A Minor Miracle

Mechanical Meditations

My dad taught me that you can clean up a rusty tank with a handful of nuts and bolts and some serious shaking. That rudimentary remedy has worked on countless tanks, but the MB’s reservoir is rustier than anything I’ve encountered before.

In my last update I'd noted the tank's condition and mentioned a local company by the name of Rusteco (rusteco.com). The firm claims to have a product that "totally removes rust…is non-toxic, isn't caustic…. is made from renewable resources…won't damage paint or rubber… is biodegradable…" These assertions made me more than a little skeptical – it sounded like snake oil for the rusty tank set-- but technical manager Michael Nahm assured me that everything I'd read was indeed accurate.

Due to the awkward size of the MB’s tank and the severity of the corrosion, Michael suggested I have his techs treat my tank at his Torrance facility. Nahm’s bread and butter is heavy industry (think oil tankers) but he also sells DIY kits and offers in-house rust-removal treatments.

The process is pretty simple. The rusty tank (or bicycle frame, 1920 Model-T chassis, or pirate ship anchor ) is blasted with a pressure washer to remove loose rust and then submerged in a vat of Rusteco solution for a number of days, depending on the severity of the corrosion (my tank spent 5 days in the fluid). When the item is pulled from the bluish brine, it’s miraculously clean of rust. Such was the case with the MB tank. Where before there was thick red scale, now there is bare, exfoliated metal. Unfortunately, in some places the rust was all there was, so I’ve got a few pinholes to deal with. An epoxy tank sealant should take care of the holes and prevent any further corrosion.

Michael wouldn’t divulge Rusteco’s ingredients, but he said it’s a plant-based soap that dissolves rust rather than chemically altering it. I’m no chemist, but I know the stuff works. Got a rusty tank keeping you from getting an old bike back on the road? Rusteco DIY kits start at $50, although a 5-gallon motorcycle tank will require about $125 worth of the stuff. It’s a bit pricey, but Nahm said the solution can be reused numerous times before its power is exhausted, after which it can be used as a plant fertilizer!

Resources:

Rusteco-Rust
Removal treatment for the MB5's gas tank.
rusteco.com
(800) 787-8326

Haynes Manuals
Invaluable technical information and diagrams.
haynes.com
(800) 242-4637

Huntington Beach Honda
Various OE parts such as gaskets, grommets, and seals.
hbhonda.com
(714) 842-5533

Cleaning up a rusty motorcycle tank.
Cleaning up a rusty tank.Motorcyclist
Cleaning up a rusty motorcycle tank.
Cleaning up a rusty motorcycle tank.Motorcyclist
Cleaning up a rusty motorcycle tank.
Cleaning up a rusty motorcycle tank.Motorcyclist