I hate to say it, folks, but the reality is the moped and scooter riding season is coming to a close here in Portsmouth, NH. As temperatures dip below freezing overnight, more and more of us will start to think about putting their scooter in storage for the winter. "Psh whatever, Steve, I'm riding my scooter all winter long!"... if that's your stance, my hat is off to you. A well prepared (die-hard) rider can go all winter if they want to, but for those of us lame-os who wish to stay a bit warmer this winter... here's how you can best prepare your moped or scooter for hibernation:
Batteries are arguably the most overlooked maintenance item on scooters and motorcycles. [Moped dudes, skip ahead - most mopeds do not use batteries, so that's one less thing to worry about!] Out of sight, out of mind, they kind of just work, right? During the riding season, true: you deplete some of your battery's charge when you start the scoot up in the morning, then the scooter's charging system replenishes the charge as you ride for a while. When your scooter is in storage, though, this isn't happening. Like many other batteries, they will slowly lose charge over time even if they are not being used! Storage conditions will exacerbate this problem, so here are our suggestions:
-Store the battery in a warm, dry place. If you're storing the scooter in a garage or site that meets those conditions, you can leave the battery right in the scooter. If not, you should remove the battery and store it indoors. On many scooters, the battery is located beneath your feet. On the popular Honda Ruckus, it is stored in the square-ish battery box below your handlebars. Refer to your owner's manual for the exact location on your specific make/model, but typically they are not hard to access, and accessible with just a philips and/or flathead screwdriver.
Once you've accessed the battery, the red positive (+) and black negative (-) wires can be disconnected. Again, this can usually be accomplished with just a screwdriver. With the battery in-hand, you can take it and store it indoors where conditions are suitable.
-Use a trickle-charger. Also known as a "float" charger, or battery maintainer, this is a specific type of battery charger. Unlike your cell phone battery charger, its not really meant to charge your battery "from zero". Instead, it is meant to maintain the charge on a fully charged battery. This little gizmo will sense any loss in your battery that takes place slowly over time, and routinely "top it off". Many of these will use "alligator clips" to clip onto your battery terminals, much like jumper cables. Some varieties will have a "pigtail", "jumper", or "dongle" that you can install semi-permanently onto the battery. This would allow you to use a trickle-charger, without having to remove the battery from the bike. Slick. If you don't have one installed, you could install one this winter and save yourself some grief next winter!
With your battery properly stored, come spring time, you'll be able to simply reinstall that sucker, crank the scoot over and voila - its like your scoot never even knew the difference!
Fuel System Maintenance
The fuel systems on these scooters are pretty simple: Gasoline is stored in your gas tank. This fuel is then delivered to your engine's carburetor or fuel injector, by way of a gravity feed or fuel pump. At the carburetor/injector, fuel is mixed with an appropriate amount of air such that it can combust in your engine and make power. Despite the simplicity, many fuel system components rely on tiny passageways or orifices for fuel/air to pass through. These are very tiny, and very easily clogged. Certainly, foreign objects like rust, sand, dirt, grit, or otherwise could obstruct these passageways, but its not just as easy as keeping these contaminants out of your fuel system: gasoline itself can react and age in such away that it can clog your fuel system!
Gasoline is made up of organic compounds, which are fairly reactive. When exposed to air and/or moisture, these compounds can react, changing the form of liquid gasoline into something more gummy, or varnish-like. If we let this happen, it will almost certainly obstruct a fuel orifice, causing the scooter to run poorly (or not at all) come spring. Therefore we suggest you:
-Use a fuel stabilizer. These are available at most hardware or auto parts stores, one leading brand is STA-BIL. Fuels stabilizers act to sort of envelop gasoline at the molecular level, to shield these molecules from exposure to air or moisture. They are simple to use: fill your gas tank (this will displace any air from your tank, minimizing the possibility of rust formation in a steel tank), then add some STA-BIL. Most scoots have about 1+ gallon gas tanks, so you shouldn't need more than 1 ounce (double check the instructions on the particular product you use). Now the fuel in the tank is effectively stabilized, but we want to stabilize the fuel in the fuel lines, filters, and carburetor/injector as well. Simply run the scooter around for 5-10 minutes, return home, and you ought to be good to go. This will keep your gasoline nice and fresh for 12-24 months... more than long enough to grant an easy-start up in the spring.
Proper Storage Locations
Let's not overlook the more obvious point here: we need to plan ahead and find a suitable place to house the scooter or moped for the winter months. Generally speaking, the warmer the better, and the drier, the better. Here's a list, from worst to best, of potential storage locations for your scooter:
- Outside, entirely exposed to the elements: this is the worst thing you can do to your scooter. Expect it take quite some tinkering to get it fired up again in the spring
- Outside, with a tarp or cover on it: the tarp only eliminates some direct exposure to water/snow. Realistically, your scoot will see the same temperatures and moisture levels as it would without the tarp
- In a shed/lean-to/tent: if your shed is really nice, this could be ok. What you need is an insulated, heated space. Most sheds in New England are pretty crummy, and though direct exposure to moisture is greatly reduced, its still going to get plenty cold and damp in there
- In a basement: again, if this is a nice finished basement, this could be ok. However, many New England cellars have dirt floors and stone foundations, leaving your scoot in a pretty cold, dank place.
- In your garage: ahh, now we're getting comfy. Most garages are suitable places to store a scooter. Remember, the warmer/drier the better. A well insulated, heated garage is a great spot to store your scooter. Stabilize your fuel and hook up a trickle charger, and your scoot is effectively in "statis". You'll be able to start it up in the spring like nothing ever happened!
If you keep all that in mind this fall/winter, you ought to be able to keep your scoot in pretty nice shape throughout its hibernation. Keep in mind, the failure of scooter owners to perform this type of maintenance frequently results in sizeable service/repair bills come spring time! Try to think ahead: $40 now for some tools/supplies, and a little of your time could save you HUNDREDS come spring, get you out on the road sooner, and greatly extend the life of your scooter. So why wouldn't you winterize the old girl?
That said, for those of you who are unable to perform this sort of storage, Port City Mopeds does offer a winterization and storage service at $35/month! Check out our winterization service page for more details.