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Riding a motorcycle during warm temperatures is an enjoyable experience and that’s basically what motorcycles were made for. You might have to limit your enjoyment of riding your motorcycle in colder climates.
It could be that you are stuck and need to start your bike in below freezing temperatures. Whatever that reason may be, you may find yourself pretty frustrated because some motorcycles are stubborn and won’t start in these freezing temperatures.
How can you start a motorcycle below freezing? If your motorcycle must be started in temperatures below freezing, ensure the choke is turned on and that the battery has been charged. You can use an electric heater to heat the engine. The oil will have warmed up and the engine should be able start in no time.
Starting a motorcycle below freezing temperatures can be tricky, but it is certainly possible if it’s done right. This method has proven to be effective in areas with very harsh winters. There’s a lot more to consider to starting your motorcycle in the cold and there should be extra steps taken to make sure you don’t cause damage to your bike.
How to Start Your Motorcycle in Freezing Temperatures
Many people are puzzled as to why someone would attempt to start a motorcycle in freezing temperatures. For most, it’s usually not because you necessarily want to take it out for a joy ride, rather you may have some other reason to start it up. These reasons could include routine maintenance or to make it ready for a buyer.
No matter what the reason, it is possible to have your bike stop working in freezing temperatures. Freezing temperatures aren’t just hard on humans and animals alike, similar temperatures are hard on machines, too.
You should first check the battery’s life. Your motorcycle won’t start if it has a dead battery. To determine the voltage of the battery, use a multimeter. To start a motorcycle you will need to have at least 12.2 Volts or 50% of the battery charged. Click here to read my article about the life expectancy of a motorcycle battery.
If you’ve noticed that battery is low on juice, you may need to let it charge for at least a few hours until it’s in a condition to start up the motorcycle. Motorcycle batteries can be quickly depleted by freezing temperatures.
When you are trying to start your bike in freezing temperatures, the second thing that you need to concentrate on is turning on and off the choke. While this may seem like an obvious step, many people overlook it. People often forget to turn the choke off during winter storage to prevent gas leaks. This can lead to them forgetting to do it when they start their bike.
Warming up your engine can also greatly improve your chances of getting your motorcycle running in freezing temperatures. Although it may seem difficult to get the engine turning, there are alternatives.
When the engine is exposed to freezing temperatures for long periods of time, it will slow down just like humans react to cold temperatures. You can heat the engine manually by using a source heat such as an electric heater. It will warm up the aluminum and metal on the engine, as well as the oil or other fluids. This will make it easier for you to start it.
When heating up your engine with heaters, always supervise and be present. Don’t get the heater too close and make sure the source of heat isn’t touching anything potentially flammable.
What Happens to Your Motorcycle in Freezing Temperatures
Though your motorcycle may look fine on the outside during freezing temperatures, there’s actually a lot more going on inside of it that we can’t see or don’t notice.
The flexibility of cables and wires becomes less as they become stiffer. Unfortunately that makes them more susceptible to breaking if they’re not handled appropriately. Rubber coverings, such as fork covers, can become stiffer and more susceptible to breaking if they are handled rough.
A chain on a motorcycle can become stiffer and more rigid, and could be susceptible to breaking if it is not properly lubricated. It’s important to check the status of your chain before going for a ride in the winter.
In freezing temperatures, the voltage of motorcycle batteries also slows down. There are several reasons why this happens. The first being that most people don’t use their motorcycle near as much during the winter months and therefore are not exercising the battery’s capacity. The second is parasitic drain, which is when poorly grounded wires slowly discharge the battery.
A motorcycle battery also loses it’s capacity quicker in freezing temperatures compared to normal temperatures. The cold prevents the battery from performing to it’s full capacity.
A motorcycle engine requires more power to start in the freezing temperatures because of the thickened oil and a cold battery sometimes can’t supply the amperage required to get the engine started. If you’re curious about whether or not a motorcycle battery can freeze, see my article here.
Extremely cold temperatures cause the oil in the engine to thicken. The colder it gets, the thicker the oil gets which makes it lose it’s viscosity. Thin oil can make it difficult for a motorcycle engine to circulate, which can lead to problems with starting.
How to maintain your motorcycle for an easier start up during winter
If you don’t want to get caught in this situation ever again, there are a few steps you can take to prevent possible struggles of starting your motorcycle in freezing temperatures.
The first thing you’ll want to use is a battery tender. This can be connected to your bike battery continuously. It will detect when your battery is low on voltage and will automatically charge the battery. The battery will then be fully charged. This will prolong the battery’s life and may prevent you from having to start your motorcycle again.
To keep unwanted moisture out, make sure the tank is full. To prevent old gas clogging up your carburetor’s drain, add a stabilizer. Use a low-viscosity oil in winter. Synthetic oil will help to keep the motorcycle engine lubricated and will make it easier to start in freezing temperatures.
You should also pay attention to the condition of your tires. When you get your motorcycle started, you won’t be able to get too far if your tires are in poor condition. Each tire should be inflated to the correct specifications. Because cold temperatures can cause tires to deflate a bit, you can add some air.
You can find more information on how to store your motorcycle long-term here.
Is it possible to ride a motorcycle in winter?
If you’re needing to start your motorcycle in freezing temperatures, the common reason may be so you can go out and ride it. But many wonder if it’s a safe activity to ride a motorcycle in such activities.
Below freezing temperatures are not recommended for motorcycle riding. (See my article here). These temperatures will cause ice to form and motorcycles are more vulnerable because they are smaller. Make sure you have the correct gear for riding in freezing temperatures.
The purpose of motorcycles is to be able to travel on roads that aren’t obstructed by snow and ice. These conditions are suitable for dirt bikes, but not dirt bikes. Two wheels on motorcycles provide more traction when you drive on snow or ice. Motorcycles offer less protection in case you fall on these elements.
Some people simply have no choice but to drive a motorcycle in winter. These are the safety precautions to take if you find yourself in such a situation. Keep your speed down and avoid traffic. Keep to the right or left lane if you are required to drive on the highway. This will allow you to focus your attention on one lane only.
Can I store my bike in my garage for the winter? It’s possible to keep your motorcycle indoors during winter. It is common for people to do this. Your motorcycle will benefit from being in a controlled environment. It is important that you have enough space and the equipment necessary to do this. Click here to read my explanation.
Are tires able to be stored outside in the winter? Tires should never be stored outside in winter. To prevent them from being exposed to the sun and water, tires should be kept inside. They must always be dry.