fresh. For example, AMSOIL Gasoline Stabilizer keeps fuel fresh for up to 12 months. If you intend to store your motorcycle longer than four months, add Gasoline Stabilizer prior to the final outing of the season to ensure complete distribution throughout the fuel system.

Stabilize gas
Stabilize gas. Motorcycle winter storage

AMSOIL Quickshot is another option. It’s primarily designed to clean fuel-system components and the combustion chamber while addressing ethanol problems. But it’s also formulated with a stabilizer that keeps fuel fresh during short-term storage of up to four months.

AMSOIL Quickshot

3) Maintain the battery

There are a couple ways to maintain the battery.

You can remove it from the bike and store it where it won’t freeze, like a basement or heated garage. Make sure to store it off the ground.

You can also leave the battery in the bike. Whichever works best, be sure to attach a trickle charger to the battery. It automatically maintains the optimal charge throughout the storage period. That way your bike will fire right up in the spring.

Cleaning motorcycle. Motorcycle winter storage

4) Wash and dry the motorcycle

Wash all the dirt, dust and bugs from the bike before storing it for the season. Use a mild soap and a sponge. A brush works well for wheel spokes, but avoid using a stiff brush to clean areas where you might scratch the finish. Rinse and dry with a clean cloth or chamois.

Avoid getting water into the pipes. If you do, start the bike and run it until it’s warm to evaporate accumulated water.

5) Cover and store your motorcycle

Once the bike is dry, cover it with a quality dust cover, even if stored indoors. You can also block the pipes with rags or dryer sheets to deter mice or other pests from colonizing the exhaust pipes. Just remember to remove them before starting the bike.

Updated. Originally published: Nov. 2, 2018.