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It is easy to use a motorcycle in the warm months. Many of us live in colder climates, which makes it unsafe to ride a motorcycle during winter.
Winter is the best time to store your motorcycle in a covered place, such as a garage, shed, or other suitable location. These areas will offer the best protection. But some of us aren’t fortunate enough to have said places to store our motorcycles which leaves outside storage the only option. Many may wonder if that’s a safe and legitimate way to store a motorcycle.
Can you leave your motorcycle outside during winter? A motorcycle can be kept outside during winter provided it is properly prepared and covered with a reliable, waterproof cover. This will prevent moisture or water from entering areas that could cause damage.
Many people don’t realize how important it is to take the proper steps to storing a motorcycle for the winter, especially if you plan on keeping it outside the whole time. There’s a lot more to it than just putting a cover over it and calling it good.
How to store a motorcycle outside during winter
Though keeping a motorcycle in some sort of shelter during the winter is the most ideal way to maintain a motorcycle, it’s completely possible to yield the same results keeping a motorcycle outside throughout the whole season.
If it is snowy or icy, it is not recommended that you use your motorcycle on roads. There are steps you can take to reduce your concern about your bike’s condition throughout winter.
The first thing you’ll need to do is change the oil. Some people assume it’s best to just drain the oil until spring, however that isn’t a good idea because any empty chamber you leave inside the engine gives opportunity for moisture to build up. Also, old/used oil that just sits inside the engine has corrosive tendencies when it just sits because of it’s previous usage.
The next thing you’ll need to do is top off the gas can. It is important to leave no space unoccupied in winter chambers. This will increase moisture buildup. Allow the bike to run for a while before adding the stabilizer. This will allow the stabilized gas to circulate through the entire system.
Next, you’ll want to pay attention to the battery. You have two options. The first is to remove the entire battery and then store it inside to keep it from freezing. The second option would be to hook it up to a battery tender so it maintains it’s charge throughout the season.
You’ll also want to make sure you pay special attention to the tires. Don’t plan on keeping your motorcycle parked on concrete because that will cause flat spots on them, unless you’re willing to roll your motorcycle every week.
Place your motorcycle on something soft, like dirt or a section rug to avoid those flat spots. Another option is to use the center stand for at least one tire. Tire stands that raise both tires are the next option.
Don’t forget to use some sort of security or alarm system on your motorcycle. Your motorcycle is more vulnerable to theft if you keep it outside in the winter. There are many locks that can be attached to the tires’ rims. Alarms designed for motorcycles can be attached to the rim of your tires and will alert anyone nearby that something is wrong with your motorcycle. Click here for my recommendations on security products to protect your motorcycle.
The last step you’ll need to take if you’re going to keep your motorcycle outside during the winter is covering it. This is probably the most important step and must be done right if you don’t want to run into problems come spring time.
You should get a high-quality cover for your motorcycle. Cover your entire motorcycle with it. Fasten or tie it down to your motorcycle in several places so it won’t blow away in the wind. Once your motorcycle begins warming up properly, it will look as good as new.
What Happens to Fluids in Winter Storage?
Now that we understand how to properly keep your motorcycle outside during the winter, let’s discuss what happens to a motorcycle when it’s kept outside during the winter without properly preparing it.
The motorcycle’s fluids begin to change when it is kept outside in the winter. The gas’s chemical composition is altered by the fluctuation in freezing and above freezing temperatures. If a stabilizer isn’t added before the season, the gas can potentially “gunk” You can eventually block the fuel system by putting too much of it in your carburetor.
If the fluids have not been topped up before winter, moisture and condensation can build up in the areas and cause rust. The motorcycle will malfunction if moisture gets in the fluids. Also, the moisture will “gunk” Other fluids that can block the bike’s other parts should be removed.
What Happens to Gaskets, Seals and Tires during Winter Storage?
If left untreated, and parked on concrete, tires can develop flat spots. There are several reasons why this happens. The tires are constantly under the pressure of the motorcycle’s weight. Normally that’s okay because when you frequently use the motorcycle, the weight is evenly distributed throughout the whole tire. But if you’re stationary, the pressure builds all at once.
In addition, the freezing temperatures will deflate the tire pressure a little which gives less resistance to the weight that’s being pushed down on it.
Seals and gaskets can be damaged if they are not used in the winter months. If you keep your motorcycle outside for the winter and don’t change the oil beforehand, the old/used oil has potential corrosive properties in it because of it’s usage. You could have gaskets or seals that are corrosive to your motorcycle over time. This can lead to leaks when you try to start it.
Gaskets and seals are usually able to prevent this. But since your motorcycle is most likely remaining dormant throughout the winter months, those gaskets and seals aren’t being heated up and stretched and may become slightly brittle already.
What happens to the Drivetrain during winter storage?
Your motorcycle’s drivetrain, which includes the transmission, engine, and chain, are the most important parts of your bike and can be damaged if it is not taken care of properly when you leave it outside.
Rust is the most serious problem for a motorcycle’s drivetrain. All the moisture caused by rain and snow can get into the engine and transmission. This will cause rust to settle on the chain. If you have road salt on your motorcycle, rust can quickly form.
It’s possible to take care of surface rust you may see on the outside, but rust can cause a lot of fatal damage if it starts forming on the inside of the engine and transmission. Rust could cause the engine to be seized as it will fuse the pistons.
Rust can also be a problem with the chain. You may also need to replace the gears and bearings if they are rusty from moisture. To prevent this, you can cover your motorcycle with a waterproof cover to keep moisture out. A lot of people don’t realize the damage water can do to a motorcycle if you let it sit.
What are some reasons a motorcycle won’t start? A motorcycle that doesn’t start can be caused by a number of factors, including a dead battery or clogged carburetor. Click here for more information that I’ve written about this.
What is the maximum time a motorcycle can sit still without being started? Motorcycles should not be left unattended for more than one month. If the motorcycle sits longer than this, it can develop major problems. A motorcycle that has been inactive for many years can be restored, but it will need a lot more work.