Sportbike Great Ontario Bikeroads
Winter Storage Guide

When it's time to put your two-wheeled steed to bed for the long Ontario winter, try Biker Lad's handy winter storage checklist. Do it right, check your owner's manual for any extra steps, and later you will ride away happy using the companion First Spring Ride Prep checklist.

This checklist supplements routine maintenance such as chain or shaft drive lubrication, throttle cable lubrication, topping up or replacing clutch and brake fluid, and other essential items -- consult your owner's manual or local repair shop.

Done? Step What To Do Why To Do It
  1 Clean the bike, wax painted areas and apply a thin coating of oil or Vaseline to chrome. Keep grime from setting into the paint and prevent rust.
  2 Fill the gas tank. If you are renting storage space they may not let you keep fuel in the bike. In this case you can remove the tank and keep it somewhere else, or drain the gas and pour in a cup of oil; swirl the oil around to coat the tank and drain the excess. Temperature changes can cause water condensation inside the tank which may lead to rusting. Filling it with gas or coating it with oil will keep the water out.
  3 Add gasoline stabilizer such as Sta-Bil or Kleen-Flo to the gas in the tank. You can get this from your bike shop or at Canadian Tire. Gas gets stale and breaks down over months of storage. It will gum up carburetors or injectors when you try to run it in the spring. The fuel stabilizer will prevent this.
  4 Run the engine for a few minutes. Circulates the fuel stabilizer additive and gets the oil warm for the next step.
  5 If your bike has bodywork you may have to remove some or all of it at this point. Put a pan under the bike, remove the oil drain plug and the old oil filter. Also take off the oil filler cap to allow complete draining. Used oil is acidic and corrosive. You don't want it sitting around in your engine for months, so it's best to change it now rather than waiting for spring.
  6 Pour the used oil into a container (I use an old windshield washer bottle) and take it to your local hazardous household waste disposal. Ever stepped in an open pan of oil on the garage floor? It's funny for everybody else!
  7 Put the drain plug back in and tighten it to spec (see your owner's manual) with a torque wrench. Wipe a little oil around the gasket with your finger and install the new oil filter. Fill the engine with new oil and replace the oil filler cap.  
  8 Run the engine for a few minutes and check for leaks from the drain plug and around the oil filter. Then shut off the engine. Check the oil level with the dipstick or sight glass. Make sure the new oil is circulating insidethe engine.
  9 If your bike has a fuel petcock or fuel pump switch, turn it to the off position. If you're paranoid, disconnect and plug the fuel lines from the tank. Before you do, see step 11 because you may have to start the bike again to drain the carburetors. If the petcock leaks, gas could overflow the carburetors and gradually fill the cylinders. When you start the engine in spring the piston tries to compress the fluid in the cylinder. Gas doesn't compress so something has to give, like a connecting rod or valve stem. Ouch! goes your wallet.
  10 Remove the spark plugs and squirt a tablespoon of fresh oil or Seal & Store into each cylinder. You can get a big plastic syringe from the drugstore for directing oil into the spark plug hole. I use Seal & Store because it comes in an aerosol can with a plastic straw. Make sure the spark plugs are still in their caps and ground (touch) them against a bare metal part of the bike, then crank the engine briefly to distribute the oil in the cylinders. On some bikes it is difficult to get at all the spark plugs; an alternative is to remove the air cleaner and spray Seal & Store into the carb throats while the engine is idling. Prevents rusting inside the cylinder. Cylinders are not completely airtight unless the valves happen to be closed, so outside air and condensation can creep in. To prevent damage to the ignition system, you should ground the spark plugs when cranking the engine with them removed.
  11 Drain the carburetors; attach a plastic hose (aquarium tubing usually works) to the little nozzle on the bottom of each carburetor bowl and open the screw to let the fuel flow out into a gas container. Some bikes have a maze of plumbing around the carbs and the drains may be very difficult to access. An alternative procedure is to start the engine and turn off the fuel petcock or gently pinch the main fuel hose shut. In a minute or two the engine will stall and the carbs will be empty of fuel. Along with the fuel stabilizer, this adds insurance against gas breaking down and gumming up the jets in the carb.
  12 If your bike is liquid cooled, make sure the system is filled with the proper antifreeze mixture. Keep the fluid in your rad from freezing and bursting hoses. Do not use pure antifreeze - you must mix it with water according to the directions on the bottle (usually a 50-50 mixture).
  13 Remove the battery. Unless it is the sealed type, top it up with distilled water. Store it in a warm place and put it on a trickle battery charger once a month. "Trickle" means one ampere or less. Unless it is kept charged and above freezing, chemical changes will take place inside the battery and it could freeze and split the casing, and at minimum will likely be dead by spring.
  14 Tie a plastic bag over the exhaust pipe(s). Keep moisture out of your exhaust system and prevent - you guessed it - rusting.
  15 Put the bike on the center stand or a race stand to get the back wheel off the ground. Get the front wheel off the ground by sticking suitable pieces of wood under the engine casings or front forks. If you only have a side stand or if a wheel must touch the ground, put a sheet of wood under the bike to keep the tires off the concrete floor, and move the bike around during the winter to change the position of the wheels. Avoid flat spots and cracked sidewalls on your tires. Rubber and concrete don't mix well over long periods of time, so keep wood between your tires and the ground.
  16 Cover the bike with a sheet or similar material that breathes. Store in a cool or cold, dry place. Don't try to start it until spring. Keep dust off the bike...also road salt if it is stored in the same garage as your slush-coated car. Don't use a plastic cover that could trap moisture and salt vapour against the bike.

Storage Preparation/Shopping List

If this sounds like too much work, many bike shops will winterize your bike for around $250 to $300. See the dealers listing to find one near you.

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