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Whether you winterize your bike with Route 65 Harley-Davidson or in your own garage, here are a few of the basics to prepare your bike for winter storage.

Some tough Iowans continue to ride through the winter, and even they can benefit from some of these tips to keep your bike in top shape for the spring season. And if you keep riding late into the cold season, it is never too late to prepare your Harley® (or other equipment) for that long winter's nap.

Below is a check list for basic winter storage that will help make sure your bike survives until spring.

Stabilize the Fuel

Unleaded fuel only has a shelf life of 3-4 weeks before it begins to deteriorate. Some say draining the tank and float bowl is all that is needed to prevent the gasoline from turning to sludge, but there is no way to drain every drop of fuel, especially from all the small passages and jets in the carburetor.

Add the recommended amount of fuel stabilizer to a full tank of fuel, then run the engine for at least 15 minutes to work the stabilized fuel throughout the engine. This will prevent the remaining fuel residue from oxidizing and turning to varnish. There are several brands of reliable fuel stabilizer available.

Change Your Oil

Now that your Harley is warmed up after running the stabilizer through the engine, change your oil. Residual fuel and contaminants in the oil can oxidize during prolonged storage or inactivity. Changing your oil now removes all the sludge and dirt that would otherwise start to deteriorate. In addition, changing oil now guarantees fresh lubrication when it comes time to remove the bike from storage.

Use a quality oil that you would normally drive with such as synthetics which will survive much longer into next year's riding season. Run the engine a few minutes to disburse the oil through the engine.

Prepare the Battery

Lead-acid batteries should be kept under a constant charge in order to prolong their life. Attach a Battery Tender or specialized charger that won't overcharge your battery. A trickle charger may be used but must not be run for more than a half-hour each day. This could be accomplished using an appliance timer. If your motorcycle will be stored where freezing temperatures are likely, remove the battery from the bike and place in a warm dry place. The battery should be kept charged regardless.

Clean and Lubricate

Dirt, sand, and road salts will begin to corrode and damage metal surfaces if left during storage. Give your bike a good cleaning before putting her to sleep for the winter. Lubricate the chain and all moving parts such as cables, and use a metal protectant spray on the underside of the frame and drivetrain. This will combat any rust on areas exposed from pitting or scratches. NEVER use WD-40 on your Harley.

Check Your Tires

Make sure your tires are properly inflated. If you have a compressor then deflate your tires first to expel any moisture, then inflate with clean compressed air. You should repeat this step before riding again in the spring.

If possible, elevate your Harley so both tires are not under load. This is especially important if the bike will be stored in freezing conditions. Make sure your bike is secure. Some motorcycle lifts have been known to fail when left under prolonged load.

Cover Your Harley®

Even when stored inside, your bike should be covered while stored. Use a cover that can breath and not a plastic tarp. Moisture should not be allowed to become trapped under the cover on your bike's metal surfaces. If your storage is in a barn or similar place, cover the exhaust's to prevent any unwanted creatures from making a winter den. Place plastic bags over the intake to keep moisture out.

Once stored, resist the temptation of periodically starting the engine, or at least until you are ready to drain the stabilized fuel and start riding again. While in storage, it is the perfect time to work on those maintenance projects you have been putting off, like changing the fork oil.

More Winterization Services & Tips

You diligently wash, and shine and follow the service recommendations in your Owner’s Manual for your prized Harley all through the riding season. But when winter rolls around, are you just as dedicated? It is vitally important to continue that same care during the winter non-riding season, and proper winter care will ensure your Harley will have a long, healthy, trouble free life. Proper Winterization can make the difference in the Spring between needing to perform only the standard recommended Spring service procedures or having to make more costly repairs. For example, the harmful, corrosive contaminants from the normal combustion processes must be removed by changing the engine oil before storage. The battery must be properly maintained with a compatible battery tender charging device to help avoid sulfation of the grid plates during storage. Fuel should be protected from break down and varnish formation with fuel stabilizer additive.

  • Change engine oil and filter
  • Top off your fuel tank and properly add Fuel Stabilizer to your fuel system.
  • Clean and check battery connections and terminals.
  • Install a battery tender pigtail, or confirm proper function if already installed, for convenient access to maintain battery state of charge.
  • Top off transmission and primary fluids.
  • Adjust tire pressures.
  • Lubricate the engine cylinder walls.
  • Lubricate clutch and throttle cables.
  • Apply corrosion inhibitor as appropriate.
  • Perform a multi-point mechanical and electrical inspection for possible maintenance needs.

The winterization procedure is a great time to catch and address any emerging maintenance issue that could cause a breakdown and missed rides next year. Performing any noted maintenance needs now can help avoid long delays in enjoying the Spring riding season by avoiding the hectic Spring Service rush.

  • Pick up and delivery services. (This will preserve the engine cylinder wall lubrication for winter storage, and save your time for other busy Holiday preparation activities).
  • Winter detail services.
  • Installation of Genuine Harley-Davidson® Parts and Accessories. Now is the best time to complete that special custom look you have been planning, or replace that tired high mileage engine with a Genuine Harley-Davidson® Remanufactured Engine.
  • Performance modifications.

Call your service professionals at Route 65 Harley-Davidson to help you with all your winterization needs.

motorcycle winter preparation