Storing a motorcycle requires as much technical know-how as riding one. From moisture intrusion and corrosion to coagulated fluids and rotting rubber tires, a motorcycle that’s been stored for a year may not be safe to ride.
If your bike’s been in storage for a year, ensure it’s safe to ride by following the critical steps outlined in this article.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
1. Inspect the Motorcycle’s Exterior for Corrosion; Remove Rust and Re-Paint
Inspecting the exterior of a motorcycle that’s been sitting for a year is especially important if the bike is sitting outside in the elements without a sturdy tarp covering it.
Direct exposure to UV rays and precipitation moisture dramatically accelerates the rate of wear on your bike, starting with the exterior.
Also, even bikes stored under tarps or inside sheds and garages can incur damage at the hands of moisture, especially if the motorcycle has been sitting for an entire year.
- Start by examining your fuel tank’s paint finish for peeling, as extreme exposure to the sun or drastic shifts in temperature can wreck your bike’s protective clear coat.
- Once the clear outer coat is compromised, your paint will bubble, peel, and chip, eventually exposing the metal underneath it.
- Once the crude tank surface is exposed, the paint will peel off even faster.
Your bike’s finish does more than attract attention while you ride; it prevents corrosion from eating through the tank’s metal and compromises your fuel system.
Therefore, we suggest re-painting your damaged tanks and, more importantly, reapplying weatherproof precise coat treatment to prevent corrosion.
If rust has already put holes in your fuel tanks or damaged the crude metal surface, it might be the time for a new fuel tank.
Next, inspect your motorcycle’s hand grips, as UV exposure causes them to melt. Besides, moisture can degrade the adhesive used to keep them from sliding around.
Examine your bike’s pipes, handlebars, and hardware to look for corrosion, especially in hard-to-reach places like bolt and screw heads and mirror stems. Detail clean any rust you find off the metal using a moto-manufacturer-recommended cleaning product designed for removing rust.
If the rust on your bike’s chrome exteriors has eaten holes in the metal, we suggest replacing the damaged part before the corrosion spreads.
2. Replace Any Damaged Seals and Gaskets
Before riding a motorcycle that’s been in storage for a year or longer, it’s critical to inspect the engine interior, starting with the various seals and gaskets used throughout your motor, cooling, and transmission systems.
- The various engine seals and rubber gaskets inside your motorcycle behave like any other elastic mechanism.
- If they aren’t used and stretched from the engine heat for over a year, they lose their stretch functionality and get so brittle that they start to crack and break down.
- Over time, these internal seals become so damaged that they let oil, coolant, fuel, and airflow pass where it isn’t meant to go. This causes leaks and risks engine damage, overheating, and total failure.
It is best to replace any compromised gaskets you encounter on your inspection before riding to ensure your bike starts up like it should and stays running strong for the rest of the riding season.
3. Inspect, Clean, and Charge or Replace Your Battery
Suppose you’re taking your motorcycle out of storage after a year or more, or even just after a couple of months, your battery will probably be dead, unless you tendered it on a trickle charger beforehand.
First, check your bike’s battery’s expiration date. If it’s expired, replace the battery, whether it’s charged or not. A battery that’s been sitting may start just fine, but if it’s lost its ability to hold a charge, it won’t replenish while you ride.
Once emptied by the starting process, a battery that can’t recharge won’t be able to start a second time, leaving you and your motorcycle stranded.
Here are some facts to note:
- If you store your motorcycle for more than a week or two, put its battery on a tender or trickle charger designed to keep batteries healthy during long-term storage.
- If you stored your motorcycle with the battery still connected to the bike, the battery likely underwent a scenario known as parasitic drain.
- As your motorcycle sits, the computers and electronics are designed to leech a tiny amount of battery power to keep themselves from dying.
- If you fail to hook your battery up to a tender, these systems slowly deplete it of its charge while the bike is inactive.
Because your motorcycle’s battery is recharged by motor power converted into electrical current, your battery can replenish while the bike is inactive. So, parasitic drain results in a dead battery.
If you stored your motorcycle for a long time with the battery hooked up, remove the battery and test it with a multimeter to see if it can hold a charge and, if it’s still good, recharge the battery.
If you’re unsure how to do this, most auto parts stores will test and charge a motorcycle battery for free. That way, if the motorcycle battery won’t come back to life, you can buy a replacement battery immediately.
But before then, you may need to read about why the battery of a motorcycle won’t charge to see if you could find help.
4. Change Your Oil and Filter
Oil can start to break down after around 90 days of sitting, depending on oil type, viscosity, etc.
If your motorcycle has been dormant for a year, chances are the oil and filter are corrupted and should therefore be changed before you ride.
Once the oil’s viscosity breaks down, it loses its lubricating properties, and its flashpoint changes. This means it can overheat and even burn at lower temperatures than it’s designed to.
Your filter collects particles of dust, rust, and humidity during periods of no riding. If your bike has been sitting for a year and you ride it without replacing the filter, those particles enter your bike’s oil supply and cause corrosion and overheating in your engine.
One of the first thing you should do before riding a motorcycle that’s been sitting for a year is to change the oil and oil filter. Besides, the oil could even be low. So, you may have to first look out for symptoms that indicate your motorcycle oil is low.
5. Clean or Replace your Air Intake Filter
Airflow is as essential to a motorcycle engine’s combustion process as fuel.
Therefore, if your air supply is blocked or contains unfiltered corrosive molecules, your engine’s performance will suffer. Sometimes, this could lead to the point of backfiring and misfiring, risking engine damage.
Your air intake box equips a filter to remove dust particles and moisture from the air as it enters your motorcycle.
If your motorcycle sits for a year, chances are the air filter is clogged, contaminated, and worn to the point of risking a puncture. Some motorcycles have reusable mesh filters that can be cleaned and put back on, while others use disposable paper filters that need to be replaced.
6. Clean Your Engine of Moisture and Corrosion
If your motorcycle has been sitting for a year or more in a damp area and a significant amount of moisture entered the engine, your pistons may become rusted and partially seized.
This step is less critical to motorcycles stored in a garage or underneath a rigged bike tarp0.
Still, riders who live in freezing temperatures may find that the ice content in the air is enough to warrant a quick piston lubrication and flywheel test to make sure nothing is rusted in place.
- Some home moto mechanics suggest pouring engine oil into the spark plug holes and letting the bike sit for a few hours.
- The oil will seep into the engine cylinder via the spark plug holes for the rusted pistons to absorb as lubrication.
- Next, try cranking the flywheel manually to shatter off any rust that may restrict the piston’s movement once the engine is running.
In case your flywheel won’t crank because of seized pistons, we suggest you take your motorcycle to a mechanic before attempting to ride it. Seized pistons have the potential to dislodge and shoot through your engine cylinder.
7. Clean Your Fuel Tank; Drain and Replace Your Fuel
Experts say you should never use untreated gasoline that sits for more than six months.
If you added a fuel stabilizer, filled in your tank to its total capacity, and are sure your fuel tank is airtight, your fuel may last over 12 months. However, we suggest you flush the tank and replace it, regardless.
Take note of the following:
- If your tank wasn’t filled before you stored your motorcycle, air could fill the space of your fuel tank, rusting the walls.
- The rust can flake off and clog your fuel filter, damage your fuel pump, and enter your fuel lines, causing blockages, misfiring, etc.
- If your tank isn’t airtight, the fuel can be corrupted by moisture and coagulation from the oxygen.
- If you don’t add the proper amount of stabilizer to the fuel, the fuel can degrade into jelly and cause starting issues.
Even if you took all the responsible motorcycle storage steps beforehand, a year limits how long treated fuel will last.
If your bike has been sitting for more than six months without any use, we suggest you drain the tank and fuel lines completely, change your fuel filter, and fill your tank to the top with fresh gasoline.
On this note, you might want to read about whether you should store your motorcycle with a full or an empty tank.
8. Rebuild Your Carburetor (Carb Models)
If your motorcycle sat for over a year and is carburetted, chances are your carb is clogged up with dirt. If you store it in damp areas, it may be rusted and thus requires a thorough, detailed cleaning, or your motorcycle won’t start.
We suggest purchasing a carburetor rebuild kit to replace your carb’s screws and gaskets while cleaning. Carb kits come with instructions on detaching, cleaning, rebuilding, and reinstalling your carburetor, expediting the process.
Also, ultrasonic carb cleaners can help break up grime and rust buildup in hard-to-see or reach places. Ask your mechanic about ultrasonic carb treatment if you’re unsure.
9. Inspect and Replace Your Tires
If your motorcycle has been sitting for over a year and was exposed to the extreme weather of all four seasons, your tires may be degrading, warped, cracked, or treadless due to moisture and UV corrosion.
Moreover, tires will lose air pressure as they sit, causing them to wear faster than usual. It is important to examine the condition of your tires before you ride. And you may need to replace them and replenishing their PSI accordingly.
10. Examine and Lubricate Your Chain
The chain on a motorcycle that’s been sitting for a year has been exposed to moisture and UV without moving and greasing itself. A year of inactivity is ample time for the chain’s oil or grease to dry and mix with dirt.
So, it is best to inspect your chain and sprockets before you ride, lubricating, replacing, or greasing it as needed.