1959 Triumph 500 Fuel Tank Cleaning

Reader Contribution by Keith Fellenstein
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Q: My dad has a 1959 Triumph 500 that has been off the road and stored for 14 years. We just had a look in the fuel tank — not good! Do you have any restoration solutions for such a mess? This tank is probably not salvageable (protective coating on interior is completely corroded with heavy scale). Everything else on bike is in very good shape. Thinking about a Father’s Day gift.

Mick/via email

A: This arrived too late for Father’s Day this year, but I hope you can get it sorted before Father’s Day next year. With old gummy tanks I usually go through several processes to clean them, trying my best to not make a bad situation worse. First, drain what you can and dispose of it properly. Then, depending on the condition of the paint, you can try a couple of things. If you are sure you’ve got all the gasoline out, sometimes a trip to the car wash with the pressure hose will dislodge the crusty crud left behind. After that, Evapo-Rust is safe on paint, but usually won’t penetrate any crust left inside. Vinegar is also a possibility. It’s a weak acid and it will etch the rust away. If the tank has been previously sealed with something like Kreem, you will have to resort to strong solvents like methyl ethyl ketone to dissolve the rubber-like liner. MEK will also dissolve your tank paint and is best handled with rubber gloves and a respirator. If the tank paint is bad, or if you plan on having the tank painted, you might be able to get a radiator shop (if you can find one these days) or a machine shop to hot tank wash it clean.

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