How Often Should I Start A Motorcycle? (Don’t, this is why)


I never start my bike when storing, but I understand why some riders do. Flat battery, gummed carburetor, misfiring engine, I’ll show you how avoid them all.

Short idling a motorcycle engine causes condensation to form. Moisture is the enemy of all machinery. Follow these 10 simple motorcycle storage tips to avoid storage related problems, they include:

  1. Wash & Dry
  2. Change oil and filter
  3. Clean air filter
  4. Gap plug
  5. Drain carburetor bowl
  6. Use gas stabilizer
  7. Fill gas tank
  8. Use smart battery charger
  9. Spray Teflon and wd40 protection
  10. Cover bike with breathable cover & store indoors

By the end of this post you’ll understand why starting your bike isn’t advisable. You’ll also learn the correct way to store your bike for trouble free recommissioning.

Short Idling

I’m a mechanic for twenty years and I get asked about starting bikes while in storage a ton. I don’t recommend it and here’s why.

All engines contain some moisture, it’s unavoidable. And moisture generally as you’ll learn in this post is a bike killer.

Your engine and exhaust manages moisture by burning it off when as they reach operating temperature. Short idling sessions won’t allow your bike reach operating temperatures, not only does the moisture not burn off, it accumulates.

Condensation forms as you know on a surface where cold and hot air meet. With no way out, moisture collects inside your engine crankcase, carburetor, transmission, exhaust systems etc. Some components of our bike are particularly sensitive to moisture build-up like stators and coils.

In addition, starting a cold engine requires choke, repeatedly using choke for short idling sessions simply causes raw gas to wash the cylinder, stripping it of it’s protective oil coating.

Starting and riding your bike once a week would be great, it would keep the battery charged, burn off moisture and help keep the brakes clean, cables operating and exhaust corrosion free.

I understand that’s not possible for most, time restrictions, weather, insurance cover, so instead follow these simple storage tips.

Winterizing

These simple storage tips are guaranteed to keep your bike in top condition and importantly, ready to ride at a moments notice.

1 Wash & Dry

Clean the bike thoroughly, muck traps moisture and salts that corrode components. Use a quality automotive detergent, household detergent strips protective wax coatings from the paintwork.

I use a pressure washer, but be mindful, powerful pressure washers can strip protective lube from components such as chains, penetrate bearings and bushings which will shorten their lives, guaranteed.

Avoid spraying water on electrics such as the Stator casing, CDI box, regulator/rectifier, Coil, Plug and Cap, Solenoid, Starter, Relays, Fuses, Dash clocks, Ignition switch, battery etc.

Picking a warm day to wash makes great sense as we’ll need the bike to thoroughly dry out afterwards. Riding the bike is a great way to speed up the process.

Pressured water directed at the carburetor should be avoided also.

2 Oil & Filter

Change out oil filter (screen clean) before storing. The crankcase contains moisture and dropping the oil ensures the oil is free from contaminates.

3 Air filter

Remove the air filter and clean it, sponge filters can be washed in filter cleaner. You could use fresh gas too but it can be harsh on the filter seams. Use proper filter lube if applicable.

Pleated paper filters can’t be washed, they can be cleaned with compressed air if not contaminated, or replace.

4 Gap plug

Remove the plug, examine, clean and gap or replace it. Clean the plug using a wire brush.

Check the plug gap. It’s a simple process of measuring the plug electrode gap with the gauge and adjusting it with a pliers if needed. An average gap spec is about .028 – .032 in (.7 – .8 mm).

When refitting a used plug, tighten the plug 1/4 after the plug seats and a new plug 1/2 turn after the plug seats.

5 Carb bowl

The bowl will collect crap – grit and moisture. Draining the bowl will prevent the moisture attacking components. Check and replace the filter too, replace if necessary.

6 Gas stabilizer

Blended gas is know as ethanol (E10, e15) and is common place, in fact on road going machinery, it’s the law. Regular gas is permitted in off road vehicles, so ethanol is a fact of life for most.

Ethanol gas attracts moisture and goes stale after as little as one month, so storing gas in your bike comes with some risks. The ethanol becomes moisture saturated and begins a process called phase separation.

Basically the fuel and it’s component chemicals start to separate and breakdown. This results in gumming and corrosion inside your carburetor.

This has become a real problem especially for small engine vesicles with vented gas tanks.

I use a gas stabilizer in all my kit, added to the fuel it will prevent gumming problems for up to 1 year. Add it to the gas tank as per the instructions and run the engine to operating temperatures. The mixed gas flows throughout the fuel system and your set.

7 Fill gas tank

Fill the gas tank to the very top. This prevents moisture build up inside the tank. Less available interior tank wall surface equals less condensation.

8 Smart charger

A charger is super important. Your battery is one of the first components to suffer from a lack of use. The solution is a smart charger. It’s a simple piece of kit that maintains the battery at optimum charge without cooking it.

The smart charger is perfect for storing bikes, cars, boats, jetskies, ska dos car trucks any battery. Plug it in and forget about it, it senses battery voltage and trickle charges only as necessary.

9 Teflon coating

Teflon coatings are excellent at repealing all kinds of crap, moisture, grit, salts, rain form all types of materials. Plastics metals, rubber, paintwork, glass Perspex etc. It’s simple to use with minimal amount of work. But it is important the bike is clean and dry.

Teflon coatings offered by DuPont come in a handy aerosol can, spray all components except, brakes, rotors seat, grips, levers and controls.

I use WD 40 to protect electrics, spray CDI box, regulator/rectifier, coil, fuses, relays, ignition switch.

10 Cover & Store indoors

Where your bike lives is mission critical to trouble free recommissioning. Storing your bike outside isn’t ideal even with a cover. Some form of shelter will make the largest contribution to the life of your bike.

In addition to shelter a cover is needed too. The type of cover you use makes quite a difference, using a plastic sheet will trap moisture under the cover. Quality breathable covers are moisture proof and breathable.

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an certified mechanic and writer on ATVFixed.com. I’ve been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of ATV ownership, from maintenance, repair to troubleshooting.

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