Riders all over have reasons to store a bike, winter or going away to school for a year, extended work trip and many other reasons.
The good news is the process to store it is the same no matter the reason.
Good storage prep is the key to a bike that can be brought back online not just quickly, but at little to no cost, no repairs required.
How great would it be to come home after a year, spend just a few min in the garage to get your bike ready to ride?
I will discuss 6 key areas. Understanding there is no one best way for all so this article is just A Way.
A way that has proven to work countless times on bikes stored over winter, or several years be me personally, and hundreds of others I've made these suggestions to.
If you have a way that works for you and results in fast startup, no repairs needed post storage perhaps this article is not for you. If you have never stored a bike or have and would like to read some ideas that might help you avoid some issue you had last time, read on.
As always, this article is not a comprehensive step by step procedure. It does assume the reader has a basic understanding of using tools, working on a motorcycle, safety and precautions when doing both. If your not comfortable removing your spark plug, don't know how to get your motor to TDC, then please don't. Hire a qualified mechanic or even better, bribe a qualified friend to come over and walk you through it.
- Exterior Preparation
- Fuel System
- Electrical System
- Engine & Cooling System
- Storage Location
- Bringing the bike back to life
So let's get into it.
Start by cleaning the entire bike with a mild detergent and water. Avoid spraying bearings, seals, electrical connectors and components directly so to not force water into them. If you use a pressure wash, be VERY careful of this.
If possible, start and ride the bike to evaporate any water trapped in the motor and drag your brakes to dry them as much as possible. Use compressed air if you have it, or even a shop vac set to vent. Clean your chain with a plastic bristled brush and chain cleaner. Spray your clean chain with a petroleum based chain lube, and wipe off the excess with a shop rag. If you have an o-ring chain, make sure to use o-ring safe lube. While you’re still in lube mode, take your WD-40 and spray down the foot peg pivots, kick start pivot, folding shifter pivot and lever pivots. If it can rust, give it a shot or corrosion preventive. Take the time to get a good overall inspection of brake pads, suspension linkage, chain and sprockets for wear... Great time to get those things ordered so they are waiting when it's time to ride again. If your motorcycle is equipped with grease zerk fittings, go ahead and give them a few squirts of quality grease and wipe off the excess that inevitably oozes out. Lastly, air up the tires to spec.
There are different methods of preparing fuel systems for storage. Steel tanks, plastic tanks, carbs, or FI, long term (more than 4 months) short term, or indefinite (or unknown) storage times all give some options. As I started this article, I'll lay out A way, a way that has proven to me and many others to work well in a variety of situations. If your bike has a steel fuel tank, you have two choices both are concerned with keeping tank rust a bay. If you will be putting the bike back in service in 4 or so months or less, Treat the
fuel with a known quality fuel storage chemical.. I have had great luck with Stabil 360.
Its claim to off gas corrosion preventive protecting tank areas above fuel line has shown to work well in a 90 bike training fleet I manage, these bikes sit for weeks to months unused. Making them very representative of the average rider’s stored bike.
Fill the tank to the brim, leaving as little air space as possible. Filling the tank completely will greatly help it from rusting, which is a major issue in some areas. Plastic fuel tanks are more forgiving, but even so I prefer to drain them completely. Another fuel option is, filling with race gas, something like Sunoco SS 100 or VP C10, C12, ect . Race gas has no ethanol and overall has shown to be very Stabil for long term storage. Once the fuel has been stabilized, start the motorcycle and let the fuel circulate throughout the entire system.
If storage will be very long term or length unknown and you have a steel tank... consider draining and fogging the tank with fogging oil. Fogging oil will be available at some auto parts stores and most boat/marine shops. And of course is available online easily.
A fogging oil I have found readily available, reasonably priced and works well is
Lastly, heat....if your living or storing your bike in extreme high temps, Texas summers in a shad, or no AC garage... highly recommend draining the entire fuel system no matter carbureted or FI, steel or plastic tank. The fuel will evaporate in the high temps leaving behind a residue you don't want to deal with.
If your bike has a battery, steps to keep it viable are needed. To keep it fully charged which extends battery life overall, but especially in storage a battery tender is suggested. A brand I like a lot for its effectiveness is Battery Tender. And the Battery Tender
JR is a perfect fit for storage needs.
A bonus is it comes with a pigtail you can attach to the battery, so you have a "permanent" SAE plug available for hooking up your tender now, or later to keep the battery charged, or even hook up a battery charger should the need arise later.
Battery life has lot to do with the climate it’s stored in. If your bike is stored in an unheated area, remove the battery from the bike and store it in a heated a space. Basements, storeroom or a even a closet will work. The more stable and moderate the temp the better. Keeping the battery from freezing along with a Battery Tender or like product will keep the battery at its best.
Another thing I feel is important as regular servicing but helpful in storage prep is cleaning and protecting your electrical connections. Yes it's time consuming, but so is diagnosing electrical gremlins next year because a little water snuck in during that creek crossing or from the pressure washer. If cleaning and protecting connections is a regular part of your bike maintenance you can likely skip this step. If not, take the time now to disconnect, inspect each connector, and spray with a cleaner and corrosion protector like
A google search will find it widely available...If not this, then another product labeled to clean and protect electrical connectors
Engine oil & Cooling System
A fresh oil change should be done before you store your bike. Do this after the wash and dry, best bet is do it as a last thing after running the motor to warm.
Dirty engine oil contains corrosive acids and other contaminants that you do not want to leave in the engine during storage. If you are in a coastal region or area with high humidity fogging oil should be applied through the spark plug hole. Clean well around the spark plug and dispose of it. With the spark plug out, shoot a few sprays down the spark hole and turn the motor over a few times leaving it at TDC. Once the fogging oil has been applied, install a fresh spark plug.
Next is your cooling system Make sure that the coolant is up to spec. Fresh coolant is a good idea, if it’s been awhile. With any motorcycle fluid, when in doubt change it. Brake and clutch fluid are hydroscopic, meaning they absorb water. You do not want that "wet" fluid in your clutch or brake system at all, but for sure not in storage. There are moisture meters available cheaply to test your fluids, they are specific to type, so DOT 3, DOT4, DOT5.1 . If you don't want to buy and use one, just change the fluid before storage and make sure reservoirs are topped off. If there is any doubt replace that fluid.
Great so your bike is all prepped for storage, one last decision. Location, Location, Location.....If you have a choice, put it in the same room conditions you would but your grandmother (your favorite grandmother). The less you expose the motorcycle to extreme temperature fluctuations and humidity the better. Once the location has been chosen, put the motorcycle up on a stand. Using a stand keeps the weight off the tires and suspension. If a stand is not option, using a piece of wood to park the motorcycle on will keep the tires from sitting in dirt, cold concrete, or damaging the tile or carpet in the spare bedroom rotting (what don't blame me if your significant other does not allow you to park your bikes in the house, mine does..LOL). Once the motorcycle is in its home for storage, throw an old blanket or tarp over it. This will keep the dust to a minimum. If you are in a coastal region, skip on the cover. This may trap moisture under the cover, contributing to corrosion. Same if your bike will be stored in a windy location, a flapping tap and cause a fair bit of wear. Better to leave it to get dusty and wash it later than have paint or plastic worn on.
Of course protecting the bike from UV light is another consideration, the tarp does this, or in a shaded spot (there is that spare room in the house again). I have seen riders remove plastic and painted parts storing them inside because the bike itself had to sit on the back porch in the sun, wind and dust. The more you do in advance, the less you will have to do later.
Bringing the bike back to life
When the time has come to get your bike back on the track, trail or street sights all the work you did when you stored it bike will make start up simple and fast.. More importantly no repairs or services will be needed costing riding time and money.
If fuel was left in the bike, drain the carb float bowl to allow fresh gas from the tank in. Even though the fuel was stabilized, the small volume that is contained in the float bowl will deteriorate much quicker than the much larger volume in the tank. Double check all fluids. Install the battery if it has one and you removed it. Check the air pressure in the tires. If the bike was not stored clean and protected from dust and such, give it a quick wash and you’re ready to fire it up.
If you did your job correctly, the motorcycle should come to life. Take an extra few minutes at warm to check for any fluid leaks or strange noises. First start up you may get a bit of non-normal smoke. Corrosion protector you sprayed on the bike during prep, fogging oil in the cylinder. It will burn off in just a few minutes.
I always like to do a very short oil change interval after the bike has been stored, just as an abundance of caution as well as it gets me a chance to inspect the oil and filters for issues.
There you go, A Way to prep and store a bike.. No doubt many readers will have their own way that has proven to work for them...if so great, if storage is new to you or you have had issues in the past after storage, consider the process or above.
The process in this article were used to store the bike in this forum post . As were many others over the years.
Edited by Erik Marquez