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Classic, Vintage & Veteran For Coventry and Meriden Models. Anything pre-Hinckley goes.

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Old 10-28-2009, 06:20 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Gas Tank Cleaning with Vinegar

I've seen threads on several sites discussion various ways to remove rust from inside gas tanks. I've tried them all and liked Phos Acid and sheet rock screws the best. But a few weeks ago while looking at a private stash of bikes a guy locally has, he mentioned Apple Cider Vinegar. He said it is not fast, but if you let it sit in the tank for a couple of weeks, you'd be amazed.

I have a Honda S90 I'm bringing back to life and although the tank is pretty good inside, there were a few spots of rust. I did the cha-cha with the tank full of sheet rock screws to knock out any loose rust and crud. But I wanted to get all the rust out and since the OEM paint is excellent, I did not want to risk Phos Acid and a possible spill onto the tank. So last night I went to the market and bought two gallons of Apple Cider Vinegar, which just filled that little tank. I put the cap on and let it sit. 24 hours later I opened up the cap and could already see results. I don't know if others know about this trick, but if it works like I'm told it will, this is going to be truly an easy way to get rust out of an old tank.

Two gallons cost me $7.00. If you can use regular vinegar, it would be more like $5.00.

I'll report back in a week or two on the results.
Rob
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Old 10-28-2009, 08:55 PM   #2 (permalink)
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White vinegar. Not the high falutin stuff.
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Old 10-28-2009, 09:34 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Well, I have to admit that with the labels saying "diluted to 5% acidity" on both types I felt a little foolish buying the Cider Vinegar. But then again, we are only talking about 2 bucks.

I also think you can reuse it over and over until it gets so grimey it's just best to chuck it. Nice thing is it's not toxic. Pour it on the ground and forget about it.

Next time I'll go cheap and get the white vinegar.

Rob
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Old 10-28-2009, 10:40 PM   #4 (permalink)
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CLR will do the same thing as will a product made by DuPont either called Metal Mate or Dual Etch talk to you local body shop supply house fot the Dupont products.
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Old 10-29-2009, 09:57 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Kadutz,

CLR is just dilute HCL acid if I am not mistaken. Not sure what it will do to old paintjobs.

The body shop metal prep you are referring to is Phosphoric Acid. Metal Prep is an actual name for one of the brands. It leaves behind a zinc coating that prevents flash rust from forming and future rust, I might add. I did both of my '76 tanks with Phos Acid and it is my product of choice. I'll have to put some on a painted surface for something I don't care about and see what it does.

I used POR15 to seal a rusted area on an original paint knucklehead rear fender. Part of the process is to clean the area with their "Marine Clean" and then their version of Metal Prep. I don't remember which one, but the one I expected to do no harm actually altered the paint color wherever it touched it. I was sick. I was able to stop the action and later rub out the area. But I ended up taking off a lot of the original paint in the process. That's why I'm gunshy about using Phos Acid preps to clean a tank with good paint.

As a sidenote, a friend in the bodyshop business says he won't use Phos acid as a metal prep before painting. Said it will cause the primer to peel later. My guess is the zinc coating causes this, just like the early galvanized Ford bodyparts peeled before they figured out how to paint them properly.

Patience seems to be the only required adder when using vinegar. Patience versus a repaint is a no-brainer.
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Rob
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Old 10-29-2009, 07:50 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Hey rob....let us know how it works...I have never heard of using vinegar....I not a big fan of acid....I have 2 tanks that have rust....and I bought some caswells...but I am not sure I will use it, as I think I have to remove the original factory sealer inside (my t-bird)...to make it work...I thing I could live with a good cleaning and let it go from there...Tom
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Old 10-30-2009, 12:07 AM   #7 (permalink)
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derust that tank

I'm currently using reverse electrolysis to remove the rust from my tank. It had significant flakey rust on the inside, and some rust on the outside. I was afraid that there might be a few thin spots and that the acid type of cleaners would eat some good metal as well as the rust and I would wind up with holes in it. If truth be told, I kinda wanted to play with electricity. I like the way it is working so far. The electrolysis takes off the rust and strips the paint. Anyway, I'm hoping to get most of the rust off this way and then maybe finish off with some vinegar or one of those metal prep products. I assume that I will still need a tank liner. There have been posts about those here in the past.

Good luck with your tank!
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Old 10-30-2009, 01:24 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Snakeoil
if HCL means Hydrocloric or Hydrofloruic Acid it is not listed on the MSDS sheets. They all list Latic Acid and Butyl a friend of mine used it IN his tank with no problems. I suggested it as it is mild and easily available and relativly safe in untrained hands. I plan to use Metal Mate/Dual Etch products IN a tank I have a minor rust problem IN. A comperable POR product would I believe be POR Metal Ready which is a rust remover. The item which damaged the harley paint was the Marine Clean which is Butyl based. I sell a similar but stronger product to the automotive industry. We tell them to keep it of glass in an undiluted from as it may etch it. I would place niether ON a painted surface I cared about for a long period of time. The products used inside a tank and outside on a painted panel/tank are not necessarily the same or may be at differnt dilution rates
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Old 10-30-2009, 04:52 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Kadutz, that interesting about the CLR. I'm not sure why I was under the impression that the stuff was HCl acid. Could be I Just assumed. Thanks for clearing that up.
Check my vinegar process again and the carbon steel portion of the gas cap is looking better every day. I cannot believe that this process is not better known or talked about. I've seen many threads on sites about cleaning bike tanks and not once did I see anyone mention vinegar.
I've tried that electrolysis method. It's kinda messy in my opinion. If you have a tank that is going to be repainted, I would recommend sheet rock screws and then the Phosphoric Acid. I actually do the screws dry at first, then go with screws and mineral spirits. Some caution that a spark from the screws could cause the tank to explode. I suppose they have a valid point. Only time I ever got any kind of fire out of a tank was after flushing with alcohol and not purging enough with an air line. I got a nice blue jet of fire out the neck. Kinda like what you get when you kill the devil in an empty bottle of booze.
The sheet rock screws do a great job of chewing up any old rust and scale. Only limitation is how long you can shake the tank. I have had screws get caught in nooks and crannies and found them later when removing a tank for something and heard them rattling around in the tank. Can't get past the petcock, so no big deal.
I remembered posting before and after pictures of a tank I did with Metal Prep aka Phosphoric Acid. Here's the link to that thread with the pictures. http://www.triumphrat.net/classic-vi...-gas-tank.html

Rob

Last edited by Snakeoil; 10-30-2009 at 05:04 PM. Reason: Add info
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Old 11-07-2009, 05:51 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I'll be needing some cheese and crackers with this whine

Well, it's been two weeks since I filled my S90 tank up with vinegar to remove what little (I thought) rust there was inside. I dumped the vinegar today and was not overly impressed. All the rust spots had turned a blue black color. I went in to a spot I could reach with a dental pic and scratched off the black crud. It revealed pits in the metal that were still black on the bottom of the pits. I thru in a handful of sheet rock nails and did the cha-cha again. I cleaned off all the rust spots and left behine dark pits.

So I threw in the towel and grabbed the phos acid (metal prep) I test an area on the underside of the tank to see if it would hurt the paint and no problem. So I filled the tank about 1/3 full, sloshed it around and let it sit for several hours, sloshing occasionally and propping in different positions to let the acid work on various areas of the tank, even upside down to get the top. Phos acid did a much better job, plus it leaves behind a zinc coating that prevents flash rust from forming.

Now for the whine. What I thought was a very nice original paint tank, turned out to have 5 pin holes along the bottom weld seam, which forms a very nice crevice for moisture or whatever to collect and work on the metal. Since this is not a Triumph tank, I leave it there.

The vinegar did remove rust. And given the low temps in my shop this time of year, it might have done a better job had the temps been higher. Rule of thumb is a chemical reaction doubles in speed for every 10 deg you raise the temp. That's why washing your hands in hot water does a better job.

So, if you are not in a rush and can let the tank sit for a month or two full of vinegar, and you put it in your house or a warmer area than outdoors in the fall/winter months, it might just do the job. But, you have to protect the surface from flash rust when you pour it out. So, for me, phosphoric acid is the best way to go because it cleans out the rust faster and prevents future rusting.
Rob
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