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Tips from H-D techs: Winterizing your ride for storage

Added October 31, 2018
Black and white image of motorcycles in a garage

Harley-Davidson® motorcycle riders are known for their rituals. Those ritualistic tendencies definitely come out when the riding season draws to a close. Most riders take one last big epic ride before they park their bikes for the winter. Maybe it’s Hogfest, or a long, windy road on a fall day. Maybe it’s the same ride every year, or it’s something completely different. No matter what, it’s bound to be rooted in ritual. Then, once they’ve said their proper goodbyes to their babies, it’s time for another ritual: putting the bike away so it’s ready to ride the second the birds start to chirp in the spring.

Ironically, when riders are winding down and settling in for the winter, Harley-Davidson dealers are gearing up for the influx of owners who rely on dealers to winterize and store their bikes, and build their dream machines while the snow falls.

“Riders started bringing their bikes in for storage and custom design work right after Labor Day,” says Dave Nagy, assistant service manager for Wolverine Harley-Davidson in Michigan, where they’ve seen an uptick in demand for storage. “We already have about 20 bikes, and we expect to store over 500 bikes this season,” he said.

Some riders see winter as the ideal time to make enhancements to their bikes that they’ve been meaning to get done. They drop their bikes off in the winter and pick up their transformed custom pieces in the spring. Nagy says riders appreciate not having to pay until pick-up time. They also work out winter payment plans with customers who prefer to pay bit by bit as time goes by.

If you just want to pay to store your bike for the winter, you’re looking at around $319, according to Nagy. In addition to storing it, they’ll take care of all the necessary steps to make sure your ride is ready to go when the getting is good.

If you’re going it alone, here are tips from Nagy on how to prepare your bike for winter storage:

  1. Change the oil: The last thing you want is your bike sitting idle all winter filled to the brim with burnt oil that’s contaminated with solvents and sediments. If the oil isn’t cleaned, chances are your bike will leak oil when you fire it up again. Even worse, it might not run at all if bearings have been corroded or damaged. The fuel injectors might also need replacing. Changing the oil is a vital and simple step to take to avoid forking out money down the road.
  2. Clean and stabilize the fuel: Wolverine uses a stabilizing agent in fuel to keep it from varnishing. Without it, the fuel turns into a crystalized, hard product that can clog carburetors and fuel injectors. If you skip this step, you may regret it.
  3. Tenderize the battery: Some riders say they start their bike every week during the winter and let it run, which is a mistake. Harley-Davidson® bikes don’t charge when they sit in idle. In fact, running them in idle in the hopes of jolting the battery makes the problem worse. Not only should you use a battery tender during the winter—but all the time, urges Nagy. It’ll help extend the longevity of the battery. Harley-Davidson tenders start at $39 and go up to $129. Nagy uses one priced in the middle.
  4. Buy a FOB battery to have at the ready: If your FOB is the reason why your bike won’t start in the spring, it’s for one of two reasons: you forgot your pin, or you need to replace your FOB battery. There’s nothing you can do about it, but your FOB battery is going to attempt to communicate with your bike all winter long. By the time spring rolls around, you’ll invariably need to replace it. You might as well keep one in the drawer next to your bike.

Harley-Davidson has almost 700 dealers across the country with the capabilities to winterize your ride and store it so it’s safe and sound and ready to roar in the spring. But, if you want to go it alone, make winterizing your ride a yearly ritual so you can spend less time in the garage and more time on the road. See your motorcycle’s owner’s manual for additional instructions and steps to follow when placing or removing your motorcycle from storage.