Maybe you plan on riding your motorcycle all winter long. If that’s the case, I salute you. Given the current travel restrictions, it doesn’t look like I’ll be doing much riding this winter. Even when I flew to San Diego, CA to avoid winter a couple years ago, it still managed to find me.
A few weeks ago I mentioned that I’d be tucking the Thruxton in for a long winter’s slumber after its first service. The process would include the annual routine of hooking up a battery tender, topping up the tank, and finally, adding quality fuel stabilizer. One commenter rightly questioned this rationale. A video recently shared on FortNine’s YouTube channel has been making the rounds which questions the entire validity of this practice. . I was admittedly negligent by not mentioning the specific gas I added or brand of stabilizer I used, because it matters.
In the current climate of fake news and misinformation, it is important to question everything. Tire manufacturers will be the first to tell you that you need winter tires, but of course some are better than others. And, of course, the companies that make fuel stabilizer will tell you that your motorcycle needs their products in order to prevent serious damage. But as the aforementioned video demonstrates, some could actually do more harm than good.
Modern gasoline contains various levels of ethanol, which absorbs moisture which leads to corrosion. This begs the question, why add ethanol at all? Well, as the video states, it boosts octane numbers and burns more completely, while also helping support domestic farmers and reducing reliance on foreign oil consumption.
Fuel stabilizer is hydrophobic (repels water molecules), which is intended to mix with the gasoline in your tank, preventing it from picking up H20. In theory. Using a control of gasoline with 10 per cent ethanol (no stabilizer) compared to the same fuel mixed with six different kinds of stabilizer, humidity is added for thirty minutes to measure how much moisture is absorbed. Some of the stabilizers marginally prevented this, others did nothing and two even attracted more moisture than not using stabilizer at all. They had one job!
When left to their own devices fuel additives can settle to the bottom of your tank over time, clogging up your carburetors or fuel injectors. They (along with the moisture gathered) will reduce combustion, so a water-soluble fuel like methanol is added to improve flammability. The next test measured how each stabilizer faired in this area, again, with varying results.
The next consideration is something that us Canadians especially need to consider. Not everyone is lucky enough to have heated storage, so if your fuel stabilizer is attracting moisture rather than repelling it while sitting in a cold garage or shed then the fuel in your tank could actually freeze. I don’t think we need to explore why that isn’t a good thing.
Fuel stabilizers also have antioxidants to prevent corrosion in your tank and various parts of your fuel system. Again, some of the stabilizers tested provided fair to negligible results, while others were so bad it was cringe-worthy.
Fuel stabilizers are used to reduce moisture and prevent oxidation, but if they do the opposite, then why bother? Each of these elements are intensified the more ethanol is in your gas. If your bike will be sitting for months on end in a cold climate, it stands to reason that you should top up your last tank of the season with ethanol-free gas. And if you don’t have a heated garage, why not bring your motorcycle into the house?