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Make sure your ride is ready when you park it for the season.

“Four wheels move the body,” the saying goes. “Two wheels move the soul.” Those who own motorcycles know that feeling well. Which is why it’s so difficult to park that beloved ride until spring.

To ensure you get off to a smooth start when the weather allows, take these winterization and maintenance steps now, says Mike Arman, a mechanical expert who has written several books about motorcycles, including Custom Chopper Cookbook for All Big Twins:

  • Drain the fuel. That means all of it. You should even empty the carburetor and fuel filter to keep them dry for storage. “Modern gasoline contains ethanol,” Arman says. “This stores badly and leaves glue-like crud and deposits in fuel systems that will guarantee damage. Get it all out unless you want to rebuild the entire fuel system next spring.” Also, change the oil and lubricate all parts that need lubrication.
  • Take care of fuel-injectors. On a fuel-injected bike, add fuel stabilizer to the gas, run the engine, let it cool and then drain everything. “If the ethanol-laced gas clogs the fuel injectors or the pump, they’ll have to be replaced,” Arman says. “That’s why you do this.”
  • Pay attention to spark plugs. Remove the spark plugs and squirt engine oil into the cylinders, to keep rings from rusting. Re-attach the spark plugs and hand tighten them. Then rotate the engine a turn or two by hand to distribute the oil. Don’t use the starter.
  • Charge the battery. Give it a full charge, and then remove it from the motorcycle and connect it to a “battery maintainer.” Store the battery and its maintainer in the basement or another area where it won’t freeze.
  • Store it on blocks. Tires that sit in one place for months will get flat spots that won’t come out, so storing the bike on blocks is a better choice. “Tie or brace the bike so it can’t be tipped off the blocks,” Arman says. “Don’t stack anything on top of it either.”
  • Check in on your two-wheeled “friend.” Once a month, rotate the wheels, work the brakes, turn the engine over by hand once or twice and open and close the gas cap and fuel petcocks. “You need to move everything that’s supposed to move,” Arman says. “Remember, inactivity is far worse for a bike than running it—just like a car. The worst thing you can do is just park it all winter long, then come back and expect to fire it right back up.”
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