8 Key Steps to Starting a Motorcycle after Winter Storage

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A motorcycle owner must take several steps before their motorcycle is stored for the winter. If it’s done improperly, that could mean some expensive damages done to the motorcycle.

Most of the time, it is more complicated than simply getting the bike out from storage. Before you take the bike out on a ride, there are many things you need to inspect and check. This article will explain what to look out for and how to start your motorcycle after it has been stored for the winter.

How to Inspect Your Motorcycle Before You Start It

The proper preparation of the motorcycle before storage should make it easy to start it up. Not everyone does it correctly and sometimes we forget to do it before we store it.

Keeping a motorcycle stored for several months (or even years) is completely possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard on the motorcycle. Motorcycles were made to run and be used, so checking certain points of the motorcycle after winter storage will ensure damage isn’t done. This will cover any errors or other points that you may have forgotten to address before storing the motorcycle.

1. Tires

Tires are often the most neglected part of a motorcycle. This is unfortunate because they’re basically what’s keeping the rider and the road separated. Surprisingly, there’s a lot that can happen to a tire during storage.

Before starting your motorcycle, inspect the condition of the tires and ensure they’re still in good working order. Tires can be worn out much faster if they are not used. If your tires were not raised, check for cracks or bulges. If you find any of these, you’ll likely need to get them replaced.

It’s also important to check the tire pressure. Over time, a motorcycle will lose air pressure even when it’s not being used. Two factors are responsible for this: temperature change and osmosis. A motorcycle tire loses about 1 PSI for every 10° drop in outside temperatures.  This may seem insignificant, but if you think about the difference in temperature between fall and winter (usually about 50°), that can be a matter of 5 or so pounds of air.

Osmosis (also called permeation) occurs when air is allowed to escape through the rubber of the tire. Osmosis can occur over several months and your motorcycle will require more air.

2. Carburetor

If you have a carburetor on your motorcycle, you’ll likely be spending most of your recovery time on this particular part. Carburetors are great mechanisms in the functionality of a motorcycle, but they’re also the most finicky.

You likely used fuel stabilizer to prep your bike for storage. While both will greatly help with the health of the carburetor, you’ll still need to check it Particularly if you use gas with ethanol in it regularly.

If you’re having trouble starting the motorcycle, the culprit is probably the carburetor. The carburetor’s residual fuel can get clogged up, even after a few months without being used. Because the fuel passes through small jets in the carburetor, the carburetor is susceptible to getting clogged from the gunked up fuel and won’t be able to produced the right fuel delivery to the engine.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll need to do a whole carburetor rebuild. First, you can remove the bowls from the bottom of the carburetor and spray some cleaner inside. You can find more information in my article here.

3. Fuel

Gas does have a shelf-life, contrary to popular belief. Many people wonder how this is possible, considering that it has been underground for thousands upon thousands of years. That’s because that oil found in the ground is unrefined. Once gas has become refined, it doesn’t last near as long and needs to be used.

A fuel stabilizer should first be added to a motorcycle before it can be stored for winter. If necessary, the entire tank should be empty. Unstabilized gases will begin to go bad within 30 days. Stabilized gas can last 6-12 months.

After storing your motorcycle for the winter, make sure you check the condition and condition of the gasoline before you start it. If you had it stored for longer than 12 months, it’s possible it has gone bad and you’ll need to replace it altogether.

You can tell if gas has gone bad first from the smell; it will smell off and not much like the smell of gas you’re used to. You can also tell if it’s bad by the look of it. Bad gas may develop a yellowish tint or become a varnishy substance.

You may be able to start your motorcycle with expired or bad gas, but your motorcycle won’t run well and it will likely clog up the carburetor at some point. Bad gas means that the tank must be empty completely and refilled with fresh gas. The fuel lines can be removed from the carburetor. Next, place the petcock in reserve (if you have it) and let the gas flow into a container. You can find more information on emptying a gas tank in my article.

4. Oil

When starting up your motorcycle after storage, you’ll need to change the oil whether or not you changed it before you stored it. This doesn’t necessarily need to be done before the motorcycle is started and ridden, but it does need to be done before riding it for too long.

You should have changed the oil before you store it for winter. Although it may seem pointless to change the oil before you store it, it will allow you to change it again when it comes out of storage in the spring. But there’s a lot to changing the oil that you can’t see that happens within the engine.

Oil still has the tendency to break down inside a motorcycle even if it’s not being used. This is especially true if you didn’t change the oil before storage; the oil will actually break down much more quickly in this case since it’s usage has already partially changed it’s chemical compounds.

The biggest reason to change your oil is age. You don’t want to be running on old oil that’s going through the engine providing less than optimal lubrication. The engine has already been through enough just sitting there, give it it’s best chance by feeding it with some fresh oil that will ensure it runs well.

5. Hoses/Wires

The hoses of a motorcycle are like tires. They tend to wear out without being used. You can think of it like muscles on a human body; without using them, they get weak and don’t work as well when you try to engage them. Motorcycles were built to be used. Dormancy can cause problems for the hoses.

When starting your motorcycle after winter storage, inspect the hoses and make sure there aren’t any cracks or detachments. Replace them as needed preferably before starting the motorcycle since it’ll likely run rough or won’t run at all without those replacements.

Also inspect the wires and make sure small varmint haven’t chewed away at any of them. Because there are so many places to nest, mice love riding motorcycles in winter. Mice also enjoy chewing wires, which helps to file their teeth.

6. Battery

One of the most frustrating aspects of removing a motorcycle from storage is the dealing with its battery. It’s common to have a dead battery after doing this, even if you tried to keep it charged during it’s dormant months.

Your motorcycle isn’t going to start if the battery is dead or doesn’t have enough voltage. Starting a motorcycle up after it has been sitting for a while will take more battery power than normal since the engine oil may have lost some of it’s viscosity which means the pistons have to work a little harder to move up and down.

Also, cold temperatures can cause damage to a motorcycle’s battery. It’s completely possible for a motorcycle battery to freeze; a lot of that depends on the age of the battery and how much voltage is left. However, if the battery is left dormant for less than a 100 percent charge, it will drain faster.

Multimeters can be used to measure the voltage of the batteries. A battery must have 12 V to be able to start a bike. A startup that has less than 12 volts will be likely to fail. If you always have to charge the battery before every startup after that, you’ll need a new one.

If a new battery doesn’t solve the problem, the issue might be with the stator. Check out my other article to find out how to keep a bike’s battery charged through winter.

7. Leaks

Don’t forget to inspect the ground the motorcycle has been parked on while you’re starting up after storage. Leakages will be indicated by the formation of a small pool.

Leaks can be caused by a variety of issues, from minor problems to serious problems that must be addressed immediately. You should identify the type of fluid and the source of any puddles you see on the ground.

Sometimes the gaskets can get cracked if a motorcycle is left in storage. Gaskets in an engine last much longer when an engine is regularly used because they’re being exercised. Oil leaks can be caused by brittle or less effective gaskets. Make sure you inspect the gasket surfaces when oil is spotted on the ground.

If the leak isn’t from oil, it’s possible for it to be coolant if you have a water cooled engine. You can tell it’s coolant by the sweet smell it’ll have or the neon green color (for most motorcycles). Though it’s much less likely, it’s possible you could be leaking brake fluid if you find a puddle on the ground. This is an indication that your brake system may be having problems.

8. It can be washed

Once you take your motorcycle out of winter storage, it’s important that you give it a good wash to rinse off all the dust and dirt that has accumulated while it was sitting. Dust and dirt are prone to absorb moisture, which can lead to the formation of rust.; this is especially true if you didn’t wash your motorcycle before storing it.

Use a low pressure washer to clean your motorcycle. High pressure washers can damage delicate parts. If possible, the best type of motorcycle wash is one that’s done by hand. Also make sure that you don’t use dish soap to clean it. Dish soap can cause damage to the clear coat of your tank.

These are the Things You Need to Check When You Take It for Your First Ride

It’s definitely a good sign if you’re able to start your motorcycle right up after storing it. But you’re not completely in the clear yet and there are a few things you should watch out for during that first ride.

First, notice how the motorcycle handles and if it’s performing poorly compared to how it was before you stored it. If you notice there’s any kind of sputter, you may have some sort of carburetor clog or a vacuum leak. This could be due to brittle or detachable hoses, gunked-up fuel, or brittle fuel.

If you notice the ride is bumpy, you’re getting pulled to one side, or there’s a vibration, you may have some issues with the tires. Tires can sometimes look fine after a visual inspection. Problems with tires may not manifest themselves until you’re actually out for a ride. These problems could be caused by uneven tread, too-flat tires, unbalanced tires or leaks in the tire.

It’s also somewhat common to have a motorcycle backfire once it’s taken out of winter storage. This can be caused by either a loose air box or, more likely, issues with the carburetor because it’s not giving the right fuel delivery.

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