Should you store a motorcycle for the winter with a full tank of gas?

As winter approaches, many motorcycle owners face the decision of whether to store their bike for the colder months or keep riding. For those choosing to store their motorcycle, one of the considerations is whether to fill up the gas tank before parking it for the season.

There are good arguments on both sides of this issue, and motorcycle storage experts don’t always agree. Looking at the potential benefits and drawbacks can help you decide if storing your bike with a full tank is the right choice.

Potential Benefits of a Full Gas Tank

Here are some of the possible advantages of storing your motorcycle for winter with a full tank of gas:

  • Reduces condensation – Gasoline vapors act as a moisture absorber inside the tank. Keeping the tank full minimizes air space where condensation can form.
  • Prevents rust in the tank – Condensation that occurs in a partially filled tank can cause rusting on the inside walls over time.
  • Avoids stale gas problems – Gasoline can go stale when stored for long periods. However, a full tank minimizes air exposure.
  • Saves time in spring – When it’s time to ride again, you can hit the road without having to refuel first.
  • Fuel stabilizers work best – Additives work more efficiently when mixed in a full tank rather than added to a partial tank.

Based on these potential benefits, many motorcyclists argue that keeping the gas tank full over winter is smart preventative maintenance.

Possible Disadvantages of a Full Tank

However, there are also some drawbacks that could occur from motorcycle winter storage with a full fuel tank:

  • Possible fuel leak – Keeping a tank full increases the risk of leaks from expansion and contraction compared to partial fill.
  • Extra cost – You need to pay for a full tank of fresh gasoline that may go unused for months.
  • Fuel stabilization still required – While helpful, full tanks still need stabilizer to prevent degradation.
  • Weight concerns – A full tank adds extra weight that may affect motorcycle balancing on a stand.
  • Fire hazard – There are very minimal risks associated with having larger fuel quantities stored.

Considering these cons, some bikers recommend emptying the tank to around half full before winterizing the motorcycle.

Other Motorcycle Winter Storage Tips

In addition to deciding on the fuel level, there are other steps you should take to properly store your motorcycle for the winter:

  • Add fuel stabilizer – Use a quality fuel stabilizer like Sta-Bil to prevent gasoline breakdown.
  • Change the oil – Old oil can condense moisture. Replace it with fresh oil before storage.
  • Disconnect the battery – Remove the battery and store it indoors, on a trickle charger.
  • Lubricate – Coat all control cables with lubricant to prevent seizing.
  • Reduce tire pressure – Deflate tires to proper winter storage pressure levels.
  • Use motorcycle parking stands – Elevate the bike to prevent flat spots on the tires.

Properly preparing your motorcycle for months of non-use requires attention to many maintenance details. The gas tank level is just one, but still an important factor.

The Case for Emptying the Tank

In the debate over gas tank levels for stored bikes, riders who advocate for emptying the tank have some compelling arguments. Here are a few of the best points:

  • Prevents possible leaks – Empty tanks eliminate the risk of fuel leaks from pressure changes.
  • No fire hazard – Keeping only a small amount of gas is safer than a full tank in the event of a fire.
  • Saves money – Not filling the tank saves on the cost of unused fuel over the winter.
  • Allows for movement – An empty bike is easier to maneuver or push around without fuel weight.
  • Less tank corrosion – Completely emptying the tank minimizes condensation better than a partial fill.

For these key reasons, many bikers recommend draining the motorcycle fuel tank as part of winterization unless it will be ridden occasionally during winter months.

The Case for Filling the Tank

On the other side of the debate, there are motorcycle enthusiasts who strongly advocate for keeping a full gas tank during winter bike storage. Here are some of their best arguments:

  • Prevents rust better – Empty tanks invite moisture condensation, a leading cause of rust.
  • Stabilizer works best – Additives mix and spread through a full tank most effectively.
  • No spring refueling – With a full tank, you can start riding right away in spring.
  • Reduces airspace – Minimal air in a full tank means less gas degradation from oxidation.
  • Weight impact overblown – Modern tip-over protection minimizes any hazard from a full tank.

While not leak-proof, many bikers consider the anti-rust benefits of a filled tank to outweigh the relatively minor risks.

Other Factors to Consider

Beyond the core arguments on both sides, several other factors come into play when deciding on fuel levels for stored motorcycles:

  • Motorcycle type – Heavy touring bikes need more stabilization from a full tank than lighter bikes.
  • Storage location – Bikes stored in heated garages need less condensation protection than unheated spaces.
  • Trip plans – Keeping a full tank makes sense if you expect winter riding days.
  • Gas costs – Partial draining can save on fuel costs in areas with high gas prices.
  • Drain access – Draining the tank fully requires convenient access to run the engine dry.

Considering these additional variables will help determine if empty, full, or partially filled is best for your individual storage needs.

Best Practices for Winter Motorcycle Storage

Here is a summary checklist covering the best practices for storing your motorcycle over the winter months:

  • Stabilize fuel – Add stabilizer to the tank and fill with fresh gasoline.
  • Change oil – Drain old oil and replace with new oil suited for colder months.
  • Disconnect battery – Remove the battery to an indoor location for storage and maintenance charging.
  • Treat components – Lubricate control cables, linkages, pivots, and levers to prevent seizing.
  • Reduce tire pressure – Deflate tires to the recommended winter storage pressure listed by the manufacturer.
  • Elevate motorcycle – Use a paddock stand, rack, or blocks to raise wheels off the ground.
  • Cover motorcycle – Use a breathable cover to protect from dust and pests while allowing ventilation.
  • Consider fuel level – Decide whether to keep tank full, empty, or partially filled based on storage factors.
  • Review owner’s manual – Follow all winterization steps recommended by your motorcycle’s manufacturer.

Taking these proactive steps will keep your motorcycle protected from seasonal damage and ready to roll when warm riding weather returns.


Deciding how much fuel to leave in your motorcycle’s tank for winter storage requires weighing the pros and cons of both approaches. Keeping the tank full helps prevent rust and makes spring start-up simpler. But emptying the tank also has advantages like leak prevention, minimized fire risk, and reduced weight.

Often, the best approach depends on your specific storage situation. Storing in a heated garage may allow an empty tank, while unheated conditions may dictate keeping fuel to reduce condensation. Check your owner’s manual for model-specific advice.

Whichever approach you choose, be sure to stabilize gas, disconnect the battery, protect tires, and take other steps to properly winterize your motorcycle. With careful preparation, you can keep your bike ready to ride and avoid seasonal damage during months of winter storage.

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