How Not To Winterize Your Motorcycle: Mistakes Made by Riders

Many motorbike guides will tell you how to winterize your bike. However, different viewpoints might make it challenging to decide which advice to follow. Without a  proper winterization process, your bike may have sludgy fluids or noticeable rust on the exterior when spring arrives. While having a plan is essential, you should avoid the following blunders.

“Fire it up once a week” or “gotta put cardboard under the tires” are phrases we’ve all heard. There are as many misconceptions as there are varied (but useful) schools of thought on motorcycle winter storage. Many motorbike owners are unknowingly causing damage to their two-wheelers. Don’t let me rock your boat if you have a system that works well for you and your bike.

If you are new to this process, and looking for ideas to store your bike, then this article is for you. 

Are you open to new ideas? Allow me to debunk some of the most prevalent misunderstandings I’ve encountered – situations of riders doing too little, too much, or the wrong thing. You might discover a technique that saves you time and works equally as well as or better than what you’ve been doing.

Don’t Start Your Bike Every Week

Without a doubt, frequent activity is beneficial to your bike — but, like putting on workout gear to sit on the couch, idling in the garage does not qualify. Moisture will condense from the air into places where it doesn’t belong if you miss out on running it up to maximum operating temperature under load. 

Don’t even start the bike if you don’t intend to ride it to burn off moisture and replenish your batteries from the cold crank it took to get her rolling. Do you intend to ride once a week? More power to you – invest in some heated gear and a can of stabilized gasoline to fill it up after the ride.

Settling for Older Fuel

Fuel that has been used on your bike all season can build up particles and begin to thin out. Because gasoline degrades quickly, especially when a vehicle is not in use, these deposits linger, resulting in varnish deposits in your tank, fuel lines, and carburetor. To avoid this, first, drain old fuel before you start wintering, then fill it with gasoline and a fuel stabilizer. 

Winterizing your motorcycle will ensure all its parts and fuel stay in good condition. Moreover, this method, especially if your bike will be resting in a garage for months, reduces the likelihood of deposits and blockages.

Don’t Take Out Your Batteries

Why should you remove the battery if you don’t have to? Sure, if you don’t have a power supply where you keep your bike, you’ll want to bring your battery inside and connect it to a tender. 

It is not essential, however, if you have access to a power maintainer near the bike and your battery is strong enough to absorb a charge – even if it will be subjected to subzero conditions. Electrolytes in a fully charged lead-acid battery (conventional or AGM) will not freeze until the temperature drops to an unfathomable -92 degrees Fahrenheit, and even at 40% charge, you’ll be fine down to -16. Furthermore, when that sudden mid-winter warm day arrives, your bike will be ready to ride – no installation required.

Just make sure you pick a dependable “float” charger/maintainer that checks the battery’s feedback voltage and tops it off as needed, rather than a “trickle” charger that continuously sends a small amount of power to the battery. Although the names are sometimes used interchangeably, a direct trickle charger might overload and waste your battery. (What’s the worst-case scenario? You have battery acid on your bike. That’s not good.)

You Treat Both The Antifreeze and The Coolant at The Same Time

Using coolant in your motorcycle, which is also a typical mistake among owners, might lead to repairs once spring arrives. Although the terms are frequently used interchangeably, antifreeze is a glycol-based fluid that prevents components from freezing. Coolant is made from antifreeze and water in a 1:1 ratio.

During the winter, the water in the coolant can freeze and expand, which is more likely if your bike is frequently exposed to temperatures below freezing. If you ride with pure water as your coolant, this can become a significant problem. Only use a brand-recommended coolant instead of generic coolants, or worse, water as a coolant. Different types of coolant are used by each bike!

You Apply the Same Oil

The oil in your bike goes through the same process and pattern as gasoline: it gathers dirt and exhaust build up and degrades as a result of repeated use and exposure to heat and oxygen. This process will continue in storage, producing in a thick, hazy consistency when you take your motorcycle out in the spring. Rather than neglecting this important step, replenish the oil and all other fluids throughout the winterization procedure.

Avoid Overinflating Your Tires

Riders will go to great lengths to avoid tire flats or rubber degradation. Flat-spot phobia harkens back to the days of bias-ply vehicle tires, which flat-spotted overnight and rounded back out in the heat of driving. Modern motorcycle tires feature superior rubber formulations and carcass construction (including bias plies), effectively putting this issue in the rearview mirror.

Concerning the alkaline nature of concrete “eating” tires, I wouldn’t get too worked up about it, at least not over the length of winter. It won’t harm to put cardboard, plywood, or carpet squares under your tires if it gives you the warm fuzzies. However, do not overinflate your tires to “compensate for the weight.”

Not Washing Your Bike

Debris, such as dead bugs, road asphalt, bird droppings, and tree sap, can hasten the corrosion, especially when combined with moisture. Not cleaning your bike before storing it increases the probability of rust buildup. Completely clean all surfaces before applying wax or lubricant to rust-prone areas.

You Use Wrong Storage Conditions

Today, the gold standard for motorcycle storage is in a climate-controlled garage. However, if this isn’t an option, storing your bike in the garage or a fully covered temporary shelter is the next best thing. Parking the bike outside or loosely covering it with a tarp exposes it to the elements, which can dry out seals and attract corrosion, as well as leave it exposed to burglary.

To Sum Up

Winterizing your motorcycle is a fairly straightforward process. If you avoid the pitfalls we discussed in this post,  you’ll be ready to ride your motorcycle in the spring even after a long, cold winter.

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