As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, it is that time of the year for those living in cold climates to start thinking about storing your motorcycle away for the winter. Completing a thorough detail is one of the most crucial steps in preparing your bike for storage. Detailing everything will help keep your bike at peak performance, retain a high resale value, and keep your investment looking its very best.

I have seen many bikes come out of storage that have not been detailed before putting them away, and now all the bugs, water spots, and dirt that weren’t removed properly have caused damage to the paint and chrome. The damage is etching through the paint’s clearcoat, water spotting, and rusting into the chrome.

Detailing is more than just making your motorcycle look good. Detailing requires time and it’s not an easy task as some of the many nooks and crannies require meticulous cleaning. You must also ensure you are using the right chemicals and tools to clean. There are four stages to the detailing process: 1) Pre-washing, 2) Washing, 3) Drying, and 4) Polishing.

Always wash your motorcycle when the engine is completely cool, never hot, and always wash your bike in a shaded area, not in direct sunlight. Washing in direct sunlight increases your chances of water spotting, soap drying onto all surfaces, or chemicals drying before they can be safely removed, which could cause permanent staining. If you don’t have a shaded area, I suggest washing early in the morning or late afternoon when the sun is not at its peak.

"Detailing everything will help keep your bike at peak performance..."

Step 1: Pre-washing

The pre-wash stage consists of gently running water over your bike to help with the initial removal of loose dirt and grime. If you have a foam cannon, you can foam the entire bike down, let it sit for a couple of minutes, then rinse off. This extra step to remove more dirt will help reduce the chance of scratching, swirling, or marring the paint during the contact wash. If you have bug guts, you’ll want to pretreat these areas with a safe bug removal product such as Gtechniq W8 Bug Remover.

Step 2: Washing

Wash your rims and tires first; these tend to be the dirtiest, and you don’t want to completely detail your bike again after it’s been cleaned. Next, wash from the top of the bike down. The top is generally less dirty than when you get to the bottom of the bike. Always use good microfiber towels or wash mitts to prevent scratching, swirling, or marring the paint. I always use separate microfiber towels that are designated for washing the painted surfaces and vs. plastics. You don’t want to use the same microfiber towel for paint that has also been used on the engine area or other contaminated areas.

Step 3: Drying

There are a couple of options for drying your bike. My favorite is rinsing the entire bike first with deionized water (water that essentially has all the impurities removed that cause water spots) and then using an electric blower to get all the water out of the nooks and crannies while making it a “touchless” process, reducing the chances of scratching, swirling, or marring any areas. The most common way for most would be drying everything with a towel. Just make sure you are, once again, using a good microfiber towel.

Step 4: Polishing

The final stage is polishing the chrome, conditioning all the leather, and applying wax or sealant to the paint. Want something much easier to maintain your bike’s exterior paint, plastic, and leather? Talk to your local detailer about installing a ceramic graphene coating in all these areas. Ceramic graphene coatings can reduce your cleaning time in half, reduce etching into your clear coat, protect your paint’s brilliance, and help maintain your leather for years to come.

Coming into winter storage with a clean bike will only help ensure that it is ready for that early spring ride. This was a broad overview of the general steps in detailing your motorcycle. Detailing can be overwhelming, confusing, expensive, and time-consuming, so reach out to your trusted local detailer and see what services they can offer you.

Authored By: Jason Lichter

Jason Lichter is the owner and operator behind Luminous Auto Detail, a top-tier car, truck, and motorcycle detailing service. Reach out to Luminous Auto Detail for all your automotive cleaning needs at 262-664-1035 or

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