Winterizing Your Motorcycle for a Happy Start Next Spring

Winterizing Your Motorcycle for a Happy Start Next Spring

Winter Storage for Classic Japanese Motorcycles

If you are done riding for the year, there are some things you can do for your bike now that will help give you a much better chance of it starting back up when the weather gets better next Spring.

When I say Classic Japanese Bike, I mean those built before 1990 or so. Usually these are singles or twin cylinders.  No fuel injection bikes. This advice is for that type of bike.    i f yours is newer this advice will probably work ok, but I am not an expert in fuel injection systems.

Clean it Up

Give your bike a thorough cleaning. if you can.  Simple detergent and water is fine. I am not a fan of high pressure car washes.  If you must use one be careful not to direct the spray directly on any areas such as wheel bearings into the muffler, air intakes, carburetors, or instrumentation.   This is a good time to pop off the chain to clean and lubricate it.  .

Fuel and Gas Tank,

There are different schools of thought here.  Some will suggest filling the tank up fully and using a fuel stabilizer as a rust preventative.  The quality of the gas is so bad now that I cannot go with that process. The thought of 2-4 gallons of bad gas to drain in the Springtime doesn’t appeal to me.  My preference is to start the bike and get it warm.  While running, turn the petcock off and run the carburetors dry, especially at the very end, putting the choke on so you get it all. You will probably be surprised how long it takes to run them dry. (Sometimes a couple of minutes)  Hmm, it never seemed like that the last time I ran out of gas on the highway!  Next drain the gas tank totally. If you take the tank totally off  the bike, you can pour in a small amount of WD40(Yes it is available in a container, not just spray cans) and swish it around. You then start out with new gas in the Spring. 

Change the Oil

Now the engine is warm, you can change the oil.  A word about crank case oil.  None of the motorcycles that I am aware of can use the same kind of oil (especially synthetics) that you use in your automobile.  They are way too slick, and your clutches will slip badly.  I have had good luck with the following brands.  The bottle is marked as follows

Honda GN4 10W40  MA SJ

Valvoline    10W40W JASO MA  SF/SG/SJ

Many of the smaller japanese bikes only have a quart, so it is a pretty easy process.  Larger bikes will take several quarts, so bite the bullet and change it now.  If your bike has an oil filter, definitely change it as well.  I suggest “charging” the filter by pouring in a little at a time until the paper part is saturated.  Then pour in a little more, just enough so that it won’t spill out when you turn it horizontal to install it.  This way the filter will have enough oil so that when you start it in the Spring the engine will get the oil more quickly.  .


Remove spark plug wires, and use the proper spark plug wrench remove the plugs.  Inspect them for condition.  If necessary using a fine emery cloth  take any carbon off the electrode arm(but not the bottom electrode)

Next either put a quick spurt of the proper oil in each cylinder with an oil can or spray in some engine “fogging” oil.(NAPA has it)   Put the plugs back in, but don’t hook up the wires.  Next give it a couple of kicks or a quick spin with the electric starter to spread the oil within the cylinder. Replace plug wires.


Some batteries are really tough to get at, so when I replace them, I install  the hardwire kit from Delran with a quick connect so that I can keep the bike  plugged in all the time. I then keep them on a Delran battery tender, switching them out every couple of weeks or so.

Cover it Up

Non heated garages in these Northern Climates are tough on a bike.  The heating cooling weather often results in condensation.  If you can get both of the bikes tires off the ground with a lift, so much the better.  I’ve got too many of them to try this!

If you have a good cover, at least everything but the wheels may stay dry.  Covering the ends of your exhaust pipes will ensure that no critters try to take up residence.  Stuffing bright colored bags will help you remember that they are there in the Spring

Starting it up in the Spring

First check your oil to make sure that the level is proper. Hopefully your Winter prep will allow it to start with just a little kicking or cranking.   If 10 kicks or 30 seconds on your electric starter don’t get it going there is a little trick that may help.  Take the spark plugs out, and spray about 3 seconds worth of starting fluid in.  Try the starter again, with no choke.  If it fires and runs, play with the choke, as you will probably have to put it back to at least half to keep it running.

Please—a word before you put it into gear.  Clutch plates sitting around all winter can stick, especially with old bikes.  I have had it happen that when you pull in the clutch and kick it into first gear, the bike just leaps forward!  What!!?Worse yet, the carb slide might stick full open. If it is a small  100cc bike you might be able to control it.  A 1000cc four cylinder is quite another story altogether!

Pulling in the clutch will have absolutely no effect.  You will be moving wherever you have the bike pointed.  Compounding the problem, you won’t have a free hand to turn the ignition or kill switch to the off position! The only thing you can do is clamp on the brakes and hope for the best before it crashes into your garage wall or your car parked next to it.

So as a precaution, before you try starting it in the Spring:  either make sure you have a long driveway like I have and have the bike pointed in the right direction, or brace the front wheel against something immoveable like a tree or up against the blocks of your garage.  If the clutch sticks this time out, the object should then kill the engine.

Enjoy your winter, and if you need to work on the bike, I just might have the parts you need on my webpage.