Storing a motorcycle for long periods of time can seem like a daunting task. You may have heard horror stories of people who didn’t properly take the right measures before storing only to find significant damage to their bike.
Whether you need to store the tank by itself or the whole motorcycle itself with an empty tank, the steps to doing so are simple but are vital in maintaining the life of the tank.
How do you store an empty motorcycle gas tank? If you need to store an empty motorcycle gas tank by itself, completely empty the tank, add some rubbing alcohol and let the inside completely dry. Add some silicone packets to absorb any excess moisture and store it in a place where it won’t get damaged. Follow the same steps if you need to store your motorcycle with an empty tank.
I’ve found myself in many scenarios where I had to both store a motorcycle gas tank by itself as well as store the whole motorcycle with an empty tank. This is what I’ve learned in the process that can help you keep up with and maintain your motorcycle and it’s parts.
Storing A Motorcycle Gas Tank By Itself
There could be several reasons why a person may need to store a motorcycle gas tank by itself, meaning the tank is taken off the motorcycle and stored separately. As I had just mentioned, I’ve had to do this several times myself mostly because I eventually planned on fixing the tank when the weather was a little warmer or I was going to sell it eventually.
Whatever your case may be, it’s completely possible to store the tank by itself with little risk of damage to it if the proper steps are taken. The first thing you’ll need to determine is where you’re going to be storing it. It’s ideal to store it in a temperature controlled environment, such as a basement or shop. Having a motorcycle tank stored in such an environment will give it it’s best chance in the future.
That’s not to say that storing it in extreme heat or extreme cold will completely ruin it. You’ll just need to keep an extra eye on it to make sure it isn’t rusting or corroding in any way.
In either case, make sure to store your tank in a place where it won’t be tampered with. Don’t leave it on the ground in the garage because that’s almost a guarantee it’ll get scratched or dented. I learned this lesson the hard way because a college roommate of mine once decided to use one of my motorcycle tanks as a stepping stool which resulted in a huge dent.
It you put it up on a shelf, make sure it’s secure and won’t fall off. Small vibrations from thunder or passing trains can make the tank slowly find it’s way to the edge and make it fall. Also make sure it’s surroundings don’t have the potential of scratching it up.
Once you find a storage place, remove the tank from the motorcycle if you haven’t already. Drain all the fuel into a safe container. Keep the cap off the top for several hours to let the excess fuel evaporate. To ensure there’s no residual fluids, poor a half a bottle or so of rubbing alcohol into the tank, close the cap, and swish it around so it coats the entire inside of the tank.
Poor out any excess rubbing alcohol and again keep the cap off to let the alcohol evaporate. Rubbing alcohol is soluble with water and will assist in evaporation. It’s also soluble with gas so no damage will be done if it’s mixed with gas.
Next, put several silica gel packets inside the tank (the same ones you find in certain food products). Silicone is a desiccant which absorbs and holds any excess moisture around it. This will further prevent any possible rusting. It’s easiest to tie a string around them before you put them in so you can simply pull them out when you’re ready to use your tank instead of having to fish them out.
Lastly, twist on the cap tightly so there’s no chance of moisture getting in. You may also want to make sure the fuel lines/petcocks are also sealed so moisture doesn’t get in that way either.
Storing A Motorcycle With An Empty Gas Tank
In some situations, it’s most ideal to store a motorcycle with the tank completely full of fuel with some stabilizer in it. But there are several scenarios out there that call for an empty gas tank during long term storage such as if you’re storing your bike in your house, in someone else’s home, or if a storage unit calls for it for safety reasons.
First you’ll need to empty your gas tank by removing the fuel lines and having the gas run out into a container. Then turn on your motorcycle and let it run until it stalls to make sure all the fuel is burned out of the fuel system.
At this point, you can follow the steps indicated above. Keep the cap open for a few hours to let the last of the fuel drops evaporate. Add a half a bottle of rubbing alcohol to the tank and slosh it around as best you can so it coats the entire inside of the tank. Let it evaporate all residual moisture that was left inside.
Add the silica gel packets and seal the cap and petcock openings to prevent moisture from getting inside. Once you place your motorcycle in it’s spot for long term storage, it’s also a good idea to wrap a towel or blanket around the tank to prevent any damage from it’s surroundings.
For more information about how to store the rest of your motorcycle long term, see my article here.
When You Don’t Properly Store Your Gas Tank
Properly storing your motorcycle gas tank for long term storage is extremely important, especially if you plan on keeping it empty the whole time. When I stored motorcycle gas tanks by themselves, it was usually because I planned on selling them later so I had to ensure they remained in optimal shape.
The biggest risk you run into with improper tank storage is rust. Moisture has as a way of finding itself in places it shouldn’t be. Water can be detrimental to metal. Rust happens when a metal that contains iron (which is found in the majority of motorcycle metal parts) is exposed to water and oxygen. Over time, the reaction creates oxide which weakens the bond of the metal.
Rust can eventually eat through metal and create holes. Obviously, you don’t want to have any holes in your tank because that would kind of defeat it’s purpose. It’s possible to fix holes formed in a motorcycle gas tank, but fixing it would almost cost as much as buying a new one if you have to take it into a professional to do it.
The next biggest risk you run into with improper motorcycle gas tank storage is dents and scratches. This is especially important if you have any kids or pets in the house hold. But from my story stated above about my roommate, anyone can accidentally cause damage.
Dents and scratches are fixable on a motorcycle gas tank, but it just takes a lot of time to do so. See my article here to learn more about how to fix and repaint a motorcycle gas tank yourself.
How To Fix Damages Done To A Motorcycle Gas Tank During Storage
If you do find yourself in the unfortunate event that some damage was done while storing your empty motorcycle gas tank, there are a few ways you can fix it yourself without having it cost you an arm and a leg.
When taking the tank or whole motorcycle out of storage, examine the inside of the tank. If you notice some rust that wasn’t there before, it’s best to clean it out before you put fuel in it and have the rust running through your fuel system.
You’ll need to tank the tank off the motorcycle if it’s still connected. The first thing you’ll need to do is rinse out the tank using a high pressure hose. Leave the gas cap off and leave the petcock holes open so the water can run out. This will relieve any loose particles.
Once it’s rinsed out, plug up the petcock holes using either corks or tape. You have a few options with the next step. The first option is using a rust-removing acid such as Metal Rescue Rust Remover. You can use this by pouring a generous amount in the tank, replacing the gas cap, sloshing it around, and letting it sit for several minutes. Then you can remove the gas cap and tape/corks and let the acid run out into a container.
This next suggestion may sound a little crazy, but I’ve tried it myself and it has worked great. For harder to get rust spots, you can try using fish aquarium gravel. You can pour several handfuls directly into the gas tank using a funnel and either add water or more of the rust removing acid. Close the gas cap and shake the tank for several minutes so the gravel has a chance to loosen those hard rust spots.
Empty the liquid by unplugging the petcock holes and taking off the gas cap. Getting all the gravel out will take some time, but you’ll know when you get it all out because you won’t be able to hear any rocks moving around inside. Rinse the inside with water again and add rubbing alcohol so it evaporates all the water inside.
What happens if you let rust run through your fuel system on your motorcycle? If rust particles run through your fuel system, you may have fuel delivery issues because parts and hoses may be clogged. Carburetor jets are especially susceptible to becoming clogged. Use a fuel filter and change it more frequently until you know the rust has worked it’s way out.
Can you store a motorcycle in your house? If you own your own home, it is possible to store a motorcycle indoors when the motorcycle is not in use. You will need to take safety measures to prevent fumes as well as store it in a place that’s not near any source of heat. It is not advisable to store a motorcycle in an apartment or condo. See my article here for more information.