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Motorcycle Winter Storage Tips

October 11, 2023 Comments Comment

Winter: it’s that time of year dreaded by many motorcyclists. For those in cold climates, it usually means saying goodbye to your bike until warmer temperatures and better roads return in spring.

When those brighter days come back around and you’re ready to go for a ride, the last thing you want is a bike that looks worse for wear—or, worse, won’t start. That’s why it’s important to properly prep your bike and follow the right motorcycle storage procedures. To help make sure your ride remains protected during the cold season, find everything you need to know about winter storage for your motorcycle in this guide below. 

Winterizing Your Motorcycle: What to Do Before Storing Your Bike

If only stowing your bike away for the winter was as simple as parking it and throwing a cover on it. But to do it right, there’s actually quite a bit of preparation that’s required. One of the easiest ways to make sure your bike is ready for storage is to have it first serviced by a professional. If you ride a Harley-Davidson® motorcycle, many local dealers offer maintenance and storage packages that can be very convenient and economical. Service professionals will ensure all parts are functioning correctly and rectify any underlying issues that may escalate during the storage period.

Locate a Harley-Davidson dealer to learn more about maintenance and storage packages.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with going it alone and winterizing your motorcycle yourself. Just be sure you have a complete checklist at hand to get your bike ready to go. Your motorcycle owner’s manual will contain valuable information that’s specific to your bike about required maintenance, how to perform basic service procedures, and even store your bike. To help you on your way we’ve covered many of the winter storage prep basics below.

6 Motorcycle Winter Storage Tips

1.     Clean Your Motorcycle

It might seem counterintuitive to clean your motorcycle before putting it away, but dirt, bugs, and road grime can harm your bike's finish over time. Plus, it will be that much more of a treat to find it looking ready for the road as soon as better weather rolls back around.

Give your bike a comprehensive clean before storing it for the winter by following these steps:

  • Prep your bike: Allow your motorcycle to cool before rinsing or washing. Spraying water on a hot bike can lead to unsightly water spots and mineral deposits. Plug all exhaust holes, secure wires and electronics, and remove any of your motorcycle’s bags or luggage that can’t be washed.
  • Rinse your bike: Using cool water, spray your bike from the bottom up, focusing on getting rid of dirt, dust, and grime that’s built up. For hardened dirt or dried bugs that don’t come off with a simple rinse, you can soak the surfaces under a damp towel.
  • Clean your wheels and tires: Rinse your wheels and tire surfaces, while taking care to avoid splashing any gnarly brake dust on your bike’s chrome and painted parts. Use a wheel and tire cleaner, letting it set for one minute after application, then clean the wheel. A specialized wheel and spoke brush can help you reach tough spots while avoiding scratching. Once you’ve rid your wheels of brake dust and your whitewalls are shining bright, give them a good rinse.
  • Wash the rest of your bike: Moving up to the rest of your bike, start by getting rid of any bug splatters with your handy bug remover spray. Fill a wash bucket with clean water, add bike soap, and soak a wash mitt or sponge. Starting from the top and working your way down now, gently scrub your bike. Finish with two rinses: one from the bottom up and another from the top down.
  • Take care of the details: Leave your bike looking like new and protect every part of it before long-term storage by caring for all of the details, parts, and accessories—from the denim and leather to the windshield and chrome. Adding a coat of wax to your bike, too, will help shield it over the course of storage, too.

Learn more about how to wash your motorcycle in our guide to washing and detailing your motorcycle.

2.     Check and Change Your Fluids—All of Them

Over time, the chemicals in your motorcycle's fluids can break down and become acidic, potentially causing damage. If you haven’t changed your fluids in the (very) recent past, replace all fluids, including brake and clutch fluid and coolant, before storage to prevent any corrosion or other issues.

Also, avoid draining your fuel tank, as this can leave it susceptible to corrosion. Instead, fill the tank and add a high-quality stabilizer to keep the fuel from breaking down and clogging your parts over the winter.

3.     Change Your Oil

Freshening up the oil in your motorcycle is one of the most important—and simplest—steps you can take to protect your bike not just over the winter but over the long run. The oil in your engine can become contaminated with dirt, metal shavings, and other debris. By changing the oil before storing your bike, you'll remove these harmful contaminants, protecting the engine's precious internal parts.

Find everything you need to know about changing your oil and protecting your bike in our guide to motorcycle oil and oil changes.

4.     Take Care of Your Battery

The last thing you want on the other side of storage is a dead battery and a bike that won’t start. But that doesn’t mean you need to turn your bike on and let it run every week of winter. Instead, simply use a battery charger. An extremely helpful tool year-round, hooking a tender up to your battery will keep a low-level charge running to your battery and greatly extend its life. If you do decide to take out your battery though, be sure to consult your owner’s manual for guidance on proper removal and storage.

Check out our guide on how to charge a motorcycle battery

5.     Prepare and Check Your Tires

Take the time to inspect your motorcycle tires before storage. Overly worn tires might not make it through the winter—and in any case, they certainly won’t be safe for long come spring. Meanwhile, ensure that tires are properly inflated, balanced, and otherwise undamaged.

Check out our guide on when to replaced motorycle tires

To protect your tires during storage and prevent the formation of flat spots, store your bike on a center stand during the winter. If you don’t have access to a stand, be sure to move your bike and rotate your tires at least once per month to avoid these spots.

6.     Buy a Motorcycle Cover

Last but not least, you need something to cover your motorcycle. Of course, that’s where the best Harley-Davidson® motorcycle covers come in. No matter where you’re storing your bike, go with a motorcycle cover that’s made from breathable material to prevent the build-up of moisture that can harm your bike over time.

Check out our guide on Harley-Davidson’s Best Motorcycle Covers

And that’s not all you can do to protect your bike while it’s covered. Keep pests from finding their way into your bike by plugging up the openings on your bike, including your exhaust pipe and air intakes. Don’t skimp on security, either: some covers make it easy to attach a lock and anti-theft alarm to your bike.

Where to Store Your Motorcycle

When you’re winterizing your motorcycle, you need to consider not just how to store your bike but where. Ideally, you’ll have a place to store your bike that’s indoors and well-ventilated—whatever it takes to stop moisture and condensation from settling underneath your bike’s cover.  It’s also important to store your bike away from fertilizers and chemicals that can also cause corrosion, as well as any flames, pilot lights, sparks, or electric motors that create a fire hazard.

Not everyone has a spacious garage that offers a comfortable wintertime home for their bike, though. While it can be safe to store your bike outside in wintry conditions, going this route will make your investment in a proper protective cover and security options that much more important.

Of course, there are other options to protect your investment. In some areas, a storage space can be rented at an affordable price—and even shared amongst your riding friends. Meanwhile, many local Harley-Davidson® dealers offer storage services. At a location near you, you’ll have a one-stop shop to get your bike ready for storage and then keep it safe for the season. 

With the right tools and the know-how covered above, you’ll be able to winterize and store your bike with ease. Find your local Harley-Davidson® dealer today to get expert help and everything you need to ensure your bike is ready again for the open road come springtime.

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