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Thread: Electrolytic rust removal for engine block
          
   
   

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  1. #1
    53 Chevy5's Avatar
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    Electrolytic rust removal for engine block

     



    I got my 218 back from the engine shop and they soaked it in what ever they use to clean up the rust. It is nasty enough that he said I will need new cam bushings afterwards. It still has a heavy build up in the bottom of the water jackets, enough for a hammer and screwdriver and I would like it out of there. I would like to use electrolytic to try to remove it but does it work well with hard rust built up that heavy? All the machine work has been done to the block that shouldn't be an issue should it? I know hindsight it is 20/20.
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    Seth

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    Hotrod46's Avatar
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    I've used electrolytic to derust some tools and lathe parts. I didn't seem to have any effect on unrusted surfaces, but I didn't measure anything either.

    From what I have read, it only converts the rust at the molecular level by liberating the oxygen from the FE02 and doesn't hurt good surfaces. All that's left is basically the pure iron that was converted to rust in the first place. It gets left behind as an ultra fine black powder. This needs to be rinsed off pretty quick, since it sticks pretty good after it dries.

    I think you will be OK with the machined surfaces, but they may discolor some. The lathe chuck I did was really bad. So bad that it was almost completely stuck. All four jaws were like that. After about 3 days, I was able to get it disassembled easily, but it took several more days to get it completely clean. There were many fine pits on it, but that is because it was literally covered with rust. If the metal has been eaten away by rust, it will still be eaten away and there will be a pit, just no rust.

    Also, the process is similar to chrome plating. It works better on "line of sight" to the anode, but it will work in hidden places. It just takes a lot longer. I read about a guy that had an old antique post drill that had been through a fire and looked completely hopeless. He hooked it up and left to go on a cruise (as on a ship) for several days. When he got back, he was able to get every bolt out with no issues. Almost seems like magic! It did work wonders on my old chuck, which also looked pretty hopeless.

    FWIW - I found that using carbon for the anode works much better than iron. The iron anode will get a scummy covering of very nasty looking rust and the rust removal process slows down if it's not cleaned or replaced. Carbon doesn't do this, but will darken the water, leaving it black. Don't use stainless for the anode. This will release Hexavalent chromium into the solution. That's pretty nasty stuff.

    Good luck.
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    Mike

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    What do you mean by " line of sight " is that the things like inside the water jackets? It can stay in for a month for all I care, I'm not in a hurry. Now I need to find where to buy a carbon stick.
    Seth

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    The outside of the block would be in a direct line to the anode(s), so would be line of sight. Unless you can get an anode inside the water passages, then the current would have to take an indirect path. That would not be line of sight. The current would still flow through the electrolyte, but it would have to travel a longer path with more resistance.

    When I was doing the lathe chuck, the center hole was taking a long time to clean up. I suspended an additional anode in the center of the hole and it cleaned right up. I'm not saying it won't work in indirect locations, it will just take longer.
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    Mike

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    Thanks, I bet I can slip something through the water jackets.
    Seth

    God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. C.S.Lewis

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    You know, after thinking about it, you would not even have to submerge the entire block if all you want to do is clean the inside. If you can get an anode or 3 inside the water passages, just seal the block and fill it with electrolyte. That way it will not be able to affect the machined surfaces. Just leave the top open so you can let the gas escape (oxygen and hydrogen) and to add more electrolyte as needed. Obviously, you can't let the anode touch the block.
    Mike

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    That's a great idea.
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    53 Chevy5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hotrod46 View Post
    You know, after thinking about it, you would not even have to submerge the entire block if all you want to do is clean the inside. If you can get an anode or 3 inside the water passages, just seal the block and fill it with electrolyte. That way it will not be able to affect the machined surfaces. Just leave the top open so you can let the gas escape (oxygen and hydrogen) and to add more electrolyte as needed. Obviously, you can't let the anode touch the block.
    I did some checking on that idea, it would be quite a bit of messing around. It would work well otherwise though.
    Seth

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    I got my dunk tank made. I gathered up some fencing push posts I had that are made of re bar and welded them up for the + side of things. Does it look like something that will work ?
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    It'll work - how heavy is the metal? You'll want to lift it out and clean the rods as they'll become covered in "gunk".. no problem other than that from what I can see.

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    It's 3/8 rebar ,I can easily lift it out. I'm going to place the barrel right under my chain hoist so I can lift the block in and out and inspect it. Maybe I will start with the cylinder head, if something weird happens I got three more backups LOL.
    Seth

    God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. C.S.Lewis

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    I'll be interested to see how it works out especially on the machine surfaces.

    I was happy with the results of the citric acid on the Hemi block I did last year, but that was all pre-machine work........It would have had to have the machine work re-done afterword if it had already been done and cam bearing would have been junk.


    .
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    I've NEVER seen a car come from the factory that couldn't be improved.....

  13. #13
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    I started the electrolytic process on the head, I have a before shot of the rust on the radiator hose outlet. I have the charger running on about 2 amps and I could see some bubbling in just 15 minutes. After one hour there was very noticable stuff going on. I'm anxious to see what it looks like in 24 hours.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike P View Post
    I'll be interested to see how it works out especially on the machine surfaces.

    I was happy with the results of the citric acid on the Hemi block I did last year, but that was all pre-machine work........It would have had to have the machine work re-done afterword if it had already been done and cam bearing would have been junk.


    .
    I wonder if that is similar to the stuff the machine shop uses.
    Seth

    God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. C.S.Lewis

  15. #15
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    Seth, just another thought on the machined surfaces. I have noticed that if a section of the part gets above the surface of the electrolyte, there is a definite line created on the part where it comes out of the water. Not sure if there is any metal removed or if it's just discolored metal. Be careful to keep it submerged since the process not only converts rust, but also breaks the water down into gas. The level will drop over time.

    Like the others, I'm very interested in how this turns out.
    Last edited by Hotrod46; 12-03-2019 at 06:19 AM.
    Mike

    I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc-
    I'm following my pass​ion

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