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#18: Indoor winter scooter storage?

December 21, 2009

Today’s question for Dr. Buzz comes from From Phil T. from Chicago, IL:

I have a scooter that I plan to keep in storage for this winter. My plan is to keep it in the basement of our 9-unit building, but I want to be sure that I do everything necessary to both 1, avoid the scooter becoming a fire hazard and 2, ensure that the scooter operates well for the spring unveiling.

I can find some info for number 2. Is there any strong course of action you would recommend, regarding fuel stabilizers, oil change, etc?

Number 1 is my greater concern. I want to do everything possible to reduce the risk of the scooter posing a fire hazard to the building. Is there a recommended plan for running down the gas, emptying fumes, etc? Are there legal concerns?

Phil, I ran this one past the 2strokebuzz panel of experts, and the consensus seemed to be “Don’t do it!.” I think it’s do-able, but you’re not going to like my suggestions.

Let’s actually start with #2 (snort! #2!). There are lots of good guides on the web to winterizing your scooter, and I don’t have much to add to what’s been said many times. There are some arguments over whether or not to use Stabil, and how important a battery tender is, but I’m saying in your case those are moot, because there’s no way you should be putting the bike indoors with fluids or a battery in it.

Which brings us back to #1. If you’re storing a bike indoors, especially in a basement of a multi-unit dwelling which presumably also is home to hot water heaters and furnaces with open flames, there’s no choice but to thoroughly drain the gas and oil from the bike. Your basement was not built according to the building codes relating to garages, and thus is not a safe place for a motor vehicle. Aside from combustion issues, your bike is likely to release noxious fumes that could annoy or cause health problems for you and other tenants. If you’re the landlord, your insurance probably wouldn’t cover any damage or loss resulting from the scooter being improperly stored indoors, and your tenants won’t be happy about the fumes. If you’re not the landlord, he’s the person you should be asking, not me. Speaking as a landlord myself, I’m betting he (or at least his more practical wife) wouldn’t be too happy about it!

The good news is, if you’re going through the trouble to remove the battery and drain the fluids, you’re probably going to eliminate any problems with rust, sediment, or gumminess. With new gas and oil in the spring, and a freshly-charged battery, the bike should run like new.

The bad news is, it’s probably more effort than you wanted to put into it.

The best solution for folks without a garage is to take their scooter to a dealer or service station for winter storage. Many scooter shops and motorcycle dealers offer this service, sometimes it includes a free spring check-up. It’s not cheap, but they’re insured, usually climate-controlled, and they’ll take good care of your bike, and save you lots of trouble. I know (for instance) Ace Motorcycle and Scooter offers this service in Chicago, and the other dealers surely can recommend a storage facility if they don’t offer the service themselves.

If that price tag is too high, perhaps a friend will rent garage space. Just be sure to work out the details ahead of time: who pays for damage if he backs his Corolla into your bike? What happens when it doesn’t start in the Spring and you end up leaving there an extra two months? Twelve years ago, one of my first scooter buddies asked if he could keep his P200 in my apartment garage for the winter. Ten years ago, we bought a house and the scooter moved with us. It’s still out in my garage as I speak. Luckily (for him) we’re still good friends, and he might get it back someday, but you may not be so lucky, ha.

Do you have a question for the 2strokebuzz experts? Email Dr. Buzz! Your confidentiality is guaranteed.

Note: Dr. Buzz is an unlicensed, mostly-fictional doctor. Take his advice, and that of his team of experts, with a grain of salt.

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