Storing your dirt bike properly is a key practice to keeping running as well as possible for as long as possible. The following storage advice and tips apply to any long-term storage.
01 Choose a storage area. Indoors is best. If you can’t bring your dirt bike indoors, try to find someplace where you can avoid extreme temperature changes. An insulated garage is a good option, even if it’s not heated on a regular basis. By avoiding large temperature changes, you’ll reduce the amount of condensation on and in parts. I like to store mine in my garage, especially since I can heat it as needed and then do some catch-up maintenance.
My garage leads us to another consideration – find a place where the bike will be out of the way. My two-car garage serves as parking for two vehicles, a woodworking shop, and my dirt bike pit area – as you an imagine, it can be a little challenging getting everything in.
Find a corner where the dirt bike won’t get knocked over – preferably a dry, solid surface, as dirt or gravel floors can give off moisture. If you have no choice and have to store your bike in an extremely cold area, make sure it won’t get knocked over or bumped into as many parts can become brittle in the cold.
If you can, avoid sunlight – parts can fade, and UV can deteriorate rubber and plastic. If you can’t keep your dirt bike out of direct sunlight, find a soft cover to throw over it (which also protects it from dust). A cloth cover is best as it will ‘breath’ and reduce moisture build-up.
02 Gather up your supplies. You’ll want any cleaners you usually use to give your bike a thorough wash, as well as fuel stabilizer, crankcase oil, fogging sprays, protective sprays, etc.
03 Add the fuel stabilizer. The best time to do this is during your last ride of the season. This ensures that you have stabilized gas throughout the fuel system. If you’re not sure when that last ride will be, start adding stabilizer to your gas can near the end of the season – it won’t affect your engine. If you can’t run the bike for at least 5 minutes, add the stabilizer to the tank, close the fuel line valve, drain the carburetor by removing the drain plug, then open the fuel line valve. When you’ve run stabilized fuel through the carburetor you can put the drain plug back in. There’s no need to keep the carburetor drained during storage if you’ve used stabilizer. Turn the fuel valve to the off/closed position.
Stabilizing your dirt bike fuel for storage is a critical step; otherwise some components can evaporate leaving a sludge or varnish in your fuel system. If you’re storing your dirt bike in, or during, warm conditions, a stabilizer is even more important – as warmer temperatures mean more volatile fuel.
Also, fill the tank as full as possible. The less air there is sitting in the tank, the less condensation you’ll get.
04 Check the coolant. If your dirt bike is liquid-cooled, make sure your coolant is topped up and mixed properly – usually a 50/50 mix. You can drain and replace it now, or as part of spring routine… it’s up to you.
05 Change the crankcase oil. Why change the oil if you’re not going to be riding? Old oil contains contaminants and moisture that we don’t want sitting around in the crankcase all winter. If you’ve run your dirt bike to stabilize the fuel, then your oil is now nice and warm, and ready to be drained. After the oil change, and only if your engine is already warm, run it for another couple of minutes to circulate the new oil. Skip this step if your engine is cold and you can’t run it long enough to get it up to operating temperature – otherwise you’ll end up creating condensation in the engine.
06 Fogging oil. Some guys do. Some guys don’t. There are arguments for both sides, which we hope to cover at a later date. If you choose to fog, start by cleaning around the sparkplug – a shot of air from a compressor is ideal, blowing through a soda straw or small tubing works in a pinch. Pull the sparkplug and fog according to the instructions on the container.
Before you put it back in you might want to examine the sparkplug closely for any clues it can give you about how your engine is operating. When you’re done, reinstall the plug.
07 Remove the battery. Obviously, this only applies if your dirt bike has a battery. You MUST keep the battery someplace where it won’t freeze. If your battery isn’t maintenance-free, check the water level and add distilled water if needed. If the battery is dirty, clean it up with a baking soda and water solution to remove any acid residue, followed by soap and water to get rid of grime and grease. Personally, I don’t bother cleaning the terminals because I won’t be able to keep myself from cleaning them in the spring anyway.
I think we’ve all heard about not storing batteries on a concrete floor. It’s basically a myth. If the battery is clean, and the floor is dry and not terribly cold, it’ll be fine. That being said, I still store my batteries on a piece of wood… because it makes me feel better.
Keep the battery charged over the winter with an automatic charger, or occasional sessions with a trickle charger. Some owners will put the trickle charger on a timer so the battery gets a half hour or so a day, but I’m a little paranoid about having that kind of system sitting around untended. Make sure your battery storage area is well-ventilated, especially while charging – explosive gases can be generated during charging.
08 Wash your dirt bike. Some thoughts and advice on washing here.
09 Protective sprays/coatings. I don’t use them for two reasons. One, my storage area is relatively dry with very little humidity. Two, it’s a DIRT BIKE – I put way more wear and tear on it with a day of riding through muck and gravel than I will in 20 years of storage. But if you’re really picky you can find a number of spray-on and wipe-on products… just follow the instructions that come with them. Remember though – any of that stuff you put on is more stuff you’ll have to wash off in the spring.
10 Top up the tire pressure. An extra 5 pounds doesn’t hurt, as you’ll probably have some leakage over the winter. If your dirt bike won’t be stored on a center stand, keep an eye on the tires to make sure they’re not losing pressure over the winter.
11 Put the dirt bike in its storage area. If you have a center stand, use it. If your budget and storage area suit, you may have an overhead system with pulleys (lucky you!). For peace of mind, add a couple of strong anchoring hooks to your ceiling and fasten back-up chains to your dirt bike -- in case a component fails or someone inadvertently releases the lift.
12 It also doesn’t hurt to lock your dirt bike up -- either to the storage area itself or to something big and/or heavy. Remember, the thing’s on wheels and easy to move once a thief breaks into the storage area.
13 DON’T RUN THE ENGINE OVER THE WINTER. Not for short periods anyway. The engine needs to reach full operating temperature before being shut down; otherwise you’ll get a build-up of condensation.