Fuel storage additives
My GoldWing, a GL1800, is usually laid up for most of the winter these days and I also have two other, older GoldWings which get stored far more than they get used.
One of the issues when storing a bike for extended periods is whether to empty the fuel tank (and maybe even the fuel system, or at least the carburetors) or leave it full.
Is there a clear “best practice” approach to this or is it down to whatever takes your fancy? And if there is a clear best practice, is it the same for all models and ages of GoldWings?
And does the type of fuel in the tank make a difference? I decided to try to find out.
The potential fuel system problems from long term storage are that:
- the fuel goes “stale” over time so the engine will not start or run satisfactorily
- corrosion or blockages might occur either in the tank or elsewhere in the fuel system
- ethanol fuels have additional corrosive potential.
Petroleum (otherwise known as petrol or gasoline) is refined from crude oil and it contains the “higher” alcohols and other volatile chemicals – hence it’s tendency to give of fumes (i.e.vapour) readily. These chemicals are also highly flammable, so if you mix petrol vapour with air and apply a spark you get an explosion. Contain the explosion inside a cylinder which has a piston in it and you get motion and that, in essence, is how a GoldWing’s engine works.
Although petrol is mostly the product of selectively distilling crude oil, the manufacturing process also includes adding special chemicals (called additives) to enhance its performance. Once upon a time organic lead compounds (which are highly toxic) were added to petrol as an anti-knocking agent but no longer of course and we now use unleaded petrol – but it still contains a selection of additives to enhance its suitability as automotive fuel and the various manufacturers like to claim that their petrol is better than their competitors (and especially better than cheaper supermarket petrol) because of the value of their particular choice of additives.
Because petrol is a complex mixture of chemicals, some of which vaporise more actively than others, some of the livelier chemicals evaporate in storage and the fuel goes “stale” and will no longer start or run an engine satisfactorily. Manufacturers add some stabilising additives during manufacture but you cannot buy petrol at the pumps which will last more than two or three months in storage without risk of “going stale” and becoming unusable. If you try to use it you will find the engine becoming difficult to start or run properly and you will also risk gumming up of parts in the fuel system. Running your GoldWing on old petrol is not a good idea.
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