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Winterize Your Motorcycle

If you plan to store your motorcycle during the winter months, it is essential that you take a few extra precautions to ensure that your motorcycle is running the way you remember the following spring. These simple steps will keep your motorcycle running in tip-top shape and protect your investment for years to come.


Fill your tank with gas. During the winter months it is crucial that you keep your motorcycle's gas tank full when parking your motorcycle for any extended length of time. Gasoline expands when it's warm and contracts when it's cold. When it is summer and it's hot outside, the gas expands and excess vapors escape your tank through the vent tube. When it is winter and it's cold outside, the gas inside the tank will contract and create a vacuum inside your tank. In order to fill this vacuum, air will rush in from the outside via the vent tube. If this air is moist, water vapor will condense on the inside of your tank. This will not only rust your tank from the inside out, but will also contaminate your fuel and make your motorcycle run roughly in the springtime.

Use a fuel stabilizer. Gasoline breaks down over time, and leaving fuel in your motorcycle can lead to gummed-up or varnished fuel lines, carburetors, injectors, etc. Harley-Davidson offers an excellent Fuel Additive, part number 99893-91A, to help prevent this. Make sure you read the directions carefully that little 4 ounce bottle will treat 40 gallons of fuel.


Change your engine oil, transmission fluid, and chain case fluid. As you ride throughout the year, acids, dirt, and water can accumulate inside the engine, transmission case, and chain case of your motorcycle. This is because these fluids not only lubricate your engine and other moving parts, they also serve as a "waste collector" of all the things that are created by combustion or are broken apart with high heat and friction. During storage, any un-burnt fuel, unspent exhaust gases, or water vapor is trapped inside your engine. Over a period of months, these chemicals eventually break down the viscosity of your engine oil, transmission fluid, and chain case fluid and can even begin to corrode metal surfaces.

Throttle and Clutch Cables

Lube your throttle and clutch cables. After a long riding season, the lubrication that allows your cable to move easily within the cable housing can break down, causing your cables to bind and possibly break. Ask your parts or service associate for a graphite-based cable lube such as Dri-Slide (part number 53-7001).


Remove your battery or attach a battery tending unit to it. When it is not being used on a regular basis, a battery will gradually lose its charge. Security systems and stereos are also certain to drain your battery. The easiest way to prevent this is to leave your battery in your motorcycle, attach a battery tender to your battery, and plug the battery tender into a standard power outlet.

The battery tender is a "smart" charger it turns itself on and off as needed so that your battery never overcharges. It comes in two sizes: the Standard Battery Tender (part number 99863-01) and the Battery Tender Jr. (part number 94654-98). If you own more than one motorcycle, there's no need to purchase multiple battery tenders simply pick up an additional Battery Tender Harness (part number 94624-97A) and plug each battery in as needed.


Inflate your tires to their proper level. Under inflated tires can hasten the appearance of flat spots in your tires, shortening their usable life. You should also readjust your bike several times a month, parking it in a different spot on its tires each time. This will also help ward off flat spots. If storing your motorcycle with all weight off its tires is possible this is the best solution of all.

Keep your tires out of direct sunlight. Rubber is sensitive to ultraviolet light, and prolonged exposure to UV light will cause your tires to crack, split, and become less pliable. This condition is known as "dry rot", and it can cause premature tire failure.

Painted Surfaces and Chrome

Clean your motorcycle thoroughly. Start when the engine is cool, and carefully remove all road grime, grease, tar, stains, and bugs from all painted surfaces, chromed parts, fork seals, and wheels. Make sure you use good quality cleaners, like Harley-Davidson Sunwash (part number 94659-98), Bug Remover (part number 94657-98), and Wheel & Tire Cleaner (part number 94658-98). Dry your motorcycle thoroughly, and then apply either Harley Glaze (part number 99701-84) or Harley Gloss (part number 94627-98) to all painted and exposed metal surfaces. This will protect your finish from color fade caused by UV light.


Store your motorcycle inside. After going to all this work to prepare your motorcycle for the winter months, store it inside if at all possible. Snow, ice, freezing rain, and wild temperature variances are all common winter occurrences in Colorado, and these weather conditions will wreak havoc on your motorcycle. If you can't store your motorcycle inside, make sure you get a form-fitting, breathable, long-term cover for it like a Storm Shield (part number 98742-96 for Touring models and 98738-96 for V-Rods, Dyna Wide Glide, and Softail models).

Cover your motorcycle. If you can't store your motorcycle inside, you'll need to cover your motorcycle with a nice waterproof cover to keep your bike safe from the elements. However, even if you can store your motorcycle inside during the winter months, it is still important to cover your motorcycle. The cover will not only keep dust off of your precious scooter, it will also keep children from playing on it. Ask anyone who has ever had to replace a custom-painted fuel tank because a child dented it while playing "biker" the price of a motorcycle cover is money well spent. If you are storing your motorcycle inside, make sure the cover is designed for indoor storage and that it is made from a breathable material, or ask your parts or service associate for the proper cover to fit your motorcycle.

Store your motorcycle in a low-traffic area. This one should be obvious, but for some reason it's not. Don't store your motorcycle in a location where anyone is likely to trip on it, tip it over, drop a tool on it, or dent it with a car door.

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