How To Remove a Motorcycle’s Gas Tank
A necessary step for many motorcycle repairs.
- Guides & Gear
When attempting to resolve a fuel issue on a car, removing the gas tank is looked at as a last resort. It’s not altogether difficult, but it’s an annoyance that takes ages. Its location, usually underneath the rear seats and/or trunk, complicates the service process and demands plentiful patience and, sometimes, circus-like contortion. Award a point for motorcycles, then, because a motorcycle gas tank essentially sits on top of everything and is fairly easy to remove.
There are numerous reasons somebody would need to, or want to, remove the gas tank from a motorcycle. It could be that the bike needs a complete cleaning, a hard-to-access part of the engine might need servicing, the tank itself could need refurbishing, or it might need to be replaced altogether. Regardless of the end goal, if it requires removing the gas tank, there are safety concerns and proper steps to know and take.
With riding season gracing much of the United States, the Guides & Gear editors at The Drive want to make sure that not only is your car in good shape, but that your motorcycle is ready to go, as well. Grab the service manual for your specific bike and follow along below, as we discuss what you need to know to remove your motorcycle’s gas tank.
The Basics of Removing a Motorcycle’s Gas Tank
Estimated Time Needed: 1-2 Hours
Skill Level: Beginner
Vehicle System: Fuel
Motorcycle Wrenching Safety
Working on your motorcycle can be dangerous and messy, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to ensure you don’t die, get maimed, or lose a finger, and that you keep your jeans, shirt, and skin spotless—hopefully.
Everything You’ll Need To Remove a Motorcycle Gas Tank
We’re not psychic, nor are we snooping through your toolbox or garage, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to get the job done.
- Wrench and Socket Set
- Screwdriver set
- Shop rags and/or towels
- Siphon pump
- Needle nose pliers and/or hose clamp pliers
Organizing your tools and gear so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you whatever's required. You’ll also need a flat workspace, such as a garage floor, driveway, or street parking that’s also well-ventilated. Check your local laws to make sure you’re not violating any codes when using the street because we aren’t getting your ride out of the clink.
Here’s How To Remove a Motorcycle Gas Tank
The steps detailed below are a general guide for removing a motorcycle’s gas tank. However, each motorcycle is slightly different and might require different steps or will have parts in different positions. Be sure to have a service manual for your specific motorcycle ready, because you’ll need it for any tricks or steps that only apply to your bike. Let’s do this!
- Secure your motorcycle. Make sure the motorcycle is in a stable and secure position. This could mean a simple kickstand on solid ground, it could mean putting it up on a lift, or it could mean putting the bike up on wheel stands. Just make sure it’s not going to tip over when you’re working on it.
- Remove the fuel. Removing the gas tank will be safer and easier if you remove all of the fuel. You can do this by running it down or siphoning it out.
- Remove fairings (if necessary). Depending on which type of motorcycle you ride, it might have fairing attached to or around the gas tank. It’s not always required to get the tank off, but it’s a good idea to get it out of the way for an easier working space. Some fairings can easily be popped off with your hand, while others will require the removal of bolts and/or screws.
- Remove the seat (if necessary). Removing the seat is not always required to access and remove the tank, but it almost always will make it easier. Sometimes you only need to press a button to pop the seat loose, but on other motorcycles, you will need to remove screws or bolts to free it up.
- Disconnect any tank straps (if necessary). If your motorcycle uses a tank strap for functional or aesthetic purposes, remove it now.
- Remove the tank bolts. You might be required to access some connections beneath the fuel tank, so remove the tank bolts, but leave the tank where it is for now. Typically, most tanks will have bolts at both the front and rear of the unit.
- Disconnect the fuel pump and clear gas lines. The fuel lines within your fuel system are pressurized, so you need to relieve that pressure before you can start disconnecting any hoses. To do this quickly, you will need to first unplug the connector for your fuel pump. This might be located underneath the seat, underneath the actual tank, or somewhere on the sides. Use your service manual to locate it. Once the fuel pump is unplugged, turn the motorcycle on and hold the start button for a few seconds. By doing this, you are running fuel remaining in the system through to the engine, but because the pump is turned off, no new fuel enters the lines. This clears the system and helps relieve the pressure. Once you’re done, remove the key and reconnect the fuel pump before you forget.
- Disconnect the main fuse. For safety purposes, locate and disconnect the main fuse. Use your service manual to find where the fuse box is positioned on your motorcycle.
- Disconnect the fuel line. Locate and disconnect the fuel line that links to the tank. This is commonly done with a quick-connect hose fitting.
- Remove any attachments or consoles. If your motorcycle has any consoles or additional attachments on it, remove them or disconnect anything that will keep the tank tied to the motorcycle.
- Disconnect the vent/overflow tubes. While you’re working around the tank, you’ll notice another tube or two, which are most likely the vent and/or overflow tubes. You can leave these where they are, just disconnect them from the tank.
- Remove the tank. As we’ve mentioned, every motorcycle is different, so you might still have another connection or two preventing the tank from fully lifting off. Before you attempt to remove it completely, check around the entire tank for any further required disconnections. Once you're clear, pull it.
Congrats, now you can get to the real reason you needed to remove the tank.
How Is the Process Different on Old Motorcycles With Carburetors?
The process described above is for a motorcycle with a modern electronic fuel injection (EFI) system. On older motorcycles, you will be dealing with a slightly different setup. Look out for a fuel petcock that you might need to remove or disconnect, look for connections to the carburetor, and look out for fuel tubes that connect both sides of the tank for fuel balance.
FAQs about Removing a Motorcycle Gas Tank
You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!
Q. Can you remove a motorcycle gas tank with gas in it?
A. It’s possible, but it will likely be more difficult and you have a higher risk of spilling gas everywhere. You’ll need to make sure all of your hoses, connections, and output holes are plugged.
Q. How can you tell if gas is bad?
A. The easiest and quickest way to tell if gas is bad is a visual inspection. When new and fresh, gas should be slightly yellowish or clear. When gas sits for extended periods of time, it starts to break down and degrade, which turns it to a darker tinted yellow, brown, or blackish color. You might also see that the gas turns hazy, has dirt particles in it, starts to separate, or starts to thicken up.
New gas is clear or slightly yellow. If your gas is a darker yellow, brown-tinted, or black-tinted, it needs to be replaced. Other signs of bad gas include haziness, dark particles and other dirt, noticeable liquid separation, or a higher viscosity. You can read more about it in our handy guide on how long gas lasts.
Q. Can you dump old gas on the ground?
A. Absolutely not. Dumping gas on the ground is bad for the environment and bad for humans, so you need to take it to a proper gasoline dump station. For more information, check out our guide on how to dispose of old gas.
Learn More With This Video on Motorcycle Tank Removal
To better understand the process of removing the gas tank from a motorcycle, check out this video tutorial that shows the steps on a Harley-Davidson.
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