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How to correctly fill your motorcycle tank

Are you overfilling your motorcycle tank, wasting money and putting your life in danger?

Watch this video and check out these safety and money-saving tips.

This video provides a graphic explanation for why you should never fill your bike while you are sitting on it.

In this case, the rider on the KTM 200 Duke allows the service station attendant in India to fill the tank while he is sitting on board.

That wouldn’t happen in Australia where most servos insist you get off your motorcycle.

In the video, the attendant overfills or the nozzle shut-off fails and the petrol spills on to the hot engine, bursting into flames instantly.

The rider suffered burns to both legs and his right arm.

Overfilling motorcycle tankFuel service station helmet motorcycle tank

Overfilling a motorcycle fuel tank is easy to do.

Cars have long filler necks which bubble up when the tank is near full and shuts off the nozzle.

There is rarely a splash back on the first “click” because the fuel has a long way to travel up the filler neck.

However, motorcycles either have a short filler neck or none at all. So the nozzle shuts off when the fuel tank is almost full and can easily splash out of the tank opening.

The correct way to fuel your bike, is to shove the nozzle down into the tank, not leave the tip near the top.

That way, the nozzle will shut off before the tank is full and near the fuel cap opening.

You then pull the nozzle back to the edge of the opening and slowly fill the tank by watching and listening.

Of course, you should first switch off the ignition, get off your bike and put it on the side stand or centre stand.

Many riders are incensed that they have to remove their helmet and feel discriminated against because others are not requested to remove their headwear.

However, you need to be able to listen to the fuel gurgling in your tank. That may be difficult while wearing some helmets. I also wear ear plugs, so I take off my helmet and remove at least one ear plug when refuelling.

Squeezing in the most fuel

Fuel service station helmet motorcycle tank

Some riders believe they fit more fuel in their bike if they put it on the centre stand, but it depends on the bike and the shape of the tank.

However, you really shouldn’t try to squeeze in as much fuel as possible.

Motorcycle tanks have filler recesses, hoses and an air gap at the top and will hold more fuel than the volume stated on the technical specifications.

That gap is there to allow the fuel to expand as it heats up. If you fill the gap, the fuel will simply spill out of the breather hose as you ride off.

The motorcycle tank is usually placed above the engine and in direct sunlight so they are susceptible to fuel expanding with the heat which pushes more fuel out of the breather hose.

Inaccurate pumpsFuel service station helmet

If you haven’t totally filled up but the bowser suggests you’ve put in more than you believe is possible, it could be an inaccurate pump and you should lodge a complaint.

According to the National Measurement Institute (NMI), about one in a dozen complaints about inaccurate pumps is found to be correct.

They have trade measurement inspectors throughout Australia who are authorised to visit a place of business “at any reasonable time of day’’ as part of a trade measurement compliance inspection program.

Industry sources say servos are usually not fined, but warned on first offences.

So riders should be skeptical of bowser readings. Buy from reputable fuel suppliers and if you think you have a genuine complaint notify the authorities.

(Consumers can make complaints by ringing the national NMI hotline on 1300 686 664 or via email.

  1. yep that stupid rule about not being on your bike when you fill it, people complian about really is not stupid at all

    1. Stop promoting Corporation rules over our lives, on what we can and cannot do !

      We are nation ruled by Gov. and laws not Corporations !

      If you are not braking any LAWS or highway codes, Corporations have no RIGHT to force you to do anything but to respect your RIGHTS !

      No way are you a motorcyclist, I’ve been one for 32+ years as my main mode of transport and never will allow an attendant to fill MY bike.
      Shame on you for using this video to manipulate people !

      And giving bad advice and telling people how to live !

      Treating people like children that can never figure things out by themselves.
      32 years makes me an expert and I know what I’m talking about and I share my experience and disgust on how we are treated.

      Your not an expert on noting !
      Only pretend to be an authority, using lawyer tactics and deceptions to push your masters agendas !

      And shame on readers who agree we should OBEY Corporations dictatorship !

      1. The law is all proprietors of a business have the right to refuse service to who they choose for whatever reason they choose providing it’s not breaching the anti discrimination act.
        Many riders dislike removing their helmets because it is a pain in the neck to do so, it is a large round object that costs a lot of money and can be damaged by dropping (I dropped my helmet once and scratched the visor badly right in the middle and broke the hinges) or it could be stolen.
        Nor do servos provide a safe place to sit the helmet when paying so you have to battle with wallet cash and helmet at the counter. And what about Bluetooth systems? If you get a call while your helmets off you ever have to disconnect the Bluetooth or quickly get the helmet on and that can be a pain if you wear glasses.
        I wear a flip up helmet and I am constantly having to tell the console operators that the helmet off policy only applies to full face helmets.
        Now about safe filling
        Many riders setting out on a long journey like to fill to the brim to ensure that they have enough fuel to reach the next servo, depending on the bike very little fuel if any will spill out the overflow and unless you immediately get stuck in traffic the excess fuel will be used up before the tank can get hot enough to cause a problem. The air gap in most tanks is excessive and this is not exactly for safety reasons but environmental reasons. If a bike is filled to the brim and parked the fuel will run out the overflow polluting the environment and there is. A very minor fire risk. So most bikes that aren’t going to be parked can safely be filled almost to the point of over flowing,
        It’s just a real pain to do so which is why some owners mod their tanks by punching holes in the filler neck to allow more time at full speed fill before they have to trickle feed.

    2. “yep that stupid rule”

      A “rule” ? You mean like in a kids game ? Are you a child ?
      Are corporations your parents ?
      Will they spank you if you disobey ?

      Just want to make you think John.

  2. “Many riders are incensed that they have to remove their helmet and feel discriminated against because someone wearing a turban of burqa is not requested to remove their headwear.” how the hell is this relevant to an article about the right and wrong way of filling your motorcycle with fuel?

    1. Not sure I follow you. It’s about the need to take off your helmet for safety’s sake while refuelling. The story says that.
      I’ve seen many forums on the web where people have expressed indignation about having to remove their helmet.
      Hope that makes it clear.

      1. It doesn’t make it clear. If the article is about “the need to take off your helmet for safety’s sake while refuelling” then whether motorcyclists feel discriminated against relative to turban or burqa wearers is irrelevant. I understand the indignation about having to take your helmet off to refuel, I believe this is for security reasons because if fuel was to be stolen then the perpetrator would not be able to be identified and for the same reason the helmet must be removed when going to pay. To introduce the notion that riders feeling discriminated against because burqa wearers and turban wearers don’t have to remove head wear is irrelevant. It has nothing to do with the law as it applies to motorcyclists, which is all the article should be about. Where has the need to remove helmets been explained on safety issues? Shell’s web site for example says re motorcyclists:
        ——————————————————————————————————————————————————— Motorcycles
        Always get off your motorcycle prior to and during refuelling.
        Remove your helmet before entering a store.
        ———————————————————————————————————————————————————No mention of taking the helmet off before refuelling. It would be interesting to see who makes these laws and the actual wording of them. I don’t know that they are necessarily being interpreted correctly at the pumps.

        1. Sorry I didn’t realise there were rules about what the story could and couldn’t include.
          As for rules about taking off the helmet, some allow it, some don’t. Some require you to take the helmet off before paying and others before pumping fuel.
          The point is, you should take it off to hear the fuel going into the tank.
          I’m still not quite sure what your point is.

        2. “who makes these laws and the actual wording of them”

          Corporations are law makers now ????

          1. @ angry biker. Chances are you are fueling up on private(corporate) property so it means its their rules. You can always go somewhere else – if you can. I think we can safely say that corporations now dictate the laws to governments – the very people we farcically ‘elect’ to see to our interests and protect us from tyrants. Can you see that working anymore

  3. I have only been riding bikes 30 years so I could be wrong, but I am yet to hear fuel gurgling to the top of my tank before I can see it (ala in a car).

    Also…Removing your helmet is In fact less safe. By keeping it on you actually have a barrier in the unlikely event of a fire. I also wear safety glasses or put the visor down whilst refuelling as there is a much greater chance of getting fuel splashed into your eye.

    The argument that bike riders might ride off or could rob the store attendant is stupid. If someone is going to rob the store and don’t want to be recognised they will wander in wearing a balaclava or similar. Your number plate rather than your face will get you caught unless of course you happen to be famous and instantly recognisable.

    The rule to remove your helmet is discrimatory and needs to be dropped.

    1. Is it a law Paul ?

      Are you braking any highway codes ?
      Will you be arrested and charged if you don’t comply ?

      They are working above the law, threatening and forcing their employees to refuse service or else they will receive a find in the form of a cut back, an illegal one in my view.

      So the question is; do they have the right to refuse service if we brake no law ?
      And can employees fight in the courts for illegal cut backs on their due salaries ?

  4. seriously folks, how much of a rush are we in that you feel the need to leave your helmet on, when you pay for fuel at the Servo. It’s more curious to take your helmet off and maybe have a chance for a casual chat with the servo attendant. Also it’s a tad refreshing to take the helmet off during a long ride. Common sense is the key.

  5. I have my personal way to fill my gas tank !

    It has served me well and is extremely safe and effective !

    Your way is not superior to mine !

    And I don’t like the fact that your working on forcing me to stop doing it my way and adopt your inferior way !

    “Overfilling a motorcycle fuel tank is easy to do”

    So is falling off a chair !

    Stop talking down to people !

    There is a time and place for teaching, but what your doing is making people submit to rulers !

    I’m a man and I don’t need a babysitter or a nanny state !

    1. If you don’t want someone “telling you” how to do something WHY would you read an article with the title “How to correctly fill your motorcycle tank”

  6. So it safe to refuel my motorbike when the engine is runnng very hot or I should have to cool it down for few minutes before refuelling ?..I’m asking this because I own a Dorso 750 which can be extremely hot after a long journey or stuck in traffic ..

    1. Hi Newbie!
      First, welcome to the wonderful world of motorcycling!
      You would have to wait hours to refuel if you let your bike to cool down first.
      Just be careful not to get any fuel on the manifold. Having said that, I’ve done it, but only a few splashes which isn’t enough to cause a fire. You would have to spill a lot of fuel.

  7. Hi,
    My bike is making sloshing sounds if I sway it left to right. I’m not sure if it’s the petrol or what a whether this is normal or not?

  8. Must admit, I am not a great fan, of the remove the helmet before you can pump gas. In the middle of winter, yes open face with visor, I’m not all that keen, on removing it after riding some 30 odd miles to the nearest fuel on the way to work at 6 am, in, with wind chill of -10 temps. They got my rego they can clearly see my face, they can see the colour of my hair. At that time of the day, I’m not interested in chatting, I just want to purchase fuel, get back on the bike and get to work, and the hot coffee. Like hello it’s not like they don’t know me, I fill up there every second day.

  9. Thank you for this article. I’m a new rider and while experienced folks take these things for granted, when you’re new at anything, the basics still need figuring out and habit to solidify. I appreciate it.

    Many comments seem to only focus on helmet on/off, but as a newbie, there’s more good info here than just that. I for one take my helmet off for numerous reasons, not just seeing/hearing. Again, for a newbie, there’s also familiarity. Most/all of us have been filling cars for years without a helmet on obviously. To me it just feels “weird” to stand there doing something I’ve done countless times on a car, but wearing a big helmet. I feel clumsy like that. More comfortable and “normal” for me to take it off.

    Thanks again.

  10. I worked at a servo and let me tell you; take off the helmet or there’s a good chance your pump isn’t getting activated. It isn’t descrimination. A LOT of people fill up their car/bike and then drive/ride off without paying. I’d get six per week. We take down the number plate, yeah. But a lot of the time people park their bikes without the number plate showing. If you did that and I was working, I told you over the PA to take the helmet off so we’d get a good shot of your face on camera. We’re told by managers and higher ups to not authorise the pump if you leave your helmet on. So yeah, you get pissed? So do the people working who you then tell off for doing their jobs. WE then got in shit for not telling you to take the helmet off.

    There’s also the fact that if you then walk into the servo wearing your helmet, it makes us weary. We’re more likely to get robbed by someone hiding their face than a dude just walking into the shop with his face clear. You remove your helmet at the bank, you remove your helmet at the servo. Quit bitching about it, it takes ten seconds.

  11. I rarely remove my helmet here in NY, and I never ‘shove the nozzle into the tank’ that is NONSENSE, the tank would be barely filled before the fuel shuts off. One of my KTMs would not even have the roon to shove the nozzle in. You MUST hold the nozzle near the top so you can see the interior level if you want a full tank. Cars usually have a long pipe from the filler to the tank, bikes generally do not.

    Filling a bike here is the riders job; some states like New Jersey requires the attendant fill CARS , but bikes are excepted from that rule. Also, shoving a filler nozzle into a bike tank could easily damage it. somer tanks are fiberglas, older BMW K bikes and many other bikes had soft Aluminum tanks, most tanks have nice paint jobs.

    1. “some states like New Jersey requires the attendant fill CARS , but bikes are excepted from that rule.”

      There is no exemption for motorcycles in NJ.

      There is no self service in NJ and none in Oregon in counties with greater than 40,000 residents. Motorcycles are exempt from the self service law in Oregon, but not in NJ.

  12. Thanks for pointing out that the correct way to fuel your bike, is to shove the nozzle down into the tank, not leave the tip near the top because that way, the nozzle will shut off before the tank is full and near the fuel cap opening. my boyfriend just got a Ducati motorcycle and so we’re both trying to figure out the best way to do everything so that it can last for a long time and stay in good condition. I am thinking about getting him a quick release gas cap so that he can fill it up easier and quicker and lessen the chance of him filling it up wrong.

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