Performing maintenance on the motorcycles we own can be a bit of a task because it requires work on our part. But what about the preventative maintenance we might not be thinking about that could be affecting them?
There is some damage that can be done to a motorcycle by simply not remembering or neglecting certain parts of it. Many people don’t realize the effect certain weather can have on a motorcycle, even if it’s a nice and sunny day. Believe it or not, the sun can actually have a major impact on a motorcycle.
Is it bad to leave a motorcycle in the sun? It is okay to occasionally leave a motorcycle out in the sun. If a motorcycle is left out in the sun for long periods of time on a regular basis, the UV rays from the sun can start damaging the paint and any rubber or plastic as well as impact the fuel inside the motorcycle.
When the sun is out, that motivates us motorcycle owners to pull our bikes out and go for a ride. Knowing the effects the sun has on a motorcycle is important so you can better understand how to care for your motorcycle and prevent any damage to it.
Here’s What Happens When You Leave A Motorcycle In The Sun
Sun damage to a motorcycle is one of the last things a motorcyclist would expect to happen. Motorcycles aren’t humans, so how can the heat and rays from the sun impact a machine such as this?
Most of us don’t realize that the sun can damage a motorcycle even when it’s not a hot day. However, it does take a consistent amount of exposure for the sun to cause such damage, but it does happen nonetheless.
First, if you’re motorcycle is normally stored inside a garage, shed, or somewhere similar and you’ve taken it out for a few hours or parked it in a parking lot for a while right under the sun, you’re probably okay. Occasional exposure to the sun isn’t going to harm your motorcycle.
Your motorcycle does become impacted by the sun when it’s constantly in the sun, meaning you have it stored and/or parked outside as it’s permanent parking spot.
Your first concern with constant exposure to the sun is the impact the UV rays has on the paint of your motorcycle, specifically the gas tank. The UV rays first begin to eat away at the clear coat on the tank.
This is something you probably won’t notice at first until it completely gets eaten away and starts to chip. Once the clear coat starts chipping, the paint underneath becomes exposed and the rays from the sun will start “dying” the paint or fading it.
Pictured above is a 1980 Yamaha XS850 I purchased back in 2013. It had been sitting outside for a while and you can see the impact the sun had on the tank. I had to completely sand it down and repaint it.
Your next concern will be any rubber and plastic you have on your motorcycle. This will include the tires, handle grips, and foot peg covers. Rubber acts differently when it’s left in heat. Usually when an element gets heated up, it expands.
Rubber on the other hand actually contracts in the heat. Though this usually doesn’t cause a problem, if you have too much air in your tires the contraction of the rubber in your tires could potentially cause your tire to blow while you’re out riding.
Your biggest concern with any rubber and plastic you might have on your motorcycle is, again, damage done by the UV rays from the sun. UV rays have a tendency to break down the elements in rubber and plastic pretty quickly. So when you leave your motorcycle out in the sun constantly, you’ll probably have to end up getting new tires, handle grips, and foot pegs sooner than you thought.
Gasoline is pretty volatile and it can evaporate quickly. When gas is placed in hot circumstances the evaporation process speeds up, meaning it turns from the liquid state to a gas state quickly. Not only is this bad for the environment, but it’s also bad for your wallet.
Gas sitting there evaporating means that it’s gas you’re buying but not actually using in your motorcycle. So if you notice you’re getting worse gas mileage during the summer and you keep your motorcycle out in the sun a lot, you’ll know where some of that gas is going.
If you have a genuine leather seat on your motorcycle, the sun may also have an impact on that as well. UV rays and heat can fade leather as well as dry it out. This can make it susceptible to ripping and cracking. Faux leather can have the same symptoms but may happen much more quickly since it has a plastic base.
If you have found your motorcycle is worn out by sitting in the sun, you may be interested in a video series I have created about completely restoring a motorcycle from start to finish. Within this series includes body work such as repainting the tank and the frame and sprucing up the wheels. Click here for more information if you’re interested in giving your motorcycle a nice makeover!
How To Protect Your Motorcycle From The Sun
I understand that some of you have no choice but to leave your motorcycle stored outside whether it’s the winter or the summer usually because there’s no garage or shed available. I’ve been there many times myself.
If you have to keep your motorcycle outside, or if your motorcycle is your main source of transportation and you have to keep it parked in plain sunlight, there are a few things you can do to protect your motorcycle from these previously stated damages.
The first and obvious solution is to find a parking spot that is mostly under shade. It’s pretty phenomenal how much a little bit of shade can help your motorcycle out. If you’re parking in a parking lot, you may have to go out of your way a little and walk an extra distance to do this, but it’ll save you money in the long run.
Also available is something called a motorcycle gas tank shield. This is a covering you can place over your gas tank that will not only guard it from the UV rays from the sun, but it also has deflectors that keep the heat away which will slow down the evaporation process in your gas tank.
As for your seat, you will need to regularly use a leather conditioner and clean it about once a week if you constantly keep it in the sun. The cleaning and conditioner treatment will help it endure through the UV rays beating down on it during the day.
Really the best way to protect your motorcycle against the sun is to simply put a cover over the whole machine This can be a bit of a pain if your constantly out and about with your motorcycle and have to put a cover on and take it off after your errands. Not to mention carrying it around with you on rides.
But motorcycle covers provide much needed protection to motorcycles and will prevent every negative outcome from sun damage explained in this article. If you take care of your motorcycle, it will take care of you. Click here to see an article I wrote that explains my recommended cover for motorcycles.
How To Store A Motorcycle Outside In Hot Weather
Though storing a motorcycle outside during the summer doesn’t seem the most ideal, it is completely possible and thousands of people do it every year.
First, park it under shade if possible. If shade isn’t available, park it in a place that’s less susceptible to heat, i.e. not against the house or apartment or parked by another car that radiates more heat.
Be sure to regularly clean your motorcycle and wax the tank. The heat from the sun can cake on any dirt, grease, or grime that may have gotten on it which can be difficult to remove later. This will also prevent the cover from rubbing on anything and scratching it.
Regularly condition the seat whether it’s real leather or not. Routinely inspect the tires and make sure it has the right tire pressure and that there aren’t any cracks forming.
Last but not least, make sure there is a cover over it any time you are not using it. If you are going to own a motorcycle, you need to make sure it has a good cover to protect it from the elements whether that be rain or shine.
What To Do If The Sun Has Damaged Your Motorcycle
Luckily, that damage done by the sun is only mostly cosmetic issues. Usually motorcycle engines don’t have a problem being in the heat because they heat up anyway when they’re running. Gaskets will not be affected either.
If you’ve noticed your gas is evaporating like crazy in the summer heat, try getting a new gas cap to your tank. It helps a lot with the evaporation if the seal from the cap is efficient.
If you notice any cracks in your tires, immediately get new ones and never ride on them. Cracks will possibly cause it to blow while you’re out riding which can be potentially hazardous.
Unfortunately, there’s no other way to fix a faded gas tank other than simply repainting it. But painting a motorcycle tank yourself actually isn’t that hard nor is it expensive. I have painted dozens of gas tanks with zero training and they have turned out beautifully. Click here to see an article I wrote about what paint I recommend for motorcycle gas tanks that also has directions on how to paint it.
Can you paint a motorcycle frame without removing the engine? It is entirely possible to paint a motorcycle frame without removing the engine. You will need to thoroughly clean the frame, carefully tape off anything that you don’t want paint on, sand any parts as needed, then paint. Click here to see my article that discusses this in detail.
What damages can rain or snow do to a motorcycle? While it is okay to let a motorcycle get wet, excessive exposure to water can cause some of the metal parts to start rusting. Condensation can also build up inside the gas tank as well as inside the engine which can cause mechanical issues.