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Sometimes your life gets so busy that you just don’t have the time you need to spend with you beloved motorcycle. It just sits. When I’ve left my motorcycle sitting for long periods of time I’ve wondered what the negative effects to it are.
Many times I have bought motorcycles that had been sitting for years without moving, one of them since the mid 70’s. I’ve come to know exactly what happens to motorcycles when they sit for long periods of time.
What happens if a motorcycle is left parked for too long? When a motorcycle sits for too long, it’s possible for the following to happen:
- Paint peels off the tank
- Gaskets and seals can shrink and crack.
- Tires become brittle and create flat spots
- Battery drains
- Carburetors and engines can become clogged with condensation
- Fuel “gels” Up
- Unlubricated and stiff chain
While there are many other potential consequences, these are the most serious.
There’s a lot to consider if you have a motorcycle that’s been sitting or if you are thinking about buying a motorcycle in such a condition. It is important to assess the condition of your motorcycle so that you can keep it in top shape.
Why Parts start breaking down
Your motorcycle will be more at risk if it is exposed to the elements and without any cover. Extreme temperatures can be dangerous for machinery. Although these damage are less likely to occur quickly if the motorcycle has a cover or is stored in a shed or garage, it can still happen over a longer time.
Let’s start with why the paint on a motorcycle tank will peel. Excessive sun exposure can cause damage to the clear coat and paint. It is possible for the paint to bubble up and chip away. The paint becomes more exposed and can continue to get worse. Click here to view my article on what happens when a motorcycle is left in the sun.
Your motorcycle’s gaskets are similar to a rubber band. If you don’t ever stretch and use it, it loses it’s elasticity and becomes brittle. It lasts longer when it is stretched and exercised. The same applies to your motorcycle’s seals and gaskets. Your motorcycle can be used to exercise the gaskets and seals. They heat up and expand and make a tighter seal. These parts can become brittle and leak if they are not used.
If your battery isn’t used, it will start to drain. The phenomenon of “parasitic drain” The motorcycle computers and the wires are poorly grounded can cause slight discharge. This is particularly true for older motorcycles. This will cause your battery to completely die if you leave your motorcycle sitting for too long. This article contains more information.
It is possible for water into the engine and carbs if you live in cooler or more humid areas. This can happen by letting your motorcycle sit on open carbs or condensation. You can protect your motorcycle by covering it or storing it in an enclosed garage or shed. However, freezing temperatures could still make their way inside.
It is possible for gas in your tank not to be as good as it should. It must be in an airtight container. If the gasoline isn’t, oxygen can destabilize it, making it sticky and gel-like. You’ll also notice a foul smell. This makes gasoline unusable, and it will stop you from starting your motorcycle.
If you intend to leave your motorcycle sitting for an extended time, either drain all fuel or add a fuel stabiliser. See my article for more information on how long it takes for gasoline to go bad in motorcycles.
Iron and oxygen react when there is moisture in the atmosphere to create iron oxide or rust. Most machines will eventually develop rust, but it will be much faster if the motorcycles are not in use. This is because frequent use disrupts the iron and oxygen reactions and hinders formation of rust due touch, high speeds, and so on.
Dormant chains can cause serious problems for your motorcycle. If you’ve let your machine sit, the oil on your chain can either dry up or gather dirt/dust, mix with what’s left of the oil, and create a “cement” Of all kinds. This can be used to seize the chain.
What is too long to let a motorcycle sit?
It’s completely understandable that you can’t take your motorcycle out for a ride every day, or even every week. This is also dependent on the weather. It may take you months to be able to safely ride your motorcycle in harsh winter conditions.
If your motorcycle has not been stored properly, it should not be left unattended for more than one month. After a month of sitting, you can start getting into some big issues we’ve discussed in this article. Some will say that they’ve let their motorcycle sit for longer and were fine, but I’ve personally seen problems after just 30 days of dormancy.
It doesn’t mean that you should take it for a long trip every month. This simply means that you need to turn it on and let it heat up for a few minutes before checking everything.
How to Rebuild a Motorcycle that Has Been sitting
Perhaps you have thought about what the last section was after you read it. “well shoot, my motorcycle’s been sitting for a year,” You may have had the same thought. Don’t worry, you can still get everything back in shape for the riding season.
Letting a motorcycle sit isn’t good for it, but that doesn’t mean you break it to a point it’s unusable. There are simple ways to counteract the time it’s been sitting; here’s what I have found to be helpful.
Check the vital components first. Before replacing your battery, make sure it is charged. You can top-off or replace the oil, and ensure that the chain is properly lubricated.
Do not attempt to repair the tires yourself. It is not a good idea to ride your motorcycle and blow a tire. You can sand the rust off and paint it over. By sanding off the rust and painting it you’re creating a chemical barrier between the iron and oxygen, that way iron oxide (rust) can’t form.
Here’s what to do if you notice your clear coat on the tank is pealing. Wet sanding with 200 – 400 grit sand paper will strip the chipped clear coat. Once that’s sanded away, simply add a new clear coat. If the paint is chipping, you’ll need to repaint your tank. For more information about how to paint a motorcycle’s gas tank, see our article.
It’s a good rule of thumb to clean out your carburetors. Chances are, if it’s been sitting a while, aside from moisture, there’s also a lot of “gunk” They have accumulated rust. You can ensure that there are no unwelcome elements in your carburetors by thoroughly cleaning them.
At this point, the gas in your motorcycle’s engine is no good. Drain all gas lines and fuel. If fuel lines become cracked or brittle, replace them.
This is the time to take your motorcycle on a slow spin. This is a good way to find out if any seals or gaskets have rotted; you’ll quickly find out if there’s a bad gasket by any leaks. Carburetors and both sides covers are the most likely to develop rotted gaskets. This is because they are most exposed to the elements. But luckily they’re usually the easiest to change as well.
I created a complete video series about restoring a motorcycle. This video series covers repairs such as body work and carb rebuilds. If your motorcycle has been sitting for too long and you want to bring it back to life, this video series will be beneficial to your motorcycle’s revival. Click here to learn more about creating or restoring the motorcycle you have always wanted!
How to store your bike for long periods
If you need to leave your motorcycle for months or even years at a time, it’s quite alright to do that if you store it properly. This is how a motorcycle can keep its optimal functionality.
It is best to cover it with a waterproof, UV-resistant cover if you have to store it outside. It is best to store it in a garage or shed that has a lower temperature.
Turn off your petcocks and empty the tank of gas completely. If emptying the tank isn’t an option, an acceptable alternative would be to add stabilizer to the gasoline that prevents it from gelling up.
It is not necessary to drain the oil. Though oil will degrade over time, it is still serving a purpose to the engine in a sense that it’s still lubricating. After a prolonged period of time, oil will start to degrade. Make sure you change your oil regularly. If you forget that you emptied the oil and try to start it up again, you’ll cause major damage.
Keep your motorcycle up on it’s center stand if you have one. If you don’t, you can purchase a motorcycle jack to raise the motorcycle off the ground. This will help keep your tires off the ground. “flat spots” Check the condition of your tires. If you are planning to leave for longer than one year, you should expect to purchase new tires upon your return. For more information about how to store your motorcycle properly, click here
How long does it take for gasoline to go bad? In 30 days, unstabilized gas can cause a motorcycle to go bad. Exposure to oxygen eventually alters the gas’ chemistry, which can cause gum and varnish deposits. It is best to not use gas if it has been left unattended for longer than 6 month. Stabilized gas should be stopped after six to twelve months.
Is it bad to lay a motorcycle on it’s side? If you accidentally drop your motorcycle and quickly pick it up, it’s not detrimental. However, it’s not wise to lay a motorcycle on it’s side for long periods of time. Fluids start moving into places it shouldn’t.