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Winterizing Motorcycle Engine Oil & Fluids

If you’re like many motorcycle enthusiasts who live in the colder states, you plan to keep your bike in storage through the winter months.

However, you shouldn’t simply park your motorcycle in the garage and let it sit idle for three months, then expect it to be in pristine condition when you put the key in the ignition in the spring. In reality, you must complete a few maintenance tasks to prepare your motorcycle for storage. One is changing the engine oil and fluids. 

Read on to learn more about winterizing motorcycle engine oil & fluids. 

Why Do You Need to Replace Motorcycle Fluids Before Storage? 

When you store your motorcycle for longer than a week, the fluids within the bike can begin to degrade, damaging your bike over time. Ethanol-based fuel is one of the fluids that pose the most significant hazard to your bike while in storage. 

If you use ethanol-based gasoline, you should avoid keeping this fluid in your gas tank for more than a few weeks without riding the bike. This is because ethanol absorbs water and separates over time, which can rust the metal surfaces around the gas tank and cause parts to fail. With enough time, this rust formation can spread to the carburetor, which can cause the rubber parts to crack and break. 

Aside from gasoline, many other fluids that keep your motorcycle running properly can degrade and separate while your motorcycle is in storage. When you start your bike in the spring, you may find that it does not run smoothly or that there is rust and corrosion around the components. Replacing the engine oil and fluids before storing your bike can prevent these issues. 

Should You Change Your Fluids Yourself? 

As a motorcycle owner, knowing how to complete essential maintenance tasks on your bike can be incredibly helpful in the years to come. Working on your bike is gratifying, can save you money, and can help you better understand your motorcycle’s inner workings. All of these benefits can enhance your motorcycle hobby. 

As a result, we recommend learning how to winterize your bike yourself — including changing your own oils. The best way to learn to change your own motorcycle fluids is to watch videos from professionals. We recommend following these steps:

  1. Watch a few videos of the fluid change you’re about to complete. 
  2. Gather all the supplies you’ll need and place them near your bike. 
  3. Turn on the most informative video and follow along while completing your own fluid change. 
  4. Pause and rewind the video as needed. 
  5. Double-check your work. 

If you’ve never changed motorcycle fluids before, you may want to take your bike to the mechanic after your first DIY fluid change to have it checked. Alternatively, if you have any biker friends who know how to change their own oils, you can invite them over to watch and assist while you complete your first bike winterization. 

Which Fluids Should You Change Before Storing Your Bike?

In order to prepare your bike for storage, you will need to drain and replace several fluids involved in your bike’s operation. We recommend setting aside a few hours on a fall day to replace all of the following fluids:

Engine Oil

The first fuel you’ll need to change before storing your bike is the engine oil. Some riders think it’s best to change this fuel after storage, but most experts agree that replacing it before you store your bike is better.

Your engine oil can produce combustion byproducts that can harm your engine during long-term storage. As a result, it’s best to change this oil right before storing your bike, even if you just changed it a few weeks prior. 

Before you change the engine oil, be sure to purchase a motor oil specifically for motorcycles. Motorcycle oil contains rust inhibitors that can prevent the oil from producing harmful byproducts during storage. 

Additionally, you’ll want to change your oil filter at the same time as the oil change.

Brake Fluid

Your motorcycle’s brake fluid transfers the action from the brake lever to the discs using fluid pressure. Like many fluids within your bike, brake fluid absorbs water over time, eventually damaging the internal parts and impacting your brakes. As a result, most mechanics recommend changing brake fluid at least once per year. 

If you plan to winterize your motorcycle yearly, we recommend timing your annual brake fluid change right before you put your bike into storage. Your brake fluid will continue to degrade even while your motorcycle is in storage. If it’s already close to the end of its lifespan in the fall, it probably won’t last through the winter. 


The coolant within your motorcycle helps keep the engine at a safe temperature. This fluid typically lasts 24,000 miles or two years within a bike, so you won’t need to change it before every winter storage. However, if you haven’t drained and replaced your coolant in over a year, it may be wise to do so before storing your bike. 

Your coolant gains acidity over time and slowly begins to corrode your gaskets and seals. If your coolant has already been in your bike for a few years, you risk significant damage to your internal components over the winter. 

Once you drain the coolant, be sure to replace it before storing your motorcycle for the winter. Without coolant, your motorcycle’s parts could expand, crack, or break with the cold weather. 

Fuel Stabilizer

Finally, before you refill your fuel tank, consider adding a fuel stabilizer. A fuel conditioner or stabilizer can lubricate the fuel tank and help it resist oxidation, protecting your motorcycle’s components against corrosion. Be sure to take one final ride after adding this lubricant to help it distribute throughout the fuel system. 

Winterizing motorcycle engine oil & fluids is an essential step in preparing your bike for long-term storage. While replacing all of these fluids may take a few hours, you’ll be thankful when your bike is ready to go after a winter in storage. 

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