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Old 06-21-2002, 08:55 PM
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Winter Storage Tips

Winter Storage Tips
by Ron Miller
rec.motorcycles newsgroup
Last update: 4/19/1995

The topic come up every year about this time. Better to do it now than to learn what you *should have* done next spring.

Ron's Encyclopedia of Motorcycle Storage
Updated 11/8/93
The following list applies only for "Winter" storage. For multi-year
storage, more must be done.

  • A Brain equipped with reasonable care and caution

  • Motor oil & filter (correct type & qty etc)

  • 2 stroke oil (or equiv.) (optional: Stabil gasoline stabilizer)

  • pan to catch drained gasoline

  • compressed air source or tire pump

  • 2 foot (or more) section of small aquarium tubing (clean!)

  • brake fluid and bleeding equipment (if desired)

  • battery trickle-charger

  • assorted hand tools and rags

  • place to work, place to store battery

  1. Wash & wax it. (Makes you more likely to want to ride it later though that usually isn't a problem...

  2. Run it around enough to get it hot. This burns off the wash water and will warm up the motor oil nicely. Going to the gas station for a fillup across town should do. Fill the gas tank with highest quality gas you can find. Return to storage/work site. (Try to store it indoors. Outdoor storage is the pits. Rent a U-Store-It if necessary. If outside is unavoidable, use a breathable cover vs. plastic or vinyl.)

  3. Shutoff the gas petcock and drain the gas from the carb bowls. (there are usually drain screws.)

  4. I usually just top off the tank and drain the carbs. No fussing with tank contents. (I've given myself trouble from that.)
    This is the single most important step in the whole list! This determines whether the bike will start next time or not. Clean motor oil doesn't matter if the damn thing can't be made to run!
    Additionally you can:
    Add STABIL gasoline stabilizer to the tank if you wish. **OR** Drain the tank completely, then add some light oil and slosh it all round the inside to coat the inner wall of the tank to prevent rust (gotta remove the tank to do this.)
    • If you have a fuel-injected bike, you're on your own!!!

    • A word about petcocks- There seem to be two basic types: the traditional ON/OFF/RES type and the vacuum actuated types where the petcock is off only by the balance of a vacuum diaphragm and spring arrangement. Vacuum petcocks are a potential source of ON even if they aren't supposed to be. A little bit of leakage past these guys can gunk your carbs pretty badly. If I were the owner of such a petcock(attached to a motorcycle) , I'd disconnect the fuel line from the carbs and add a long length of plugged line from the petcock and route it up to the area of the mirrors and secure the line in place. (note that hose end is not below tank level in event of problem) OR you could completely drain the tank. Your choice.

    • Even older manual petcocks can leak. My XT350 started demonstrating leakage this Fall. The workaround is to disconnect the line to the carb (plug with a golf tee) and add a new line going up toward the handlebars (also plugged). This will let the leakage go to a harmless holding tube. A clear tube will let you see the amount of leakage but may not be safe in the long term. Clear plastic tubing may not be usable in gasoline.

  5. Change the oil and filter while warm. (Used oil has some acids formed in it. Water too. Fresh oil good. Used oil bad.)

  6. Put a teaspoon or so of 2-stroke oil or Marvel Mystery Oil (see note) in each cylinder via the sparkplug hole. (Clean the area around the plug of grit/sand/mung before opening the hole. I usually use Simple Green or GUNK on the spark plugs with the wires removed and heavy rinse during the wash to clean this stuff up. Some folks use compressed air. Be careful, a piece of sand under a valve could cause it to burn later.)

  7. I use a section of clear aquarium tubing to suck up some oil from the container and then blow it into the cylinder. Yes, by mouth. (don't pull the oil very far up the tubing!)
    Marvel Oil tastes much better than 2 stroke oil. Wintergreen, yum!
    Turn the engine over a couple of times to distribute the oil inside the engine cylinder. (Works better when plugs are out and this step goes before removing battery)
    Reinstall plugs loosely. Leave plug wires routed loosely. (You should consider having new plugs available for next year.)
  8. Remove the battery to a place where you will remember to trickle-charge it at least monthly. (recording when you've charged it on a piece of paper near the battery will help you remember how neglectful you're being

  9. Even if you don't care about the battery, remove it. If it freezes (32F, 0C) while the battery is discharged, the case will crack and spill acid on your frame.
  10. Inflate the tires about 5 psi over spec **OR** better yet, block the bike up so there is no weight on the wheels.

  11. Change the brake fluid. It's easy and can prevent corrosion which could result in sticking/dragging brakes later. (This should be an annual event regardless of storage.)

  12. Wipe down the fork legs with Marvel oil and leave enough to keep the fork seals moist.

  13. Lube the suspension (if grease fittings)

  14. Do other lube jobs if you are so inclined. (cables, pivots, tc)

  15. Put some kind of note to yourself on speedo that says:

  16. Battery Removed
    Spark Plugs
    Tire pressure
    to remind yourself what you'll need to do to go riding.
  17. While bike is in storage, try to operate controls occasionally. (Clutch, bakes) If bike has weight on tires, try to roll the bike to a different tire position occasionally.

Return to Service:

  1. Check battery electrolyte level and give it a good final charge.

  2. Unblock wheels.

  3. Reset tire pressure to riding level.

  4. Reinstall battery.

  5. Remove spark plugs. Roll engine over several times with starter to circulate motor oil. (Probably should ground spark plug wires to engine head while doing this. Some electronic ignitions get an electrical form of "blue balls" and break if they can't discharge 8-)

  6. Reinstall plugs and plug wires.

  7. Turn on tank petcock (listen for tank gurgling as carbs fill). Return tubing lineup to normal if you disconnected tank from carbs. For vacuum operated petcocks, you may have to provide some vacuum to get the valve to shift. Some may have a "PRIME" position. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, Step #8 may solve.)

  8. Choke engine and attempt to start. Use "cold start" procedure. On the other hand, don't be surprised if you flood it once before it starts... (Don't forget to give starter a good rest between crankings. 20 seconds maximum cranking with 3 minute or more cooldown )

  9. Be patient. It will probably take several tries. Ensure there is gas getting to the carbs. (Esp. if you don't understand #7) It might take running the battery down and recharging before it will light off. (My '82 CB900F was like this.It *shouldn't* be this hard. My BMW and my Yamaha usually only require about 4 tries.)

  10. It'll smoke awhile as the cylinder oil goes away. Should also stink from hot dust on the exhaust pipes.:-) It may not run on all cylinders for a couple of minutes...
  11. Install new spark plugs. The ones you just started up on may be oil-fouled.

  12. Perform thorough pre-ride inspection. (You might find some strange rodent nesting locations.)

  13. Go ride. Battery probably needs charging

I've had good luck storing bikes and cars for up to 7 months at a time with these methods. (US Navy deployments and winter storage of bikes here in Colorado).

Note 1:
Marvel Mystery oil is a very light naptha-based machine oil with wintergreen and a little phosphorous in it. Many lightplane owners use it as a gasoline additive. It burns pretty clean in small quantities and isn't as gimmicky as it sounds.

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