How to Store a Motorcycle
Article by Mark Trotta
If you won't be riding your motorcycle for a while, you need to do more than fill the tank with gas and throw an old bed sheet over it. Depending on how long the bike will be inactive, consider the following motorcycle storage tips.
A Word About Ethanol Gas
Ethanol is used in today's gasoline as an additive, and E10 gasoline today contains roughly 10% ethanol. Ethanol has a shorter shelf and tank life than gasoline, and can begin to break down in as little as three weeks. Another problem with ethanol is that it attracts water and "breaks down" faster than gasoline.
Where Can I Find Ethanol-Free Gas?
Non-ethanol gas availability varies state to state. If you happen to live near a marina, ethanol-free gas should be easy to get. Websites like Pure-Gas.org can help you find ethanol-free fuel in your area.
Should I fill The Tank Up With Gas?
Moisture can accumulate in half-empty tanks. Years ago, we would fill up the tank with gas and top it off with a fuel stabilizer such as Sta-Bil. But with today's ethanol gas, consider the following procedure instead.
Disconnect the fuel line and drain out all gas except approximately one pint. Pour 1/2 cup of motor oil in gas tank and coat the walls by rocking the bike side to side. When spring start-up comes, the oil has done it's job, and will smoke out of the exhaust for several minutes.
Short-Term Motorcycle Storage (1-3 Months)
Before you store a motorcycle for any length of time, start with a complete wash. Clean sludge from the outside of the engine with a degreaser.
Use plenty of water and soap when cleaning. Towel-dry, then let air-dry before covering it, as trapped condensation can cause rust. To help keep moisture away, apply wax to chrome and painted surfaces.
Spray the drive chain liberally with chain lube or WD-40, wiping off the excess with a rag.
Inflate tires to the maximum recommended pressure. This helps them maintain their shape, as well as compensate for the eventual decrease in air pressure. If the ground might potentially freeze, raise the bike up using wood blocks.
Clean both battery leads and attach a battery tender to keep it fully charged. It's good practice to occasionally disconnect your battery cables and clean the connections anyway. If you don't have a battery tender, a trickle charger will work.
Adding fuel stabilizer is recommended. Since moisture can accumulate in half-empty tanks, fill it all the way up with gas.
Storing a Motorcycle for Three Months to One Year
If you are needing to store a motorcycle for three months or longer, perform the above maintenance with the following additions.
Unless you've changed the oil very recently, change it before storage. Old motor oil holds in contaminants which may damage internal engine components.
Disconnect the fuel line and drain all gas except approximately one quart. Pour 1/2 cup of motor oil in gas tank and coat the walls by rocking back and forth.
Turn the fuel valve to the "off" position. Loosen the float-bowl drain screw on the bottom of the carb and drain out the fuel. If draining it isn't possible, you can simply run the engine out of gas with the fuel valve closed.
Because moisture can accumulate in half-empty tanks, fill up with gas and top it off with a fuel stabilizer such as Sta-Bil.
A quality motorcycle cover is a good investment.
Read: Best Motorcycle Cover
Protect your piston and rings from potentially rusting by removing each spark plug and pouring a bit of fresh engine oil. Alternatively, you can spray fogging oil inside. Ground the ignition leads and turn the engine over several times. This will spread the oil before re-installing the spark plugs.
Remove the battery find a cool dry place to store it. To keep it fully charged, a battery tender is recommended. An alterative to the battery tender is to recharge with a trickle charger every two months.
Spray some WD-40 into the exhaust pipes in order to keep water and keeping moisture out will prevent rust. You can also keep water and critters out by stuffing intake and exhaust with crumpled plastic bags.
If your motorcycle doesn't have a center stand, carefully prop the bike up with blocks. This alleviates stress on the suspension and tires.
Storing a Motorcycle for a Year or More
Perform all of the above procedures, with the following additions.
If your brake fluid is more than a year old, change it before long-term storage.
To Start or Not To Start
During a motorcycle's "hibernation" some riders feel it is good practice to start the bike up every couple of weeks. Truth is, unless you actually ride the bike long enough to heat up the engine oil, its not a good idea.
Starting the bike for just a few minutes will actually increase corrosion inside the engine. Unless you run the engine long enough (30 minutes or longer) to bring the oil temp up to 190 to 220 degrees, the water released will cause more damage internally. Either take it out and ride it for a while or leave it.
Does Gasoline Freeze?
Because gasoline is a mixture of several different elements, it has no standard freezing point like water does. In very cold temperatures, the elements in gas will separate, turning it into a useless gel. At about -40 below, it will freeze solid.
Storing a Motorcycle Outside
Keeping a bike inside may not be an option for some riders. Unfortunately, weather for any extended time does damage. Paint fades, vinyl seats rip and tear, chrome gets corroded, and tires dry-crack from exposure. Water in the gas tank will cause rust and potentially clog your carburetor.
If you don't have access to a garage or barn, consider purchasing an outdoor motorcycle cover or a small storage shed.