Can Winterizing Your Motorcycle Really Be Done In 3 Steps?
What if I told you following these 3 winterization steps could save you between $300 to $1200 a year by avoiding costly repairs…
Learning how to winterize your motorcycle will not only save you buckets of cash when spring time hits, but it will give you the satisfaction of being able to turn the key and rely on your bikes start up season after season.
When the first frost hits and you realize your riding season has come to an end don’t wait to winterize your motorcycle. These 3 steps are easy and worth it.
BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE VIDEO BELOW! I COVER SOME IMPORTANT TIPS THAT YOU MAY MISS IN THIS POST!
“Winterizing your motorcycle is easy, the hardest part is actually doing it..”
I can’t tell you how many times I have shown the “winterization” process to a rider when it gets into the off-season. Every year they are the first person back in the shop with a defeated look on their face after I tell them the bill of what their motorcycle needs to get ready for the new riding season. If they just would have followed half of the steps I mentioned they would have been in better shape.
If they just would have followed half of the steps I mentioned they would have been in better shape. Don’t let this happen to you, be proactive with the care of your motorcycle. This will leave more cash in your pocket and more time on the road.
Why You Should Winterize Your Motorcycle
You may already be aware of this but fuel is the biggest catch 22 product that your motorcycle needs. It works great when used regularly but the moment that fuel has a chance to sit idle inside of your carburetor(s) or PGM-FI systems and even your gas tank, it can become the biggest nuisance since Dennis the Menace. The real issue is Ethonal, with this added into the mix, the shelf life of gas is dramatically decreased. Meaning, the longer that gas sits the worse it gets. Keep in mind that smaller amounts of gas tend to turn faster than larger amounts contained in storage. With carbureted bikes, the float bowl (the cupped portion on the bottom) is holding a small amount of gas. This is actually vented to the atmosphere and is allowing gas to evaporate over time. The real issue is the combination of both time and the by-product of what gets left behind.
Check out this blog post “Why your carburetor is the problem” to nerd out on much more detailed explanations.
If that doesn’t twist your wrist I hope this will..
What Shops Don’t Want You To Know
Every carbureted motorcycle, lawn equipment or off-road unit is equipped with the ability to drain the gas it is holding. By not telling you this information or physically pointing out the draining procedure it not only allows for an almost guaranteed return with your non-running motorcycle, ATV or generator but it helps pad the pockets of repair shops with an expensive repair that could have easily been avoided. So every year you are left to “hope for the best,” as they tell you “you just need to ride the bike more,” (which is always true) but when the winter hits, vacations start and schedules get busy, the idea of getting out the shed and firing up the bike grows less and less appealing until finally, the “out of sight out of mind” concept takes full effect.
Why Am I Telling You This?
As a full-time Honda motorcycle technician, you must think I am loosing my mind for giving this type of advice that literally brings job security for me and my family every year.
The truth is the amount of people who will actually put this knowledge into use is slim to none.
Like I said before, year after year I take time out of my day to give this important information to people who typically have just spent upwards of $500 to bring their favorite hobby back to life and year after year they are right back in the same position with a poor running bike. I have seen more money wasted and more bikes left to rot then I would like too. Motorcycle repair and teaching riders about their bikes is what I’m passionate about. I would rather work on a motorcycle that has been properly maintained and enjoyed mile after mile rather than an unhappy customer who regrets ever purchasing their bike to begin with. As a married man I know that disposable money is not easy to come by so let’s change this statistic and use this information to keep the money where you need it.
Motorcycles are meant to be ridden!
Winterizing Your Carbureted Motorcycle
In 3 Easy Steps
STEP 1: To Fill or Not To Fill
First let’s start with your gas tank. Since most motorcycle gas tanks are metal you have two options to keep the life of your tank’s inside clean from rust build up or any breakdown or nasty coatings from moister.
*Keep in mind that the amount of time you plan on storing your bike will change what you should or shouldn’t do when it comes to this particular procedure.
FILL IT : By filling your tank up completely with fresh gas this keeps the inside walls coated with a substance (fuel) that will not allow corrosion/rust to start forming on the walls of your metal tank. “But doesn’t gas go bad when it sits?” Correct, I don’t care if you purchase non-ethanol fuel or use a fuel additive, eventually it will turn. The plus side of having a large amount of gas contained in a given area is that it will take LONGER for the gas to turn or evaporate. If you use a fuel additive along with the gas filling you are giving your gas tank a leg up through the winter. The sole purpose of keeping your gas tank completely full is to keep your tanks insides in perfect condition.
*I would only recommend doing this procedure if you going to let the bike sit for no more than 8 months. Depending on the quality of gas and the environment your motor is in, the outcome of gas sitting for longer than a year is not something I would consider finding out. Drain the gas and refill accordingly!
Now keep in mind, do not expect to coast right through winter and into spring with this same tank of gas. If the gas as been sitting for more than 4-6 months the gas will need to be completely drained out of the tank and disposed of. Don’t risk this step, I know it may seem wasteful but a $8 tank of fuel vs. a new $1000 gas tank or carburetor job is worth it. Using this old gas runs the risk of fouling out plugs and building carbon deposits on the valves and piston tops due to a poor burning combustion process.
*You can use a manual fuel pump for gas removal, or attach a long hose to the fuel valve of your tank and switch it to reserve allowing the gas to drain completly to a safe container.
I highly recommend using fuel stabilizers in your tank year around, as well as during this winterization process. I don’t care what brand you use, just use it. Once you have completed this task, be sure to double check that your fuel valve is in the OFF position and that it is working properly. You can do this by simply removing the hose coming directly from the valve with the fuel valve in the OFF position.
Does it continue to flow gas? Is it dripping?
Than it’s BAD and will completely ruin your winterization process. Either replace the valve or drain your gas tank completely.
* Vacuum operated fuel valves work differently. They require an additional hose to apply vacuum to the rubber diaphragm located on the back of your fuel valve. This type of system can act as a fail safe for keeping a fuel valve from leaking BUT these systems can still fail!
Not Filling It: A second way to ensure a clean and useful tank year after year is draining it completely. I want to emphasize that word “completely” because that is exactly what you need to do. This process can be a little more difficult due to the fact that most tanks are awkwardly shaped inside so it would require the removal of your tank so that you can tilt the tank to the side that your fuel valve (petcock) is on to ensure a complete drain.
STEP 2: Drain Your Carburetor
This step is CRUCIAL to your motorcycle’s winterization process AND IT”S SO SIMPLE.
Like I said before, every Honda carburetor has a drain screw or bolt that you can access. Some models may be more difficult to get to and will require one or more parts to be removed for access (like the GL1500 Goldwing). I don’t care if it’s a lawnmower, generator, snowblower, ATV, MUV, dirtbike, motorcycle or scooter if it’s carbureted than it has this capability.
Start by locating your carburetor(s), they will always be directly attached to the air box outlet. What you are looking for is the lowest point of the carburetor that has either a hose running off of it or maybe just a spigot. Inspect around that and locate the drain bolt. Most commonly they are either a flat head screw, phillips head or maybe even an allen head type bolt.
(With the fuel valve off) You will want to crack this screw open two full turns to allow the carburetor to drain out everything that is in its float bowl. Typically they hold around a shot glass or more of gas. If your carburetor has a drain hose attached you may notice it coming out of the end of that hose onto the ground, no problem grab some towels to soak it up. If your carburetor does not have a drain tube try to shove some paper towels or shop rags under the carburetor so you don’t make a mess with the gas and have it possibly stain your motor.
Once you have drained the carburetor(s), you can either leave the drains open or close them back up. The choice is yours. I like to leave them all open so that if my fuel valve developed a leak I would know because I would have gas all over the floor from it constantly draining from the tank. If you were to close them all off and were unaware of a leaky petcock, come spring all of this would be a complete waste.
The last and final step I take for my carbureted bikes once I have drained them completely is to fire it up one last time. Failure to do this final process is the #1 reason when you go to start your bike up after the season and it runs poorly. What can happen inside of the jets is the same thing that happens when lifting a straw out of the soft drink you get with your food order. If look inside you will still see small drops or residual liquid left on the inside of the straws inner wall. SAME THING WITH YOUR JETS but on a smaller scale. It doesn’t take more than a couple of hairs to clog up a jet so leaving leftover gas in the jet EVEN AFTER YOU DRAINED the float bowl can become a huge problem down the road.
What you will want to do now is to try and start the bike with full choke and full throttle. This should suck up anything left over in the carburetor. You may even hear your bike run for a sec and shut off. That’s good, this means you cleared out any leftover gas that would have been left sitting in the jets if you had not done this. Repeat this process two or more times while twisting the throttle wide open and closed to rid any gas from possible accelerator pumps (depending on your model). Once this is done, your carburetor drain prepping is complete!
Now on to the last and final step.
STEP 3: Your Battery
This step is simple. Unless you feel like forking out $50-$150 dollars in a couple months for a new battery, invest in any type of long term slow charger. Otherwise known as “trickle chargers” or as I have heard some people say a “tickle charger.” Whatever you want to call it, you’re basically getting a device that monitors and/or controls the battery’s voltage from dipping into a dead state. Most commonly these are only putting in and holding a 1-2amp pulse of electricity to keeps the health of your battery up. I will put some affiliated links below of some devices that I have used and have seen work with great results. This will just require you gaining access to the battery during your motorcycles hibernation phase.
* Try not to go cheap on the battery tender you choose. Cheap options give cheap results and possible overcharging, or failure to function at all is not rare for those cheap ebay finds.
What if your bike is fuel injected?
Not filling your tank may not be your option. Although it is possible, it would require a lot more disassembly than its worth. Since this blog has “winterizing” in it’s title hopefully your winter only last between 3-5 months. In this case USE FUEL STABILIZER in the gas. Bikes equipped with fuel pumps, fuel rails, pressurized fuel lines, fuel injectors and the list goes on, it is nearly impossible to remove all gas from the systems and I feel is unnecessary.
PGM-FI systems can actually be pretty forgiving and by simply heading out into the garage and firing up the bike throughout your winter is crucial and allows the fuel to stay moving and not find a final resting place throughout your system. When the winter is over and it is time to hit the street, I would go as far as to get the device I have linked down below to suck as much of that gas out of the bike as possible from the fill hole. Once you have retrieved all that you can, go ahead and fill up the tank with fresh gas, give the bike a little rocking motion back and forth to wake her up and allow that new and residual old gas mix and fire her up. Now would be the time to ad your favorite fuel system cleaners to help keep the internals clean and clear. Just pay attention to recommended amounts
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING IS A BAD THING!
Here are some affiliate links you can use to get what you need to help winterize your motorcycle!
Manual fuel pump (works amazingly with tanks)
Fuel treatment (For storing gas)
Battery Tender (This one has great features)
Battery tender/charger (Great company with many different styles and models!)