Remedying the Rusty Tank Scenario
I love older motorcycles. I’ve enjoyed buying them, fixing them up, riding them, then selling them so I can find another to tinker on and ride. Its a hobby I love, almost as much as just riding. My wife calls it a habit, but I digress.
I’ve found that old bikes, or even those that have just sat unused for months or years, tend to exhibit some of the same symptoms of age and neglect- gummed carbs, seized brakes, cracked hoses, and of course, rusted/corroded tanks. None of these are insurmountable, but the first symptom I always check for is the rusted tank. So often, people who claim, “It ran when I parked it” have likely left fuel in it as well, if even in a small amount. Over time, gas evaporation occurs, replaced with H2O moisture accumulation, and left unattended will create the conditions for rust in the tank and corrosion on the inner gas cap.
I’ve actually dealt with rusty tanks about five times over the years, applying several different modes of removal. There are tank kits you can buy, such as POR-15, which I’ve had some success with. But these DIY solutions are time-consuming, labor-intensive, and require the better part of a weekend to accomplish. Some radiator shops used to reseal motorcycle tanks, but I’ve found these are costly, not guaranteed, and they often do more damage to the tank (ruining the paint, cutting the tank open, etc.), and are just not worth it. Besides, fewer and fewer shops are willing to take the chance anymore. Most local motorcycle shops won’t work on tanks anymore either, just sending off for replacements.
Some examples of gnarly tank rust.
It seems that motorcycle tank restoration is becoming a bit of a lost art, at least in my neck of the woods.
A few years ago, I found a shop in Tampa, Florida that not only still restores tanks, they specialize in them. Owned by Craig Skiver, Craig Paints Bikes is a motorcycle custom paint shop, cranking out killer paint jobs on all kinds of bikes. His art has been featured in Born to Ride and Cafe’ Racer magazines, on Velocity Channel’s “Cafe’ Racer” series, and on a Mecum Auctions charity raffle bike by Santiago Chopper Specialties.
But his “secret sauce” in tank restoration is why I’ve sent three tanks to him in recent years, and his work never disappoints. Craig utilizes a proprietary method of scouring, cleaning, prepping and sealing the inner tank, without damaging the paint on the exterior. He told me, “I remove all the rust, clean them out and coat them with an epoxy tank liner that’s clear and works. I guarantee it with gasoline and even methanol. I even repair failed Kreme and Redkote liners.” His magic elixir is a special aircraft grade sealant, the toughest on the market.
Some before and an after shot or the ZR-7S tank. Quite the difference.
I recently sent him the tank off my latest 2001 Kawasaki ZR-7S project bike, which was featured on the header for our “Fix It Yourself” article last year. As can be seen in these pictures, the inner tank was pitted with rust throughout, and the hinge cap was coated in fine white corrosion. After boxing and shipping the tank to Craig’s shop, I received it back within a week, fully cleaned and sealed. The outer tank and bike might one day turn to rust and dust, but those inner walls never will.
I could have done the tank by myself, as I’ve done on two past occasions. I looked up a local radiator shop that did one for me before I discovered Craig, and they turned me away- “We don’t do motorcycle tanks anymore. Too much liability.” Just to see if this was becoming as scarce as I suspected, I called around several motorcycle shops in the Atlanta area. They all directed me to radiator shops, which of course no longer accept them, or only at a ridiculous high cost. I knew I was going to send this tank to Craig, but for research purposes, I had to pursue my hunches, which proved correct.
Sure, this is a shameless plug for Craig’s service. But when you find something that works, and someone who does great work and stands by said work, at an affordable price no less, then why not?
Have a rusty tank? I know a guy…
*Photos by Rob Brooks & Craig Skiver