If you’re like me, you have found yourself in a situation where you need to store your motorcycle for a while, maybe even for a long while, and are left wondering how to do so.
I’ve owned more motorcycles I can count on two hands so I’ve been caught in this many times. I’ve been able to do a lot of research and have been able to learn a lot through my own experiences.
Before you store your motorcycle long term, take a minute to review these helpful tips and tricks that will help you prepare your motorcycle for the time you’ll have apart from each other.
- Take Care of the Gas
- Top Off Your Oil and Coolant
- Disconnect the Battery
- Elevate the Tires
- Cover it Properly
- Figure Out Where to Store It
Throughout this article, we’ll explain how to store your motorcycle long-term, where to store it, and how to prep it once you take it out of storage.
Check out our other article here that explains what happens when you let a motorcycle sit for too long without properly preparing it for storage.
Take Care Of The Gas
Long term storage is never fun, especially if that means you’re apart from your motorcycle. Taking the proper care of it before hand will ensure you will continue to have fun rides on your bike, even if that means it’s a while down the road.
Leaving gas in the tank can cause corrosion that can gum up your fuel system, whether your system has a carburetor or is fuel injected. The first thing you’ll need to do is empty your gas tank. To do this, you can simply disconnect the fuel line from the petcock and let the gas run into a fuel container. Another option is to siphon out the gas from the tank.
Once all the fuel is emptied, turn on your motorcycle and let it run until it stalls from lack of fuel. This ensures you have gotten out all the fuel from the lines and won’t have any residual fluids gunking up your fuel system.
If emptying your gas tank is not an option, the next best thing you’ll need to do is add a stabalizer to your gas. The stabilizer slows down the chemical reactions the break down the gasoline, essentially it preserves it. After you add the stabilizer, you’ll need to run your motorcycle for a few minutes to ensure the gas-stabilizer mixture has run through your lines and resides in them.
Not running your motorcycle after adding stabilizer will cause the fuel in your lines and carbs to gunk up over time.
Top Off Your Oil And Coolant
Unlike gasoline, it’s important to keep oil in your engine. Do not empty your oil before long term storage. Even though you won’t be using your motorcycle, it’s still important to have proper lubrication inside your engine as the parts inside will be nicely cushioned and preserved.
If you know it’s been a while since you’ve had an oil change, it’s probably a good idea to change your oil before you store your motorcycle long term. Keep in mind that you will again need to change your oil once you take your motorcycle out of storage because unused oil breaks down much faster than used oil.
If it’s been fairly recent since your last oil change, all you’ll need to do is top off your oil to the recommended level.
You’ll also need to make sure your crankcase oil is good to go. If you’ve noticed it’s low, be sure to top that off as well.
If you have a motorcycle with a cooling system, be sure to check the coolant level and top that off if needed. This is also something you’ll need to replace once you start riding your motorcycle again because coolant can lose it’s potency over time which may lead to an overheating motorcycle.
Disconnect The Battery
There are a few options you have concerning your battery and this all depends on how long you’ll be storing your motorcycle. Your first option is to connect your battery to a battery tender like this one found on Motosport.com. A battery tender will be able to monitor the voltage of your battery and will recharge it once it senses the battery is losing power. This option is great for storing a motorcycle for several months.
You second option is to just completely disconnect the battery but leave it on the motorcycle. This is ideal for longer storage times. Disconnecting the battery prevents any “parasitic discharge” and will preserve it longer.
Any time you leave your motorcycle for several months or years without running it, you’ll need to expect to replace the battery altogether even if you have disconnected it from your motorcycle. Without usage, your battery will slowly lose it’s charge and if there are any freezing temperatures, that can pretty much guarantee the death of your battery.
In either case, keep your battery with your motorcycle. This way you’ll know what exact battery to get as a replacement if your first one is no longer usable.
Click here to see our other article about how long it takes for a motorcycle battery to die.
Elevate The Tires
This step is often skipped. Long term storage is brutal on tires if the tires are not properly taken care of. When a motorcycle is left dormant, the lack of use from the tires wears them out more than actually using them. You’ll eventually get flat spots on the tires where they’re touching the ground because the tires eventually lose air pressure.
These flat spots can become permanent and make the tires completely unusable. If possible, you’ll need to elevate both tires. I’ve seen some creative ways of doing this such as placing a bike on top of stacked up 2×4’s. I don’t necessarily recommend that, but there are ways to figure it out. Or you can simply purchase some motorcycle lift stands (link to Discountramps.com) that will do the job perfectly.
Cover It Properly
This is also a big step that a lot of people miss, especially if they store their motorcycles in a storage unit, shed, or garage because they feel their bike is already covered. No matter where you are storing your motorcycle, you need to cover it properly.
Try to find any hole that is big enough for a rodent to fit into, mostly the exhaust pipes. Insert cloth towels in the holes. This can save you a world of mess in the future; you don’t want to try to start your motorcycle later only to find a family of mice all nestled inside the abyss of your bike. Be sure to make the towels visible so you don’t forget later that they’re there.
You’ll need to put some sort of cover over the whole motorcycle, even if it’s inside or under some sort of shelter. Before placing a cover over your motorcycle, take a lint-free cloth and just quickly wipe down your motorcycle to remove any debris or dirt that could potentially scratch up your bike from the cover rubbing on it.
Figure Out Where To Store It
Before you start getting your motorcycle ready to store, you’ll need to figure out where you’re going to store it. This is an important step that shouldn’t be taken lightly; your choice of storage location could mean the future life or death of your motorcycle.
I have owned a motorcycle from the time I was living in my sister’s basement all the way through owning my own house. I never had a garage of my own until I bought my first house, so I’ve been able to figure out some awesome ways to store a motorcycle, especially for long term.
Covered And Secured In The Driveway: The first option is the most obvious and cheapest, though it’s not my highest recommendation. Some people have no choice though.
Keep it parked in the parking lot/driveway. But leaving your motorcycle out in the open with no protection will exponentially increase damages to it. I recommend using a high quality motorcycle cover, such as the Dowco Guardian WeatherAll Plus (found on Amazon.com) because it does an exceptional job at keeping your motorcycle out of the elements.
This cover has a drawstring on the bottom to make a tight fit and it’s covering lessens the amount of UV rays the sun emits which prevents damage and wear to your bike.
A lot of people, including myself, also worry about someone stealing their motorcycle while it’s parked out in the open. If you are worried about your motorcycle getting stolen, I also recommend getting a disc lock brake.
It’s a small contraption that locks on either wheel disc and blends in with all the mechanics of your bike so any perpetrator would be unsuspecting of it. I want to emphasize the importance of you not buying the cheapest lock, get a high quality brake lock that does the job well.
A good lock brake will have an alarm on it loud enough to alert anyone close by that someone is tampering with your motorcycle.
Parking Canopy: If the only place you can store your motorcycle is in your driveway or parking lot and you don’t want to do the first option, you can try using a Motorcycle canopy. Motorcycle canopies were built specifically for this reason.
The one I recommend is the Quictent Heavy Duty Motorcycle Shelter Cover (link to Amazon.com). It’s an upgrade from a generic motorcycle cover and also provides a little more security. This cover has a locking mechanism preventing anyone from opening it and also has an option to secure it to the ground to keep it from being lifted up or blowing away.
Self-Made Canopy: If you like the idea of using a canopy for your motorcycle but don’t want to spend the money to buy one, this option may be for you.
If you or any of your family or friends have creative skills, this should be pretty easy. All you need is some PVC pipe and a tarp. Measure out the square dimensions of your motorcycle, or figure out the hypothetical size of box your motorcycle could fit in to.
Depending on the size of your motorcycle, buy the correct amount of PVC piping at your local home improvement store. PVC pipes are generally quite cheap and so are decent tarps so you should be able to purchase all of your materials for about $50.
Create the square frame with your PVC pipes and wrap your tarp around it and fasten it to the frame. I recommend you glue the tarp down; punching holes in the tarp for tie-downs wears out the tarp faster and will eventually rip the holes open even wider.
Be sure to keep one side accessible so you can put your motorcycle inside. Velcro works perfect to keep the door flap down.
Family and Friends: Do you have any friends or family nearby that would be willing to take in your motorcycle? You might be surprised. Call around, post on social media, and/or send out the word that you’re looking for a place to store your motorcycle. If you are willing and able to pay them for it, you’ll find even more individuals inclined to let you use their space.
I understand how inconvenient it is to not have your motorcycle close by so you can keep your eyes on it, but at least you know it’s somewhere safe.
When I was attending college, I had a project motorcycle that I needed to store and I lived in an apartment that had nothing but an uncovered parking lot. We had limited small parking spots so I needed to find another place to store my bike. For a few days I asked around and luckily found a classmate that was living in a rental house with a shed in the back yard. He let me use the shed the whole year he lived in the house.
Inside Your Home: This next idea might seem a little crazy, but I know several people who have done it, aside from myself, and it works great. If you live in an apartment or house without a shed or garage, why not try bringing the motorcycle into your place? Do you have a spare bedroom or storage room that you don’t use much? Be sure to discuss with with any other household members and get their permission.
To do this you’ll need the following items: tarp, oil drip pan (cookie sheets work great), boxing tape, a 2×4 wood block, and a cover.
First, you must empty all the gas from your tank and fuel system to prevent gassing yourself and other household member out. I also do not recommend storing it in your bedroom in the case there are residual fumes.
Tape your tires where it touches the ground. This prevents any dirt or marks getting on the floor or carpet. Next, lay the tarp down where you wish to store the bike inside. Bring the motorcycle inside with the help of one or two other people and roll it onto the tarp. If you are using the kickstand to keep the bike propped up, place the 2×4 wood block under the kickstand. This is especially helpful if you have carpet. This will prevent the bike from leaning too far to one side.
Next, put the oil leak pan directly under the engine (make sure to do this even if you don’t think your motorcycle has leaks!!!). Lastly, put a cover over the motorcycle so it doesn’t make so much of an eye sore for those who visit. You can use your original motorcycle cover or simply use bed sheets.
Storing your motorcycle this way keeps your motorcycle in a temperature controlled environment and prevents any breakdown and rust.
Small Storage Shed: Using a storage shed provides a few additional security measurements; storage sheds are harder to break into and keep your motorcycle out of the harsh weather.
There are many out there that can be mailed to you and are easy to assemble, such as the Keter Manor Garden Storage Shed (link to Amazon.com), which I recommend because it’s smaller than a regular sized shed. Though these are intended for garden storage, they’re the perfect size for a motorcycle, ranging from 4×6 to 6×8.
If you’re in an apartment, you may have to negotiate with your landlord about this one, but it’s worth a shot.
Storage Unit: Try renting a self storage unit. The average cost to rent a 5×10 storage unit in the U.S. is about $60 per month. For some, that price is worth it, for others, that may be too expensive. Here’s a thought: try and find someone to share the storage unit with that also needs a place to store their stuff. That way you can split the cost and your monthly bill is only $30.
But why a 5×10 unit and not a 5×5? Some motorcycles may have difficulty fitting into a 5×5 storage unit. Also, the cost of a 5×5 isn’t that much less than a 5×10 with the national average being $45 a month. Plus having a 5×5 unit doesn’t give you room to share with someone else.
Please keep in mind that if you choose this option, a lot of storage units require the motorcycle to be operational, that you provide proof of ownership/registration, and that the motorcycle is insured. Click here to see my full guide on storing a motorcycle in a storage unit.
Storage Unit Parking: If you like the idea of using a storage unit but want to explore more options, another choice would be to rent a parking space at a storage unit. Not all storage units have these, but there are some out there with parking spaces for people to park all kinds of vehicles.
Many people use these to store their RV’s, trailers, and boats. I called around to a few places by me and found that renting a parking spot in a storage unit costs about $45 a month.
Though this option does leave your motorcycle outside in the open, most storage units are fenced in with security cameras, some of them even have security guards. This option gives you additional peace of mind knowing it’s more secure.
If You Do Have A Garage
What if you DO have a garage but, like most of us, you’ve somehow accumulated too much stuff that seems to have overtaken it. So……where does that leave you and storing your motorcycle? Will you still have to park it outside? I’ll give some suggestions that will hopefully make you answer “no” to that last question.
Reorganize Your Stuff So It’s High Off The Ground: My first suggestion is unpleasant yet an obvious one: organize your garage. The average size of a one car garage is about 12 feet by 22 feet, so even if all you have is a one car garage you should be able to still fit one normal sized car and one motorcycle in there.
Take an afternoon and go through your belongings in your garage and see what you can get rid of and maybe even sell. This may also win you brownie points with your significant other.
Still don’t have enough room? Try thinking outside of the box with your organization. Explore the idea of adding shelves and cabinets to get things off the floor. You can always try installing old cabinets found on craigslist or facebook.
Or if you want the more garage-type of look, I recommend this steel wall cabinet (link to Amazon.com). Not only does it look amazing, but these were built specifically for garages so they’re heavy duty and tremendously helpful with garage organization.
If cabinets aren’t your thing but you still want to get stuff off the ground to make room for your motorcycle, try installing this Overhead Garage Storage Rack (link to Amazon.com). These storage racks are AMAZING. Most garage ceilings are completely bare and this product assists with sensible storage.
Use A Dolly To Assist Placing In Small Areas: Alright, so maybe after you’re done organizing and you’ve gotten some things off the floor, you have a few possible spots to put your motorcycle. Motorcycles themselves are already hard to maneuver let alone trying to fit them around cramped corners with the fenders of your cars at stake.
The Black Widow Steel Cruiser and Chopper Motorcycle Dolly (link to Discountramps.com) is an awesome tool to have for any motorcycle. If you have tight spaces in a garage, I highly recommend this product. Once your motorcycle is placed on the dolly, the wheels underneath will be able to spin in any direction making maneuvering, moving, and storing your motorcycle a breeze.
Use A High Lift: This next suggestion may be a little out there for some, but for others it could be worth it. The Garage Storage Lift Platform (link to Amazon.com), though a bit pricey, is really an amazing way to store a motorcycle.
This works by placing your motorcycle on the platform, securing it, and simply using the operation switch to raise and lower your bike. The biggest point of using this is to raise the motorcycle high enough so you have room to park underneath it or have additional space to store more of your other belongings. This piece of machinery is quite fun to use and will make any other recreational vehicle owner envious!
How To Prep And Start Your Motorcycle After Long Term Storage
Gas: If you previously emptied you fuel system and gas tank completely, you’ll obviously need to fill up your gas tank. If you have trouble starting it, take a look at your fuel lines and make sure everything is connected. You may have had build-up that has formed in your carbs.
Issues with motorcycles not starting or acting sluggish usually points to clogged up carbs. You may need to remove your carbs and clean them out so there’s proper flow inside.
If you added stabilizer to your fuel, you’re fine to go ahead and start it right up, your motorcycle will run just fine with that in there. It’ll be all out of the system after a few fuel fill-ups.
Oil: You’ll need to change the oil. Even if the oil looks like you just changed it yesterday, you should still change it. You don’t want to risk having corroded oil running through your engine and mess something up due to lack of proper lubrication.
You should also top off your crankcase oil. While you’re down there, it’s also a good idea to add a little bit of oil to your chain. You’ll need to make sure you get the specialized oil specifically for motorcycle chains.
Coolant: As I stated before, over time coolant will become less potent the longer it sits. Withholding usage speeds up this process. If possible, drain all of your coolant from your motorcycle (if you have a cooling system) and replace it with fresh coolant.
Battery: Whether you connected your battery to a tender or not, you’ll need to test your battery at this point. More likely than not, if you didn’t have a tender connected to it, your battery is dead beyond repair and you’ll need to get a new one.
If you still wish to test it anyway, you can do this by using a multimeter, which is an electronic measuring instrument. It can measure things such as voltage, current, and resistance. Most motorcycles require a 12 volt battery, or 12.6 volts to be exact. You will need 12.2 volts to start your motorcycle.
Tires: Hopefully you were able to find a way to elevate both your tires. If you didn’t, you will need to get new ones (which will probably be obvious to you because of how flat and wrinkled your tires are at this point).
Inspect your tires and make sure there aren’t any cracks and weird shapes in them. Add the required amount of air. You should wait a few hours at least before riding your motorcycle after adding air. That way you can check the tire pressure and make sure the pressure has stayed consistent. If not, then you know there’s a hole somewhere.
I hope these suggestions were helpful and assist you in finding the best way you can store your motorcycle specific to where you are at in life. Having a motorcycle is such a joy, but having to store it is a pain. I know that from my own experience. If you follow these tips, your motorcycle is sure to stay happy and keep you rolling on into your adventures that await you!
How often should I change the oil in my motorcycle? You should change the oil in your motorcycle about once a year, or about every 3,000 – 4,000 miles. Each time you change your oil, you should also check your spark plugs, coolant, and crankcase oil to ensure all other parts are functioning well.
Can I store my car in a storage unit? There are many storage units that have garages specifically for car storage. Some of them even have trickle charging available so your battery stays charged. A lot of other storage units also have parking spots for car storage, but they are outside in the open.