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How long can you leave a bike unused before fuel causes problems?


HareBrain
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My battery died, and since I only really ride the bike in winter to keep the battery topped up, I thought I might as well leave it till spring before fitting the new one, and save myself the hassle and the cleaning. But the shop mechanic said leaving the fuel lying in the tank can cause rust in the tank and damage to the fuel pump. But he couldn't give me any firm limit on how long it would be safe to leave it. Using Google, all I've found out is that if a petrol-engined vehicle is laid up for "several months" a fuel preservative should be used. But my sister has left her summer car for 4-6 months over the the last several winters without a preservative or any apparent problem. Any opinions/advice? Cheers.

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Use a preservative, full tank, mine lasts for months easily, occasionally years, even the low octane type that “may contain” up to 10% ethanol. However, all my bikes are carb’d, fuel injected types could be a different story. Theoretically should be OK tho, as there’s less chance of fuel evaporating into varnish/gum the way it can in carb passages...

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All the petrol now contains 5-10% ethanol, you can get phase separation and water will precipitate at the bottom of the tank, there are numerous products that stabilise the fuel, so that’s a solution 

 

Probably no problem in a car but then the fuel tank isn’t a feature of the vehicle

 

My ‘89 FK had E10 fuel in when I picked it up, the rusty crap that came out convinced me to never use ethanol again 

 

Esso Synergy 99 despite the E5 sticker on the pump actually contains zero ethanol, so if you can get it use that

 

Since I’ve been using Synergy 99 in my 8th gen the bike feels smoother and starts quicker …or it appears so

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On EFI bikes and autos with sealed tanks, I've gone 2-yrs in storage without any issues.

 

On carby bikes with vented tanks which allows water vapour to get in (which starts separation process), it's taken as little as 3-months for petrol to gel up and clog carbs. Now I use more concentrated Stabil-360 marine product for winter storage.

 

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The length of time that gasoline can be left in your fuel tank or carburetors
without causing functional problems will vary depending on a variety of factors.

 

Fuel formulations... Depending on where you operate your
engine, fuel may deteriorate and oxidize more rapidly...

 

Factors include:

The air volume in a partially filled fuel tank promotes fuel deterioration.

Very warm storage, high humidity and variable temperatures accelerate fuel deterioration.

 

I personally use the 6 month fuel storage rule... any bike in the shop will receive new fuel every 6 months...

 

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IMO the main issue is when the carb float bowls dry up, then you get varnish and gunk which cause problems. But honestly

I don't think three months is going to be a serious problem. But if you can run the carbs dry, that would be best.

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People have garage/barn finds decades later that start right up. We may be over thinking this... 🙂

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17 hours ago, HareBrain said:

My battery died, and since I only really ride the bike in winter to keep the battery topped up, I thought I might as well leave it till spring before fitting the new one, and save myself the hassle and the cleaning.

Why not invest in an intelligent battery charger/maintainer? No need to do winter rides just for the battery's sake! One of these is a great investment and will keep the battery healthy throughout winter.

 

For info. I'm taking care of my American friend's BMW R1200RT. It was last ridden in March 2020 when we filled it with Premium fuel (non ethanol) then added the required amount of Sta-bil fuel stabilizer.

Fired up the engine for the first time on Christmas Eve after 21 months of dormancy. Engine started and ran fine.

 

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Thanks all. Seems quite a few factors to consider there (though not carbs with my bike, thankfully). Seems I can probably leave it without running for a couple of months, though, which should be enough.

 

40 minutes ago, Grum said:

Why not invest in an intelligent battery charger/maintainer? No need to do winter rides just for the battery's sake! One of these is a great investment and will keep the battery healthy throughout winter.

Normally I don't mind having to ride it in winter, as long as I can find a day that's not too cold/wet -- I enjoy it and it keeps me in practice. But with the battery already off, I thought I might as well give it a couple of months break this time over the darkest period. Thanks, though -- if it ever gets too much of a chore, I'll do that.

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On 12/26/2021 at 8:33 PM, bmart said:

People have garage/barn finds decades later that start right up. We may be over thinking this... 🙂

 

 

not all that common really. the volatile parts of fuel deteriorate, and carbs will clog and grow oxide crystals.

 

 

 

 

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On 12/26/2021 at 6:33 PM, bmart said:

People have garage/barn finds decades later that start right up. We may be over thinking this... 🙂

Exceptions 0.1% to the rule. Sure, some vehicles are put away with float-bowls drained because owner anticipated storage. But vast majorities are not. It's "miracle" cases you hear about since it's so uncommon. Most people don't want to hear about the same-ol' "decades to restore" stories that's the norm.

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I have an incident where my friend purchased an '03 CBR 600 F4i . It was stored with a partial tank of fuel for over 5 years, varnish stank'in mess. Oh man, what a chore to replace fuel pump, clean rusted tank, replace fuel pressure regulator (precaution), replace spark plugs and remove clean all fuel injectors. Ran like new after. Better to empty tank and run fuel rail dry or add stabilizer with full tank, no more than 6 months.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thought I'd chime in here with my experiences /practices.

 

All my regular riding bikes (incl the 2014 VFR800)  are laid up for winter storage from mid/late October to some time in April (lots of snow here and VERY cold), so those are all running 91 octane (with 5% Ethanol) and I fill the tanks and use fuel stabilizer.   Bikes are in heated storage.  

 

For the collector Bikes, that don't see the road as often, and only get run a couple of times a year, I make sure to use a Zero Ethanol high octane fuel, and I still use Stabilizer.    I also try and drain the fuel out of each bikes tank annually and refresh it.  Though I will admit I occasionally have gone 18-24 months on that fuel change.

 

I run the carbs dry or drain them depending on the bike and how much of a PITA it is to drain them.   I keep a log on which bikes had a fuel change and when they were run last.

 

I do also fire up the bikes every 3 months, avoid fuel sitting static for too long in the fuel system, in my mind it makes sense to get fresh fuel through the injectors and what not every 3 months.    All bikes are on a battery tender.

 

 

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Everything I've read says gas starts to go bad after 3-6 months.  3 months is probably the longest my bike will ever sit at a time, but I'm still a fan of adding fuel stabilizer when the bike is parked for at least a month or two.

 

I've also read it's not good to just start the bike in the garage and let it run for a while each month it's parked.  Going to ride it is different, but we're not supposed to fire up the engine and just let it idle up to normal running temperature.

 

My standard practice has been to add fuel stabilizer to a full tank when I park my (fuel injected) motorcycle for the winter.  If there's a nice enough mild winter day to go out and ride, I'll go out, but will also try to refill the tank before I get home, and add an appropriate amount of fuel stabilizer for the number of gallons I just added back to the tank, since I don't expect to ride again for another month or more.

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Fuel with ethanol starts to go bad in about 2 weeks and finicky bikes will let you know (CB-1, KLX250, etc.) Higher octane goes bad faster then lower octane so while many think storing with 93 is better (and they usually think giving the 87 ready car 93 is some kind of favor)...it isn't. Removing fluids can certainly remove the ethanol/water component, but it can also dry old rubber parts, so you just have to decide. 

 

I use only ethanol free 87 in cars/bikes/generator and have had no issues since. I leave them all full for long periods with out issue (except the generator...which is really finicky), and have for years. I do not use Stabil or similar. 

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Gas goes bad is why I only run the emergency generator on propane.

Can't run a bike on that, but I can get out at least 3 or 4 times a month and run 2 - 3 gallons through it.

If we had winter here I'd use Stabil.

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Ethanol can only handle 4.5% water, and "bad gas" is usually a small amount of water at the bottom of the tank/fuel pickup.  A far better dispersant is isopropanol, so if the bike sits more than a couple of weeks just add some Seafoam (naptha + isopropanol).  Most stabilizers contain naptha, which is a slow-acting solvent to dissolve gum deposits from evaporation.  I'd run some through before storing the bike.  Otherwise, I'm in the Straycat camp, seems like a decent strategy to me.  If you can't drain the carbs, then I'd say a healthy dose of Seafoam, and always use ethanol-free where possible (with your favourite stabilizer, I also hear Stabil Marine is good).

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