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  • Making a fuel tank from an old hot water heater - possible?

    Hey all - long time lurker....and FINALLY got things together so I could register! Woot woot!

    SO - long story short (the long story will come soon....I'm looking to rant!) - I'm trying to turn this old hot water heater into a fuel tank for my rod.

    It's galvanized, and has been welded up. As you know, galvanized can't be welded without creating some voodoo.....and consequently, the inside of the tank is flaking where it was welded.

    Here's my question: can I sandblast the inside of the tank to prevent more flaking? Can I get this tank to a place where it won't just slough off forever?

    I'll coat the inside of the tank with the KBS system; my concern is that if I don't deal with the flaking, the coating won't stick....and I'll have wasted all sorts of time and money.

    Anyone ever dealt with this before?

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  • #2
    Given the original purpose of a water heater tank is to heat water up and maintain a specific temp, why are you even considering using it as a fuel tank? As many heat and cool cycles as that tank has probably been through while holding water, I don't ever see it being sealed enough to not cause a problem at some point down the road.

    Several years ago some people stopped using plain steel to make fuel tanks because of the issue of keeping them from rusting inside. The modern gas with the menthol isn't helping, it will pull water from the air and leave it on the tanks metal sides.

    Sorry, I just don't see a good outcome from this one long term. Gene

    Comment


    • #3
      I freaking love that old tank! The legit rivets, the galvanizing, the lettering.... It belongs on my '30! LOL!

      Vintage_mpg I would've given that idea immediate consideration just like you have. But chasing that would be a concern for the long term like Gene mentioned. Hmmmm..... For it's age, (should be pretty heavy walled I suspect) the tank could either be very solid, or shop decor. (Since it's welded up, how would you get in there to sand blast it without opening it back up?)

      I have not specifically dealt with this exact situation but here are a few things that come to mind and things to think about:
      • Before doing anything with it I'd try to find someone (a plumber/septic guy/inspector guy etc) that has a camera they could run in there for a few bucks which would be well worth it- letting you know how to proceed. It may be D.O.A. or it may be worth it to proceed.
      • One would suspect this thing saw a ton of use but who knows. If the galvanizing was good everywhere and if it is only flaking a bit around the welded on pipe add I'd cap the end of that pipe with an air pressure gauge, put about 30 psi on it, and see if it leaks down after 24 hours.
      • No leaks? Depending on what the camera showed, decision time to seal or not to seal. Hopefully it wouldn't need it. If so, hopefully the sealing system you've mentioned has a long and good track record and better than what was out there years ago because to my recollection those sealers didn't last that terribly long before tanks were clogging up.
      • And then there's the fab work cutting in a sending unit, mounting hardware, etc.
      • To give it a whirl and hope you don't have to change it out in the future? Yes for some, no for others.

      Or............... just test it for leaks and use it as an air tank for a set of bags............ which is what I'd do in a heart beat! LOL! Have a major cool/functional use without going through all the above. But then who am I to say? I'm the goof ball who ground the letters and zinc off the tops of over 600 carriage bolts (and counting) for my '30!

      I haven't been here a long time but this is a great site to learn stuff and ask questions. There are a handful of guys that are currently active on this forum who really know their stuff from years of "been there done that"- Gene being one of them. Can't go wrong soaking in what they say.

      Show us some pics of the ride!

      Last edited by Old Stuff; 06-24-2020, 06:57 PM. Reason: wording clarification
      https://www.killbillet.com/forum/30s...the-30-chevyMy 1930 Chevy truck build link:

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Old Stuff View Post
        I freaking love that old tank! The legit rivets, the galvanizing, the lettering.... It belongs on my '30! LOL!

        Vintage_mpg I would've given that idea immediate consideration just like you have. But chasing that would be a concern for the long term like Gene mentioned. Hmmmm..... For it's age, (should be pretty heavy walled I suspect) the tank could either be very solid, or shop decor. (Since it's welded up, how would you get in there to sand blast it without opening it back up?)

        I have not specifically dealt with this exact situation but here are a few things that come to mind and things to think about:
        • Before doing anything with it I'd try to find someone (a plumber/septic guy/inspector guy etc) that has a camera they could run in there for a few bucks which would be well worth it- letting you know how to proceed. It may be D.O.A. or it may be worth it to proceed.
        • One would suspect this thing saw a ton of use but who knows. If the galvanizing was good everywhere and if it is only flaking a bit around the welded on pipe add I'd cap the end of that pipe with an air pressure gauge, put about 30 psi on it, and see if it leaks down after 24 hours.
        • No leaks? Depending on what the camera showed, decision time to seal or not to seal. Hopefully it wouldn't need it. If so, hopefully the sealing system you've mentioned has a long and good track record and better than what was out there years ago because to my recollection those sealers didn't last that terribly long before tanks were clogging up.
        • And then there's the fab work cutting in a sending unit, mounting hardware, etc.
        • To give it a whirl and hope you don't have to change it out in the future? Yes for some, no for others.

        Or............... just test it for leaks and use it as an air tank for a set of bags............ which is what I'd do in a heart beat! LOL! Have a major cool/functional use without going through all the above. But then who am I to say? I'm the goof ball who ground the letters and zinc off the tops of over 600 carriage bolts (and counting) for my '30!

        I haven't been here a long time but this is a great site to learn stuff and ask questions. There are a handful of guys that are currently active on this forum who really know their stuff from years of "been there done that"- Gene being one of them. Can't go wrong soaking in what they say.

        Show us some pics of the ride!
        So.....the tank seems to be pretty darn solid, but it's definitely flaking right at the weld spot. The welding line is easily visible when you shine a light in the tank, so I can definitely tell it's happening.

        Here's what I'm thinking: I'm going to cut it BACK open, right where it was shortened and welded up the first time....have it sand-blasted to remove any and all galvanized coating, weld it all back up - then coat it. I think it will work. Fingers crossed.

        The KBS tank coating guy all but guaranteed a life-long coat. He feels 100% confident that it will absolutely work and will be flawless once I have the galvanized coating blasted off.

        What do you guys think? It's worth a shot; I can have it cut open in just a few minutes, then blasted and welded won't be outrageous. The tank looks super cool, fits RIGHT IN THE SPOT of the car, already has the filler neck right where it belongs.....so even if I have to shell out a few bucks and wait another week or two, I think I'll still be money ahead to make it work. Plus, I have a million other things I can be working on while waiting on the tank - so why not?

        Convince me otherwise if I'm missing something obvious....but at this point, I'm jumping in.

        Comment


        • #5
          Also forgot to mention: I have a small air tank in place already....and not sure that I'd have room for this beast to ride where the air tank fits. However - it may come to pass that way. If I can't get the fuel tank option to pan out, I'll definitely consider other options. Great idea!

          Comment


          • #6
            I raise a just-opened beer bottle to you for being adventurous! Can't wait to see the car- and particularly placement of the tank. Totally got me curious now!

            Sometimes things are worth going for if you've got an idea planted and are willing to see what happens. I'm pretty much like that also. It's a challenge and heck, if it fails you don't look for a bridge to jump off of, you figure out another way. (the Thomas Edison thing.) It's simply the price you might pay for wanting to be unique. I'm also one for enjoying the efforts of being unique, but like for most people, there's a time a place for my "mad scientist attitude". My '58 Chevy truck is way more conservative being what I consider a more "traditional" built rod. The '30 is a different story..... LOL!

            What are you planning to do for knowing how much push-olene is in the tank?
            https://www.killbillet.com/forum/30s...the-30-chevyMy 1930 Chevy truck build link:

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Old Stuff View Post
              I raise a just-opened beer bottle to you for being adventurous! Can't wait to see the car- and particularly placement of the tank. Totally got me curious now!

              Sometimes things are worth going for if you've got an idea planted and are willing to see what happens. I'm pretty much like that also. It's a challenge and heck, if it fails you don't look for a bridge to jump off of, you figure out another way. (the Thomas Edison thing.) It's simply the price you might pay for wanting to be unique. I'm also one for enjoying the efforts of being unique, but like for most people, there's a time a place for my "mad scientist attitude". My '58 Chevy truck is way more conservative being what I consider a more "traditional" built rod. The '30 is a different story..... LOL!

              What are you planning to do for knowing how much push-olene is in the tank?
              As far as a fuel gauge, I don't have a good plan.

              It's a huge tank - right at 25 gallons. Since this thing will never be a cross-country rig, I'm guessing I'll just wing it initially, sneaking up on a number by watching the odometer to determine how much I may have left. It's not ideal, but it's quick and easy - and I don't know how to get around it without wiring up a sending unit...and I don't know if it's worth the effort at this point. Perhaps at some point in the future. I'm afraid that any sending unit I install wouldn't speak to my current fuel gauge anyhow, which means another gauge on my already overcrowded dash.

              You have any thoughts? I'm all ears...

              Comment


              • #8
                I'm guessing you are laying it flat yes? Picture if you will a big commercial coffee pot at a truck stop/convenience store. They have a clear glass tube attached to let you know how much coffee is in there. Maybe you could come out of the end with a couple of 90's high/low and put a protected glass tube in between the fittings somehow? Finding the "right" wire would be key. Think heavy gauge rabbit wire maybe? That would look pretty killer. It would also keep in flavor with the vintage tank.

                Thinking of it was the easy part. LOL!
                https://www.killbillet.com/forum/30s...the-30-chevyMy 1930 Chevy truck build link:

                Comment


                • #9
                  I wouldn't worry much about a gas gauge sending unit. You can always carry a piece of wood dowel rod and stick it though the fill hole to the bottom of the tank and pull it back out to see how much of the rod is wet. Guys have been doing that for years. Back in the 70s I worked at a gas station, we used a wood post with marks on it, we would pulled the covers off the tanks and dropped the post in to the bottom of the tank, then pull it back out to see how much gas was in the underground tank. The amount of darkened post was used to determine when we had to have the gas tanker come and fill the tank. I think we had to check the gas level in the tanks 2 times a week.

                  I would still be concerned about any kind of sealer inside your fuel tank, over all they have a really poor track record. A lifetime guarantee is only as good as the company that gave it to you is. Just today over on the another automotive board someone was telling about a tank lining that went bad, the company that issued the lifetime guarantee is still around, but refuses to honour the guarantee, pretty much told the guy to go pound sand. There was a pretty long time between the time the tank was lined and the time the lining failed, 4-5 years seems to be about the time line for early failures, so maybe you will be OK. I never expected my coupe to be around anywhere near that long, but here I am at 9 years and counting. The thought of a fuel tank liner that could be coming apart now would really make me real unhappy.

                  I guess things like tank lining are the things we each take our chances on, or not. Sometimes we win, and sometimes we loose, and that is what sets up our learning curve. Gene

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I hear you, Gene. This could all be a tremendous waste of time! Hopefully not...but we live and learn. Fingers crossed on this one!

                    Well....here we go.

                    I'll get her sand blasted and we can go from there. To be honest, the innards look pretty grim at this point.

                    Check it out:
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                    Last edited by vintage_mpg; 06-27-2020, 05:18 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Good luck. Gene

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Here are a few questions that I'm wrestling with today:

                        1) Can I run my fuel filter in a vertical application? Instead of horizontally, can I run it vertical? Or is that a no-go sort of application? Because my fuel lines need to run up to the carbs, I thought I'd stab in the fuel filter - but perhaps it needs to be horizontal ONLY. Love to know what you all think.

                        2) What can I use as an air filter for these velocity stacks? They look like they may have had some sort of fabric/mesh/foam of some sort, as there's a pair of wire "flats" that looks to have had foam or the like smashed between them. Where can I find something like that - and what would you suggest I use? It's prob not the BEST choice - but it's what I have, and I like the looks of the velo stacks. If I can find something that will act as a decent air filter, I'd love to keep using them.

                        Here's a few pics for your perusal: Click image for larger version

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                        • #13
                          It doesn't surprise me one bit the various responses you got on the other forum. Only once have I run a glass one like you have. Did it for years on my Model A with no issues- but that's just me. Obviously there are strong opinions for some against using glass so there you go.

                          My personal experience- IIRC the factory inline metal filter location on my first ride (a '72 Chevy truck) was on the inside of the frame rail near the back of the truck. (Hope I'm thinking of the right one LOL.) After that, on every rolling toy I've had I put plastic inline filters up in the engine compartment (horizontally) just before the fuel pump because I could easily see if the filter had junk in it or not. Opening the hood quite often let me see it with more frequency.

                          I'm with you on the love of velocity stacks. My Model A ran 2-4's on a Weiand high-rise with a pair of those on top. They were gold anodized with filters on them- like the pic posted on the other forum. Later they got swapped out for a Hllborn style finned aluminum scoop.

                          Choices! Ending up good or not-so-good, they're part of the adventure!
                          https://www.killbillet.com/forum/30s...the-30-chevyMy 1930 Chevy truck build link:

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