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Winter Storage

Every year at this time, we at Patriot H-D get a lot of questions about the proper way to store a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  In this article we'll give you number of techniques, along with the reasoning behind the recommendation and the benefits derived.

The first thing we want to do is dispel a common myth among many motorcyclists.  Do NOT start up your motorcycle every week or so in your garage in the mistaken idea that these short idling periods are doing it some good.  Just the opposite is happening.  First, cold-starting is the highest wear event on any engine.  Next, it generates the most by-products of combustion.  Moisture, acids, and other nasty things which are normally boiled off with prolonged running typically end up sitting in your oil and on your internal components when you practice this nasty habit.  While idling in the garage, almost nobody gets the engine and oil temperatures high enough for long enough in order to burn off these damaging deposits.  Face it, if you were able to do that, you'd be riding, not reading an article about storage.  Finally, starting your bike creates a tremendous draw on your battery.  Short idling periods are just not enough to recharge your battery completely.  You have to run it faster than idle and for longer than most of you ever will in your garage.  A battery that is left to sit partially charged will have a shorter service life than one that is stored fully charged.  So if starting the bike up every week or so in the garage is actually harmful, what should you do?

First, put the bike away with clean oil in the engine.  Run the engine for a few minutes after changing the oil to coat engine parts with the clean oil.  Why would you want internal engine components to spend any time coated with dirty oil that may have corrosive components in it?  Your bike will thank you for this.

Next, add a fuel stabilizer to your gasoline. Patriot H-D carries Maxima™ Fuel Stabilizer PN 89908 but there are others available.  Why?  Gasoline evaporates over time, loosing its highly volatile components first.  (These are what make it easier to start a cold engine.)  Gasoline also looses its octane rating over time and that can lead to damaging detonation.  Finally, gasoline leaves a varnish residue behind when it evaporates.  This varnish can clog carburetor jets and fuel injectors, leading to costly repairs.  A good fuel stabilizer minimizes the chances of these occurring, saving you money and down-time.  Make sure that you run your engine for 10 minutes after mixing the stabilizer in order to purge the fuel system of any untreated fuel.

Fill your tank to the top.  This minimizes the amount of air space in your tank.  The less air space, the less moist air to rust your exposed tank or condense into water and contaminate your fuel.  The gasoline also protects the interior tank metal from oxidation (rust).

If you are going to store the bike for more than a month, take some precautions to preserve your tire life.  First, check air pressure and, if necessary, inflate to the maximum recommended pressure.  You might want to store the bike up on blocks, supporting the weight on the frame and not on the tires.  This will prevent the tires from flat-spotting.  Alternatively, roll the bike forward or backward about one eighth of a wheel revolution to put a different part of the tire in contact with the pavement.  Once every 3-4 weeks should suffice.  Check tire pressure before you ride off this spring.  (By the way, how old are your tires?  Inspect the side walls for weather-checking and cracks which occur with age, not mileage.  Replace any tire that doesn't pass your inspection.  Why not take advantage of the off-season and have those tires replaced now.)

Your battery is another potential trouble-spot.  Partially-discharged batteries stored for any length of time will have a significantly shorter service life.  Batteries will self-discharge over time so they need to be "topped up" regularly.  While it used to be sufficient to trickle charge a battery overnight about once a month for storage, that's no longer entirely true.  Today's sophisticated battery technologies demand the proper re-charging equipment and Patriot H-D has the correct "Battery Tender" for your battery and bike.  This is a smart investment that will lengthen the life and reliability of your battery.  Wouldn't it be nice to simply fire it up this spring without having to trek down to Patriot H-D to buy another battery?  To my mind, a Battery Tender is a required piece of equipment, just like leathers and gloves. It saves you money, time, and trouble.  For those of you who do not have the "sealed, maintenance-free" battery, prior to charging, make sure you top off the electrolyte with distilled water only.  It does make a difference in a battery's service life.

Finally, protect the finish of all your painted and metal parts by giving the bike a good washing and drying followed by a coat of your favorite wax or glaze.  Pay especially close attention to your wheels.  Brake dust left on your wheel's finish for an extended period can be almost impossible to remove.  Harley-Davidson's Wheel and Tire Cleaner (PN 94658-98) does a good job.

That's all there is to it.  While I think this is the best riding time in Virginia, the inevitable winter weather will arrive.  When it does, take care of your Harley-Davidson® motorcycle and it will be ready to ride in the spring.

Lyndon Abell

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