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Old 06-20-2002, 07:39 PM
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Cleaning a Rusty Gas Tank - Several Solutions

Cleaning a Rusty Gas Tank
Several Solutions

Jeff Hall
Awhile back there was some discussion about what was the best method of cleaning a rusty gas tank and coating the inside with a sealer. I read an article in a motorcycle rag that suggested taking the tank to a radiator repair shop and let them clean and seal the tank, since it is basicaly the same process as a radiator.

I told a friend of mine about this, who is rebuilding a 78E, and he said that he was going to try this. To make a long story short, he is very pleased with the results and after 48 hrs. to cure, it will be ready to use.

It cost him $50, not a bad deal since the kit to do it yourself for
runs about $25 and the results are not as good, according to the

p.s. Their motto is "The best place in town to take a leak".

Bill Kingson
Chris Rawson wrote, "Am I correct in thinking that muriatic acid is the stuff to clean all the rusty crap out of a tank, and are there any precautions regarding paint/rubber/plastic/aluminium that I shoud be aware?"

When I was reading up on tank cleaning last year I found information recommending phosphoric acid. I don't remember the source, but they said that metal treated with hydrochloric (muriatic) acid immediately develops surface rust. Not so with phosphoric acid. I found it at my local VIP auto supply store along with all the other solvents and cleaners.

Before the acid rinse you should clean the loose rust out by putting in a handful of nuts (square ones are best) & bolts (short) with some lacquer thinner. Some people use pea gravel. Then agitate the tank. This will scrape the loose rust and remove the oily gasoline residue. Drain the lacquer thinner and remove the nuts & bolts. Follow that with acetone to remove the lacquer thinner and really dry the tank.

Be careful with the acid rinse...you can easily create holes with it. The problem is, you can't really tell when it's done. I figure that 5 minutes is the most you want to leave it in, especially if you've already cleaned out the loose stuff. You might even want to test it on a piece of metal to see how it goes.

After the acid wash be sure to neutralize it with a baking soda solution. Have it ready BEFORE you begin with the acid! I think I used a couple of tablespoons to a gallon. After that, rinse with clear water and again with acetone (to dry).

Sorry if this sounds too complicated and/or convoluted. It's the best information I have on cleaning a tank and it makes sense to me.

For lining the tank, the best product I've found is the Caswell Epoxy Gas Tank Sealer. In addition to lining the tank, it will fill small leaks. See http://www.caswellplating.com for details.

Marty Ambrose
Careful with some of the chemicals Bill mentions above. Phosphoric acid is usually found in cleaning solutions, and is a relatively mild acid (compared to sulphuric and hydrochloric acid) but IS still an acid. Use rubber gloves and some face saftey wear. Flush with large (LARGE) quantities of water if spilled on your skin. Obviously avoid breathing the fumes, do not use in an enclosed area.

Acetone is dangerous with long or repeated exposure. A one time use is likely not to cause any problems, but again use rubber gloves, and avoid breathing the fumes. It is absorbed through the skin and repeated use can cause lesions on internal organs. It is also an ozone depleting agent. It is on the no-no list for many manufacturing companies.

Consider alcohol as a water absorber. The same stuff you add to your tank in winter to help prevent gas line freeze. It won't work as easily as acetone, but is more environment-friendly.

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