Here's how to keep your bike in tip-top shape this winter, with our helpful motorcycle maintenance guide.
Winter can be a tough time for motorcyclists. While some people will ride no matter what the conditions are like outside, others opt to store their bikes and wait for spring. But whether you plan to ride your bike throughout winter, or tuck it away until March arrives, maintaining your motorcycle's health is vital if you want your machine to make it through the winter in one piece.
In this guide, we highlight the best ways to look after your motorcycle during the winter. We’ll discuss:
- How to maintain and service your bike throughout winter
- The tools you’ll need to do it
- What you should check before putting your bike into storage
Plus, other professional tips on how to get your bike ready for winter.
Riding in winter can be a double-edged sword. Its the best way of avoiding congestion and the mania of public transport, while the cold, crisp, sunny mornings can be reinvigorating and exciting. However, winter riding demands a mastery of riding skills, what with the threat of black ice, freezing rain and strong winds doing everything they can to make your trip as hazardous as possible.
Maintaing your machine's condition is also vital to seeing your bike safely through to spring. The fact of the matter is winter salt is the absolute bane of every motorcyclist facing freezing conditions, and even parking your bike inside a garage can be damaging to your machine, what with the cold and damp.
To make sure that your bike remains safe to ride and isn't ruined by cold conditions, it’s important to understand the basics of motorcycle maintenance. While some riders are great carrying out maintenance on their bike, alot of others aren’t as confident. But not to worry, we're here to help and provide you with all the basics you need to start keeping your bike ready for winter.
What tools do I need for motorcycle maintenance?
Knowing how to prepare your machine and maintain its condition throughout the season is essential, as well as the tools to do so. In order to perform the basic checks and fixes we list further in the article, you're going to need own the essentials - don't worry we've made a list!
Alot of these tools are easily obtainable and won't ruin your bank balance (that is if you're only buying the absolute basics), but once you own them, you won't need to worry. There are alot of other tools and supplies we haven't mentioned that would also be helpful, but in order to perform the checks and fixes we're delving into further in the article, you're going to need the following:
• Bike Stand
Keeping your bike off the ground whether you’re working on it or storing it is a great idea. If you want to work on your bike, you will need to get access to the wheels, chain and other parts of your bike without accidentally knocking your machine over! If you’re storing your bike, keeping it elevated will help to take the pressure off your tyres. A motorcycle is a heavy piece of machinery so choose a stand that is sturdy and reliable. For most bikes we would recommend the Oxford Big Black Paddock.
• Pressure Gauge
You’ll need a reliable pressure gauge to ensure that your tyres contain the right amount of air. Maintaining the right pressure levels for your tyres is very important, especially when the roads are slippery. Keeping your tyres at the right pressure levels will also enable them to stay safe for a longer period of time. We’d recommend a digital gauge like the the Oxford Digital Tyre Pressure Gauge, as it is more reliable than analogue and easier to read.
• Torque Wrench
A good torque wrench is essential for loosening or tightening a variety of different elements on your motorbike. Use a torque wrench with a range of 15–75 ft. -lb. This should enable you to adjust handle bars, oil plugs, brakes, belt-tightening, chain tightening, spark plugs, and all the other small fasteners on your bike. Torque wrenches have an adjustable clutch that stops turning the nut/bolt when a predetermined torque figure has been reached.
Having a range of different sized screw-drivers will come in handy for just about most of the tasks you’ll need to perform for basic winter motorcycle maintenance. A mix of both cross-head and Phillips screwdrivers will equip you for any on-the-spot tasks that arise. Choose screwdrivers that have hardened tips to prevent them from wearing quickly with large rubber, easy-grip handles.
This tool is a multi-purpose essential that is useful for taking care of your bike. Again, choose pliers with an easy-grip rubber handle so you can use them with greasy hands.
• Socket Wrench Set
A socket wrench and the different sized adaptors that come with it is another essential piece of kit for maintenance. This wrench makes loosening and tightening bolts very easy and quick.
• Allen Keys / Spindle Key
Always use Allen keys designed for heavy use. They’ll last longer and fit much better. T-handle keys are easier to use and better for stubborn bolts. Over 10mm, or with a high torque figure, it’s best to use a 3/8in drive ratchet with Allen socket attachments. We’d recommend the Oxford Allen Key Set.
• Nylon and Wire Brush
These tools are very helpful for cleaning off mud, grease or anything else that needs to be washed off your bike for it to be kept clean. Non-damaging wire brushes are also great for getting rid of rust.
Winter checks for motorcycles
Now you have all the tools you need, you can start the cold weather checks on your motorcycle.
Taking care of your motorcycle in the winter will involve you running regular checks to make sure everything is working correctly. In this section, we’ll take you through some cold weather checks for your motorcycle and which parts of your bike that you’ll need to check in the winter.
Caring for your motorcycle battery in the winter
The battery that powers your motorcycle needs to be well maintained throughout the time you’re not riding it. For riders that want to store their motorcycles through the winter months, looking after your battery will ensure that it lasts for years rather than just months.
Motorcycle batteries generate the energy that makes the ignition system, starter motor, lights and other components on your bike work.
The battery needs recharging when not in use. It recharges while you're riding, as your bike replaces the power already used in normal riding conditions. But when your battery is sitting for periods with no action, it loses energy.
Whether you’re riding your motorcycle or storing it make sure you do the following things if you want to avoid a flat motorcycle battery in the winter:
- If you are storing your bike, remove the battery and keep it inside in a climate-controlled area that’s not at one extreme or the other.
- Invest in a battery charger so that you can keep your battery charged.
- If you plan to ride your bike, start the engine on a daily basis and leave it running for a few minutes. This will ensure that your battery is always charged.
Winter motorcycle fluid checks
Many parts of your motorcycle require fluids to work properly. Cold weather can freeze fluids so it’s a good idea to make regular inspections of the fluids in your motorcycle.
Your motorcycle will use liquids and fluids such as:
- Engine oil
- Hydraulic fluid
- Brake fluid
The engine, brakes, cooling system and clutch (on most bikes) all need liquids to either lubricate or provide pressure. Each has a reservoir or storage area where you can check levels.
Keeping your motorcycle undercover, avoiding temperatures below freezing will help to ensure that the liquids in your bike don’t freeze. When liquids freeze they can expand. This can be extremely bad for where liquid is stored in your bike's engine, or anywhere else.
Your motorcycle manual will detail what liquids and fluids you will need for your bike, where those liquids are used on your bike and how you can replace them. Keeping them topped up will ensure that your bike remains healthy not just in the winter but all year round.
Winter oil changes for motorcycles
If you’re wondering whether to change motorcycle oil before or after winter, the temperature is outside doesn’t have an impact on this. The issue is more about whether your bike goes into storage or is ridden regularly.
Over time, combustion gases can work their way through the piston rings on your motorcycle’s engine and get trapped in your oil. When this happens carbonic and sulfuric acid can form turning the oil acidic in the engine. This doesn’t matter as much when the motor is run regularly. Frequent oil changes can also help to ensure that your oil doesn’t become acidic and damage parts of your bike.
So, if your bike won’t be used during the winter, make sure you keep the oil in your bike fresh and topped up. Low temperatures can also make motorcycle engine oil thicken. This can affect your engine's battery, making it have to work harder. Take care of your battery and change your bike's oil during a cold snap.
Motorcycle brake maintenance throughout winter
As winter weather can cause roads to become dangerous, it's sensible to check the condition of your brakes. Along with keeping brake fluid levels topped up, regularly checking the thickness of your brake pads should be a priority.
If you ride your bike regularly, especially on wet and slippery roads, you’ll want to make sure that the brake pads are in top condition and have plenty of thickness to them. Worn brake pads appear thin and flimsy, healthy pads are much thicker. As the brakes on your bike are very important all year round, checking them regularly is advised. If you think it’s time to replace them do so immediately. Talk to us about maintaining healthy brakes on your motorcycle.
Winter tyre checks
One of the most important things to check on your motorcycle throughout the winter is the condition of your tyres. British winter weather can include torrential rain, snow and ice. All of these conditions can drastically affect the effectiveness of the grip your tyres have on the road. It’s essential to check the tread and pressure of your tyres weekly.
If the tread on your tyres is below 1.6mm (make sure to check this), or even worse, bald spots are starting to appear, it’s very important to change the tyres. This will ensure maximum grip on potentially slippery and dangerous surfaces.
In terms of tyre pressure, air expands by 2psi for every 10°C increase in temperature and contracts by the same value when temperatures fall. Some riders over-inflate their tyres to compensate for the weight of the bike when it is left in one place for long periods. We don’t recommend doing this as air can expand and contract depending on the ambient temperature.
Although it may seem overly cautious, ensuring that your tyres are at the correct pressure on a weekly basis throughout the winter is the best way to stay safe on your bike. Invest in a reliable tyre pressure tool such as Oxford Digi Gauge.
Motorcycle winter storage
If you want to find out about how to store your motorcycle during the winter, there are a few things you can do to make sure your bike is kept in good condition ready for the Spring. The best winter motorcycle storage tips involve paying regular attention to your bike throughout the long, cold and dark winter months. As-well as all of the above checks, use our checklist below to make sure your motorcycle is stored correctly.
Clean your bike
Keep your bike clean and dry to avoid rust. Use a high-quality tarp or cover it and seal any places where moisture could get in. We have a variety of bike covers perfect for storing your bike through the winter.
If you can, keep your bike indoors. A garage is a perfect location to store your bike throughout the winter.
Store it on a sturdy and reliable bike stand. We would recommend the Oxford Big Black Paddock Stand.
Clean and lubricate the chain. Check out our chain lube options now.
Treat your exhaust. Spray some WD40 in the pipes to ward away moisture that could turn into rust over time.
Keep your bike secure with a good lock. Discover our huge range of motorcycle security accessories online or in-store.
Capital Moto & Infinity Motorcycles: Motorcycle experts
Our experts at Capital Moto are all experienced mechanics that can offer expert advice, services and maintenance on your motorcycle, no matter what the season.
Infinity Motorcycles stocks a wide range of premium products for motorcycles. Whether you’re looking for clothes, helmets, accessories or tools, we’re one of the most well stocked motorcycle stores in the UK.
Visit our website today to discover our wide range of products or call us to learn more about our maintenance workshop services.