Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Phil asks: I’ve been silently following the earlier back-and-forth about the pros (and cons) of keeping a motorcycle inside the house. Someone recently asked about draining the oil and other fluids – in addition to the gas in the tank. Can you give us your thoughts about that?
My reply: This isn’t scientific – it’s just what I’ve been doing for many years. If I am going to keep a bike inside longer than six months, I drain the oil . . . and refill the engine with fresh oil. I like to keep oil in the engine for several reasons, including (as regards my two-stroke bike) to keep the crank seals pliable. I always rotate the engine every so often – in order to circulate the oil and thereby keep critical surfaces such as cylinder walls always coated with a protective film of oil.
Keep in mind, also, that most bikes have a wet sump transmission, meaning the clutch and gearbox share the same oil as the engine. You don’t want them to suffer premature and unnecessary wearing from just sitting.
This does mean keeping a battery around, to rotate the engine. It can also be done manually, by hand, if the bike has a kick starter – though not much oil pressure will be developed that way; still, better than nothing. If you decide to do as I do, either keep the battery out in the garage – if it’s a conventional lead-acid battery (these outgas and leak and so should never be kept in the living area). Better to get is AGM (dry) battery as these don’t leak our outgas; I also find they last much longer, if kept on a trickle charger (and even if not)
Back to the oil. The main issue here isn’t caustic fumes but messy leaks. I have a thick rubber pad (the kind you find at gyms) and park the bike on that. If the bike leaks a little, just wipe it up!
It’s also not a bad idea to remove the spark plugs once in a while – say every six months – and spritz the cylinders with WD-40 (especially if you are reluctant to use a battery to spin the engine).
Also: If the bike is carbureted be sure to drain the float bowls. Never leave a bike sitting for months with fuel in the carbs, leaving aside the smells . . . unless you like rebuilding carbs!
Coolant ought to be kept in mind, too – if the bike is water-cooled. If it was changed recently, no worries for a couple of years of storage. But keep track of it – as old coolant can lead to corrosion inside the water jackets and radiator, which can also get expensive.
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