Its that time of year again. Whether we want to admit it or not many of us put our bike up for the winter only to ride again when the sun comes back. Depending on where you live this can be an afternoon’s worth of work or a matter of a few checks when you park your bike. In either case, here are some tips that should help make that first Spring start up a breeze and keep your bike in good shape over the long haul.
Many people are surprised to find you should fill your tank with as much clean, fresh fuel as possible. Some believe you should drain your tank, however, this will lead to an increased chance of rust. Fuel vapors left in the tank and lines will bond with moisture in the air and begin the rust process. After I fill my tank with fresh fuel I also add a fuel stabilizer with a water inhibitor. This is especially important if you live in an area that uses high levels of Ethanol in the fuel. This gas is more susceptible to water and breaks down faster then non-ethanol fuel.
I also use winterizing as a chance to inspect my fuel lines. I replace any that are weather cracked, dried out, or showing signs of any damage. If your bike is parked for an extended period a slow fuel leak can cause serious damage and is dangerous in a non-ventilated area like a garage or storage unit.
Also remember, if your bike has a fuel valve or petcock, make sure you turn off the gas! A bike that sits with the petcock left on will inevitably leak fuel into the motor and can lead to rust or contaminated oil inside your motor.
I am a huge fan of trickle chargers for batteries in cars and bikes alike. I’ve had several sealed motorcycle batteries last over 5 years because I regularly use a Battery Tender. I use a “smart charger” that shuts off when the battery is fully charged and then turns back on as the battery loses it’s charge. These are simple, you plug it into a standard wall outlet and then either clamp directly to the battery or better yet install a pigtail to the battery and then plug directly into that. If your like me, and have multiple bikes, put a pigtail on each one and then once a week go out and move your battery charger to the next bike. I look at this as an investment. Most commercial batteries run over $100, I’m saving hundreds by using a $30 trickle charger instead of replacing my battery every spring, it just makes sense!
When you park your bike make sure the tires are properly inflated. If you live in a very cold climate you may have to check the pressure a couple times throughout the winter and of course always check the pressure before you take the bike for it’s first Spring ride. If my bike sits for more then a few weeks I also periodically move it around so that it doesn’t sit on the same spots on the tires for months at a time. I’ve heard of people jacking their bike up so the tires are totally off of the ground but I think this is a little excessive unless your planning on your bike sitting for 6 months or more.
Oil and Filter
The winter months can be harmful to your oil because of condensation and water build up. The up and down shifts of the air temperature create more condensation and humidity in the air that eventually forms moisture and water in your oil. This breaks down the oil and its overall ability to clean, cool, seal and lubricate. I always change my oil and filter if my bike sits for more then a month. This might be overkill but I want my oil doing its job and saving my motor unneeded wear and tear. A lot of guys change the oil and filter before they park the bike and again after they start riding it again. I don’t think this is necessary as I change my oil before I start riding again anyway.
These are a few simple steps that will help your bike stay in top condition for years to come and hopefully make your Spring start up painless. There’s nothing like that first sunny, dry day when you pull the bike out and it fires right up allowing you to hit the road after weeks in hibernation! Proper winterization insures when this day comes your riding, not working to get your bike started all day.
In the Spring I’ll follow this article up with some simple ways you can get your bike ready for another hassle free season of riding.