It’s already sad enough shutting your bike into the garage for a lengthy time of inactivity.
You must execute various steps and treatments before your bike sits to ensure its various components don’t corrode, including its fuel tank and lines.
Follow the steps to winterize your motorcycle correctly, and you’ll eventually be forced to ask yourself, should I store a motorcycle with a full or empty tank?
Here’s the Short Answer to Should I Store a Motorcycle With Full or Empty Tank:
You should store your motorcycle with a full tank of fuel. The space in an empty fuel tank allows moisture to enter, which then corrodes the tank and fuel. Once corrupted, tank rust can flake off and jam engine parts; running corroded fuel can clog up your fuel lines.
That said, if you’re planning to store your motorcycle for more than six months, you can empty the tank and remove it, applying liner oil to the inside of the tank to prevent rust or oxidation.
But because it’s hard to truly drain your fuel lines, which are also suspectible to slow-rate oxidization and corruption, we only suggest emptying and removing your tank if you’re storing your bike indefinitely, unsure of when you’ll be riding again.
Hence, the above method is for a long-term motorcycle storage situation.
If you’re only stashing your bike for a season, say the few cold months of winter, we suggest leaving the tank intact and topping the bike off with a full tank of fresh, high-octane fuel.
If you plan on storing your motorcycle for a month or two (but again, less than six), you’ll need to add a fuel stabilizer and a fuel tank of gas, then take the bike around the block a few times to integrate it into your lines. We’ll get more detailed on the proper stabilizer and fuel tank etiquette below.
How Much Fuel to Leave in the Tank When Storing a Motorcycle?
We suggest storing your motorcycle with a full tank of fresh fuel that’s been treated with a stabilizer and ran through your lines during a short ride. Empty tank space allows moisture to enter, which can oxidize your tank and gunk up your fuel.
Check the owner’s manual for your specific year model motorcycle to be sure of which type of fuel your bike was engineered to run with. Try to run everything in your tank until you are close to empty, then refill your tank with the OEM-recommended fuel type and octane count.
Next, do some research to find a stabilizer that accommodates your bike and its fuel type to prevent your motorcycle’s fuel supply from corrupting.
This process can vary depending on whether your bike is fuel injected or carburetted; we’ll explain how to properly stabilize your fuel in the sections below.
How Many Months Can You Store a Motorcycle Without Adding Stabilizer?
You can only store unstabilized fuel for about 30 days or for one month before its quality starts to deteriorate. When stale fuel is exposed to oxygen, its chemistry changes, leading to fuel corrosion and gumming-up, which can lead to clogs elsewhere in your motorcycle.
The fuel you put in your motorcycle has been harvested, processed, and refined just a few days before it’s shipped to the gas station you last gassed up at.
This is because the rate at which fuel evaporates makes it volatile, meaning its combustion quality will weaken in time.
It only takes 30 days for the fuel in a stagnant fuel tank to oxidize enough to alter its chemistry. This alteration, coupled with the evaporation of the fuel, causes it to gum up—this process only takes about 30 days to kick in.
In addition, most modern motor manufacturers suggest ethanol-free fuel because the ethanol attracts moisture, which adds another layer of corrosion into the mix.
All this can be avoided by treating your motorcycle’s fuel with a stabilizer if you plan on letting it sit for over a month.
What Is the Right Process for Adding Stabilizer?
Before storing your motorcycle, the proper process is to add a fuel stabilizer and a full tank of whatever fuel your moto-manufacturer recommends. Then, run your bike for a few minutes to integrate the stabilizer into the fuel and through your fuel system.
Stabilizing your fuel extends its life so that it won’t break down over the period of stagnant storage, ensuring that your bike will fire up as soon as it’s time to ride again with a full tank of stabilized fuel.
That said, it’s essential to follow the specific instructions on the particular bottle of stabilizer you’re using.
Using too little stabilizer won’t affect the fuel at all, while using too much can dilute your fuel supply and cause misfiring, backfiring performance, and power loss.
Here’s How to Add Stabilizer to Fuel Before Storing a Motorcycle:
- Consult the instructions on the bottle of stabilizer you plan on using.
- Calculate the amount of stabilizer you’ll need based on your tank’s actual fuel capacity; add the exact amount of stabilizer to your motorcycle tank, along with a full tank of fuel.
- Take a quick spin around the block to integrate the stabilizer and fuel and run them through your fuel system.
- Proceed to winterize your motorcycle, prepping it the rest of the way for safe storage.
Is it Better to Remove the Tank Before Storing the Bike?
It’s best to store your bike with the tank on and at full capacity with fresh fuel that’s been treated with a stabilizer. If you do have to empty the tank and remove it, you’ll have to drain it all the way so you can line it with fogging oil.
A partially emptied tank leaves room for condensation to build and pressurize. The air allowed to fill the vacuum carries moisture into the tank that can oxidize and rust any surface area of the tank walls uncovered by fuel.
That said, even a full tank of fuel that’s been treated with a stabilizer will start to vaporize if it sits stagnant for longer than six months.
Even if it doesn’t degrade immediately, as untreated fuel does, it will eventually start to evaporate, turning a full tank of treated fuel into a partially emptied tank before you know it.
While the best practice is described above, if you plan on storing your motorcycle indefinitely for at least longer than six months, your fuel will start to evaporate even if it’s treated.
Therefore, you run the risk of your fuel sucking the moisture out of the intruding air and turning to gunk.
Gummed-up fuel can clog any fuel system, whether carburetted or fuel injected. So, for long-term storage, you can either continually top off your fuel supply with stabilized fuel to reduce the empty space as much as possible or empty your tank entirely and seal off your fuel lines.
Once empty, you’ll need to line your tank with treatment so that it doesn’t oxidize or rust while in storage.
If you have to store an empty motorcycle tank by itself, the instructions at the bottom of the next section will ensure the tank doesn’t rust.
What Happens If You Empty the Tank when Storing the Motorcycle?
If you store your motorcycle with an empty tank, you risk oxidation and corrosion to the interior of your tank. The moisture in air molecules is enough to rust the iron aspects of the metal wall of your tank, weakening the metal’s bond and eventually eating through the tank.
Holes in your gas tank are a prominent issue, and mending tank holes costs about the same as buying a new fuel tank.
Another severe risk of storing your motorcycle with an empty fuel tank is damage to your bike’s fuel pump.
The fuel in your tank serves as lubrication for your fuel pump. Storing your fuel tank empty allows your fuel pump to dry out and develop rust in some of its critical components.
This can then lead to a slew of other overheating and engine problems once you’ve jumped back in the saddle, even after you’ve refilled the tank.
I’m sure we’ve made this clear by now, but in most situations, it’s optimal to store your motorcycle with a full tank of fuel that’s been treated with a stabilizer.
That said, there are times when you’re forced to store your tank empty. If that’s the case, there are some precautions you can take to avoid the damages mentioned above.
- Empty your fuel tank. Remove your fuel lines and run the fuel into a suitable receptacle.
- Now, to burn off the residual fuel, fire up your bike and run it until it stalls out from lack of fuel.
- Keep the fuel cap off, allowing the tank to air dry for a few hours so the fuel residue will evaporate.
- Pour half a bottle of rubbing alcohol into the tank and slosh it around to coat the inside of the tank. The alcohol will absorb any residual moisture.
- Let the alcohol evaporate by repeating Step 3, taking the last of the residue with it.
- Add silica gel packets into the emptied tank to hinder the development of rust, as silicone absorbs and retains moisture. We suggest hanging the packs all from a string so you can pull them out quickly when it’s time to fill her back up.
- Finally, secure your fuel cap, tightening it to its full spec, so it’s sealed so that moisture and air can’t get in. Seal your fuel lines and petcock also, if applicable.