Like everything else, there are at least two schools of thought when it comes to the gasoline in your tank issue. Do you drain it or fill up? There are those who recommend draining the tank, then starting up the bike and running it out of fuel. Others recommend a fuel stabilizer in a full tank. Over the years, I have heard horror stories about fuel stabilizers, but I’ve never personally experienced any problems.
An empty gas tank can rust inside due to condensation, which makes me a firm believer in the full tank argument. However, today’s modern fuels start to deteriorate after three or four weeks. This can lead to oxidation and varnish — stuff that’s harmful to our fuel system. We have to address this. Here at J&P Cycles, we offer the industry standard Sta-bil fuel treatment in a couple of different sizes for your winterization projects. Add the specified amount and run (or ride) the bike to get the fuel all the way through the fuel system.
Something else you’ll need to address is the fact that dirty oil has fuel and contaminates in it. My recommendation is to thoroughly warm up the bike and change the oil — before its long winter nap. Changing oil now gets rid of all the sludge and dirt before it can start to deteriorate. Here’s another advantage: When it’s time to ride next spring, you just turn the key and go. Oh, one more thing. You might want to consider synthetic oil for added life after the new season starts.
Lead-acid batteries should be kept under a constant charge to prolong service life. Attach a Battery Tender or other specialized charger that will not overcharge your battery. A trickle charger may be used if not left on too long. Once a day for ½ an hour would be fine. An appliance timer or similar device may be used to accomplish this. If your bike will be stored where freezing temperatures are likely, remove the battery and store it in a warm, dry place. Regardless, it should still be charged. A popular old wives’ tale is that placing a battery on a concrete surface will not drain or discharge it. That’s pure fiction. By nature, a lead-acid battery will slowly discharge. Placing it on concrete floor won’t change that fact.
Clean and lubricate your bike before putting it to sleep. Dirt, sand and road salts have absolutely nothing better to do than corrode the surfaces of your bike if left on during storage. Use a metal protectant spray on the underside of your chassis and exposed surfaces. And you’ve heard this a hundred times, but never, never use WD-40 to do this!
Make sure your tires are properly inflated because low tire pressure can damage motorcycle tires over the winter. And if you’re going to store your bike in an extreme cold situation, try to elevate the bike to minimize the load on the tires. Just make sure the bike is firmly secured because motorcycle lifts with small bottle jacks have been known to fail under prolonged load.
Even if kept indoors, your bike should be covered during storage. Make sure the cover can breathe, and not trap moisture on your bikes metal surfaces. A tarp would not be good for this. And if the bike’s to be stored in a barn or garage, cover the exhaust tips to keep the critters out. Fried rat in the spring smells lousy, and don’t ask me how I know that.
Once stored, resist the impulse to start the bike during its sleep. Unless the bike is thoroughly warmed up, condensation can form inside the engine. This is far harder on the engine than if it’s not started at all.
I’ve heard a lot of other suggestions over the years, but these storage tips have never steered me wrong. Every year when its time to ride again, I’ve hardly had any issues (stupid mice!). So if you decide to take these steps to heart, you should have no troubles at all. See ya next time!