I purchased a 1923 Stanley Steamer in August that was in pretty nice shape, but had sat dormant for a little over 2 years.
I have been slowly playing with it and think I am at the point where I know what everything is supposed to do and would like to steam it before I am buried in snow.
Right now, the only thing holding me up is the main fuel tank. It would normally run Kerosene, but in order to be able to tour many people, including the previous owner of this car, would run 50/50 diesel / gasoline mix. Low Sulfur diesel is prone to microbial infestation if it sits long enough with water present. People call it "diesel algae" but it actually isn't algae at all, it is other microbes.
Due to the circumstances of this car's sale, an unexpected death of the previous owner, it sat for 2 years or so with 3/4 tank of diesel / gas mix in the tank. When I drained it it was very nasty stuff.
After draining the nasty stuff out of the tank, it left a hard black coating of crud on the surface. I tried adding Hexane to dissolve the crud (the Hexane I drained from the pilot fuel tank...) and it did not touch it. I soaked it in a strong TSP overnight and it did not touch it. I brought it to a local radiator shop and he did not want to touch it...
I had 1/2 gallon left over POR-15 "Marine Clean" from a gas tank seal job I did on a different car and so I added that mixed 50/50 with hot water and so far it has been the only thing to soften the crud. It definitely helps, but is far from doing the job.
Anyone deal with a tank of black diesel crud, perhaps on an old tractor, and have suggestions?
When it comes to common solvents, Toluene, Xylene, and Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK)
are (in order) about the "hottest" things you can buy. They will typically cut ANY oil
based yuck you can thrown them at. Sold at any good paint store, you may have to
sign an "I will not make meth out of this stuff" voucher, thanks to all the druggies in the
I would take it to a different radiator shop, one that has been around a while. We have a shop here that is very comfortable working on antique stuff. They will boil the tank and coat it with sealer for about $100. Ask the local old car guys where they send their radiator and tanks. When you fuel the car use an anti microbe diesel additive available at part stores.
Radiator shops generally will not touch a gas tank.
If you cannot replace the tank in a cost-effective manner, you might consider leaving things as they are and buying a gas tank liner kit and installing that.
Joe, I think I would agree with Burger. Get some MEK, some drywall screws, count them, put it all into the tank, strap it to a jacked up tractor wheel and let it tumble for a while. Repeat as needed.
FJ, I guess I am fortunate to have someone who will work on tanks, did not realize few shops will. I agree with you and Jerry, a liner kit done at home works well, I have done it many times. Eastwood sells it, an I have also got them a Napa.
Joe I use a shark steamer like this one
I use a zip tie to hold the valve open turn the tank upside down with the nozzle in the tank (with flex hose) and let it go till it runs out of steam, rinse & repeat if necessary.
Most radiator shops in the Greater Seattle - Tacoma area will do gas tanks - most appreciate the extra business now with "plastic" radiators !
MEK is good stuff, too.
Makes a delicious dessert topping too !
I THINK part of your problem is the "gunk" isn't petrol based, but a microbe. The steamer idea sounds good (too bad it's your fuel tank, otherwise you could fire up the boiler and use it for a steam source!).
As for the 50/50 mix, it's pretty necessary nowadays as the "Kerosene" you can buy is not like the Kerosene that was available when the car was new.
How about some pics?
The radiator shop I went to has been around for a long time and is run by an old timer that loves antique cars. He suggested another place in Toledo Ohio that could take car of it, but that is an hour and a half drive each way for me, so it will be an entire day by the time it is done.
From what I have read, the gunk is a microbial by product that comes from consuming the diesel.
I also tried acetone and it did not touch it. From what I have read, a caustic (base) solution may be more effective on the crud then a petroleum thinner. The marine clean is the first step of the POR 15 tank liner kit I bought from Eastwood to do the tank on my Mustang. It is supposed to eat organic stuff. Stage 2 is metal prep, but that is more for rust.
If the marine clean doesn't work, maybe drain opener / Sodium Hydroxide, or MEK???
I thought about just leaving it. If it is this hard to remove, it probably will not come off during use. But, I was going to add a biocide once running and I fear it may slowly loosen the crud.
Remove the tank, strap it to the wheel of your tractor, add a cup of BB's. Jack up the wheel and put it in low gear. Come back in an hour and the inside of the tank will be scoured clean. If you don't have a tractor, find another way to rotate the tank. Works like a charm.
Have you tried straight kerosene...logger friend of mine said that's how they kill the black stuff left in their diesel tanks. Don't know if it will clean though.
Dumb question, have you tried the "green" diesel? The bio-diesel? When I put it in my tractor after running normal diesel it really cleans the tank and plugs the filters with grung.
What would bleach do? Kills mildew. Maybe it would kill other microscopic animals.
Have not tried kerosene or bio-deisel.
I think MEK might be the first petroleum based thing I try. I normally have a pint of it, but am out right now.
I like the mechanical ideas such as counted drywall screws or BBs combined with something like the marine clean. I could probably strap the tank to the rear of the Gravely...
Stem clean the inside and let the gunk drain out of the outlet. Steam will melt the slime and break it loose from the inside of the tank walls.
MAKE SURE THAT YOU CLEAN YOUR TANK OUT BETWEEN DIFFERENT CHEMICALS so you don't have a hazardous reaction! Mixing bleach with any ammonia type product will create mustard gas!
A wall paper steamer will create a good amount of steam if you want to try steam and you can rent them.
What about toilet bowl cleaner or lye? Just be safe and follow the directions.
The tank is out of the car so I am able to rinse it out between chemicals.
I have had the Marine clean soaking for a while and it is doing a pretty decent job. More should arrive from Eastwood on Saturday.
One thing I am noticing is that where there is rust, the algae sticks a whole lot better to the rough surface than the generally smooth tank.
I am going to let the marine clean sit tonight and most of tomorrow and then rinse it tomorrow evening. I will follow up with vinegar or evaporust for a day to see if that cleans up the rust spots, than rinse and go back to marine clean when more arrives Saturday.
I really like the screws and agitation idea, but am trying to figure out how to do that with the garden tractor...
Jack it up and mount to lawn mower blade! NOT! LOL Just joking.
I use Power Services diesel treatment in all my diesel tanks. It will prevent algae in your tank for several years. It will work fine with your 50/50 mix. PK
I drained the Marine Clean this morning, flushed with hot water, and filled with vinegar, which I will let sit for 24 hours or so to eat the rust the algae is clinging to.
Thanks for the tip Pat. I have found several biocides that will prevent this and I will use one in the car when running. Cleaning the crud out has been a real pain in the but, and I will never let it happen again. For those with diesel tractors, generators or other diesel equipment that is not run often, I suggest you use some form of biocide so you never have to deal with this
There is a pesticide used to kill the microbes, can't recall the name but any truck parts or tractor parts supplier should have it. Nasty stuff though so be sure to follow all instructions to the letter if you go this route. Works though as I have used it many times in the past. KGB
Progress update - I filled the tank with vinegar and let it sit for 24 hours. The vinegar seems to have eaten the rust that the last stubborn bits of algae were clinging to. I didn't quite fill it to the top, so I have been rotating it after letting it sit for 24 hours in various positions. I am going to follow up washing soda to neutralize the acidity of the vinegar. Then do one more Marine Clean treatment. It is looking pretty good, and I hope to have it back together and steam the car on Sunday.
The topic of Diesel algae contamination came up on another automotive website recently. One member who sounded as if he had some expertise in the field said that the crud isn't algae, it's algae sh-t.
It actually isn't algae or algae poop. It is microbes other than algae poop. Algae require sunlight. Regardless, it has not been fun to remove.
Tank is clean. I tried a lot if stuff, but the marine clean and vinegar were the most effective. I also stuffed about 10 ft of drain snake in it and ran that with a drill for a while which seemed to knock all the loose rust off.
Hopefully I make steam tomorrow!