How to Clean Rust Out of a Motorcycle Gas Tank

How to Clean Rust Out of a Motorcycle Gas Tank

Anyone who thinks that only vintage tanks are affected by rust is mistaken. It is often motorbikes that are only a few years old that suddenly start stuttering. Rust particles begin flaking off the inside of the tank and  start to interrupt the petrol supply. Taking a look through the filler neck using a torch should be a part of your regular check-up, especially if you are the owner of a used motorcycle. If you do see rust, it’s best to take care of this right away. Here are some tips and tricks to get your tank sparkling-clean again.

Cleaning – first steps

With all of the methods, it is important to first prepare your tank for cleaning. Needless to say, you have to remove the tank from the bike. Now open it, take out the petcock, and drain the fuel. Make sure you do this in an area that has proper ventilation. You can now continue with the rust removal process.

Motorcycle fuel tank rust removal

Abrasive blasting

You can use sand, walnut shell, glass bead, and gravel blasting – among others. These are then blown into the tank where they break up the rust. This is considered by many to be the best – and most thorough – method. This is also considered by some to be the most expensive way to remove rust from your tank because, of course, you need a sandblaster and the required blasting materials.

If you choose this method, you need to insert the hose of the sandblaster into the tank. The compressed air in the hose will then blast the sand, gravel, etc. into the tank. They then hit the inside of the tank, break up the rust, and polish the metal. 

The main disadvantage of this method is that the tank has to be emptied and cleaned again after you have finished the process. Since these tanks are angled, cleaning them can be a bit difficult. Another option is to blow out remaining rust with compressed air. 

Another method uses dry ice, and some prefer this because the tank doesn’t have to be cleaned afterwards. The dry ice will melt and run out by itself. If you choose this version, you have to rinse and dry thoroughly when you’ve finished. 

The most cost effective method 

Get some gravel that is small and has sharp edges. Depending on the size of the tank, put in a few handfuls of gravel. The rust particles must bind together, so you have to add in some liquid with the pebbles, for example, diesel or petrol. Using water would cause the rust to build up again. Tightly close the tank and shake it until you have achieved the result you want. This method is, of course, only for smaller and lighter tanks, such as for motorcycles or mopeds. If you have a larger one, you need to use specialized equipment, or choose another method. Once finished, you need to empty, clean, and dry the tank. 

Home remedies

You may already have products at home that you could use for rust removal. Regular household items containing acid can be used to get that stubborn rust out.  Here are some suggestions that may sound unlikely to work – but be assured – they are effective. With all of the methods, it’s important that any leftover petrol is removed. Check to see if the water you rinse with runs clear, and you no longer smell petrol fumes. 

Vinegar: you will need enough vinegar to fill the entire tank. The type doesn’t matter, white or apple cider vinegar is fine, as this only depends on the acidity of the liquid. Take a brush (the type you might use to clean a bottle or large glass) and brush and swish it around the tank to loosen the rust. You can now let this sit for up to three days for optimal rust removal. After the three days, drain the vinegar and debris, and fill it again with clean water mixed with a box of baking soda. This will help to neutralize the acid. You can flush it out with diesel or petrol, or use a heat gun to heat-dry the inside. 

Citric acid: this can provide great results, and you can buy this in most supermarkets or online. Put about 400 grams into the tank and then add boiling water, making sure you fill it all the way to the rim. Now let it sit for about 24 hours. After 24 hours open and empty the tank, using the same procedure as in the vinegar method.

Cola: this is perhaps the most uncommon of all. Fill the tank with any kind of undiluted cola all the way to the edge, and let it sit for 24 hours. Then follow the same procedure as with the citric acid to empty, clean, and dry it. The result is better than with citric acid, because the phosphoric acid contained in cola also seals the tank at the same time. Moreover, phosphoric acid is also contained in standard tank cleaning kits.

Conventional rust removers 

Some people may be distrustful of home remedies and prefer to buy rust removers specifically made for this purpose. If you decide to purchase these instead, make sure you carefully read all of the instructions and follow them carefully. 

How can I keep my tank from rusting in the first place? 

How can I keep my tank from rusting

No matter how you look at it, in order to avoid rust, you still have to completely empty, clean, and seal your fuel tank once a year. The only other alternative is to keep a very close eye on the inside of your tank on a regular basis using an endoscope camera. You can buy a good one for less than £100. With this, you can take a leisurely, virtual walk inside your tank and locate the exact spots that are particularly affected. Once you’ve inspected the inside of the fuel tank, don’t forget the outer shell. Even dents in the reservoir can become a source of rust.


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