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What should you do if water gets in your fuel tank?

Follow these steps to minimize damage to your engine.

What should you do if water gets in your fuel tank?

This may seem like a rare scenario, however, it does happen. Imagine this, you’ve left your motorcycle parked outside in the middle of a torrential downpour. You think nothing of it, as you’ve done this many times before. You get back on your bike, start it up, and go along your way, when suddenly your bike begins to sputter, cut out, and eventually stall. You wonder what it could be, and pull into a nearby gas station. As you open your fuel cap, you notice a pool of water around the lip of your filler cover. 

All motorcycles are equipped with a fuel overflow hose which is meant to catch any fuel which has overflowed from your gas tank, as well as any water from external sources. This excess fuel and water is then drained away via a hose that leads to the bottom of your bike and onto the floor below. Now, this hose can become clogged, and result in the drainage system not working. As such, water can accumulate on the lip of your filler cap, and eventually make its way into your fuel tank and into your fuel system. 

How to tell if your fuel overflow hose is clogged

Fuel overflow and breather hose

It’s really easy to tell if your fuel overflow hose is clogged. You’ll notice right away that water is sloshing around beneath your fuel tank through visual inspection alone. You can also try to test if it’s working by locating the end of the drain hose at the bottom of your bike, and dripping a small amount of water above it. 

Fortunately, it’s very easy to unclog a fuel overflow house. You can either use a thin wire to unclog it, or attach a bicycle pump on the other end of the hose, and pump until the blockage is cleared. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the steps involved in addressing the problem of water getting into your fuel tank. 

Don’t try to start your bike

Don't attempt to start your engine

If you’re certain that a substantial amount of water has gotten into your fuel tank, don’t even try to start your engine. Not only can this cause problems with your fuel system, it could also damage the internals of your engine. What you want to do is to stay calm, and go through the step-by-step procedure of draining your fuel tank. 

If you’re stuck on the side of the road, you may want to call a friend or family member who can rescue you with a pick up truck or a flatbed. Otherwise, you could address this problem at your nearest gas station. At this point, it’s important to note that you could get away with just a small amount of water getting into your fuel system. However, if you’re certain that a large amount—more than around 50ml has gotten into your tank—then you may really need to drain your gas tank. 

Remove your fuel tank and drain the fuel

Motorcycle fuel tank

Removing your fuel tank may seem like a daunting task. The difficulty of accessing your fuel tank will depend greatly on the type of bike you ride, as well as your own mechanical know-how. Most bikes, however, have tanks attached via three or four bolts, and can easily be removed by first taking off surrounding bodywork such as tank covers and fairings. One important thing to note here is to disconnect the fuel level sensor line, as well as the fuel pump line, if your bike is equipped with an EFI system. Also, take extra precaution when disconnect the fuel hose, as the rubber these hoses are made of can get very brittle over time. 

Once you have your fuel tank off the bike, now comes the part wherein you have to drain your tank. Now, when disposing of fuel, never dump it into the drainage system as it can cause serious damage to the sewage system. Instead, head over to your nearest gas station and ask for assistance when it comes to disposing of the spent fuel. All gasoline stations are equipped with the necessary equipment for handling petroleum-based waste, without having any adverse effects on the environment. 

Reinstall your fuel tank, and fill it up

Motorcycle fuel tank

The next step is a very straightforward process. Just retrace your steps when you uninstalled your tank, and do the reverse. Make sure that all the electrical connections are plugged into the right places, and all the hoses are attached snuggly onto the tank. Take extra caution in routing the breather valve and overflow hoses, too, in order to avoid the system getting clogged up again in the future. Once you have your fuel tank installed properly, you can go ahead and refill your tank, and hopefully, the bike will start with one click.

What to do after

Once you’ve managed to drain your fuel and fill your tank up with fresh gasoline, you may be all good to go. However, if you’re one who likes to take extra precaution, you may want to go the extra mile and replace your fuel filter, as well as have your injectors cleaned by a professional mechanic. This way, you ensure that the ghosts of the horrifying ordeal don’t come back to haunt you. 

As mentioned earlier, this type of scenario happening to you is rather unlikely. However, we’ve had the misfortune of this exact incessant happening to us on two of our bikes. It always pays to be prepared for any untoward incident that comes your way. As they say, preparedness is key. 

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