The Ultimate Guide to Motorcycle Storage

man cleaning his motorcycle in preparation for motorcycle storage

The Ultimate Guide to Motorcycle Storage

Your motorcycle is one of your prized possessions. Maybe you only use it during warm summer months for the occasional joyride, or maybe your motorcycle is your main mode of transportation. Either way, you will come across times that you want to store your bike, and, just like when you store an RV, it’s important to store it the right way. We have provided this ultimate guide to motorcycle storage to give you the steps you need to prepare your bike for storage and the answers to frequently asked questions.

Step 1: Choosing a Motorcycle Storage Space

Regardless of the length of time you wish to store your motorcycle, you want to make sure the space you choose is safe. The best motorcycle storage spaces are secure and dry with constant temperatures. It’s also crucial that you check the space above and next to your motorcycle for loose items. You want anything in your bike’s vicinity to be secured, so it doesn’t fall and crash on your bike. Things like ladders, lumber, and other construction materials are common culprits.

Step 2: Learn Why You Need to Prep Your Bike for Storage

Whether storing your motorcycle for weeks or months, it requires more than simply throwing it in a motorcycle storage shed. You must prepare the inside and outside of your bike for storage. How you prepare for storage depends on the length of time your bike will be sitting, but the desired outcome is the same. Properly preparing your bike for short-term or long-term motorcycle storage mitigates or eliminates damage caused by the environment.

The two biggest culprits that can damage your motorcycle in storage, beside pests and animals, are oxidation and fuel degradation.

Oxidation Will Damage Your Bike

Oxidation is a chemical process, more commonly referred to as rusting. If your motorcycle isn’t stored properly, aluminum and chrome parts will begin to oxidize. It takes some time before oxidation leads to a reddish-brown color. It begins simply as discoloration. When rubber oxidizes, you won’t even notice a change in color. Instead, rubber components on your motorcycle will become hard and brittle, which can lead to cracking.

Fuel Degradation Will Damage Your Motorcycle’s Internal Components

When your motorcycle sits too long without proper preparation, the fuel goes bad and can cause damage. This is a result of ethanol, which now comprises a portion of all types of gasoline. Ethanol can damage your motorcycle in multiple ways:

  • Ethanol absorbs water, which separates from the gas and creates condensation in the fuel tank when a motorcycle sits too long. The water can also lead to complete corrosion that leads to mechanical failure.
  • Ethanol leaves a thick layer of gum on the internal components of the fuel system.
  • Ethanol is a powerful solvent that dissolves lubrication and causes wear.

You can find pure gasoline at airports and boat marinas, but it’s difficult to find in other places. This makes it difficult to avoid ethanol-blended gasoline and requires you to take extra steps when storing your motorcycle.

Step 3: Preparing Your Motorcycle for Storage

two motorcycles stored outside under motorcycle covers

Your motorcycle might be out of commission for a few weeks or for a season, or you might need to store it indefinitely. The steps you take for motorcycle storage highly depend on how long your bike will sit unused. Below we provide step-by-step instructions for motorcycle storage for three different lengths of time: two weeks to two months, three to six months, and indefinite storage.

How to Prepare Your Motorcycle for Two Weeks to Two Months of Motorcycle Storage

If you only need to store your motorcycle for a few weeks, you do not have to do too much to prepare your bike for storage. In fact, you can secure your motorcycle in a parking lot, your garage, or your driveway for short-term storage. The following steps will ensure your motorcycle is ready for a joyride as soon as you return:

Step 1:

Clean your motorcycle to prevent mildew.

Step 2:

Wax your bike to protect its paint.

Step 3:

Empty all compartments and saddlebags.

Step 4:

Cover your bike, even if only with a tarp. However, a motorcycle cover is a better option.

Step 5:

Use a rubber conditioner to protect your tires from the sun and dust while it is in storage.

Step 6:

Elevate your bike so both wheels are off the ground, especially if you will be storing your bike for a month or more.

Pro Tip:

You can find motorcycle covers well under $100, and it’s in your best interest to invest in one. If your budget allows, you can find motorcycle covers in multiple styles to fit every bike, and that includes some incredible amenities such as non-scratching liners, rust protectors, heat shields, and UV protection.

How to Prepare Your Motorcycle for Three to Six Months of Motorcycle Storage

If you intend to store your motorcycle for a few months or an entire season, you will have to take more steps to prepare for motorcycle winter storage or seasonal storage properly. You might consider renting a storage unit to leave more space in your garage or parking area.

Step 1:

Clean and wax your motorcycle the same as you would for a lesser amount of storage time.

Step 2:

Completely empty all the compartments and saddlebags.

Step 3:

Cover your bike, but invest in a motorcycle cover for seasonal storage and do not rely on a tarp or cloth sheet.

Step 4:

Change your oil and filter.

Step 5:

Check all of your fluids, including coolant, hydraulic fluid, and brake fluid, and change them if necessary. Also, top off your battery fluid, so a low fluid level does not cause internal plates to malfunction. If you do not remember the last time you changed a particular fluid, use the color of the fluid to guide you. Change any fluids that appear cloudy or milky.

Step 6:

Fill your fuel tank with ethanol-free gasoline if available. If you only have access to gasoline with ethanol, add a stabilizer to your fuel.

Step 7:

You must elevate your bike when you store it for the season, so do what you need to do to get both wheels off the ground by using the center stand or a hydraulic lift. When you get your bike off the ground, you remove static pressure on the bearings and bushing and prevent the damage this causes.

Step 8:

Reduce air pressure in your tires. You should check the owners’ manual that came with your motorcycle, but the recommended reduction is usually 20 percent.

Step 9:

Remove your battery and check it. Leaving your battery in place typically will not harm your motorcycle, but it can save you a trip to the shop when you are ready to ride again. If you want to keep your battery in its best shape, consider hooking it up to a trickle charger.

Pro Tip:

Make a checklist prior to storage to make sure you don’t miss anything. Also, you can use it to keep track of what maintenance you did on your bike. After three or more months, you might struggle to remember the exact preparation and maintenance you performed.

How to Prepare Your Motorcycle for Long-Term Storage

If you need to indefinitely store your motorcycle for multiple seasons or years, you will have to follow the same tips listed above for storage beyond three months of storage. However, indefinite storage requires you to go further to ensure your motorcycle doesn’t suffer any irreparable damage. Keep in mind that it’s best to complete all these steps in or near the storage space. Below is the complete step-by-step guide for indefinite motorcycle storage:

Step 1:

Create a maintenance log. A checklist and maintenance log is even more important for long-term storage, and you need to make sure you jot down dates and record complete notes about what you did to your bike.

Step 2:

Replace all fluids you haven’t changed in the current riding season, regardless of how long it’s been.

Step 3:

Clean your motorcycle, but take extra special care to ensure it’s completely dry so mold and mildew don’t grow during storage. Start your motorcycle and let it run until it reaches operating temperature, let it sit in the sun for a couple of hours, and open all seats and storage areas to let them air out.

Step 4:

Wax your bike twice. The first time, buff the wax thoroughly. The second time, buff lightly to leave a little wax for protection.

Step 5:

Empty the saddlebags, if applicable, and all compartments.

Step 6:

Lubricate the chain and any controls so that they do not dry out when in storage.

Step 7:

Drain all of the coolant from the engine block and radiator. Coolant turns highly acidic after a few years and can cause major damage.

Pro Tip:

Your gaskets can dry out when you drain the coolant, so consider not draining the coolant if you’ll be in the area and can manage regular bike maintenance. Change it every couple of years and run your engine if you have the opportunity. While this takes more work, it may better fit your needs.

Step 8:

Add a stabilizer-conditioner and run it through your fuel system to lubricate and protect the bike. Then drain all of the gasoline from the tank and fuel system. You already know the damage that ethanol can cause, but pure gasoline can also cause damage to your bike when it sits for a long time. Gasoline breaks down, evaporates, and leaves deposits in your fuel system. Ideally, you want to do this close to where you are storing your bike. However, if you have a motorcycle hauling company transporting your bike, the location matters less.

Step 9:

Lubricate your engine by ‘fogging,’ which is injecting an oil mist into the running engine.

Pro Tip:

Fogging is common, but it leaves gasoline in the fuel system. Another way to lubricate your engine is to pull your spark plugs and add a small amount of automatic transmission fluid, put rags over the holes, start your engine several times, and replace your spark plugs. This prevents corrosion on the cylinder wall. Transmission fluid does not oxidize and rust.

Step 10:

Spray a rust inhibitor like WD-40 inside your exhaust system to protect it from any rust caused by condensation. However, make sure to start your motorcycle outside when you remove it from storage because this step will make your exhaust smoke heavily.

Step 11:

You already know you need to elevate your bike and reduce your air pressure by 20 percent. But if your motorcycle is in storage for more than five years, you may need new tires when you ride again. Motorcycle tire manufacturers recommend changing tires every five years, even when they are sitting. This is primarily because of rubber oxidation, which causes the tires to become brittle and can lead to a blowout and a dangerous motorcycle accident.

Step 12:

Indefinite storage means you must remove your bike’s battery. Batteries are continually deteriorating, so they do not last forever. In fact, the average lifespan of most motorcycle batteries ranges from four to seven years. When temperatures are over 77° F, batteries deteriorate even faster.

After you remove your battery, consider its age and how long you expect your bike to be in storage. If your battery is old, you likely don’t want to waste your time and energy to store it, even on a good trickle charger.

Pro Tip:

Keep batteries out of extreme temperatures (both cold and hot), and do not place it directly on a cement floor. Use a monitoring trickle charger to maintain the battery while your bike is in storage.

Motorcycle Storage FAQs

man maintaining his motorcycle before putting it in long-term motorcycle storage

We provided an in-depth account of the most important steps you need to take to safely store your motorcycle for a few weeks, a few months, or indefinitely. But you might have some additional questions for special circumstances. Below we have provided answers to frequently asked questions about motorcycle storage.

What Should I Do if My Motorcycle Has a Carburetor?

It’s important to drain as much fuel out of the system as possible when you store a motorcycle with a carburetor. Start your engine and turn off the fuel petcocks until the engine stops. Twist your throttle a few times to remove any remaining gas. You should also drain your carburetor float bowls if possible. Try to start the engine again to ensure you have as much fuel out of the fuel system as possible.

Pro Tip:

Avoid the mess of draining your tank by adding an inline fuel filter. Hook up a longer section of gas line tubing to the bottom of the filter, open the petcock, and drain fuel into a gas can.

Do I Need to Worry About How Hot or Cold My Motorcycle Storage Is?

The temperature of your motorcycle storage area matters far less than the consistency of the temperature. This means that if you store your bike in a heated garage or storage unit, it needs to stay heated.

If the temperature changes or cools each time a door opens, you risk condensation. The cold air that enters has a chemical reaction with the warmer metal parts on your bike, creating condensation, which can lead to rust. A constant cold temperature is better than the temperature moving up and down. If your motorcycle will be stored in cold temperatures, keep it protected by reading more about winterizing your bike.

How Do I Protect My Motorcycle from Rodents and Other Critters?

The best way to protect your motorcycle from chipmunks, rats, mice, and other critters is to block off any open spaces. Use steel wool, which rodents cannot chew through, to plug your exhaust pipe. Also, make sure to close all compartments and saddlebags tightly. If you cannot do so, you are better off to leave them open, so they are less inviting. You can also place a chunk of wood in the battery box to prevent critters from building nests.

Be careful of other DIY ideas: two common suggestions for protecting your bike are mothballs and peppermint oil. But neither of these actually deter critters (especially for long-term storage).

Should I Cancel My Motorcycle Insurance While My Bike Is in Storage?

It’s not in your best interest to cancel your motorcycle insurance when you store your bike. In fact, doing so can cost you more money in the long run.

If you are only storing your bike seasonally, insurance companies know this tactic and often institute harsh policies to deter bikers from canceling seasonally. It’s likely your carrier will charge you a high reinstatement fee when you take your bike out of storage. This will definitely eat into anything you saved by canceling your policy.

Additionally, like car insurance, the cost of motorcycle insurance goes down when you keep continuous coverage and don’t have traffic tickets or accidents. When you cancel your policy, you will create a gap in coverage. This means your motorcycle insurance carrier will, for all practical purposes, treat you as a new rider when you reapply after you take your bike out of storage. You can expect to lose any discount you were receiving for being a safe rider, effectively increasing your premiums. It can take a year or more before you see a reduction back to your previous rates.

How Should I Secure My Bike While It Is in Storage?

The best way to secure your motorcycle in storage is with multiple locks and a high-quality security system. You can also find motorcycle covers with steel cables that lock around the base of your bike and deter petty thieves. However, professional criminals are familiar with these locks, so you might want to add disc brake locks and other aftermarket locks to make it difficult for anyone who tries to steal your bike.

If you are storing your motorcycle inside, consider feeding locking chains through heavy equipment or wrapping them around metal beams for additional deterrence.

Ultimately, you must consider the location and length of your motorcycle storage to make the best decisions for securing your bike. The longer you store your bike and the less secure the location, the more locks and security measures you must put in place. For example, if your bike is in a secure storage unit for three months, it will need less security than if you leave in an unlocked garage for a year.

Motorcycle Storage DON’Ts

We’ve provided you with comprehensive information about motorcycle storage, and we remind you to always use a checklist and log. But even with a detailed log and to-do list, it’s easy to make a costly mistake, especially if this is your first time storing a motorcycle. Here are some common mistakes to avoid that can jeopardize your bike, even if you choose a good storage site.

  • DON’T leave the battery in your motorcycle if the weather is too cold. This can lead to a frozen battery. A fully charged battery typically will not freeze until it reaches more than -50°F. Batteries that aren’t fully charge will begin to freeze once it reaches 32°F.
  • DON’T forget to reduce tire pressure. The static pressure can cause damage over time.
  • DON’T coat your gasoline-powered engine with diesel fuel.
  • DON’T periodically start your motorcycle to circulate the oil. This creates moisture. If you let your bike run for 30 minutes or more, you need to redo each of the steps you completed to prepare your motorcycle for short-term or long-term storage.

Putting It All Together for Successful Motorcycle Storage

Hopefully, you have an exciting reason to store your motorcycle, like a fabulous vacation or moving for a job. The way you approach motorcycle storage really depends on how long you need to put away your bike. If you are unsure about the exact length of time, it’s much better to overprepare your bike than be underprepared. The actions you take now will prevent damage to your bike and are reversible, so it’s better to err on the side of caution. Even if you are simply storing it for the season or while you recover from an injury or illness, you want to make sure your bike remains in pristine shape for you to enjoy as soon as you can.

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