I never start my bike when storing, but I understand why some riders do. Flat battery, gummed carburetor, misfiring engine, I’ll show you how to avoid them all.
Short idling a motorcycle engine causes condensation to form. Moisture is the enemy of all machinery. Follow these ten simple motorcycle storage tips to avoid storage-related problems. They include:
- Wash & Dry
- Change oil and filter
- Clean air filter
- Gap plug
- Drain carburetor bowl
- Use gas stabilizer
- Fill gas tank
- Use smart battery charger
- Spray Teflon and wd40 protection
- Cover bike with breathable cover & store indoors
By the end of this post, you’ll understand why starting your bike isn’t advisable. You’ll also learn the correct way to store your motorcycle for trouble-free recommissioning.
I’ve been a mechanic for twenty years, and I get asked about starting bikes while in storage a ton. I don’t recommend it, and here’s why.
All engines contain some moisture. It’s unavoidable. And moisture generally, as you’ll learn in this post, is a bike killer.
Your engine and exhaust manage moisture by burning it off when as they reach operating temperature. Short idling sessions won’t allow your bike to reach operating temperatures, not only does the moisture not burn off, it accumulates.
Condensation forms, as you know, on a surface where cold and hot air meet. With no way out, moisture collects inside your engine crankcase, carburetor, transmission, exhaust systems, etc. Some components of our bike are susceptible to moisture build-ups, like stators and coils.
In addition, starting a cold engine requires a choke. Repeatedly using a choke for short idling sessions causes raw gas to wash the cylinder, stripping it of its protective oil coating.
Starting and riding your bike once a week would be great. It would keep the battery charged, burn off moisture and help keep the brakes clean, cables operating, and exhaust corrosion-free.
I understand that’s not possible for most, time restrictions, weather, insurance cover, so follow these simple storage tips.
These simple storage tips are guaranteed to keep your bike in top condition and, importantly, ready to ride at a moment’s notice.
1 Wash & Dry
Clean the bike thoroughly. Muck traps moisture and salts that corrode components. Use a quality automotive detergent. Household detergent strips protective wax coatings from the paintwork.
I use a pressure washer, but be mindful, powerful pressure washers can strip protective lube from components such as chains, penetrate bearings, and bushings which will shorten their lives, guaranteed.
Avoid spraying water on electrics such as the Stator casing, CDI box, regulator/rectifier, Coil, Plug and Cap, Solenoid, Starter, Relays, Fuses, Dash clocks, Ignition switch, battery, etc.
Picking a warm day to wash makes excellent sense as we’ll need the bike to dry out afterward thoroughly. Riding the bike is a great way to speed up the process.
Pressured water directed at the carburetor should also be avoided.
2 Oil & Filter
Change out the oil filter (screen clean) before storing. The crankcase contains moisture, and dropping the oil ensures the oil is free from contaminates.
3 Air Filter
Remove the air filter and clean it. Sponge filters may be washed in filter cleaner. You could use fresh gas, too, but it can be harsh on the filter seams. Use proper filter lube to reoil the filter, if applicable.
Pleated paper filters can’t be washed. They can be cleaned with compressed air or replaced.
4 Gap Plug
Remove the plug, examine, clean, and gap or replace it. You’ll need a plug wrench, wire brush, and a feeler gauge.
Check the plug gap. It’s a simple process of measuring the plug electrode gap with the gauge and adjusting it with pliers if needed. An average gap spec is about .028 – .032 in (.7 – .8 mm).
When refitting a used (washered) plug, tighten the plug 1/4 after the plug seats and a new plug 1/2 turn after the plug seats.
5 Carb Bowl
The bowl will collect crap – grit, and moisture. Draining the bowl will prevent moisture from attacking components. Check and replace the filter too, replace if necessary.
Your bike may be fuel injected and so you won’t find a gas bowl and that’s great, one less thing to worry about. But you will need to use a gas stabilizer and we cover that next.
6 Gas Stabilizer
Blended gas is known as ethanol (E10, e15) and is commonplace. In fact, on road-going machinery, it’s the law. Regular gas is permitted in off-road vehicles, so ethanol is a fact of life for most.
Ethanol gas attracts moisture and goes stale after as little as one month, so storing gas on your bike comes with some risks. The ethanol becomes moisture saturated and begins a process called phase separation.
Basically, the fuel and its component chemicals start to separate and break down. This results in gumming and corrosion inside your carburetor.
This has become a real problem, especially for small engine vesicles with vented gas tanks.
I use a gas stabilizer in all my kit. Added to the fuel, it will prevent gumming problems for up to 1 year.
Add it to the gas tank as per the instructions and run the engine to operating temperatures. When the mixed gas flows throughout the fuel system and your set.
7 Fill Gas Tank
Fill the gas tank to the very top. This prevents moisture build-up inside the tank. Less available interior tank wall surface equals less condensation. Turn off the petcock to remove the stress from the carburetor float valve (if fitted).
8 Smart Charger
A charger is super important. Your battery is one of the first components to suffer from a lack of use. The solution is a smart charger. It’s a simple piece of kit that maintains the battery at optimum charge without cooking it.
The smart charger is perfect for storing bikes, cars, boats, jet skis, cars, trucks any battery. Plug it in and forget about it. It senses battery voltage and trickles charges only as necessary.
9 Teflon Coating
Teflon coatings are excellent at repealing all kinds of crap, moisture, grit, salts, rain from all types of materials. Plastics metals, rubber, paintwork, glass Perspex, etc. It’s simple to use with a minimal amount of work. But it is important the bike is clean and dry.
Teflon coatings offered by DuPont come in a handy aerosol that can spray all components except brakes, rotors, seats, grips, levers, and controls.
I use WD 40 to protect electrics, spray CDI box, regulator/rectifier, coil, fuses, relays, ignition switch.
10 Cover & Store indoors
Where your bike lives are mission-critical to trouble-free recommissioning. Storing your bike outside isn’t ideal, even with a cover. Some form of shelter will make the largest contribution to the life of your bike.
In addition to shelter, a cover is needed too. The type of cover you use makes quite a difference. Using a plastic sheet will trap moisture under the cover. Quality breathable covers are moisture-proof and breathable.
Additional Storage Tips
These additional storage tips maybe a little too much work for some and if your bike lives in a heated garage I likely wouldn’t bother. But if you truly love her, then here they are:
- Removing the chain and placing it in a sealed plastic bag with fresh oil is best but I understand for many this job is a little too far.
- Oil the cylinder – remove the spark plug and add a capful of fresh engine oil. Turn over the motor by hand (if possible to distribute the oil on the cylinder wall. Now place the engine at TDC (Top Dead Center) and refit the spark plug. You can check out that process here “Dirtbike not starting after winter”.
- Place a plastic bag over the tailpipe to help keep moisture out.
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- About the Author
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John Cunningham is a technical writer here at ATVfixed.com. He’s a Red Seal Qualified Service Technician with over twenty-five years experience. He’s worked on all types of mechanical equipment, from cars and trucks to ATVs and Dirt bikes.