Getting your motorcycle ready for the winter

In autumn, many people put their motorcycle into hibernation for the winter, but that doesn't mean simply wheeling it into the garage. Your motorcycle requires a little care and attention beforehand. All the points to observe for winterizing your bike are explained here.

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If you do not intend to ride your bike for some time, it may make financial sense to unregister it – if you do not already have a seasonal number plate. But beware: a vehicle must always be registered for a minimum of 6 months in order to be eligible for the next higher no claims bonus from the insurance company.

And if you want the reassurance of knowing that your bike is ready for the next season, you might want to sort out your vehicle inspection appointment sooner rather than later. Now is also a good time to carry out those repairs or modifications. And if you're not planning to use your bike any time soon, you should make sure it is correctly "mothballed". Simply throwing a cover over it and forgetting it for half a year can lead to some nasty surprises come the spring. In fact, corrosion, battery and carburettor problems, and other damage are almost a certainty.

So the first step is a trip to the service station to fill your fuel tank to the brim – so it can't rust. A fuel system cleaner will bind any water that may still be present in the tank.

How to get your motorcycle safely through the winter

[IMAGE: tyre pressure.]
Top up tyre pressure to about 0.5 bar above normal

Increasing tyre pressure to prevent flat-spotting

While you're at the service station, increase the air pressure in your tyres slightly: 0.5 bar above manufacturer specifications is OK.

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Change the oil before you "mothball" your bike

Oil change always BEFORE winter

When you get back home, use the warm engine as your opportunity to change the oil (see DIY tip „Oil change“). Old oil contains aggressive substances that can damage pistons, contact surfaces and bearings during storage, and in the case of engines with hydraulic tappets/valve lifters (such as Harley-Davidson) it can cause clogging. Always replace the Oil filter at the same time.

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A really good clean almost goes without saying

Cleaning and protection

You now need to give your bike a really thorough clean – paying particular attention to the more inaccessible areas (such as underneath the tank, under the seat, the fairing, etc., see DIY tip „Washing“). Then thoroughly spray the bike with an anti-corrosion agent.

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Protection against the elements

Corrosion protection

If you protect the fairing, including the windshield, tank, side cover and tail with a good hard-wax paint conditioner, they will thank you for it. Apply a corrosion inhibitor spray to the engine, the exhaust (even if it's painted, as wax can cause discolourations when heated) and the entire chassis (particularly welded joints and hard-to-reach spots). And don't forget the shock absorber rods and the fork tubes, because even the smallest of rust spots can cause leaks.

Should your cleaning reveal any patches of rust, deal with them straight away by sanding down and applying touch-up or spray paint in order to prevent the rust spreading during the winter. Always prime first with rustproofer before applying paint.

Now thoroughly grease all joints and levers. You can then round off your corrosion protection by adding a small spoonful of engine oil in each spark plug hole and poking an oily cloth into the exhaust (Please note: your bike MUST be completely cool before doing this!). Using a special chain cleaner, make sure the chain is free of all dirt and abrasive stones and then apply a chain spray. Always spray the chain on the inside of the lower run while turning the (unloaded) rear wheel slowly by hand.

[IMAGE: carburettor.]
The pros drain the carburettor – for a smooth spring!

Draining the carburettor

Now empty the float chambers of the carburettor. You can do this without having to run the engine with your bike stationary. Instead, take a small container and drain the float chamber via the drain plugs provided for this purpose. This is very important because as the fuel in the carburettor evaporates, it leaves resinous deposits that can prevent your engine running smoothly and cause starting problems in spring. To stop fuel running back into the carburettors, set the fuel tap to "OFF". If your fuel tap doesn't offer this option, it's probably best to disconnect the supply hose from the carburettor and close it off with a screw.

[IMAGE: fuel system cleaner.]
Add a fuel system cleaner

Protecting the fuel system

If your bike has a fuel injection system which doesn't have a standard float chamber that can be drained, you will need to protect it using a suitable fuel additive. You will find that many vehicle manufacturers recommend this in the owner's manual. We also recommend it for bikes with carbs, as the additive cleans the jets, channels and bores, and binds any condensed water in the tank.

[IMAGE: battery.]
Check the acid level in your battery …

Removing and maintaining the battery

Your battery also needs some attention. This generally means removing it and, in the case of standard lead batteries, checking the acid level. If necessary, use deionised water (never acid) to top up to the max. mark.

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… then connect to your charger in the dry.

Connecting battery to charger

The best place for batteries over winter is in a frost-free room connected to an automatic charger that provides a trickle charge.

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Jack up your bike to take the strain off your tyres!

Taking the load off the tyres

Finally, you need to jack up your bike to unload both wheels. If you have a centre stand, also support the front of the motorcycle frame with wooden blocks or bricks (use rags to protect the frame from scratches). If your bike doesn't have a centre stand, it's a good idea to use paddock stands. If you are unable to unload the wheels, turning them slightly every few weeks will also help to prevent the build-up of pressure points.

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A motorcycle cover is a must for outdoors

Covering your motorcycle

If you have no choice but to leave your bike outside, then a cover is essential. This should be breathable or have suitably dimensioned vents. Make sure that the cover is not resting on any bike parts that are still damp from residual cleaning agent or spray oil – worst case scenario is that this could lead to a chemical reaction, which causes the cover to stick to the bike. If the bike is outside but protected from the elements, a relatively cheap breathable dust cover would be sufficient.

[IMAGE: corrosion protection cover.]
A special corrosion protection cover ...

Ready-made corrosion protection

By following these simple rules for preparing your bike for the coming season, you can spend the winter months looking forward to the joys of spring in the knowledge that you will NOT be the one asking for a quick push-start or needing to completely dismantle your carburettor.

[IMAGE: corrosion protection cover.]
... is particularly useful for long-term storage.

Laying up your motorcycle for a long period

If you plan to mothball your bike for a long period, you will need a VCI corrosion inhibitor folding garage. The special VCI corrosion inhibitor protects metal against corrosion for a period of approx. two years. For even longer storage, simply place a small can of so-called emitter inside your folding garage to reactivate the corrosion inhibitor for a further two years. And if you really want to play safe, you can also hang a dehumidifier on the handlebars.

[IMAGE - Download this tip.]

Download this tip

For the garage: Simply download, print out and take it with you.

[IMAGE: the experts.]

The Louis Technical Centre

Problems getting spare parts? Or maybe you've got a technical question about your motorcycle or an accessory The Louis Technical Centre can help! Remember to quote all the necessary details of your vehicle – better still, send us a copy of your registration document.

We will get back to you as quickly as possible!

So: send us your technical problem!

Please note!

These tips for DIY mechanics contain general recommendations that may not apply to all vehicles or all individual components. As local conditions may vary considerably, we are unable to guarantee the correctness of information in these tips for DIY mechanics.

Thank you for your understanding.

[IMAGE - Buy the Louis Mechanic Manual now.]

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