What Should You Do before Getting Back on a Motorcycle That’s Spent Years in Storage?

If you’re like many motorcycle owners, you may find that family commitments, financial constraints, and other lifestyle factors can keep you off your bike for months—sometimes even years—at a time. Although riding a motorcycle (like riding a bike), is a skill that’s hard to shake, you could find yourself struggling to maneuver a sputtering engine or sticking brakes if it’s been too long since your last ride. What steps should you take to get your bike back in road-ready condition after months or years in storage? Read on to learn more about the tuneups you should be able to handle yourself as well as some situations in which you may need to enlist professional help. 

What should you do immediately after taking your bike out of storage?

Once you’ve rescued your bike from its time in limbo, you’ll want to give it a thorough visual inspection from the bottom up:

  • Tires and wheels

Often, sitting in a still position for months or years can cause tires to lose air. If yours seem to be on the low side or are even totally flat, don’t panic—unless you observe signs of dry rot (like cracking or peeling away from the steel belts that hold the rubber in place) or can hear the hissing of an active leak, your tires should be as good as new once you’ve filled them with air again. You’ll also want to carefully check the area where your tire attaches to your wheel to ensure there are no gaps that could cause your tire to separate from the wheel or lead to a blowout on the road. 

  • Chain

Your motorcycle’s chain should be taut at all times. If some slack has developed, you should be able to tighten it through the wheel adjusters until it’s back to normal. Some rust on the chain is fairly typical after time in storage (even dry storage), and in most cases you’ll be able to remove this rust simply by spraying on a thin layer of rust penetrant and scrubbing the rust away with a toothbrush once the penetrant has had time to soak in. You’ll then want to thoroughly lubricate the chain with oil or a special lubricating fluid to prevent it from catching or rubbing against other engine components. 

  • Brakes and brake fluid

Brake pads and rotors can be especially susceptible to the effects of storage, and you may find that your current brake pads are cracked or even warped after exposure to the dry air. If your pads look questionable, it’s usually best to preemptively replace them rather than risk brake failure at a high speed. You’ll also want to check your brake fluid (if you didn’t drain your motorcycle’s fluids before putting it in storage) and flush it if it’s begun to solidify at all. 

  • Battery

Even a brand-new battery may not hold its charge for an extended period of time in storage. If you’ve tested your battery and it’s not giving off a charge, you’ll want to use jumper cables or a battery jumper to start your bike, allowing it to run until the battery has built up enough of a charge to restart on its own. If your battery was already a few years old when you put your motorcycle in storage, preemptively replacing it with a new one may be an inexpensive way to avoid getting stranded with a dead battery. 

  • Oil 

No matter how pristine the condition of the shed or garage in which your bike has been kept, you’ll usually need to change your oil before spending any time riding your bike. When a vehicle sits for months without being started or moved, the oil can begin to form a thick sludge at the bottom of the engine as moisture evaporates. This sludge combines with any dust or debris that has made its way inside the engine to create a sticky paste that is much less lubricating (and much more likely to damage your engine) than clean oil. 

When should you take your bike to a repair shop after it’s been in storage?

If, even after undergoing a tuneup, your bike appears to be having some mechanical issues, you may want to take it to a shop for a more thorough servicing. These issues can include the following:

  • knocking from the engine
  • a burning smell
  • rough idling (or alternating between a slow and quick idle)
  • a sluggish start (when your battery is testing as normal)  

Although these symptoms may not indicate anything more serious than a worn belt or aging alternator, having a mechanic check things out will help provide you with the peace of mind of knowing you won’t later be blindsided with a preventable issue. Look for a service like Monarch Honda to schedule a maintenance appointment for your motorcycle. 

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