The Detroit Post
Saturday, 16 October, 2021

How To Rust Gas Tank

James Lee
• Tuesday, 05 January, 2021
• 8 min read

Many restoration projects stop abruptly when it turns out a car or motorcycle’s gas tank is full of rust. Fortunately, there are ways to eliminate rust inside a gas tank and avoid the potential negative impacts corrosion can cause.

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You can use fuel tank additives to prevent damage, but they won’t help correct existing problems. The best solution to rust in the gas tank is to use one of the below methods to clean it out, then use a sealant or begin using fuel additives to prevent future recurrences.

Anyone from used motorcycles riders to classic car owners to boat enthusiasts can wind up with rust in their fuel system, so the key is mitigating the damage as soon as possible. Even modern options such as a 3 wheel motorcycle can develop rust in their gas tanks, especially if they run on alternative fuels.

Fortunately, there are multiple ways to clean rust out of a gas tank, including abrasives, chemicals, and even electrolysis. Using an abrasive requires that you remove the gas tank and use a method to ensure all the gravel comes out of the tank afterward.

It’s important to exercise caution when connecting and disconnecting the power source, and you will need to ensure the ferrous metal does not contact the edge of the gas tank. Suspending the ferrous metal (anode) can pose the biggest challenge in the rust removal process.

Soap and water is an old standby for many mechanics, but vinegar is also a low-risk option that won’t damage most other surfaces in your garage. Before pouring liquid (or small gravel) into the tank, seal all the holes with various sized plugs and materials.

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Rinsing with water helps flush out the gravel or other abrasive you use but be sure to shake the tank around and make sure it’s truly empty before letting it dry and replacing it on your motorcycle. Let the mixture sit until it bubbles up and begins to change color with the rust particles.

Another chemical option which is relatively low-risk in terms of the potential for it to eat away the interior of your gas tank is using diesel fuel to remove rust. Follow timing directions closely as well; leaving a chemical sit for too long can actually eat through the walls of your gas tank.

Locate the drain plug at the bottom and unscrew it to let all the fuel flow out of the tank. The first one is the supply line, which originates from the bottom of the tank and heads to the engine.

The second is the fill tube that originates from the gas entry point, and the last one is the vent line. Loosen the nuts with a wrench and pull the fuel tank out of the vehicle.

Get rid of some chunks by spraying a pressure washer directly into the fuel tank. Pour it inside and let it sit in the tank for some time before you wash it out.

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Next, pour an equal amount of acid into the water inside the tank. Let the water and acid mixture rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

Introduce a mixture of 1/4 cup of baking soda and two gallons of clean water into the tank. Let it rest for a little while, and repeat the same process at least six times to ensure there is no acid remaining.

Let this settle for around 10 minutes as well, and then drain it and make sure to discard it responsibly. These chemical treatments should have removed any and all rust settlements from inside your gas tank.

You may need to repeat this process if you notice rust buildup in your gas tank in the future. I recently read here or on another site of a way to clean rust from within a gas tank for $30.00 and does not require coating.

First buy a large box of 1" long Sheetrock screws, $20.00. Then buy 4 gals of white vinegar from the grocery store, $10.00.

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Then simply insert all the Sheetrock screws into the tank, close the cap and shake the hell out of it by hand. Then simply filled the talk to the brim with vinegar and closed the cap.

Drained the vinegar out and flushed the tank out with a water hose. After flushing it out, I immediately poured Coca-Cola into the tank and sloshed it around good to keep it from flash rusting.

The first picture below is of the large pile of finely powered rust dust that came out of the tank when I emptied the screws out. I've read about the vinegar technique a few times but it's great to get pics and positive feedback.

Thanks for the pointers.just a few questions though, did you reuse each of the emptied lot of vinegar when you refilled? After filling and shaking the tank, I emptied the vinegar out as much as I could into one 5 gal plastic buckets.

I then turned the tank upside down and emptied the screws out on a large sheet of plastic on the ground by shaking the tank till all the screws fell out. I then poured the vinegar into the another 5 gal bucket through a cloth filter.

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Great to hear someone with success from the Vinegar method tho. After filling and shaking the tank, I emptied the vinegar out as much as I could into one 5 gal plastic buckets.

I then turned the tank upside down and emptied the screws out on a large sheet of plastic on the ground by shaking the tank till all the screws fell out. I then poured the vinegar into the another 5 gal bucket through a cloth filter.

How much bicarb did you chuck in with the water and how's your electrical situation going man, you sorted it out? But I should clarify that the two-stroke/petrol mix should only be swished around the insides to coat the tank, then immediately fill it up with petrol. Ha, I ordered a fuel filter too.

Popped open the cap today and all I could see was clean metal. Definitely a great concept without the use and purchase of harsh chemicals.

Asked a friend to dump the vinegar and throw some coke in afterwards where he completely forgot to do any of the above. Inside looks like the devils shit box and my cap is also very shady.


I'm talking about that stuff that converts rust into an iron phosphate. I had some of this left from when I used it on the exterior of the tank and other bits and bobs on the bike.

The vinegar trick looks awesome, cheap, and environmentally friendly which is nice. My issue is that it leaves the tank clean but unprotected from future rust.

Mix it with two to three gallons of water, block off your petcock hole and/or transfers, fill to top, close the cap and let sit for a couple of days. That's because the phosphoric acid chemically converts the surface of the steel and it will NOT rust again.

I did a tank for a Yamaha and then it sat on the shelf in my garage for a year, with no cap on it, through summer humidity and spring thaws/condensation. I save my used solution in a 5 gallon plastic bucket and use it to DE- rust chrome and other steel parts, tools, etc.

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