For those of us who live in climates that are susceptible to snow and ice, there is that sad time of the year when our iron horses need to be put in the barn for the winter. Where I live in New England, that time comes at the end of November, and if I’m lucky, a few weeks into December. To help ensure that your Harley Davidson motorcycle starts and runs properly when you decide to wake it from hibernation, some preventative measures should be taken.
The Harley Winter Storage Check List
- Oil Change – Besides exhaust contaminates, motor oil also holds a certain level of condensation. This typically isn’t a problem when the motorcycle is being used on a regular basis, but when put in storage for three months or more, this condensation can cause rust and pitting on internal engine parts, reducing their longevity and performance. Changing the oil and filter on your Harley Davidson motorcycle just prior to winter storage will help minimize the amount of condensation in the crank case and on the engine parts during the winter.
- Fuel Stabilizer – Fuel, especially fuel with alcohol blends, has a wonderful way of separating and gumming up if left to sit for long periods of time. This could lead to clogged injectors or stuck needles or floats in the carburetor. Adding a fuel stabilizer to your tank and running the bike for a short time (to make sure this mixture gets into the fuel lines and fuel delivery system) will help ensure trouble free performance when you’re ready to fire it up again. Don’t forget to top off your tank when you add the fuel stabilizer. A full tank will help prevent condensation from forming in the tank.
- Battery – Riders all seem to handle keeping their motorcycle battery charged differently. The important thing to remember is that the battery will need to be kept charged during the winter storage periods. As temperatures drop, the more quickly the battery will discharge. Some riders do nothing at all, and claim that their bike starts fine in the spring. While I don’t doubt this, I do feel that not keeping the battery charged over the winter storage period will shorten the life expectancy of the motorcycle battery. For my Sportster, I use a battery tender. The tender plugs into the wall and will cycle on and off as needed to keep the battery charged. My personal preference is to remove the battery from the bike, but this isn’t required. In the past, I have used the “start the bike every couple of weeks” method. Pretty straight forward, start your Harley Davidson every few weeks and let it run for a while to recharge the battery. Be careful not to run it too long as there will be no air traveling over the jugs and the bike can get very hot. Removing the battery and occasionally hooking it up to a battery charger will help keep the motorcycle battery charged, sort of a happy medium between a battery tender and starting the motorcycle every few weeks.
- Inflate The Tires – Unless you are able to store your motorcycle on a motorcycle stand for the winter, it is important to make sure your motorcycle tires are fully inflated. Your Harley will be resting in one position for a long period of time and your tires will be bearing the brunt of that load. The tires could ‘deform’ to one degree or another as a result, so it is important that the tire pressure is set to manufacturers specs for your bike. If you can, move your Harley from time to time, introducing a new section of tire to rest the weight on.
- Clean The Bike – If you ride every day like I do, rain or shine, then you understand just how quickly your motorcycle can get dirty. Even if you ride moderately, dirt and dust never seem to have a problem ruining hours of careful cleaning. Much of this dirt and grime can lead to rust and oxidation, and letting this junk sit on your bike for a long period of time is can really take the luster out of your investment. Depending on the facilities you have available to you, washing and detailing your bike in temperatures close to freezing is not a fun experience. One suggestion is “spray bottle cleaning”, where you literally spray a mixture of water and cleaner onto a section of the bike, wiping away the dirt with a wash rag, and then rinsing the same area by spraying clean water, and once again wiping away the excess. This will allow you to clean the motorcycle in a storage area, hopefully heated, without all the water generated by a hose. Don’t forget to polish your chrome, polish and protect your aluminum surfaces, clean your windshield and clean and treat your leather seat and saddlebags.
- Cover The Bike -Now that you have cleaned and prepped your Harley Davidson for winter storage, covering the motorcycle with a breathable motorcycle cover will protect the bike from accumulating dust during storage. If you need to store your motorcycle outdoors for the winter, a motorcycle cover will obviously protect your bike from snow and rain, but you should consider putting it in storage with your local Harley Davidson dealer, or even renting a self storage area.