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Gas Tank Repair
by: 65fairlane

     Has your gas tank seen better days?  Unless your car is an extremely popular model such as a Chevelle or Mustang it might be difficult to locate an affordable replacement tank.  For some of the more obscure cars replacement tanks don’t exist at all. No one wants to pay the gross national product of a third world nation for a N.O.S. tank. 

     As condensation builds up inside the fuel tank rust can form.  Nearly every classic car or Musclecar left the factory with a metal gas tank. This condensation has been occurring on its surface for 20 years or more. This leads to surface rust and possible pinholes inside the tank.  Rusty or leaking tanks can get expensive and are unnecessarily hard on the fuel system.  Fortunately there is a relatively inexpensive solution for the Do-it-yourselfer. There are several brands of gas tank repair kits.  Individual instructions and procedures for each may vary. The procedure on which this article is based was carried out using the kit available from Eastwood.

     You will need a few things in order to do this job. You will NEED: Eastwood gas tank sealer kit (pn 10165Z), one half gallon of muratic acid, one quart of acetone, and a garden hose. The Eastwood kit contains metal wash, rust remover, and gas tank sealer.  When I did mine I also used a sheet of fiberglass, fiberglass resin, some long haired body filler, some automotive body filler, and a couple small pieces of steel, and a bottle of rust converting primer.

      My tank had larger holes than what the Eastwood kit would plug on its own, so some additional prep work was required.  I used a body hammer to knock down the area around the larger holes (smaller than a dime).  Then small pieces of steel were bent to approximate the contours of the surface. The pieces I used were actually remnants of an old garden hose caddy.  Then some of the body filler was applied over the pieces to hold them on.  The tank was sanded and wire brushed to smooth the body filler and remove the small amounts of surface rust present. Once these areas were smoothed the rust converting primer was applied.  This primer converts the surface rust to a sand-able, paint-able primer.  There are several manufacturers of rust inhibitors.  I used the off brand available at Autozone with acceptable results.

      That was all of the extra prep work that my tank needed.  Yours may need a little more, or it may need none at all. The required process must be followed closely in order for the sealer to live up to its full potential.  The actual sealing process is best performed outside. I do not recommend doing it inside regardless of ventilation.  Old clothes are a must.  Consider yourself warned; this process will make your arms tired.

      To begin the process rinse the tank (with sending unit removed) with the garden hose.  You should use a high pressure nozzle on the hose for best results. Use the hose as a pressure washer to knock loose as much rust as possible. I found the best way to do this was to set the tank on a couple of saw horses with the sending unit opening facing the ground and let the water run in the filler opening and straight through.  If your tank is anything like mine then this will result a fair amount of rust flakes and loose pieces flowing out. I rinsed mine several times until the flakes stopped coming out.      

At this point you must seal one of the openings of the tank.  To do this I used a shop rag taped to the opening.  Now it is time for the muratic acid step.  Be careful not to get the acid in your eyes, as it can cause blindness.  You might want to wear gloves for this step.  The acid will burn your fingers a little if you get it on yourself (Which you will).  It can also cause some discoloration of the skin, think bright yellow. Add one quart of the acid to the tank and close the other opening.  Now the fun begins. Slowly rotate the tank being sure to let the acid circulate through each side and corner.  Do this for several minutes. Dispose of the acid properly. The directions only indicate that this step is to be performed once. muratic acid has a corrosive effect on some metals.  I repeated this step with roughly one quarter of the required amount of acid. After emptying the acid, rinse the tank once again.  I like to be thorough, so I rinsed the tank twice. 

     The next step requires the use of the included rust remover. Pour this into the tank and slosh slowly for several minutes, taking care to cover each side sufficiently.  I did this step for roughly ten - fifteen minutes.  After this is complete it is now time to rinse yet again.  I rinsed the tank two or three times after the rust remover.  Let this air dry for about ten or fifteen minutes. 

     Add about half of the Acetone to the now clean and dry tank.  Slosh the Acetone around for several minutes in the manner that is now very familiar to you.  Empty the tank.  Add the second portion of the Acetone to the tank and repeat the rotating sequence.  Empty the tank once again.  At this stage I did NOT rinse my tank.  The tank is now ready for the final stage of the repair.

     Pour in both bottles of the included sealer.  When rotating the tank it is important to go slowly for this step.  The sealer must actually coat each side of the tank.  Rotate it slow enough to ensure that the sealer contacts each side.  I found it best to not continuously rotate the tank, but to hold it so the excess sealer would fall to one side of the tank.  After a minute or so I would rotate it so a different side was collecting the excess.  Once each side has an appreciable amount of the sealer sticking to it, the tank can be set down on each side for roughly three to five minutes to allow it to dry. Look inside to assure that the sides are properly coated. They should appear a relatively uniform white.  If this is the case excess sealer can now be drained into its original container and discarded.  If this is not the case rotate the tank to further coat the lighter spots, then drain.  My tank was rather large, so I had hardly any excess.  A word of caution, the sealer will set up as a plastic puddle if you leave the tank lay on one side for too long. 

     If you are happy with the exterior of your tank the way it looks just let it dry for a few days and put it back in the car. If you did not need to repair the outside of the tank you may want to look into one of the many zinc based coatings on the Market.  If it looks like mine did you may choose to do a little more work.  I decided I was going to paint the tank a semi-gloss black, it doesn’t have to be black, but in order to so the tank this way it must be a color, and not a metal coating.  I cut down a sheet of fiberglass to roughly the size of the tank surface with the patched holes and applied some resin.  After the fiberglass had setup and the edges trimmed I went ahead and sprayed the tank with some spray primer.  After the primer was dry it was sanded a little bit and some plastic body filler was used to get the surface a little smoother.  Then some indoor/outdoor spray enamel was put on. 

     The end result is a tank that does not leak gas, no more rust residue turning up in your carburetor, and a finish that looks pretty good.  If you want a trophy winning all original show car, you might prefer a N.O.S. tank, a professional tank restoration, or a replacement tank.  If you want to drive and enjoy your car, then this is an excellent way for you to save money, get your hands a little bit dirty, and help keep your car running its best. If you only carry out the required steps the repair will cost less than $60.  With everything I did the cost still came in on the near side of $100.

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