Gearhead Matt Bochnak has motor oil running through his veins. He loves to tackle projects from his home garage – from dirt bikes to muscle cars. The avid biker is forced off two wheels when the snowy weather arrives in his Chicago-area hometown. And the chilly breaks have taught him a thing or two about how to store a motorcycle for winter.
“I’ve owned probably 40 bikes,” said Bochnak, who runs the How-To Motorcycle Repair website. “I love riding in the dirt because there’s no speed limits and no cars on the road. The terrain is unpredictable and fun. But from October to April the bikes stay stored – a big one for me and a couple of smaller ones for my kids.”
If you’re looking to store your motorcycle for winter, or any season, keep reading for tips: from Bochnak and another expert, a high-end motorcycle mechanic and restorer with nearly 30 years of experience.
Once the frost thaws, you’ll be zipping around in no time!
Empty the Fuel Tank Before Long-Term Motorcycle Storage
Weather is an unpredictable beast, and the amount of time your bike spends in storage will affect how you take care of the fuel tank.
When Bochnak stores his bike for the snowy season, for just a few months at a time, he keeps gas inside the tank. He said there’s special precautions other riders should take to avoid rust damage from condensation.
“Typically, I add a fuel stabilizer into the gas tank and ride around for 15 minutes to get it circulating,” he said. “Always top off the tank so there’s no chance moisture will cause the tank to rust.”
If your bike might be in storage for more than three months, you should empty the tank and allow the inside to dry completely to avoid damage, said Charlie O’Hanlon, owner of Charlie’s Place in Glendale, Calif.
“Take all the gas out because it will go bad and turn into varnish,” he said. “Drain every drip out and leave the bike in a dry environment with the gas cap off. Let everything evaporate out for two or more days.”
He says if you’re not sure how long the bike may be in storage – perhaps an icy season ahead may trample your two-wheeled road trips for longer than usual – you should take out the gas from the start.
“The problem is people store bikes for years when they only plan to store them for a couple months,” he said.
If you don’t want to initially drain the bike, O’Hanlon suggests adding a reminder to your phone or calendar to remind you at the three month mark.
How to Store a Motorcycle in Winter to Avoid Tire Damage
Too much constant pressure on one spot of a tire can cause permanent damage, so make sure to prop up a bike properly in storage, said O’Hanlon.
“Store a bike on a center stand, if it has one, because it will help alleviate the weight (off the tires),” he added. “If the tires get a flat spot, the rubber will change shape even when re-inflated.”
O’Hanlon, who has specialized in restoring and repairing vintage Honda motorcycles for 25 years, said it’s also a good idea to overinflate the tires before storage. This helps in case tires do lose some air while on hiatus.
Disconnect the Battery Before Storing a Motorcycle
Both of our experts agree that taking care of a bike’s battery is one of the most important aspects of motorcycle storage. The best way to do this is to disconnect the battery and store it separately on a battery tender to charge and keep it operational long term.
“I pull the battery and store it indoors, where it’s warmer than the garage, and put a flow charger on it,” said Bochnak. “It keeps it healthy during storage.”
You don’t want to risk the chance that the battery could drain and die, especially when you want to drive on out of storage in the spring.
“The battery is always active when it’s connected to the bike,” said O’Hanlon.
Avoid Damage During Motorcycle Storage with a Cover
Whether you’re storing at home, or in one of Public Storage’s drive-up storage units, you’ll want to cover your bike to deter dust and dirt.
“I try to use a bike cover or, at a minimum, old bed sheets to keep the dust off. So that way you don’t have to clean it in the spring,” said Bochnak.
To help keep pests and rodents from making a new home in his bike’s comfy exhaust pipe, Bochnak puts a piece of tape or plug over the opening.
In addition to keeping the bike clean, a cover can help protect it in case you’re storing a motorcycle next to other items.
“Cover it in case something falls over, so (the item) doesn’t hit the bike or cause it to fall over,” said O’Hanlon.
And don’t forget to visit your motorcycle storage, if your bike is housed away from home. Give it a hug and think of the adventures ahead. We won’t judge.