man cleaning his motorcycle in preparation for motorcycle storage

The Ultimate Guide to Motorcycle Storage

There’s no doubt that your motorcycle is a prized possessions, so in the case of needing to store it, it’s important that you do so properly to ensure it’s safe, easy to access, and protected all at an affordable cost. This guide will help walk you through the steps necessary to prepare and store your motorcycle, including frequently asked questions around motorcycle storage.

Jump to a section about motorcycle storage…

Before You Store a Motorcycle

Before you undergo the process of preparing your motorcycle for storage, there are a few things to consider and keep in mind as you go. Be sure to think about the following areas as you go about moving your motorcycle into storage.

The type of 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.

The importance of prepping before storing

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.

Protect and prevent oxidation

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.

Avoid damage from fuel degradation

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.

two motorcycles stored outside under motorcycle covers

How to Prepare Your Motorcycle for Storage

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.

Jump to see instructions based on different storage durations:

Steps for storing a motorcycle for two weeks to two months

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.
While a motorcycle cover is the best option, for this short amount of time, even a simple cloth tarp covering the entire bike would suffice.

Step 5: Use a rubber conditioner to protect your tires from the sun and dust while in storage.

Step 6: Elevate your bike so both wheels are off the ground.
This is especially important if you plan on storing your bike for a month or more.

Pro Tip:
Even if it’s short-term, if you’re planning on storing your motorcycle during colder winter months, you may want to take a few extra considerations into mind and properly winterize your motorcycle it so it’s in proper working order when you take it out to ride again.

Steps for storing a motorcycle for three to six months

If you intend to store your motorcycle for a few months or an entire season, you will have to take more steps to prepare your motorcycle for temporarily storing over this slightly longer period of time.

Perform these steps for temporarily storing your motorcycle over several months:

Step 1: Clean and wax your motorcycle.

Step 2: Completely empty all the compartments and saddlebags.

Step 3: Cover your bike.
Ideally, invest in a motorcycle cover for seasonal storage rather than relying on a tarp or cloth sheet.

Step 4: Change your oil and filter.

Step 5: Check all of your fluids.
This includes checking the coolant, hydraulic fluid, and brake fluid, and changing 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: Elevate your bike when you store it for the season.
Do what you need to do to safely 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.
If you’re not sure how much pressure to leave in your tires, check the owners’ manual that came with your motorcycle, but the recommended reduction is usually 20 percent.

Step 9: Check and 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.

Steps for storing a motorcycle long-term

If you need to 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.

Steps for preparing you motorcycle for long-term 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.
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. 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.

Step 9: Drain all of the gasoline from the tank and fuel system.
It’s important to do this after adding and running a stabilizer-conditioner through your 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 10: 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 11: Spray a rust inhibitor, like WD-40, inside your exhaust system to protect it from any rust caused by condensation.
When you do this, make sure to start your motorcycle outside when you remove it from storage because this step will make your exhaust smoke heavily.

Step 12: Check your tires and reduce the air pressure.
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 13: 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. So, if when storing your motorcycle long-term or indefinitely, removing the battery is a must.

Pro Tip:
Use our battery storage guide to learn how to properly store batteries of all types. For vehicle batteries especially, it’s important to avoid storing in extreme temperatures (both cold and hot), and never place them directly on a cement floor.

Important Motorcycle Storage Mistakes to Avoid

There’s obviously a lot that goes into properly preparing your motorcycle for storage, no matter how long or short the duration. While you should try to perform all the steps provided, some of the steps are so vital that not doing them properly or skipping them entirely can be a very costly mistake.

Here are some common mistakes to avoid that can jeopardize your motorcycle:

    • 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.

Motorcycle Storage FAQs

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

We know that motorcycle storage isn’t an easy topic or process to undergo. The steps provided in this guide are meant to help reduce the hassle of storing your bike and ensure it’s properly protected while it’s not being ridden for extended periods of time. There are also a lot of questions that come with the topic of motorcycle storage, so we’ve provided helpful answers to many of them here.

What should I do if my motorcycle has a carburetor?

Answer: 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. You can 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 temperature control when storing my motorcycle?

Answer: 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.

How do I protect my motorcycle from rodents and pests?

Answer: 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 if I’m putting it in storage?

Answer: 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. In many cases if you’re storing your motorcycle with a traditional storage facility that requires storage insurance, your motorcycle’s insurance policy might provide the coverage needed. You can use our storage insurance guide to learn more about protecting your stored items.

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 motorcycle while in storage?

Answer: The best way to secure your motorcycle in storage is with multiple locks and a high-quality security system. You may find the option to purchase a motorcycle cover equipped 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.

The Key to Motorcycle Storage is Proper Preparation

Regardless of the reason for needing store your motorcycle, the way you handle preparing it for storage will have a huge impact on how it performs in the future. How you approach motorcycle storage really depends on how long you intend to keep it packed away. 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.

When you’re ready to store your motorcycle, you’ll have several options to choose from. This can be a whole new process in itself. So when looking for the best storage options for your motorcycle, Neighbor is the best vehicle storage provider available. Find vehicle storage nearby that’s significantly cheaper than traditional storage facilities, allows the option to choose from listings that have all the amenities you need, and is conveniently located in your own neighborhood.

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