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How to repair gas tanks - soldering?


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  #1  
Old 02-28-2005, 11:30:22 PM
CJ Winslow
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Default How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

I just spent a tiresome three hours in the shop working on a tank for a 2HP Jaeger model S. The tank is in general good shape. I have cleaned it out inside and filled it with water to find any leaks. I found a couple pin holes and leaky joints. I know that you can buy sealer to help with things like this but with the cost of a new tank at about $50 it isn't worth putting too much money into an old tank. I decided that I wanted to solder up the leaky parts. I was using an old fashioned large soldering iron that seems to throw plenty of heat. I sand blasted the joints that needed to be repaired. The botom of the tank is made of copper and the upper portion is galvenized steel. I was trying to basically end up with a nice bead along the joints that were leaky and also get the solder to flow into them. I was using plumbing solder along with plenty of flux. Based on how much trouble I had getting the solder to flow I would imagine that I must be using the wrong surface prep, solder, heat source and technique. Any help from some old timers on this would be great. I know that I could just go out and buy a new tank - but I am in college working on a tight budget and I also really enjoy learning how to make all different types of repairs and keep some of these dying arts alive.

Thanks for the help - CJ Winslow
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Old 03-01-2005, 12:13:25 AM
Bill Sherlock Bill Sherlock is offline
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Default Re: How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

CJ,

I'm guessing part of your problem is that you filled the tank with water and even though you drained it out before attempting to solder the seams there is likely enough moisture left to prevent the solder from melting and adhering to the metal.

I would suggest you place the tank in some heat source (like an oven at about 250 degrees) for a couple of hours to evaporate any moisture left in the tank from the water. Then I would wire brush the seams to remove any minerals left behind by the water. If it was me, I'd likely use a hand held propane torch and acid core solder rather than plumbing solder and flux and the soldering iron. Just heat the area to be soldered and then touch the solder to the seam. If it doesn't melt and flow add a little more flame until it does. If it gets too hot just withdraw the flame. By heating ahead of the solder you should be able to work your way along and eventually seal it off.

Word of caution, you might want to make sure there are no gasoline vapours left in the tank before getting too close with an open flame.

Bill
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Old 03-01-2005, 01:08:27 AM
Jonathan Widelo Jonathan Widelo is offline
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Default Re: How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

CJ,
I have only successfully been able to repair one Farm Engine gas tank is is for my 2 hp Fairbanks Morse Throttle Goverend Dishpan Engine ,simlar to engine you have on the pump that I bought the flywheels from. I got this engine from Somers CT, It was the first engine I bought running, when I got it home the first thing i did was take the gas tank out, I noticed that there were several holes in it and that someone previously put in a large copper patch near the front of the tank. after attemps were made to solder individual holes it seemed more were poping up. I went auto zone and bought 2 tubes of this stuff called Seal All is looks similar to GOOP , after covering the complete bottom of the tank with this sealant, and letting it set up I havent had a single leak, since i did it in June, this stuff is clear so it looks good too. I have tried to fix other fairbanks tanks and I usually just buy one from Lee or from Hit and Miss, I am in the same situlation budget wise but a little more money spent know leads to less frustration later.
The only original tanks I usually save are Briggs and Stratton Tanks for Model FI and other Early Briggs Tanks Such as the P and PB Tanks are quite expensive you could buy 3 tanks for a Fairbanks Morse for the price of one of these. So I usually take the old tank apart have a new center piece rolled at a sheet metal shop and re-use the filler neck ,ends and brackets and have them solder together. I am going to attempt to do this my self on one I bought at a show it is nice shape ,I can even re-use the center piece all i have to do isfix the end caps and re-assemble. All though I had to spend sometime on body work to get the dents out it was worth the 30 bucks in parts alone
I hope this Info helps
Good Luck
Talk to you soon
Jonathan Widelo
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Old 03-01-2005, 01:08:53 AM
Dick Welty Dick Welty is offline
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Default Re: How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

Soldering gas tanks with a torch is dangerous not only because of the gasolene fumes but also because of the air gas mixture from the torch itself.

When you have a torch flame touching a surface that has a hole in it there is a danger that some of the unburned gasses from the middle of the flame are going through the hole and accumulating in the tank. The outside of the flame is burning but sometimes the center of the flame isn't. If enough of the unburnt gases mix with the oxigen in the air in the tank and then reach ignition there can be an explosion.

An old friend of mine Orville Enyard probably not spelled right. A model T collector and expert from Long Beach Cal. who passed away some time ago, told me that he used to run exhaust gasses into the tank to blow out any acetyline that acumulated from his torch. He said that if the engine wasn't tuned right that even that wasn't always safe.

He told of an experience he had when he filled a model T tank almost to the top with water as a "SAFETY PRECAUTION" and had the acetylene oxigen mix get into the tank and explode sending the tank, like a water rocket up through the tree that he was standing under. Orvilles' wife had her own recollection of the incident. She said she heard the noise and came out of the house just in time to see leaves raining down followed by what was once a gastank. The tank lit on the garage roof a few feet from Orville who she said had a sheepish expression on his face.

Orville always had many interesting and funny stories to tell.

Anyway I tell his story not to discourage using a torch to solder a tank but to inform as to what to watch out for when doing it.

Dick
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Old 03-01-2005, 01:21:30 AM
Andrew Mackey Andrew Mackey is offline
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Exclamation Re: How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

The copper soldering iron was the way they did it in the 'old days! A big old iron is still the best way. What kind of flux are you using? Regular plumbing solder paste flux will not work on steel or cast iron. The flux you need is called Sal-Amoniac. A good hardware store, or welding supply shop should have it. 50-50 Lead-Tin solder is best, and I have also had good luck with Canfield water safe lead free solder. The canfield is wound on a green spool, and it has 4% silver content. The canfield should only be used for fresh repairs (pin holes, new tanks, etc., as it melts at a higher temperature than 50-50, and it will not mix with old solders. Bake sure that all gasoline residue is removed. Solder will not stick to metal surfaces that have been contaminated with petroleum products. The surface of the metal actually absorbes a little of the fuel, and when it is heated, the hydrocarbons leach out, preventing the solder from adhereing to the metal. Cleaning the tank out with a good electrical contact cleaner, and then letting it sit a while, may remove most of the contamination. Wire brush the area to be soldered well, apply flux, and then heat. DO NOT overheat! To repair old solder joints, wire brush the area well, apply flux, and wire brusk and flux a secont time, before applying 50-50 solder. Solder flows to heat. Be sure to apply extra solder, and be generous with the flux. The soldering iron should be clean, and the flats near the tip should be shiny with solder being clean and bright silver. If the solder is dull or blackened (dross), or the copper is blued, then the iron is too hot. For a good joint to be made, all surfaces must be clean and fluxed. The enemy of a good solder joint is oxidation. Oxidation comes with age or too much heat. Flux prevents oxidation at haeted areas, it does not clean the joint (although it may seem to). Careful prep goes a long way!
Andrew
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Old 03-01-2005, 02:12:54 AM
Brian Henderson Brian Henderson is offline
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Default Re: How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

Part of your problem may be the bead blasting. When I was much younger, and had just got my first sandblaster, I tried using it to prep some copper parts for soldering. To my surprize, the solder just beaded up and rolled off! When I sanded the same parts, the solder flowed and stuck real well. An old timer told me that the blasting actually surface hardens the metal, closing up the micro pores that the solder needs to "tie in" to. Someone else later told me that the blasting leaves a thin layer of the blast media on the surface of the metal, inhibiting the adherance of the solder. Whatever the reason, try sanding the metal with Emery cloth. That, and the appropriate flux, may solve your problem. Best of luck.
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Old 03-01-2005, 02:24:00 AM
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Default Re: How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

I have fixed a few tanks and made a few tanks, and use a soldering iron heated with a torch. I usually work with two irons to get the job done faster. The irons concentrate the heat where needed to do the job. The area needs to be real clean. I use 50/50 solder with an acid flux. It takes some practice in the beginning to get it right. Make sure you wash out the tank after wards to neturalize the left over acid flux. I have used a torch, but find that it heats to much of the area needed to be soldered. I guess a smaller flame on a torch might work, but I like the old soldering irons the best. ALWAYS do this type of work in a well ventlated area or out doors due to the fumes generated. Some tanks have to many pin holes and are to rusty and thin to solder so I just use gas tank sealer. Anything bigger than pin holes, I patch, and if to bad, just make or buy a new one if available. Just having fun on a night off, even in NJ with the snow.
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Old 03-01-2005, 11:56:32 AM
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Craig A Craig A is offline
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Default Re: How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

Brian has the key! Sand or bead blasting are fine for removing the "chunks" but to solder you have to lightly grind or scrape the surfaces to be soldered to BARE SHINEY metal. Soldering is 99% preparation!!
Craig
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Old 03-01-2005, 01:05:45 PM
Dave from Omemee Dave from Omemee is offline
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Default Re: How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

I agree that preparation is 99% of the job. I have had good luck by first cleaning the inside of tank with a strong solution of TSP and good hot water. let it soak, add some pee gravel and shake it around. Rinse and set it outside in the sun and let it dry completely. I have had good luck bead blasting the tank using new media that is not contaminated with oil residue and dry oil free compressed air. do not touch the tank with your hands! you will only contaminate the surface. Oil residue is the killer if you want to solder. I have had poor luck with propane since you tend to get it too hot. I like best an old electric soldering iron that is 200watts. I also use liquid asid based soldering flux, I even add an extra eye dropper or two of muriatic asid to the flux. Flux the area of the pin hole and with a good gob of solder on the iron cover the pin hole with the gob of solder. You want to leave a nice puddle of solder about the thickness and size of a dime or more. Works for me and remember, do not touch any surface with your hands if you want to solder it.
thanks
dave from omemee
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Old 03-01-2005, 01:58:42 PM
Chuck Rich
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Default Re: How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

If you are having trouble soldering find an old sheet metal man and ask for his help. He will know how it is done and how to do it right.

Chuck in Cool & sunny Central Oregon
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Old 03-01-2005, 06:15:40 PM
Kevin O. Pulver Kevin O. Pulver is offline
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Default Re: How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

In the radiator shop, we glassbeaded everything to clean it. Then you must "tin" the parts to be soldered. This requires a tinning brush and tinning compound (which is basically liquid flux and powdered solder)
Heating while scrubbing with the brush and compound will leave the surface shiny and "tinned" )basically plated with a thin coating of solder) A little acid may be necessary for the really dirty spots to "take". When something is prepped this way, the solder will absolutely flow.
If noone in your area knows what they're doing, go to a radiator shop and pay them to fix your tank while you watch. The price will be cheap, for once you see it done, you'll know what I'm talking about and you'll save lots of frustration. Soldering is not some "black art" as I thought when I was a boy. It just takes a little know how, and a little technique. Kevin
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Old 03-01-2005, 06:38:59 PM
Ed Radtke Ed Radtke is offline
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Default Re: How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

Its simple and here is how it goes.clean inside of tank.scuff the area to be solderd with 150-200 emery cloth.then use a wire brush.the flux for soldering galvanized is simply muratic acid.use 50/50 solder.when you blasted the tank you embeded your media into the surface.DONT DO THAT NO MORE.
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Old 03-02-2005, 09:56:31 PM
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Tom Jamboretz Tom Jamboretz is offline
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Default Re: How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

Use a big copper iron and muratic acid. Any hardware store sells it. Tom
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Old 03-03-2005, 04:39:42 AM
Andrew Mackey Andrew Mackey is offline
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Talking Re: How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

In talking about repairing fuel tanks, when I was a lad, I worked for a fellow who owned a gas station-repair shop in Montclair, NJ. Bobby was the owner, and he thought he could do anything. Many times working for him was an excercise in self preservation. I can remember at least 3 times where life threatening situations seemed hilarious at the time. Further reflection makes you realize how close you came to seeing your maker, and deceased relatives in short order.
Bobby had removed a fuel tank off a Cadillac stretch limo, that had a pin hole on the bottom. I had told him to fill the tank completely with water, and then run an air hose into the tank, and thoroughly vent the tank for an hour or so, until you no longer smelled gas. I even told him I could go home and get a bottle of nitrogen, to purge the tank. Bobby was not a patient man. He took the 30 gallon tank out into the driveway (in front of the fuel pumps), and proceded to set it up on a couple of 4x4s. He then set up his oxy-acetylene set in order to solder the tank. As he lit the torch and was setting the flame, his 89 year old uncle caught sight of him and the torch, shut off the gas pumps, and chased the customers around the back of the station. In the meantime, I had heard all the commotion, and walked out the shop bay door, just in time to see Bobby lighting a cigar in his mouth with the torch. I figured he would set his hair on fire, but the cigar lit off real quick, with all that heat! Anyways, Bobby goes to begin heating the fuel tank, in order to solder it. As he is heating the tank, I see a lot of white vapor coming out of the tank filler neck, right between his legs . As I start to yell at him about the vapor, he passed the lit torch flame over the vapor. What followed still boggles the imagnation to this day! The massed vapor lit up with a bright orange flash, blowing Bobby about 8 feet thru the air onto his butt. At the same time a loud hiss is heard, and a 3 foot flame is issuing from the filler neck on the tank. The hiss turned into a roar, and the tank took off like a flying wing, flying about 70 feet down the driveway, and out over Harrison Avenue, at about a 20 degree angle. It was about 30 feet up and all of us witnesses were amazed to see this large fuel tank roaring thru the air. Suddenly itzblew itself to pieces. The blast was so loud, that most of us could not hear for hours! Did I mention that a gallon of vaporized gas is equal to a stick of Dynamite? When the tank blew, it took out windows for over a hundred feet in any direction, sent shrapnel in all directions, and knocked all of us down. The biggest part of the tank I could find was the filler neck, 2 days later. It was embedded in a tree, about 10 feet off the ground, buried about 1/2 its length into the tree! The police department at first thought it was a bomb, and the fire department had to put out small fires, up and down the block. Thankfully, Bobby was the only one hurt, and at that not seriously. His pants were smouldering, as was his hair, and his shirt. The cigar was still in his mouth, but looked like someone had put a firecracker in it, and he had the most incredible expression I have ever seen ! I was sitting in the engine bay, where I had been blown by the blast, couldn't hear a thing, and was laughing so hard, I was crying! The next day, I found several pieces of the tank embedded in the front of the shop, and in the bays, how I wasn't hit (or any one else for that matter) was simply a miracle! Bobby was mad at my for weeks, because I laughed at him, and the police sent me to the hospital, because they thought I was in shock. In a way I was-I was hysterical! Sheer luck and the grace of GOD was with us that day. The moral to this is PLEASE - make sure there is no residue in the tank. Even if the tank has old varnish residue in it, it can still burn, or even worse, blow up. Make sure that there are absolutely no smells of hydrocarbons at all, better yet, use an iron, not open flame, you will actually get a better joint!
Andrew
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Old 03-04-2005, 10:13:55 AM
Kevin O. Pulver Kevin O. Pulver is offline
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Default Re: How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

Great story Andrew! Keep it up. Kevin
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Old 03-05-2005, 10:32:58 AM
CGBusch CGBusch is offline
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Default Re: How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

Lead free solder doesn't work, you need to use old fashioned lead/tin solder. The lead free stuff doesn't act like butter like the the lead/tin stuff does.
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Old 03-06-2005, 01:50:14 AM
CharlieBiler CharlieBiler is offline
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Default Re: How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

Mr. Winslow,
Please read Andrew Mackeys story and remember it. If you really want to work on fuel tanks, steam them out first. Any competent shop will cook them out with live superheated steam, for a few bucks. Steam opens the pores of the metal and drives out petrolium products. Diesel and hydraulic tanks are also dangerous when heated.

What is your life worth? I will not use a sandblaster on a tank. When I was younger, and somewhat dumber, I sandblasted a gas tank. The tank exploded and knocked me out. When I came to, I had a piece of metal in my leg and the scene looked like a grenade went off. I had blood on my face shield and that scared me straight. Fortunately all I got was a really cool scar on my leg. If you want to fix a tank, cheap, fill it with metal shot or pea gravel and some water. Roll it around and flush until things are clean. Then use avaition sealer, epoxy, or fiberglass resin. If you must solder or weld, have it steamed. Do you really want the widow Winslow to collect your life insurance?

As for soldering, I agree that sandblasting does two things. First it contaminates the metal with silica. It also hardens the surface. A good Scotchbrite medium scrounge pad and a little flux will solve the solder problem. Try 60/40 solder and lay on the flux. Mr Pulver is dead on with his tinning idea. Tinning the whole shebang is a great way to fix leaks and supress further problems. It also makes the surface look smooth and pretty. Just get rid of the petrol vapors first.

Good luck, have fun, and do the Vulcan thing.
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Old 03-06-2005, 03:07:00 AM
Andrew Mackey Andrew Mackey is offline
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Exclamation Re: How to repair gas tanks - soldering?

It is much easier, and safer to use a soldering iron. 59-50 works best, 60-40 has a real tendency to dross (oxidize) over if overheated. I use Canfield no-lead solder. It is very workable, it does not run like water if you do not over-heat, and the 4% silver makes it bind very well. Main trick with soldering steel or galvanized - clean, degrease, clean again. Wire brush, use plenty of flux, do not use open flame, and do not over heat! You only need enough heat to just melt the solder and make it flow Steaming the tank by a professional is cheap life insurance!
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