How should I go about preparing my bike for winter storage?

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Do I really need to prepare my bike before storing it?

Here's what could happen if you fail to prep your bike properly before storing it away for the winter:

Your well-used oil will degrade inside the crankcase, forming sludge at the bottom and acids that eat away at the metal. And because it has thinned and lost its coating ability, it will drain from the highest portions of the engine, causing those areas to begin to corrode. Your untreated fuel will degrade, forming a varnish on everything it touches, gumming up the carbs and burning up the valves when (if) you start the bike in the spring. Moisture will condense inside the fuel tank, causing it to rust. The coolant's cold weather protection will have deteriorated and may freeze, causing the engine to crack. Impurities will gum up your cooling system.

The warnings about the hazards of non-stabilized gas are especially important. Don't be one of the thousands of people who post in March & April that their bike doesn't run right.

Since you have to do most of what winter prep entails at some time or another, doing them before winter is good insurance. Also, your bike will be ready to roll just as soon as good weather comes - nothing to do then but ride, ride, ride.

This is what you want to have happen in the Spring:

"Took my wife's '04 250 out for the first time this season. I disconnected the battery charger, let the gas fill the carbs, rolled it out of the shed and she spun up like I rode it last week! Outstanding!!! No carb issues, the oil was right up there, topped off the tire pressure and whammo! Took her out for a spin and she ran like a top! Idles great! Revs great. It just doesn't get any better than this. There is a lot to be said for Stabil in the fall. I start adding it as fall progresses because I never know when the weather is going to make it that last ride of the season."

What if I'm only going to leave it stored for a month or less?

If the bike will or may be down for more than a few weeks, do at least the following:

Do at least this much and you shouldn't have much trouble. If the bike will be down for more than a month, however, a more thorough preparation would be better.

What steps should I follow when winterizing my bike for storage?

Important: Just starting the bike a couple times a week and letting it idle for a few minutes is not recommended. If you're going to start the bike at all during the winter, plan on riding it for 30 minutes minimum. For one thing, the battery will not be charged at normal idle rpms; do this too many times and you'll have a dead battery. For another thing, unless the clutch is exercised and the gears run through, oil will not be fully recirculated around the parts it has drained away from while just sitting. Your bike would be better off just sitting than going through this routine.

Short version

Once you decide to winterize your bike, the process involved is not that difficult. First, gather together the needed supplies. You'll need oil, a filter and a drain pan for the oil change. The silicone spray lube is for the cables, and any other external moving parts such as the foot pegs, levers, etc. Also included are chain lube and STA-BIL fuel stabilizer.


The first thing to do is change the oil, after taking the bike for a little ride to warm things up.

While out riding, warming up the engine for the oil change, fill the fuel tank up. Fill it to the level as shown. This will minimize any air space in the tank, reducing the possibility of condensation forming.


There are two ways to add fuel stabilizer:

  • Once the tank is full, add the Sta-Bil. Then ride home, which will get the Sta-Bilized gas into all the parts of the fuel system.
  • Add the Sta-Bil to a tank which is half full, and then fill the tank with gas. By the time you get home it will all be mixed together.

If you happen to go for a ride sometime during the winter, top off the gas tank with Sta-bilized gas before you re-store it.

One option (no pictures): Check and (optionally) replace the coolant. If it's not reasonably clean, coolant can contain acids and sludge which will cause rust over time. Coolant should be replaced every 2 years; right before winter storage is a great time to do it.

Next, wash the bike thoroughly, removing any dirt, dead buggies, and the like.


After the wash, lube the chain. This will help prevent rust over the winter.


After the wash and chain lube, take the bike out for a 5 to 10 mile run. This will help to dry the bike as well as get the Sta-bil into the carb passages. After getting back from the ride, turn the fuel petcock off and let the bike run until the carb bowls are empty.

Even though you ran the bike dry (with the petcock off), there may still be some fuel left in the bowls. So, drain the carbs. This picture shows a simple drain trough made out of aluminum foil. Draining the carbs is the best way to guarantee you'll never need to clean the carbs.


Then, put the battery on a trickle charger. Turn on the charger every couple weeks to keep it fully charged. You can remove the battery from your bike. This isn't necessary, and will make it a little more difficult to get your bike going again if you want to take it out mid-winter. Most riders leave their batteries on the bike out in the garage.

Wherever your battery is, make sure it gets trickle-charged. Just removing the battery isn't enough. It will discharge enough to damage itself over a period of months, even if it's inside and warm.

Once the trickle charger is hooked up and the carbs are drained you are ready to store it. Put it up on the center stand. Once on the center stand, put a piece of plywood under the front tire, just to keep it off the concrete all winter long.


Finally, even though it's inside, it's a good idea to cover the bike. This will help keep it clean and dust free.


This procedure has worked for years, with great results. When spring rolls around, all you have to do is install the battery, turn the fuel on and the bike starts right up. The oil will be fresh, the chain is already lubed, and all you have to do then is check the tire pressure and go riding!

Detailed version

  • Change the engine oil and filter. It's not actually necessary to change the oil again when you take it out of storage, but it's your choice. Lots of riders run right out of the garage with the oil they put in last Fall. The cost is minimal in terms of money and time. As the oil has been sitting in there for quite some time, you may want to start fresh for a new riding season.
  • Add a fuel stabilizer to the gas tank, and then fill the tank with new gas; a partly-full tank has air which contains moisture which can cause the inside of the tank to rust. STA-BIL is a concentrated fuel stabilizer which many use; it comes in cans as small as 4 oz. Look at the directions and get enough to treat 5 gallons of gas, the capacity of the EX250's tank. Be sure the stabilizer is well mixed with the gas in the tank and that the treated gas flows through the rest of the fuel system. If you add it to a tank which is half full and then fill the tank with gas, by the time you get home the job is done.
Note: The Kawasaki manual recommends removing the gas tank completely, emptying it, then pouring in a half cup of motor oil and rolling it around to coat the inside of the tank. Then you're supposed to pour out any excess oil and store the empty tank separate from the bike and away from moisture for the rest of the winter. HOWEVER, should you wish to actually ride your bike on the occasional nice day, you will find this method highly inconvenient. Our experienced members here recommend leaving the tank on the bike, full and Sta-Bilized, with the float bowls drained.
  • Drain the carburetors of fuel. This is not the same as starting the engine and letting it run until the engine dies. That will leave some gas still in the carbs. Gas left in the carburetors will eventually evaporate and can leave behind a varnish that can plug jets or cause float bowls to stick, and that's bad; gas that's been treated is less likely to do this. You're really much better off draining your float bowls. It only takes five minutes or so. Draining the carbs is the best way to guarantee you'll never need to clean them.
  • If you have ever added plain water to the radiator coolant, replace the coolant with new antifreeze and follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper dilution; coolant that's been watered down could freeze, and that could be very bad.
  • Inflate the tires to recommended pressure, and store the bike on its center stand; this will take some of the weight off the tires, and help to prevent flat spots from forming. In reality, it takes more than a non-stop year of sitting for tires to develop flat spots. The Kawa manual recommends deflating the tires by 20 percent and lifting (blocking) the front wheel off the ground to keep it away from moisture.
  • Turn off the fuel valve and leave it off.
  • Remove the battery and store it in the house; hook it up to a trickle charger every couple weeks to keep it fully charged. If an undercharged battery is left in the bike there is danger that the electrolyte could freeze in extreme cold and crack the battery case, and that would be very bad.
Some riders like to use a battery charger all year. It will prolong the life of your battery, and the battery will be ready to go when you are. If you have the proper battery charger connections on your bike, there's no need to remove the battery for the winter, as long as you regularly use the trickle charger.
  • If storing the bike outdoors, cover it with a tarp, but don't wrap it so tightly that moisture could build up and not escape. See notes on fogging the cylinders below if it's going to be left out in the elements.
  • Spray oil into the cylinders (optional - see below)

As an alternative to the above, do what some British and Scandinavian riders do: ride all winter. Of course, that means learning how to ride on snow and ice, but some people do it!

Storing outside, or for longer than 6 months

The method above is for short-term storage, such as over the winter, covered and inside. If an engine (ANY engine) is going to be stored for six months or more, or if the bike is going to be stored out in the elements, then you should fog the cylinders with oil. The main goal is to prevent surface rust from forming on the cylinder walls and valve surfaces. A build-up of rust will damage piston rings when the engine is first turned over after removing from storage.

To do this, remove the spark plugs and spray penetrating oil, such as Liquid Wrench (not WD-40) into the spark plug holes for a few seconds per hole. Replace the plugs, turn on the kill switch, and run the starter for a couple seconds to distribute the oil. This will push some of the oil to the valve surfaces to help protect them, too.

The Kawasaki manual recommends using a spray fogging oil such as K-Kare Fogging Oil, part number K61030-002, should you feel like spending money unnecessarily.

If all you're doing is putting the bike up inside for the winter, ignore this. It really isn't necessary to fog the cylinders during short term INDOOR storage.

The N250RC E-Z Winterization Process

Those of you without a garage (or a significant other) may want to consider this method. This was posted by one of our members from N. Dakota.

Winterize Indoors.jpg

Unfortunately, as gas actually goes bad faster in warm temperatures, you'll still have to follow all the steps outlined above. Sorry.