Winterizing your scooter

As I watch the snow come down, I dream of the return of spring. Riding my scooter without thoughts of frozen roads and 87 thermal layers sounds incredibly enticing.  On the flip side of that coin, I know that spring is when Scoot Richmond becomes the carburetor cleaning and battery recharging and replacing center of the universe.  Scooters just don’t like to sit by lonesome for an extended period of time.  This is especially true considering the current gas formulation’s ethanol content.  Ethanol wrecks havoc on carbureted vehicles.  The smaller the carb and engine, the greater the havoc.

Here are some tips to help your scoot require as little professional help as possible once the sun comes back out.  First we’ll cover the easy stuff, such as the battery, tires, and cosmetics.  Then we’ll tackle the tougher question of the fuel system.

The small battery in your scooter is acutely sensitive to cold weather and lack of use.  Once a battery has deeply
discharged, the battery becomes a lost cause.  Batteries aren’t cheap, making it both smart and easy to maintain your current battery.  To do this, you will need a Battery Tender Jr.  The Battery Tender is a trickle charger which should be attached to your battery consistently when the scooter is not in use.  This product monitors your battery and keeps it at its optimum charge level all the time, ensuring that your scoot is ready to roll and that your battery does not get destroyed by way of a deep discharge. You can use the Battery Tender Jr with the battery still in your scooter by way of the detachable pigtails.  That’s the best plan of attack if you hope to ride your scoot on the occasional nice day and your scoot is parked inside of a garage or shed with electricity.  If your scooter lives outside without an electrical outlet located nearby, then you can easily remove the battery from your scoot.  Bring the battery inside your house, find an out of the way spot for the charger and the battery, plug it in and forget about it.  The important note here is that batteries do not like sitting directly on a concrete floor.  Make sure you get that battery off of your floor!

The Battery Tender Jr is available at Scoot Richmond for $39.00.

Make sure that your tires are at the optimum air pressure as suggested by the scooter manufacturer.  Flat tires will only become more flat over time, and eventually your tires can become misshapen from all the weight sitting on the same spot on the tires.

If your scooter lives inside over the winter and you know that you definitely won’t be riding it before spring, you may want to prop the center of the scooter up and keep the tires off of the ground completely.  That will definitely prolong tire life after a long hard winter, but obviously isn’t useful for folks that keep their scooter outside.

Clean the heck out of your scoot before you park it for the winter.  Make sure that you get all of the dead bugs, bird poop, and other assorted road crap off of the scoot.  This stuff is easy to take off when it is fresh, but becomes more difficult to remove without damaging the paint of your bike over time.

Use a scooter cover to keep your bike away from weather as well as prying eyes/hands.  Scoot Richmond carries a number of different covers for different uses.  If your scooter is inside a garage or shed, you can take the simple route and use a bed sheet or tablecloth.

Now comes the tough part about winterizing your scooter.  Let’s talk about the gasoline.

You will have the best luck beginning this procedure with a relatively empty gas tank, as that will best allow the fuel stabilizer to permeate the carburetor.  Make sure your scoot is as close to empty as you can take it.  Then head to the gas station, because you’ll need to fill up.  But first…

IT’S STARTRON TIME!  Grab your handy dandy bottle of Startron, available at Scoot Richmond.  That small bottle is good for a whole lot of fuel.  Use as per the instructions and add a measured amount of Startron to your close-to-empty gas tank.  Fill your gas tank.  Then drive home.  If home is less than 5 miles away, you may want to take the long way home.  Five miles is usually good to ensure that the Startron treated fuel is mixed well in your tank and has taken up residence in your carb too.

What’s the deal with Startron, and why is it abso-freaking-lutely necessary?  It’s just $7.95 for a bottle that will last you for 48 gallons, and it will save you 20-fold in terms of services and frustration.  Startron does FAR more than most fuel stabilizers, which is why it is the only fuel stabilizer we use.  Most fuel stabilizing additives do just one thing, and that is keep gas from going bad over time.  Startron does that quite well.  It is also a fuel system cleanser (similar to Seafoam), which helps keep your carb from getting crazy gummed up.  Last but not least, Startron has stuff in it that helps your scooter (or motorcycle or boat or lawnmower or…) deal with the ethanol in today’s fuel. Plastic and rubber pieces in fuel systems tend to swell and degrade over time when driven with E10 exclusively, and Startron helps to slow that process.  Read more about Startron here.

By filling the tank, you’ve removed most of the empty space in the gas tank.  Empty space means that there are surfaces for condensation to gather.  That condensation leads to water in your fuel system (bad) and rust in your gas tank (worse).

Using Startron in the gas and then running the scooter for a bit before tucking it away for the winter will help the current tank of gas stay good and combustible for much longer than it would without the stabilizer.  The cleaning element of Startron will help keep fuel in your carb from evaporating, leaving behind a horrible nasty sticky stuff that clogs the tiny passages in the carburetor.  In the event that the scoot sits for long enough for the gas in the carb to evaporate anyways, the addition of Startron keeps that sticky residue from really sticking.

There are two notable exceptions to these rules of fuel.

The first is if your scooter has relatively low miles.  You see, when the manufacturer ships a new scooter from Taiwan or Italy or Japan or (godforbid) China to the USA, the gas tank is coated with a chemical to prevent rust from forming on the long boat trip.  That chemical is dissolved over time by gasoline, which is of course one heck of a solvent.  Once you have some miles on your scoot and have run a few tanks of gas through it, the chemical tank coating completely washes away and you are golden.  However if your scoot hasn’t had several tanks of gas run through it before winterization, that chemical exacerbates carburetor problems and makes them FAR more likely.

Secondly, 49cc scooters often have exceedingly small carburetors.  These small carbs have even smaller passages through which the fuel travels.  The smaller the passage, the faster the fuel evaporates, making it more likely that you will have crap stuck in the carb, even not long after parking it.

If your scooter falls into one or both of the categories, sometimes we see folks that do everything right and STILL have a running problem in the spring.  Does that mean that your scooter is a lost cause?  Nope!  In that case, it is even MORE important to take care of the winterization process as noted.  Using Startron means that if your carb does still need to be cleaned in the spring, it is a quick and easy process.  No need to soak the carb for centuries, no need to struggle and/or make up 4 letter words.  A simple cleaning with compressed air will usually take care of business, a procedure that takes less time than a soak and clean, and accordingly costs less than a soak and clean.

Keep in mind that occasionally taking your scooter out for a quick spin is a HUGE help, especially for folks that fall into the 49cc or recently purchased categories.  Just starting the scooter in the garage without riding it isn’t enough.  You’ll need to start the scooter and ride it for at least 10-15 minutes.  Do this anytime the temperatures allow.  Ideally, do this once a week.  In the event that you live in a snow-covered tundra, just do it whenever possible.  Every scooter is different, and every scooter will response differently to winterization, which makes it impossible to give a definitive interval that will result in success.

If you are concerned that your scooter is going to be a problem child, then there is usually a way to disconnect various fuel lines in order to manually drain the gas from the fuel line and carb.  This isn’t always an easy task, and can end in tears if you don’t know what you are doing.  If that is the case, Scoot Richmond can definitely perform this service on your scoot for you.  Keep in mind that you won’t be able to ride it back home, nor will you be able to ride it on the occasional nice day.

If your scooter or motorcycle has a manual fuel valve shut off, follow the above instructions on how to add Startron to the vehicle.  Once you arrive back at home after filling up, park the vehicle on its stand.  While the vehicle is still left running, close the fuel valve.  Do not rev the engine.  Just wait until the scooter stops running on the remaining fuel in the fuel line, carburetor, and cylinder.  Then finish turning the scooter off as usual.

For folks with fuel injected scooters such as the Vespa GTS or the Genuine Blur, you don’t have quite as much to worry about as the carbureted scooters.  The fuel injection is a computer driven process, and fuel isn’t sitting there in a mechanical carb going bad.  Make sure you use the Startron as instructed above and you will almost certainly be good to go, fuel-wise.

Are these instructions too much for your brain to manage?  It’s ok!  Scoot Richmond offers winterization services as well as monthly winter storage.  Monthly winter storage is $60 per month ($40 per month if you purchase 3 months at a time), and winterization costs depend on the vehicle.  Call us for more details!

4 Comments on “Winterizing your scooter

  1. Thank you for this article on winterizing the 150 scoot. It was extremely helpful!! I wish I had checked it out last year when I purchased my scooter from some small shop in University WA …I had to take my scooter back to him and he said he had to clean the carb……well my scooter never ran the same after his service. I had to buy a new one which cost me less than the service he did. So, again thank you for posting this useful information:O)

  2. Thanks for such a complete and easy to understand article – it was just what I needed. If you were in Chicago, I’d just let you handle my scooter!

  3. I was wondering if using the regular Battery Tender, not the Battery Tender Jr., it is still ok to keep the battery plugged in full time. I live in the midwest where it is sometimes sub-zero for many weeks at a time, and I certainly won’t be riding it again until about March. I have the Battery Tender and the plug-in is hooked up to the battery so I can charge it without removing it from the bike. (I have a Genuine Buddy 170i, which I love!) I usually use higher octane ethanol fuel, and my tank is currently pretty full. Should I siphon out the gas and then run it dry and do the process you recommended in the article?
    Thanks for your comments.

  4. Deb, you should be fine with the battery tender AND the gas, since your scoot is fuel injected. As long as the battery is ready to rock in the spring, you should be good to go! Hope that helps a bit!

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