How To Clean A Motorcycle Gas Tank?

Very often, we find our bikes troubling us in the middle of the journey.  Despite so much money invested, do we often face such issues? No matter what model you choose to ride, but one or the other day, it starts behaving a little odd and old. Generally, this indicates that the vehicle needs proper servicing with the deep cleaning of the gas tank. This is where the major problem lies because, with the long span of time, this tank starts getting dirty, rusted, and wet. Thus, leads to several problems in our beloved movable asset. So, it’s time to learn how and why to get it cleaned on time.

Decide whether to clean or replace

Everybody understands the importance of cleaning, but in the case of motorcycles we often land up being caught in some dilemma. Whether to replace or clean the vehicle?

 Though there is no harm in getting the asset replaced if we can afford to invest a little extra. But the perks of having it regularly cleaned up are completely unpareiled.

Additionally, if the confusion still exists, then it is advisable to compare the cost of deep cleaning the gas tank and on the other hand consider the replacement value and additional cost it requires. Yes, it does provide a clear indication of what our next step shall be?

Over time, sludge gets accumulated at the bottom of the tank. This sludge is a result of sediments, dirt, rust, and debris which gets in the vehicle when fueled at the gas station.  Yes, generally it is due to the gas and pumping that dirt passes to the tank.

Moreover, the strainers of the fuel pump are designed to catch debris, extending between 50-100 microns in diameter. Thus, this dirt needs to be cleaned thoroughly from the tank, to prolong the life of the vehicle, and ensure our better safety too.

Understand the Situation

If we are completely convinced to get our gas tank cleaned, we shall sincerely consider our vehicle’s inspection and understand its condition. This step requires us to assess the level of rust, dirt, and impurities in the tank to conclude whether it requires deep cleaning or just brushing up.

Furthermore, what cannot be ignored is the model type of the vehicle, as the deep cleaning might not be suitable for all models, especially the rare ones.

The way we analyze our skin type before getting any cosmetic treatment, leave no room for side effects. Similarly, it is essential to understand the constructive features of the motorcycles to avoid any ill effects too.  The thorough consideration of these essential points makes it easier to gather required cleaning and processing tools timely.

Model Rarity

Few special models are rare pieces of design.  Thus, these rare models are designed to keep exclusive benefits in mind. Such models generally have high-production tanks, and the paints in them are original, leading to better retention of the bike’s value in the long run.

Therefore, tampering with the originality of the material is quite risky and might impact the motorcycle’s life span and overall performance too.  So, why not consider these basic yet extremely crucial points before we head towards getting it cleaned.

Amount of Rust

Before we blindly proceed ahead with the cleaning we should inspect the tank and find out the level of rust. Yes, this inspection allows us to deal correctly with the problem while choosing the right method too.

 Though there are various methods, considering the rust abatement techniques is the best thing we can do. Also, let’s not forget to check if there is any other visible damage or flaws in the vehicle, this can be done with the help of the flashlight or borescope.

Construction Features

Evidently, there are so many models of motorcycles and other vehicles available in the market. The external difference in each model is certainly visible, but what often we miss out on, is the internal construction of the vehicle. This is where we should draw our major focus.

The proper awareness of our model’s features helps us to decide the appropriate approach to cleaning. Therefore, let’s start by understanding the metal type used to build tanks. If our model has a thin steel tank, then rusting is quite usual. Conclusively it requires frequent cleaning which might consume our immense savings.

On the other hand, tanks with thick metal, steel are made to give better survival rates which means the rusting in these models are rare. The accessibility rates of the models also indicate what the cleaning process should be like.

Know what is required for Cleaning

Before we land up discussing the cleaning or rust abatements methods, let’s consider all the major things required for the purpose. These things can be of great help if we plan to remove the rust from a gas tank without the need for a professional.

  • Water and spray bottles
  • Baking Soda or White Vinegar or Chemical dust remover
  • Lemon (optional)
  • Tinfoil
  • Scrub pad or Sponge 
  • Brush or toothbrush
  • Protective Gloves
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Goggles

Remember, everything from the above-mentioned list doesn’t need to be used. The requirement completely depends on the type of method we choose to proceed with.

Choose the right method

Guess what, depending on the severity of the bike rust, we can now make the best use of the home remedies to abate rust.  All of us understand how a rusty bike can make an enjoyable ride a hectic one.

So, if now we are well-aware of the rusting level, construction type, and model rarity then why not hunt the right method to gift ourselves a rust-free bike and consequently the smoother ride.

Baking Soda for Minor Rust

The 50/50 blend of baking soda and water can be used to make a thick paste. This thick paste acts magically to completely cover the minor rust. For better results, the squirt of lemon can be added to the paste as lemon has strong dirt removing properties.

The complete process would require at least 30 minutes before we can expect some results.  Make sure to let the bike get dry to avoid further rusting.

  • Vinegar for Stubborn Rust

In case we have stubborn rust troubling us, then the mere use of baking soda paste won’t do much good. This time the much powerful rust abatement ingredient shall be used, the white vinegar.

 It is considered the best rust removal as it has more acidic and cleansing properties too. For this process, all we need is a spray bottle filled with white vinegar to be used as a spray on the rusted portion.

 In case, if we prefer to use it as a coat then, tinfoil can do the job more effectively. We can also use the denatured alcohol here to remove the excess moisture once the bike is cleaned.

Chemical Rust Remover

If the stubbornness of the rust is much beyond the control of vinegar, then this is the time to bring chemical rust removers for better performance. But completely avoid mixing chemical remover with baking soda, citric acid, vinegar, etc. as it can be a dangerous combination.

It is essential to use protective gloves and glasses while we use the rust remover. Additionally, we shall read provided instructions mentioned on the pack of cleansers before bringing it to application.

The process might take 30 minutes to hours to one complete night; this certainly depends on the condition of the bike. Once the process is done, we shall throw away the fabric cloth or anything else used for cleaning so that it does not harm the creatures around.

Find the right place

This might sound quite strange, but it is the best thing we can do. Yes, since we have to work with a bit of the acidic elements, it is better to choose a well-ventilated or open space. This allows the fresh air to get in and avoid possible damages to health and the vehicle.

Though mild acids like vinegar do not do much harm except a bit of headache, yet it is better to choose the least suffocating or congested place. In the case of a well-ventilated room, we can surely choose to work at the same place. Thus, the whole concept here is to allow sufficient circulation of air in the gas tank.

Get the tank prepared

Since now we are done with choosing the method based on our analyses and assessment, this is the time to head towards executing an opted plan. We will get our gas tank ready for the cleaning now. This is certainly a simpler task to do but, being extremely careful is still mandatory.

  • Allow the excess fuel in the tank to drain, backed by unhooking of all vacuum and gas lines. Additionally, if our bikes have fuel valves then it is a must to remove these as well.
  • Apart from disconnecting valves, remove the sensors and lines from the tanks as well. This helps to prevent damage that would otherwise be caused to the devices with the tampering. Also, we should not forget to remove bolts that hold the devices together.
  • Now, we shall focus on plugging the holes in the fuel tank and ball bearings too. What is generally advisable is to use a short length of hose on the openings.
  • The use of heavy clamps helps to ensure that the end of the hoses is completely blocked. As a result, every hole becomes tight and secure to avoid gas spilling.
  • Additionally, to avoid further leakage, set up a catch basin under the gas tank. This provides better safety and proper circulation of air.

Let the acid role in

Though many acids in the market can be used for cleaning, vinegar has been the most recommended one. Vinegar allows us to enjoy a win-win situation because it is strong enough to deal with the rust in the metals and also does the least or no damage to the paint.

But all that we need to take care of is to use it carefully to avoid personal injury. Is there anything more we shall expect from our cleanser?

  • Depending on the stubbornness of the rust, the sitting time of the vinegar on the tank is decided. This can vary from a few minutes to even some days. But believe us, the results so obtained would always be worth the time waiting for.
  • Let’s assume the worst-case scenario as well. In the scenario where vinegar couldn’t do much good, then it’s better to bring muriatic and phosphoric acid to use as these are considerably stronger ones.
  • The phosphoric, muriatic, or other such acids do not require much sitting time to let us witness the phenomenal results. But we need to be acting extremely fast for adding the agitator as these acids start etching the tank in no time. So, let us accordingly choose the acids while ensuring proper safety.

Testing the Agitator

The excess of everything is bad irrespective of the purpose it is used for. The fact stands completely true in this scenario as well. Acid, the name itself indicates the risk level it holds. Therefore, it is safer to test the agitating substance before loading it into the tank.

This can be done by putting a few pieces of agitating substances into the ceramic or glass bowl. If the acid from the substance leaches out, then this combination needs to be altered or neutralized a bit.  This is important because avoidance of the same can lead to poisoning and may damage the items in the tank too.

Enroll the agitator in the process

Once the proper testing of the agitator is done and a decision for the right type of acid is taken. The time calls for bringing our mechanical abrasive to use along with the preferred acid. We start by adding hardware, BBs, and metal screws (preferably the smaller ones) in the process.

What we shall essentially take care of, is to avoid putting too many bolts and nuts in the tank, as this will not allow the free movement of the agitators in the full-packed space. Just a handful or a couple of them would do the job well.

Additionally, to ensure better effectiveness in the work we can also count these little pieces while putting in. Thus, once we are done with the process we can be sure that we got them all out, and there remain no further things that can disturb the functioning of the motorcycle.

Time to shake it

If we are using vinegar or any other slow-acting acid as the rust abatement solution then we have to consider a tedious, yet essential process. Let’s see what that process is. Once the agitator and acidic cleansers are in, we have to shake the tank intensively using both our hands covered with gloves, and then leave it still for some time.

The same process should be repeated multiple times in a day. Additionally, if the temperature out there is freezing then it is not good to keep the acid sitting over the tank for any longer.

Apart from using your hands to shake the solution, there are other ways too. The tank can be wrapped in a blanket and duct tape at a place. This has to be done before sticking it to the dryer with no heat functioning.

To be honest, the frequency of the shaking completely depends on the level of the rust in the tank. The advanced and stubborn level of rusting may require constant shaking for even several weeks.

Do remember what we have talked about here is only for the vinegar or slow-acting acids. In the case of strong and fast-acting acids, such a procedure shall be completely avoided.

Flush Well

Finally, the much-awaited time has arrived. Yes, the time when we actually get to see the results of our efforts. Thus, it is time to flush away all the dust and rust from the gas tank.  All we need is hot water, at least a five-gallon pot of water, but it should not be boiling.

Ideally, by this time acid would have shown its magic so now it shall be thrown out in a bucket. But make sure to take the bucket/container that does not get damaged with the thrown acid.

Furthermore, let’s not forget to empty the bolts and nuts along with the acid. As we know dealing with acid can be a bit risky, therefore, it is better to neutralize it using a dish soap solution. Now, add hot water to drive off the moisture from the tank.

Once the tank is cleaned, dry it with the hairdryer or heat gun. But again, make sure to be cautious while using it, as excessive heat can damage the paint too. The tank must be dried quickly; else the rust would start reappearing again. This phenomenon is known as “flash rusting “.

Though we might emphasize being quick at flushing, being careful is equally important to ensure that all acid and other debris are completely out of the tank now.

Get it sealed and sorted

We are certainly done with our cleaning, flushing, and drying. So, now it’s the right time to bring this process to an end. As we know everything comes to an end with the proper closure only. So, why not seek its closure too?

 The commercial sealers are the widely opted option to finish the process. But let’s not forget the fact that commercial sealers tend to become soft over time and lose their effectiveness. So, apart from sealing, replacing can be an option too.

Ideally, both the alternatives have their own pros and cons. Therefore, it’s again we who have to ultimately make a wise choice. Wait; let’s not get in a fix all again because there are more valuable alternatives too.

There are several ways we can choose to seal the tank metal but the use of a fuel-soluble sealer is the best and the most advisable one. All we need to do is to toss some kerosene in the tank and reinstall it as quickly as possible.

Alongside, seal it again and coat the interior of the tank extensively. This step proves essential as it helps combat flash rusting. Alternatively, if we prefer a thicker layer of sealing, then two-stroke motor oil is an additional option. Thus, let’s end up choosing what is most feasible to us and does not let our pockets feel empty too.

Safety Tips while cleaning

So far we are clear with all the procedures for cleaning the gas tank, but considering the precautions is mandatory too. The few safety tips and tricks help phenomenally while we plan to make the gas tank rust and dust-free.

  • It is highly advisable to use proper protective gear to ensure complete safety. The prominent protective gears include safety gloves and goggles.
  • Also, keep at least class B or C type of fire extinguisher nearby in case of any emergency. Always store the fuel in the tight sealed and approved container or tanks.
  • Try to keep all the material from at least 50 feet away from the source of ignition.
  • Do remember to dispose of the fuel considering the guidelines of the federal, state, or local authorities.
  • Be careful and do not let fuel spill around because this may lead to serious mishappening.

These are just a few tips that are the basic ones to follow but also make sure to consider all other basics revolving around, and ensure a safer environment while the cleaning can be created.

The way towards Future Maintenance

Though cleaning a fuel tank is essential, this is not enough to ensure a smooth ride.  There are certain steps that we must consider in the normal course to avoid unnecessary trouble, and expenditure too. Let’s be aware of these easy and elegant ways to improve the life span of our vehicle.

  • The first and foremost way to ensure better maintenance of the fuel tank is by keeping it full while using the motorcycle regularly.  The full reservoirs allow the proper displacement of the air and leave small room for condensing. As a result, rust does not take place all over again.
  • Try to add a fuel stabilizer during the period of inactivity as it stops the gas from condensing. The vehicle shall be kept at a good shed too.
  • Additionally, it shall be oiled periodically to keep the rust away, and this is the best way to combat the rust in the tank.
  • Keep a sincere check on the tank so that the rusting can be eliminated at the initial stage and no room for the stubbornness of rust can be allowed.


Q. Which are the few motorcycle tank sealers?

There are several names like KBS coatings kit and PQR-15 that are considered prominent tank sealers. This comprehensive kit of tank sealers stands perfect for all types of pinholes and seamlessly fills the gaps.

Q. What is Flash Rusting and how can we control it?

It is the form of rust that immediately occurs as soon as the surface dries after staying wet for the longest time. To avoid flash rusting it is better to keep the tank oiled and make use of tank sealers as and when required.

Q. How efficient is W-40 for removing rust from the gas tank?

The W-40 is considered a highly effective rust abatement chemical that easily dissolves rust and restores the shine of the tools.

Q. How to keep the gas tank safe after cleaning?

The most prominent way to keep the fuel tank rust-free is to make sure that the gas tank remains dry and does not get exposed to much rain. It is also essential to coat the tank with the right sealer and oil to maintain its health after cleaning.

Q. How much time does Vinegar take to remove rust from the gas tank?

Vinegar is a slightly time-consuming but safe method of removing rust from the gas tank.  Depending on the level of rust it may take 1 day to 1 week, but continue keeping a check on the performance of the Vinegar. This is required because the derusting impacts of the vinegar vary depending on the tank’s condition.


The gas tank is the most essential part of the motorcycle, and keeping it healthy is certainly an important job to do. Evidently, the task is simpler, but all it requires is thorough analysis before deciding, cautiousness while cleaning, and sincerity for maintaining it well. Though there are multiple ways to fix the rust, and other issues in the vehicle yet it all starts with self-care. Unless we work on our regular habits, we would always end up troubling ourselves. So, let’s gear up, and enjoy the beauty of our goodies, and good deeds.

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