American Family Insurance Motorcycle Post-Storage Maintenance

Motorcycle Post-Storage Maintenance

Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team

Use our motorcycle maintenance tips to get your bike back on the road after it has been stored.

If you’re pulling your motorcycle out of extended storage, you’re probably itching to jump on it and ride. Before you do, take time for some well-needed maintenance so you can get it ready for the road.

Engine fluids. After storing your bike, it’s a good idea to change the oil and filter and check your coolant levels. It’s best to change the oil and filter according the specifications in your owner’s manual. For the coolant, first make sure the bike is cold. Then locate the coolant system and on both sides of the bike, press the hoses to ensure they’re not too hard, soft or brittle. If they are, you may want to consider replacing them. Top off coolant if it’s low, and drain and replace it if it hasn’t been done in two years. Make sure the clamps are in place and properly torqued, and check all the pipes for dents.

Brake pads and fluids. If your owner’s manual indicates how to remove the pads for inspection, this will save you some time. It should also tell you when your brake pads should be replaced, typically between one to three millimeters. If your pads have wear-indicator grooves, the groove disappears when the brake pad begins to wear down. Again, when the pad is down to roughly two millimeters, consider replacing it. You should replace all your brake pads as a set, even if they are not all worn out.

Don’t forget the brake fluid. There are two things that you need to check; the quantity and the quality of the brake fluid. Most likely there is a sensor that will tell you when the fluid level is getting low. If the fluid in the reservoir is low, bring it up to the max level. To check the quality of the fluid, look at its color. It should be clear; somewhat like cooking oil. If it is not then it’s time to change it.

Battery. Any time your battery hasn’t been used in more than two weeks, you should charge it.

Here’s a checklist of standard battery maintenance:

  • Check the electrolyte level
  • Top it off only with distilled or deionized water, wear gloves and protective glasses in a well-ventilated area
  • Clean any grime off the top
  • Inspect cables, clamps, and case for obvious damage or loose connections
  • Clean terminals and connectors as necessary
  • Check inside for excessive sediment or that salty, crystallized stuff known as “sulfation”
  • Make sure the exhaust tube is free of kinks and clogs
  • Replace caps firmly
  • Finish up by testing the battery with either a hydrometer or voltmeter

Cables. Make sure the throttle, clutch and brake cables operate smoothly. After long storage, it may be a good time to lubricate them. There are cable lube tools and spray lubricants that make it easy to lube without removing the cables. Just inject the lubricant into the upper end of the cable until lubricant appears at the lower end of the housing. If it’s been awhile since the cables were serviced, remove them according to your service manual and inspect them for wear, kinks, damage, chafed covering or frayed cables, and loose pivot balls at the ends.

Fasteners. Motorcycles shake, and this affects nuts and bolts over time. So, tightening them is important maintenance. Grab your tools, a paint pen and thread locker. The most important tool is a torque wrench, which will help you know exactly where your fasteners need to be. Go from front to back, top to bottom and side to side on the bike. Add a dab of green thread locker, torque to your motorcycle’s specifications, then mark the bolt with the paint pen. By marking your fasteners, you’ll be able to tell how much you’ll need to torque them if they become loose in the future.

Lights. Test your running lights, brake lights and turn signals. Make sure your headlight has a good-quality bulb and the lens is clean. Check your manual to effectively adjust the headlight for proper alignment.

Fuel. If you didn’t add fuel stabilizer before you stored your ride, you should drain all the old fuel and replace it. If you did add stabilizer, go ahead and ride.

Air Filter. As you know, without clean air running through your components, your bike will not perform at its best. There are three types of air filters; paper, foam and cotton. Generally, a paper filter can be tossed and replaced. For foam and cotton filters, you can knock off any dirt and reuse the filter if it’s not too dirty. If it is, they can be washed, re-oiled and put back in. Check the filter manufacturer’s recommendation for cleaning so you don’t damage the filter.

Tires. Inspect your tires for sidewall cracks or sharp objects stuck in the tread. There are a few ways to check your tread wear. First, see if the tread wear indicators have reached the level of the surface tread. If so, it’s time to replace your tires. You can also use a tread gauge to check the remaining tread depth, or simply do the penny test: slip a penny into the tread with the top of Abe’s head facing down between the treads. As long as part of Lincoln's hair is still covered by some rubber, your tires are at a decent thickness. Don’t forget to maintain your tire manufacturer’s recommended pressure.

Getting the bike out of storage is a rider’s best day. Enjoy your motorcycle rides in the days afterward by running through these few simple steps.

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