When the days get shorter and bad weather fronts dominate the weather charts, it's that time again: Autumn has arrived and many bikers will be reluctantly putting their beloved bikes into hibernation.
If you are planning to take your bike off the road for a prolonged break, you may be able to save on road tax if you notify the licensing authority. Or maybe you already have a seasonal license plate, in which case you will be spared the hassle of dealing with the vehicle licensing authorities. But remember that a minimum licensing period may apply if you want to keep on increasing your no claims discount (6 months in Germany). And if you want the reassurance of knowing that your bike is ready for the next season, you might want to sort out your MOT appointment sooner rather than later. Now is also a good time to carry out those repairs or modifications. And if you're not planning to use your bike any time soon, you should make sure it is correctly "mothballed". Simply throwing a cover over it and forgetting it for half a year can lead to some nasty surprises come the spring. In fact, corrosion, damage to battery and carburettor, amongst other problems are almost a certainty.
So the first step is a trip to the petrol station to fill up the tank to the brim. This will prevent it from rusting, provided, of course, there are no water droplets in the tank – these would be heavier than petrol and would sink to the bottom of the tank. Use Procycle fuel system cleaner to bind the water in the tank.
While you're at the petrol station, increase the air pressure in your tyres slightly: 0.5 bar above manufacturer specifications is OK.
When you get back home, use the warm engine as your opportunity to change the oil (see DIY tip "Oil Change"). Old oil contains aggressive substances that can damage pistons, contact surfaces and bearings during storage, and in the case of engines with hydraulic tappets/valve lifters (such as Harley-Davidson) it can cause clogging. Always replace the oil filter at the same time.
You now need to give the bike a really thorough clean – paying particular attention to the more inaccessible areas (such as underneath the tank, under the seat, the fairing, etc., see DIY tip "Cleaning and Care"). Then thoroughly spray the bike with an anti-corrosion agent.
If you protect the fairing, including the windshield, tank, side cover and tail with a good hard-wax paint conditioner, they will thank you for it. Apply a corrosion inhibitor spray to the engine, the exhaust (even if it's painted, as wax can cause discolourations when heated) and the entire chassis (particularly welded joints and hard-to-reach spots). And don't forget the shock absorber rods and the fork tubes, because even the smallest of rust spots can cause leaks. Should your cleaning reveal any patches of rust, deal with them straight away by sanding down and applying touch-up or spray paint in order to prevent the rust spreading during the winter. Always prime first with rustproofer before applying paint.
Now thoroughly grease all joints and levers. You can then round off your corrosion protection by adding a small spoonful of engine oil in each spark plug hole and poking an oily cloth into the exhaust (please note: your bike MUST be completely cool before doing this!). Using a special chain cleaner, make sure the chain is free of all dirt and abrasive stones and then apply a chain spray. Always spray the chain on the inside of the lower run while turning the (unloaded) rear wheel slowly by hand.
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Now empty the float chambers of the carburettor. If you don't want to run the engine for a prolonged period while the bike is stationary, take a small container and drain the float chamber via the drain plugs provided for this purpose. This is very important because as the fuel in the carburettor evaporates, it leaves resinous deposits that can prevent the smooth running of your engine and cause starting problems in spring. To stop fuel running back into the carburettors, set the fuel cock to "OFF". If your fuel cock doesn't offer this option, it's probably best to disconnect the supply hose from the carburettor and close it off with a screw.
If your bike has a fuel injection system which doesn't have a standard float chamber that can be drained, you will need to protect it using a suitable fuel additive. You will find that many vehicle manufacturers recommend this in the owner's manual. However, we also recommend it for bikes with carbs, as the additive cleans jets, channels and bores, and binds any condensed water in the tank.
Your battery also needs preventative care. This generally means removing it and, in the case of standard lead batteries, checking the acid level. If necessary, use deionised water (never acid) to top up to the max. mark.
The best place for batteries over winter is in a frost-free room connected to an automatic charger that provides a regular small charge.
Finally, you need to jack up your bike to unload both wheels. If you have a centre stand, also support the front of the motorcycle frame with wooden blocks or bricks (use cloths to protect the frame from scratches). If your bike doesn't have a centre stand, it's a good idea to use a paddock stand. If you are unable to unload the wheels, turning them slightly every few weeks will also help to prevent the build-up of pressure points.
If you have no choice but to leave your bike outside, then a cover is essential. This should be breathable or have suitably dimensioned vents. Make sure that the cover is not resting on any bike parts that are still damp from residual cleaning agent or spray oil – worst case scenario is that this could lead to a chemical reaction, which causes the cover to stick to the bike. If the bike is outside but protected from the elements, a relatively cheap breathable dust cover would be sufficient.
By following these simple rules for preparing your bike for the coming season, you can spend the winter months looking forward to the joys of spring in the knowledge that you will NOT be the one asking for a quick push-start or needing to completely dismantle your carburettor.
If you plan to mothball your bike for a long period, you will need a VCI corrosion inhibitor folding garage. The special VCI corrosion inhibitor protects metal against corrosion for a period of approx. two years. For even longer storage, simply place a small can of so-called emitter inside your folding garage to "refresh" the corrosion inhibitor for a further two years. And if you really want to play safe, you can hang a dehumidifier on the handlebars.
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The Louis Technical Centre
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These tips for DIY mechanics contain general recommendations that may not apply to all vehicles or all individual components. As local conditions may vary considerably, we are unable to guarantee the correctness of information in these tips for DIY mechanics.
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