Care and Feeding of Your Motorcycle Motor

In the last two weeks, I’ve had a couple of chances to buy some old bike parts and in all three of the situations, what would have been a great engine was ruined by doing the wrong thing.

Simply put, the owners didn’t think about how to store an engine for long-term survivability and in so doing, they killed the motor.

So let’s talk about that a little bit today, since the time is rapidly approaching when a lot of us will be putting up bikes for the winter…

First of all, there are a couple of ways to take that phrase. “Putting it up for the winter” means different things in different places. My buddy in north Alberta won’t see his bike again until May at the earliest. Down here in the South, “winter storage” means I parked in the garage for a week.

So if you are going to be hiding your bike for the winter (and I’ll be doing an article on that later in October), let’s just look at the engine. You need to use a fuel additive, at the very least, in your gasoline. For at least two tanks prior to mothballing your scoot, run pure gas – no ethanol – through it.

Now, there are as many fuel stabilizers on the market as you care to use, so find the one you really like and mix it up in the last tank of the year. I’ve come to the realization, after many years, that no matter what I do – tank full or tank empty – I’ll still have to start by cleaning the fuel system the next year, but I really think that draining the gas tank invites corrosion into the tank, the jets of the carb, and the bowls. On the other hand, gasoline turns into varnish if left to sit for long periods, so you kind of have to pick your poison.

Now, let’s talk about the real reason for this article – long term engine health. If the three motors I looked at had simply been left together, they would probably have lived. Instead, well-meaning owners removed sparkplugs and oil and left the engine to rot. Dust, dirt, insects, and corrosion ruined them in the ensuing years.

If you are going to put up an engine, leave it whole! Better yet, fill the crankcase completely with diesel to keep seals lubricated and rings “unstuck”. The best part? Unlike regular motor oil, diesel doesn’t “sludge”. When the time comes to reactivate that motor, drain the crankcase, fill it with oil, and turn it over a few times to build oil pressure.

And yes, I know of one Chevy 302 Z28 motor that was taken care of in its original crate from the factory in 1969 until it was sold in the late 1990s, just like this. It works, and it works well. If you are deploying for the service or just aren’t sure when you’ll be getting the bike out again – and it will be awhile – then think about how you can protect the engine, please! I may thank you for it years from now.

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