How to winterize your motorcycle
Last updated: November 2023
Motorcycle maintenance is important any time of year, but even more so in the winter. Before the cold months arrive, make sure you know how to winterize your motorcycle with these eight maintenance tips.
Get your bike serviced (by a professional)
Taking your bike to a motorcycle mechanic or technician for a tune-up before winter storage is typically recommended (especially if you’re not very familiar with doing your own motorcycle maintenance). A pre-winter tune-up can include things like inspecting the drive train and spark plugs, as well as checking levels of fluids like coolant and antifreeze. They can also assess the need to replace essential parts like the battery, tires or brakes. You should consult your specific motorcycle owner’s manual to see how often parts of your bike should be checked and serviced.
Change the oil and filter
If this isn’t done during your service/tune-up, you should make sure to change your oil and filter before storing your bike. Dirty oil is corrosive and harmful to the engine, says Life Storage, so you don’t want it sitting all winter long. Be sure to change it before you winterize your motorcycle for hibernation and consult the owner's manual for the correct oil type and filter.
Fill your tank and use fuel stabilizer
Stored fuel can degrade due to chemical reactions, explains Family Handyman. You might be faced with ignition problems after only three months. Degraded fuel can also harm the motor.Fuel stabilizer helps keep the fuel fresh, says Motor Biscuit, by stopping gas and ethanol from separating and causing damage. Before use, Consumer Reports advises that you consult the fuel stabilizer bottle itself for directions. Measure it according to the directions as you pour it into the gas tank. Then, start the engine so the stabilizer can flow into every nook and cranny of the fuel system.
Thoroughly clean your bike
Wash, dry and wax your motorcycle before you put it into storage. Focus particularly on chrome and paint surfaces – this can help prevent rust, add extra protection and be ready for your first ride in spring. Also, treat the leather with a high-quality dressing to help prevent cracking or tearing to preserve the seat and other leather parts.
Keep your battery charged
Every day that your bike isn’t in use, the battery can be losing charge, explains Motorcycle Intelligence. Family Handyman recommends getting a battery maintainer, like a trickle charger, to connect to your motorcycle’s battery while in storage. Modern trickle chargers have smart monitoring circuitry that only charge your battery when it needs it, so that it doesn’t overcharge or damage your battery. This will keep your bike’s battery fully charged and ready for your first ride in spring.
Find indoor storage
Experts recommend storing motorcycles in heated garages. It is also recommended that the garage maintains a constant temperature and is ventilated so that air can circulate (and condensation doesn’t form). Temperature drops may cause condensation buildup which can damage your bike. If you can't find an available garage, says Life Storage, be sure to use a cover made specifically for your motorcycle to properly allow the bike to breathe but protect it from dust, debris, scratches and more. If you’re storing it outside, try to get the bike off the ground, under some kind of shelter and check on it periodically.
Cover the air intake and exhaust pipes
Depending on where your bike is stored, you’ll want to “critter-proof” any openings where small animals can get into. You can use things like steel wool in a plastic bag, recommends Family Handyman. It may also be a good idea to add a final cover of bright-colored tape to remind you to remove everything before the first time you start your bike again.
Update your motorcycle coverage
If you intend to keep your motorcycle stored for an extended period of time, you may look to update your motorcycle coverage. Since your bike won’t be on the road, you could look into getting a “lay-up” policy, which suspends all coverages except comprehensive during the winter months, explains the Insurance Information Institute (III). This type of coverage is only available in certain states. The remaining comprehensive coverage would help cover things like theft or vandalism, while the bike is in storage.
If you do make any adjustments to your motorcycle coverage for the winter, you’ll want to be sure to get a motorcycle insurance policy with adequate coverage before you begin riding again in the spring.
Cancelling your motorcycle policy completely during the winter is generally not recommended. Some insurers may decide not to insure your motorcycle if you keep cancelling and renewing your policy.
Update the address on your insurance policy
If you're storing your motorcycle at a different address for the winter, it's a good idea to notify your insurer. According to the III, storing a vehicle (or motorcycle) in a secure garage, especially a commercial facility, might mean a reduced premium. That's because, like auto insurance, premiums for a motorcycle policy are based in part on your garaging location.
For instance, if your garaging address is in a city with high rates of collisions and theft, says III, you may see higher rates since the risk of filing a claim is higher. But if your motorcycle is stored in a secure commercial facility, those rates might go down — especially if you're not driving the bike. This varies from insurer to insurer, so be sure to reach out to yours.
After you've gotten one last good ride in before the winter season, it's time to tackle these maintenance tips. That way, when spring rolls around again, you'll be ready to safely ride.