How To: Replacing A Failed Gas Tank Lining

Having the lining fail in the gas tank of your motorcycle can happen.  There are a few different causes, in some cases it’s a bad batch of tanks from the factory, or just age taking its toll.  The most common reason for failure is the ethanol in our fuel eating away at the liner while your bike sits in storage during the off season.  You roll it out on the first warm day, ride off, and in a few miles you are sitting on the side of the road with a dead bike wondering what the hell happened.

There are ways to prevent liner failure, or at least give your bike a fighting chance.  The first, use pure ethanol free gas if you can get it, second, use a fuel stabilizer, the third, and this is my favorite, ride your bike year round.  I know the third preventative measure might not be an option for my friends in the colder climates, so they will just have to go with the first two, or at the very least, if you can’t get pure gas, the second.

Editor’s Note:  Personally, I run pure gas as much as possible, if I know my bike will sit for more than a month, I use a fuel stabilizer like SeaFoam or Sta-Bil.

So what do you do if your tank liner fails?  Or, as in the case of many vintage motorcycles, you have an old gas tank full of rust?  You clean it out and pour yourself a new liner, that’s what you do.  I’m lucky man, I have some great friends, many of them are excellent mechanics, some even own independent motorcycle shops.  And some are generous enough with their expertise to contribute to The Biker’s Garage.  Such is the case here, a full “How To” by Rylan Vos, from The Vic Shop.  In this article he is replacing the tank liner in a Victory Vegas, but the basic principals of cleaning and applying the new liner are much the same for other makes of motorcycles.  As always, the details for your make and model motorcycle can be found in your service manual.  We are joining Rylan after he has removed the fuel and internal components from the tank.

Replacing Your Failed Gas Tank Liner

Follow along as we try to salvage this 2011 Vegas fuel tank. (Yes, 2011!)  The lining was coming off so bad it would clog up the fuel filter within miles.  Handfuls of tank lining were flaking off. A new replacement tank from Victory is about $1300, so we’ll try a fuel tank lining kit from Caswell.

Wow!  Notice the large chunk sitting outside the tank, there was a lot more than that inside!  All it takes is one tank of bad fuel, or one storage period that went too long for this to happen.  Bad gasoline can turn fuel systems to garbage quickly.

failed gas tank liner in a 2011 victory vegas
View through the fuel pump trapdoor on the tank.

The first step after removing the fuel and internal components is to clean the tank, a pressure washer works well for this.

cleaning a failed gas tank liner in a 2011 victory vegas with a pressure washer
Large chunks of the liner on the ground.

Once the tank was dry, we can reach in with sandpaper and manually remove what we couldn’t with the pressure washer.

cleaning a failed gas tank liner in a 2011 victory vegas with sandpaper
The nice thing about the Victory tank is the large fuel pump access hole.

After sanding a shop vac removed any remaining liner debris.  Then we went to drywall screws and acetone.  Sloshing that mixture around broke up what we couldn’t reach by hand.

cleaning a failed gas tank liner in a 2011 victory vegas with drywall screws and acetone
In go the drywall screws.

Editor’s Note:  Back in the day we used fish tank gravel with gas to remove rust in the tank.

Once we removed what we could of the old liner the tank was washed several times and dried.  Then a protective mask was applied to the painted portion so we could pour in the liner.

replacing a failed gas tank liner in a 2011 victory vegas masking procedure
All painted surfaces are masked to protect the paint.
replacing a failed gas tank liner in a 2011 victory vegas masking procedure trapdoor
Underside of the tank where the new liner is poured in. Make sure any sealing surfaces are covered.

This is Caswell’s two part epoxy tank lining kit.  We follow the instructions to a “T.”

this is Caswell's two part epoxy tank lining kit used for replacing the victory vegas tank liner
Great kit, this, and a little work is better than spending $1, 300 to replace the tank!

After mixing and pouring the epoxy we have to stand there and slowly rotate the tank so the lining flows all over the inside of the tank.  It has the consistency of thick syrup and flows slowly, in this case patience is a virtue.

replacing a failed gas tank liner in a 2011 victory vegas moving the liner epoxy around in the tank
Moving the epoxy around in the tank.
replacing a failed gas tank liner in a 2011 victory vegas moving the liner epoxy around in the tank getting all the areas inside
Manually moving the wet epoxy to all the corners.

After a while the epoxy slows down and starts to cure.  We wait an hour, then strip off the tank protective masking.  The epoxy is firm, but can be trimmed with a knife if it dripped onto a sealing surface.

replacing a failed gas tank liner in a 2011 victory vegas the liner epoxy curing
Letting the tank liner cure before removing the masking.
replacing a failed gas tank liner in a 2011 victory vegas replacement liner epoxy cured
It’s hard to get the thick layer of clear epoxy to show up on camera, but this gives you an idea.

Notice that all the lining didn’t completely come out for us.  Some was still stuck on quite well. This is the best we can hope for with these cleaning methods, but what remained is sealed under the new liner.  The tank could have been hot-tanked (we use a local radiator shop) which would have stripped 100% of the interior coating, but it would have taken 100% of the outer paint too and the tank would need repainting.

replacing a failed gas tank liner in a 2011 victory vegas replacement liner epoxy cured tank ready for service
All done, and ready for the internal components.

After the epoxy has completely cured the internals can be reinstalled and the tank put back into service.

Words By: Rylan Vos of The Vic Shop

Images By: Rylan Vos of The Vic Shop

Article Forward By: Terry Cavender

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2 thoughts on “How To: Replacing A Failed Gas Tank Lining

    1. If you’re riding a Harley I’m sure you do need help….. Just kidding! Back in the day (when I rode a Harley Shovelhead) if we had a gas tank with rust inside fish tank gravel worked well to remove loose rust. (This is similar to the technique used in the article, but using gravel instead of drywall screws.) A combination of water, dish soap, and rough gravel from the pet store was placed in the tank, the openings stopped up, and the mixture was sloshed around inside the tank. This is a process, every once and a while we would pour the old water out, and put new mix in. When the mix was coming out clear we knew that we had got what we could. After getting the gravel out the tank was rinsed out several times, first with a soap/water mix, then just water, after that, compressed air was blown in to force out as much moisture was possible. Sitting the tank in the sun also helped, after that the tank was coated inside with a product called “Kreem.” You might want to try a similar process with your tank to remove any of the liner that is loose in your tank, what’s left, the sealant should secure. Of course, this is something you can attempt at your own risk, it may, or may not work. Also, back in the day, we didn’t have anything inside our tanks but gas, these days I have no idea what is in a Harley tank that could be damaged by the gravel, only you know what’s in your tank. Good luck, I hope this has been helpful.

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