Is it Bad to Lay a Motorcycle On its Side?

There are several things that can go wrong once a motorcycle is laid down and depending on how long it stays that way increases the likelihood of damage.  

Even with all the developments and progression, we’ve had in modern-day motorcycles, the foundation of motorcycle driving still stands that all riders sit in an upright vertical position and steer their horizontal bikes as it moves along.  

Sometimes you have to “hug the bike.” That is leaning down close to the fuel tank while riding, but it only makes sense when you’re a professional MotoGP racer and are absolutely are aware of what you’re doing. 

Typically, the circumstances that result in motorcyclists laying down their motorcycles are because:

  • they haven’t acquainted themselves with the basics of motorcycle riding
  • panicked in a situation where an accident on the road was imminent
  • or they are new to motorcycle riding and haven’t quite gotten their bearings right.

Is is bad to lay a motorycle on it’s side?

In short, laying a motorcycle on its side is extremely bad for the bike. The detrimental effects of laying a motorcycle on its side include leakage of fuel and other liquids as well as damage to the motorcycle exterior such as scratches and paint chippings.

Don’t worry, this is why we’re here to put you at ease and by the end of this article, you’ll have, if not the most, at least some sense of how to handle your motorcycle.  

And if you want the full details of exactly how a motorcycle should stand and why then read on:

What happens when a motorcycle is laid down? 

When a Motorcycle is laid down for a short time it will result in cosmetic damage such as scratches, paint chipping, and twisted mirrors. If the motorcycle is laid down for a greater amount of time then the gas, oil, and battery acid may seep into the engine and damage it.

The answer to this depends entirely depends on how long the bike’s been in that position. If it was tipped over by someone backing their car out or you accidentally forgot to lay down the kickstand properly then immediately pick it up, put it in the first gear and set down the centre stand; now the bike isn’t going anywhere.

When a bike is laid down for a little while, be prepared for cosmetic damage including scratches, paint chippings, bent or twisted mirrors, and in some cases, if the bike falls down with force then it may break the rear lights as well.

These expenses are avoidable if proper care is exercised when handling the bike but if you’re the sort that doesn’t care much for aesthetics and being orderly then carry on as you were.  

Motorcycles are at risk of severe engine damage when they’re laid down on their sides for hours on end, even days. What must be considered at all times is fuel, coolant, engine oil and battery acid.

Separately they won’t do any harm, but by leaning it over and letting gravity do its work, not only will gas, oil and battery acid leak out of the bike but it will seep into the carburettors, cylinders, crankcase, bearings and all the moving bits of the engine. 

The primary cause for concern is when your engine goes into hydrolock. The combustion chambers and the pistons are built to maintain a minimum of fluids while running; the rest of it has to have air to allow the piston to complete its rotation.

When oil or fuel mix in, it erases the volume for the compression seizing the engine as it getting the maximum amount of force often resulting in connecting rods being bent/broken and totalling the crankshaft.  

In that case, take out the spark plugs, empty the carburettors with all fluids, turn the engine over and crank it a couple of times.

Start the bike again, it might smoke for a bit or won’t start at all. If the engine just won’t come to life then call your mechanic and bid adieu to your wallet, because this is going to cost you. 

How long can a motorcycle be on its side? 

A motorcycle can not lay on its side for longer than five minutes without the fuel, oil, and battery acid starting to leak. If it stays on its side for long periods of time then it will result in severe damage to the motorcycle and you may need to get it repaired.

There’s a reason why all motorcycle repair work is done with the bike standing up in an upright position all over the world.

As previously mentioned, bikes have fluids in them each required to serve a specific purpose and as long as it stays so, the bike continues to perform perfectly. 

Think of it this way, any machine engineered to function in a specific position will only continue to do so as long as that position is maintained. Why would you want to change that?  

Laying a motorcycle down always results in fuel, oil and battery acid leakage. Even if you possess a well-maintained motorcycle, there will be minimum spillage.  

No matter how long you’ve laid it down set it upright, pop out the spark plugs, let the fluids drain out and then check and see how much oil got out and then top it off.

After that let it settle down for a couple of hours just to be sure. When you start it again, it might choke a bit or let out smoke from the exhaust but it will be fine.  

And just because you’ve seen someone do it and they said nothing bad ever happened to their motorcycle doesn’t make it right.

They just beat the odds of messing up their motorcycle, they aren’t aware of the basics of motorcycle riding and it’s only a matter of time before things take a turn for the worse.

Keep your motorcycle in an upright standing position, always.

Can you lay a motorcycle on its side to be transported? 

Ideally, you should not lay a motorcycle on its side which is to be transported as it will cause fuel, oil, and battery leakage. However, if necessary, you may transport the bike on its side, by removing the battery and draining all the fluids to minimize potential damage to the bike.

Like all automobiles, due care is taken while transporting motorcycles from one location to another. You might have seen trucks and lorries loaded row upon row with cars and bikes in them as they drive down the highways.

Next time you come across them notice how those cars and bikes are stacked.  

They will always be in an upright position and all of them are strapped down diagonally from left to right. This is done so to ensure the bike stays in its place and doesn’t lean over, fall down or collide with other bikes and cars. 

Can you lay a motorcycle on its side to be transported?

Let’s say you have to transport your motorcycle to another city and you don’t have the time to drive it there yourself, then a few preventive steps can be taken to ensure that the likelihood of your bike coming under any damage doesn’t happen. 

First, drain your bike with all its fluids and remove the battery. That means fuel from the tank must be drained out and especially from the carburettors. The same goes for engine oil, it has to be taken out so it doesn’t fill up the cylinders or bearings; you wouldn’t want that.  

If your bike holds a sealed gel cell battery then you’ve got nothing to worry about as compared to a wet cell battery where it’s always possible for acid leaking out. Particularly in cases of bikes being transported over substantial distances you really don’t want acid splashing about in the bike. 

If a bike is being transported in a van, truck or ferry, depending on the space given to hold the bike, put it in gear, lock it to the left side and have either the kickstand/centre stand out. Then make sure the bike is in an upright position with the strap bound tightly and diagonally running from its right side across to its left side. 

As a precaution, pad down your bike with suspension blocking straps or with soft foam to make sure pressure doesn’t mount on the plastics, otherwise, it will lead to cracked plastics.

What Should you Check on a Laid Down Motorcycle before Riding Again?

Before you ride a motorcycle that has been laid down you should check for cosmetic damages as well as leakage of fuel, engine oil, and battery acid. You should check for leakage in the carburettors, cylinders, and pistons before riding the laid down motorcycle again.

The simple answer to that is to check your fuel and engine oil and see how much has spilt into the carburettors and if there’s been any filling up in the cylinders or pistons.  

Like every driver knows his car, every rider also knows his bike. If you take care of the bike you’ll hopefully not allow anything like laying down your bike to happen.

And in the case of a laid down motorcycle you should take the following steps:

  • Check for oil and fuel spillage on the floor. There will be some, of course, don’t bother about that.
  • Now assuming that you’ve gotten your bike back upright check and see how much fuel leaked into the carburettors.
  • Take out the spark plugs and drain them, if they are completely flooded you’ll have to clean them as well.
  • Also, check to see if any oil has gone into the cylinders and how much has spilt out. Turn the engine over and crank it a few times.

Once the bike starts, smoke will come out of the exhaust for a little while, nothing to panic about because the fuel in the carburettors needs to be used up before you turn the lever and let the fuel tank fill them up back again.  


It’s always better to make sure that everything is in order, before turning the switch on and heading out onto the road. Dealing with minor faults earlier on is far better than facing major problems down the road. Good Luck with Keeping your Motorcycle Upright!