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Contributed Article

Talk of the Town:
Repairing a Gas Tank

This interesting discussion is from the Tool Talk Discussion Forum. Remember that safety is your first priority - make sure you know what you are doing before attempting a potentially dangerous activity!

The discussion started out with the following post:

" I have a leaking gasoline tank on a small Briggs and Stratton engine. The tank is metal and is about 4" square by 12" long. The leak is along the seam.

I want to try and repair it by heating the tank with an acetylne torch and laying a bead of solder along the seam. My torch instructions warn "never use on any container which has held gasoline" because of dangerous vapors.

I emptied the tank about a week ago, the cap is off the top, the valve is out of the bottom, but it smells like a fuel container and I expect it will smell for sometime to come.

Do I have anything to worry about heating this thing up? Any advice appreciated! "

What followed are some interesting replies:

" It's possible to repair a tank with a torch. The trick is that you first drain it, rinse it out a few times, and then fill it with exhaust gas from your car's muffler. You wouldn't need a acetylene torch, though, a propane torch would work just fine. The trick is to get your surfaces very very clean before you solder. I just repaired leaks in both a diesel tank as well as a gasoline tank and I'm here writing this! "

" Advice is FREE. Plastic surgeons aren't. We've used a 2 part epoxy called Magic Metal to repair gas and diesel tanks. Clean, (I prefer a good areosol parts cleaner) then mix and apply. In twenty minutes you can be filling your tank with fuel instead of that surgeons pocketbook. "

" Shops which weld automobile gasoline tanks for example, usually steam clean the insides for more than an hour to ensure that no residual gasoline or oil are emitted from pores in the metal during heating. Even this is dangerous since there is no way to ensure that all of the volatile material has been driven from the pores. Additional precautions are taken by others such as blowing the exhaust from a vehicle into the tank being welded. This has the associated dangers of carbon monoxide asphyxiation and ignition and explosion of gasoline or other volatile organics which are contained in the exhaust. According to Part 57.4604, before welding, cutting, or applying heat with an open flame to pipelines or containers that have contained flammable or combustible liquids, flammable gases, or explosive solids, the pipelines or containers must be (a) Drained, ventilated, and thoroughly cleaned of any residue; (b) Vented to prevent pressure build-up during the application of heat; and (c)(1) Filled with an inert gas or water, where compatible (venting and other precautions are necessary such as, for example, complete purging of the air and maintaining a steady stream of nitrogen flowing freely into and out of the container with the flow rate large enough and outlet hose long enough and of small enough diameter to eliminate return of air through it); or (2) Determined to be free of flammable gases by a flammable gas detection device prior to and at frequent intervals during the application of heat.

Bottom line: safest bet for me is to give up on any ideas about heating a container which previously held fuel. "

" I've soldered tanks numerous times, and Martin is right. I make it simpler, just wash out the tank with dish soap and hot water, blow interior dry with airhose, and start soldering!!! And start with brite clean metal, and use a soldering paste like NOKORODE etc. Low flame from oxy -acet. or propane is best. "

" I had a leak in the gas tank of an old Volvo wagon, which I fixed with an epoxy gas tank mender that I got at a parts store. I didn't even drain the tank, just pressed the mender into the leaking seam and smeared it around until the leak stopped. It held for another 6 years and over 120,000 miles. Didn't look pretty, though. "

" I've used a product called JB Weld to repair the bottom of a gas tank; it should work on a seam as well. It's a two part epoxy and is very easy to use. "

" After reading all the good advice it appears that this is not an unpopular activity. You must clean the tank carefully as mentioned before. Then decide if these are the Briggs & Stratton tanks that they glued together, or was it a soldered tank? If it is a glued tank throw it away and look for a replacement. Otherwise solder it with a very fine acetylene flame on bright metal with plenty or flux and the lowest melt solder you can find. One way to assure that all the gas fumes are gone is put your air hose blower in the tank and gently heat the whole tank all over. The gas actually penitrates the metal and especially the joints. Once you've gotten the tank hot to the touch with air blowing inside you are pretty safe. Just remember that Briggs tanks are pretty common and use good sense. I've had tanks WOOF at me even after all precautions were taken. What you're looking to do is avoid catistrophic explosion. Keep your fingers. "

This information was gathered at the Tool Talk Discussion Board.

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