Keep rust out of your tank




My Dad always told me (many times in fact), “Profit from other people’s mistakes, you don’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”


            He’s been gone for over forty years, but he seems to be getting smarter all the time. When it comes to fuel systems in these fine old cars, don’t make the same mistake several of us have made.


            The fuel system is really fairly simple. You put gas in the tank in the back of the car, it goes forward through various processes, and then returns to the rear of the car and goes out as exhaust.


            Sometimes the cycle breaks down and you put gas in but get no exhaust. A lot of times the biggest problem comes from the simplest part, the gas tank itself.


            It is just a big fancy tin can made in a shape to conveniently fit in its assigned space. It sounds simple enough, but just try to find a replacement.


            When the original plating begins to wear out and the tank begins to rust out, you begin to have problems, even without leaks. The water that causes the rust usually begins from condensation. This rust can begin to form in the tank, spreads through the steel lines, through the in-line filters, into the fuel pump(s), into the carburetor, into the intake manifold, valves and guides, exhaust manifolds, finally throughout the exhaust system.


            Usually the monster is dissipated if the engine is allowed to run long enough to get warm. Everywhere, of course, but in the tank itself, where it keeps making these rust particles that won’t dissipate. They just build up until they clog up filters, fuel pumps and carburetors.


            When one of these plug-ups occur anywhere, the car stops. According to “Murphy’s Law”, this only happens at the furthest point from a service facility when you’re on tour, and you’ve been bragging how good your car runs. So much for the problem—let’s talk about the solution.


            The first and most logical thing to do is to re-move the tank and have it cleaned and boiled out. If you put it back on at that point, it’s like mopping the floor and not fixing the leak in the roof. The tank will just rust again (probably worse).


            Get your favorite radiator man to boil and clean the tank and then reinforce the seams and fittings with solder and/or brazing as needed. Then, most important, have it lined with modern tank lining. Be sure it is impervious to the various oxygenated fuels. This not only prevents future rust, it also strengthens the tank by replacing metal that has rusted away. You now have a tank that will last a lifetime.


            Profit by some of the rest of our mistakes and get your tank lined, not just cleaned. Before you put the tank back on, disconnect the lines at the front and blow them out towards the rear real good with lots of compressed air. Do not blow through any fuel pumps. Before you mount the tank, install the fuel gauge sending unit and install the pigtail for the gas gauge.


            Also install a good ground wire to hook to good frame ground. When you put it back on, you should put new rubber lines between the straps and tanks (both upper and lower). It is also a good idea to cut the fuel line a few inches from where it hooks onto the tank and put a 4- to 6-inch piece of rubber fuel line between the tank and where the line is attached to the frame.


            This would also be a good place to put in a disposable fuel filter. This will sure help if you happen to get some contaminated or dirty gasoline. It will also keep water from contaminating and/or rusting the fuel system in front of the tank.


            We could go on and talk about auxiliary fuel pumps and regular fuel pumps and the rest of the fuel system, but it’s time to turn out the light over the workbench and get ready for Phil to come home.


            Maybe next time we’ll finish the rest of the system.


            Good night, Dad, and thanks again.