Winterization; Myths, Facts, and Hacks
The Big Sleep
Myths and facts about winterizing your bike
By Tom VanStavern
Myth: Never store your battery on a concrete surface.
Fact: This myth has persisted for years, but it is flat out wrong. There’s nothing about a concrete floor that is going to sap your battery, and likewise nothing magic about putting it on a board that is going to help the battery keep its charge. Any charged battery is going to drain over time, and a battery left without a charge will be ruined. The myth probably comes from people setting the battery on the concrete floor of the garage for the winter and then discovering it stone-dead in April or May.
You will need a maintenance or “float” charger that stays hooked up to the battery and occasionally check its levels, adding voltage when necessary. A trickle charger is not enough; they are designed to charge to max and then shut off.
Hack: With a little ingenuity, you can actually make do with a trickle charger, which tend to be far more affordable. Just plug it into an outlet wired into the light on your garage door opener. This way, it will kick on for a few minutes several times a day, introducing just enough current to keep the battery topped off.
Myth: Fuel stabilizer works whenever you put it in.
Fact: Stabilizer works best with fresh gasoline. Gasoline can go bad in as quickly as 30 days; if you put stabilizer in two-week old gas, it may already be half bad. You don’t want to put your bike away with a tankful of stabilized half-bad gas any more than you want to put week-old pizza in the freezer “for later.”
Hack: After September 1st, you should start adding stabilizer with every fill up, so if there’s a cold snap and you don’t get a chance to run out the tank, you’re already ready to go.
Myth: If a bike is left in one place for the winter, the tires will develop flat spots.
Fact: Not if they are properly inflated. Tire pressure will drop three pounds for every ten degrees the temperature falls, so if you inflated your tires while riding around in mid 60 degree temps, and stored the bike in an garage with the temperature below freezing, you’ve lost 9 pounds of pressure. A bike sitting with flat tires is going to bend the rubber out of shape and that’s why you get flat spots. When you park your bike for the winter, over inflate the tires by 10 pounds over the recommended PSI, so they never go below recommended pressures. Just don’t forget to let that out before you ride it again in the spring!
Myth: Draining the gas out of your tank is as good as putting stabilizer in your fuel system.
Fact: The inside of your tank is bare steel. Once the residual gas that’s in there evaporates, that bare metal will be subject to moisture from condensation, and begins to oxidize quickly. If you leave your tank empty in a garage over the winter, chances are you will be looking at a badly rusted tank in the spring -- don’t do it.
Hack: If you are unable to store it full of fresh, stabilized gas; drain it and put half a quart of lightweight oil like diesel fuel (or really, any motor oil) in the tank. Remove the tank from the frame and slosh it around, making sure to cover the entire inside of the tank – even the top. As neither diesel fuel nor oil evaporates, you will be good to go when you pull it out in the spring. No need to worry about removing the oil. It will mix with the gas and burn off, with just a bit of smoke trail as you blaze your way through the spring sunshine.
Also: For you riders with liquid-cooled engines, don’t think you’re done until you test the coolant to determine how low a drop in temperature it will take. Any auto parts store will sell an inexpensive coolant test kit that measures how far the glycol has deteriorated. This will tell you how low of a temperature the anti-freeze can handle.