Motorcycle fuel tanks hold significantly less gasoline than a car’s.
And since a quarter gallon of fuel in a motorcycle makes up a large percentage of your capacity, fuel sloshing around in the tank can lead to dramatic shifts and gross inaccuracies in electric fuel gauge readings.
Also, fuel gauges can brake. Some motorcycles don’t even come with fuel meters because of their small tank size, leaving riders asking themselves how to check a motorcycle’s fuel level without a fuel gauge.
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Here’s the Short Answer to How To check Your Motorcycle’s Fuel Level:
Calculating MPG and tracking mileage is the most accurate method to track your bike’s fuel.
Others may install an electronic fuel gauge that reads your fuel level on a scale of empty to complete. This is more like a car, or a transparent analog fuel hose that shows you where the fuel level is in units of measurement.
Another method is to check the fuel level with a liquid dipstick. You can also use a flashlight to peek into your tank and gauge the percentage of full.
For example, if you know you have a 5-gallon tank, and you use a flashlight or a dipstick to figure out it’s half full, you know you have around 2.5 gallons of fuel.
Here’s How To Check Your Fuel Level on a Fuel Injected Motorcycle
The most accurate way to track your motorcycle’s fuel without a fuel gauge is the old-fashioned pen-and-paper method.
- Consult your manual to find out exactly what your bike’s fuel tank capacity is.
- Fill your tank to the top with fuel.
- Before you leave the gas station, write down the number of miles on your odometer; if your motorcycle has a trip meter, reset it to start a new trip.
- Monitor your bike’s fuel tank with a flashlight until it’s a quarter full tank and three-quarters empty.
- Refill your gas, calculating how many gallons you’ve used since the last time you filled the tank by monitoring the gas station’s fuel meter during fill up.
- Divide the miles you rode between fill-ups by the number of gallons of fuel it took to fill your bike up to get your average Miles Per Gallon, or MPG.
Now that you know how many miles your motorcycle goes per gallon of gas. You can figure out how much fuel is in your tank with your odometer by tracking how many miles you’ve gone.
For example, if your motorcycle tank has a 4-gallon fuel capacity and you have 40 miles per gallon, you know that if you’ve gone 120 miles, your fuel tank only has 40 miles left in it.
You can make this process even easier by using a mileage-tracking phone application. You just have to enter the information from your bike, and it takes care of all the math mileage tracking for you.
According to Forbes business magazine, these are the best mileage-tracking applications:
- Zoho Expense: Best for All-in-One Solution
- Rydoo: Best for Tech, Construction, and Manufacturing
- QuickBooks Online: Best for Freelancers and Independent Contractors
- Everlance: Best for a Simple Solution
- FreshBooks: Best for Tracking Small Business Tax Deductions
- SAP Concur Expense: Best for Customized Plans
- Shoeboxed: Best for Miles and Receipt Tracking
SOURCE: Forbes Advisor
If you don’t feel like doing all that math, reading, writing, or messing with your phone, you can install a fuel hose kit into your motorcycle’s fuel tank to check your motorcycle’s fuel level.
A fuel hose mounts to the side of your tank, and it runs at the same angle your tank runs. The hose fills with fuel via its upper and lower braces, which drill into the tank.
The hose then fills with fuel and acts as a level, showing you how full the tank is with gasoline.
A more contemporary method of checking your motorcycle’s fuel level is to install an electric fuel gauge, which leads to an instrument gauge that mounts to your handlebars. The indicator uses a needle to represent how full your tank is on a scale of empty to full.
In this regard, it is important to check some of the reasons why a motorcycle won’t start after running out of gas.
Here’s How To Check Your Fuel Level on a Carburetted Motorcycle:
- Carburetted motorcycles have a reserve tank which often includes a fuel cut-off knob.
- Use your full tank and switch to your reserve tank.
- Next, fill your fuel tank with at least two gallons of fuel and write down your mileage.
- Switch from your reserve to your primary fuel supply and ride your motorcycle like normal until it hits the reserve tank.
- Write down the mileage and calculate your average MPG, keeping the resulting number as a reference to tracking your fuel usage while you are riding.
- The number of miles you’ve traveled since your last fill-up should show you how many gallons you have left in the tank.
How To Check the Fuel Level of Your Motorcycle Carburetor
The first step to checking the fuel level of the bike’s carb is consulting the service manual for your motorcycle to find the spec fuel level. This is important, as excess fuel can cause overflowing fuel and carb leaks.
On a carburetted motorcycle, improper fuel levels lead to starting problems, poor engine performance, an adverse air/fuel ratio, and power loss at particular throttle positions.
Once you’ve established the spec fuel level, find a clear tube of the appropriate diameter to seamlessly connect to your carburetor bowl’s overflow or drain hole.
Next, set the bike on a center stand, or get a buddy to sit on your motorcycle and keep it straight so your motorcycle is not leaning on its side stand.
Unscrew the carburetor drain plug, allowing fuel to enter the clear tube.
Hold the tube up against the bike’s carburetor to measure the fuel level against the spec in your service manual. If you’re in a pinch, the standard level is 2 mm below the top of the carburetor.
If your carburetor is holding too much fuel, you’ll need to adjust the float needle, as it’s letting too much fuel into the carb chamber.
- Remove the carb’s float bowl.
- Remove the retaining pin to detach the carb floats.
- Bend the tabs on the carb float towards the needle to lower your fuel level if it’s too high. Move it away from the needle to elevate your carb’s fuel level if it’s too low.
- Measure the amount of fuel.
- While removing your carburetor bowl, you may as well clean and rebuild your carburetor before re-installing it.
Make sure you also check out our post on why motorcycle oil smells like gas.
Can a Low Gas Fuel Level Hurt the Engine?
Running your motorcycle with low fuel can lead to engine damage due to a faulty fuel pump.
The fuel pump in your bike’s tank is to serve as a source of lubrication and cooling for your fuel. If the pump isn’t totally submerged, it risks overheating and increases the pump’s friction, leading to an early failure.
A malfunctioning fuel pump can lead to a lean air-fuel mix. This is a situation when extra air fills the space where the fuel should be, causing the engine to overheat and the performance to decline.
Furthermore, if your motorcycle tank is lined with nothing more than crude metals on the inside, like many old-school and retro designs, a lack of fuel can cause the metal linings to rust, flake off, and contaminate the fuel supply. This often causes engine troubles.
Is It Good To Let the Fuel Run Low Sometimes?
On modern motorcycles, there’s no real reason to run your bike out of fuel, as it only serves to damage your fuel pump.
If you need to empty your tank or lines of bad gas, we suggest you remove and drain your tank and lines, flush your lines, put everything back, and fill your tank to the top with high-grade fuel rather than running your tank until it’s empty.