Spring is finally here and it’s time to get back on the road. Here are the top five things to check, verify and maintain for your winter-stored modern scooter. Start with you tires and fuel, and move on to your battery and some soapy water. Once you complete these checks, it's time for that long ride that you've been waiting for!
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Make sure that your tires are at the correct pressure as they may have lost a few pounds over the storage months. Look for a sticker under the seat or in the manual for the proper inflation pressure - never use the tire sidewall, as it’s often the maximum pressure that the tire can take. Inflate using a electrical pump or compressor and use a reliable gauge. Examine the Schrader Valve (the little pin in the middle of the tire stem) for tightness. You can get a small H-shaped Schrader Valve tool at your local car parts store. While you are checking the pressure, examine the tread and sidewall of your tire to look for cuts or abrasions that could turn serious. And of course, if you use a dedicated winter wet or mud and snow rated tire, think about putting your summer tires back on!
Of course you filled your scooter to the brim and dosed the fuel with STA BIL or Sea Foam, right? It’s a good thing that you did, because you can mostly just go ride. If you didn’t dose your fuel, it may have separated or turned to a varnish-like substance that won’t burn effectively, but it will clog up the small passages in you carburetor or fuel injection and cause hard starting or even the dreaded “no start” condition. The upshot is preparation is better than repair, so get some fresh fuel and some fuel preservative in your tank ASAP.
Scoots love to eat batteries with their often short trip use and meager battery recharging power. Many scooterists maintain their scoots with a battery maintainer set-up like the Battery Tender. If you put your battery on a “float” charger (where the battery is allowed to run down a bit before the charger kicks in) before winter, you may be OK and it doesn’t hurt to try. If you do have an electrical problem where there wasn’t one before, try testing and/or replacing the battery first, as it often solves the problem. Never “jump” a scooter battery with a running car, as severe damage can result. Jumping your scooter battery from a not running car’s battery to the scoot battery is OK. If all of your lights and horn working, get a long ride in to help the battery to maintain it’s charge.
Be sure to spend some quality time with you fresh-from-storage scooter. Give it a warm water wash with some good automotive car washing liquid. Avoid washing the engine or any electrical components with a strong stream of water. Work from top to bottom and rinse gently. Then dry your scooter with a soft towel and take some time to closely examine your scoot from front to back and on both sides. Look for loose fasteners (exhaust bolts, wheel or axle fixing bolts and nuts) and body panels. Examine your scoot for unseen damage and think about putting some light lubricant on the areas called out in your owner’s manual. I also give my electrical connectors a quick shot of WD-40 to help avoid future trouble.
In addition to fixing things that have fallen off your scooter during the long winter, now is the time to make sure that your oil, brake and radiator (if equipped) fluids are fresh. The oil is the most important, as modern scoots thrash oil pretty well and have relatively short maintenance periods. If your scoot has hydraulic brakes, the fluid must be changed every few years in order to ensure that it’s not holding water and rusting from the inside out. If your scoot is water cooled, be sure to follow manufacturer’s recommendations as to frequency of changing the water/coolant mixture, the type of coolant used (very important on the aluminum engines of most scooters) and how to do it. If you don’t want to mess around with the sometimes complex systems of brakes and radiators, have your local shop fix it up for you. They will be happy to help. Ride safe and reliably this spring.