I have included all ten parts of the gas tank restoration in one post in an effort to show the whole process without jumping from post to post. I also included a link to another post that gets into the pros and cons of both metal and plastic gas tanks.
This is the first part of a series showing how I restore Honda BIG RED gas tanks. I will start by recording the decal locations so I will have a reference to where they go before I remove them. This tank does have some dents and dings. I recently purchased a stud welder slide hammer kit to pull some dents out of some BIG RED gas tanks I have around. I wanted to get a stud welder and fix the tanks without filling them with a lot of body filler. After some research I ended up buying an H&S Autoshot stud welder and slide hammer kit.
Before pic of the tank
Using a paint marker I will measure decal locations from a reference point. I then take digital images that I can use later for the decal installation
First chemical strip
Results after chemical stripping and scraping. Next i will media blast the tank. I will cover the inlet and outlet of the tank to avoid excessive blast media from going inside the tank.
Pics of the tools.
Tank has been media blasted. I then use the angle die grinder with a scotch bright pad to further clean the dented area.
Studs welded in the low areas of the dent.
Using slide hammer to pull the dents. It took me a little time to get this done. and I had to weld some more studs to get the metal the way I wanted it. There are some really good videos on youtube for pulling dents with a stud welder so I will not get into the technique here.
Dents pulled and studs cut off and ground down. Now with these dents pulled I will use a minimal amount of body filler.
The BIG RED gas tank that I am restoring has some rust on the inside. The plan is to remove the rust using apple cider vinegar. After the rust is removed I will seal/coat the tank with RedKote. Rust removal details below.
Tank after soaking in vinegar for 3 days. Results not satisfactory. Need another plan.
Dumped this assorted hardware in the tank and shook it all around in an effort to break things up. Rinsed the tank with water than filled it back up with the vinegar.
After another 2 day soak in vinegar. Looking much better. Now I am ready to prep for tank coating.
Coating the tank provides extra insurance that the tank won’t leak in the future and ruin that new paint job you spent so much time on. Also tank rust can cause problems like plugged fuel filters and engine damage if the rust does reach the engine. There are many tank coating products out there. My previous experience was with the Kreem brand. I used this product successfully on many tanks but it was starting to get expensive. It was about $40.00 for the 3 part kit. I starting surfing the forums for alternatives and read some good reports on Red-kote. I looked up the website and researched the Red-kote. Here are some of the positive for this product:
Experience – Website claims 1 million tanks have been lined since 1985 and only 200 problems have been reported
Compatibility – compatible with many fuels including gasoline with ethanol (E-85)
Sealing capability – Coating can plug holes up to 1/32” (0.031”)
Easy application – Detergent and Acetone are the chemicals required. I can get these locally which will save on cost as compared to other specific multi-component products.
I ended up buying a quart of the Red-Kote on e-bay for $24.99 and that included shipping. Now to describe how I used the product.
Next I rinsed the tank twice with Acetone. After the second rinse I covered the opening in the bottom and put the Red Kote in. I then sloshed it around and after I had full coverage I let it drain out of the bottom back in to the can.
Quart of Red-Kote
Used Acetone to rinse tank before applying Red-Kote. Notice the tank position on the bench - I set this up so after I sloshed the coating around the whole tank the excess coating could be drained off. (this is not the same tank used throughout the post - I just used this as a visual reference)
Results after coating - yes this stuff is red.
Now that the gas tank has had the paint chemically stripped, media blasted, dents pulled, and the inside of the tank has had the rust removed and coated with Redkote it is time to prime the bare metal. First I will clean the tank with wax and grease remover and let dry. Next I will paint the tank with two coats of epoxy primer. The epoxy primer will provide excellent corrosion protection to bare metal. After the primer is dry I will do the necessary bodywork and then cover the bodywork with another two coats of primer.
Gas tank after two coats of black epoxy primer
Here is the epoxy primer that I used
I have not worked on a a BIG RED gas tank that did not need a little bodywork. I use body filler and spot putty to fill in low spots to restore the shape of the tank. I will pain the tank with basecoat and clearcoat so it is essential to get the tank smooth or else any imperfections will show right through. I will sand the bodywork with 180, 220, and finally 400 grit sandpaper. I will sand by hand using a block due to the shape of the tank.
bodywork in process
Body filler and spot putty I use
Got the bodywork done then recoated the tanks with epoxy primer. After the primer was dry I sanded it with 400 grit to prep it for the urethane primer.
Ok the bodywork is done and I recoated the tanks with epoxy primer. After the epoxy primer is dry I wet sanded it with 400 grit sandpaper and a pad to prep it for the Urethane primer. I sprayed the tanks with 3 coats of 2K Urethane primer from TP tools. This is a high build primer that has worked good for me. Why 2 primers? I use the epoxy primer for corrosion protection and a sealer. The Urethane primer is a high build primer that fills in the small imperfections and gives a good base for the next coat which will be the basecoat clearcoat. After the urethane primer is dry I will wet sand it by hand with 600 grit sandpaper and a pad.
Urethane primer applied
2K (2 part) Urethane Primer used
Added some pics of the wet sanding. I'm out of clearcoat so I will have to wait to get some in before I can spray the basecoat and clearcoat.
600 grit sandpaper, sanding pad, and bowl of warm water
the "spots" you see above on the tank are areas that need more wet sanding to level the primer smooth for the base/clear
I wiped the primer down with a some final wipe and once dry I wiped the tank down with a tack cloth. Next I sprayed the tank with the basecoat. The red color is from a Nissan car as the paint store does not understand when I say Honda "passion red". Paint codes are in the picture. I use a Sharpe Razor compliant paint gun and I have had good results with it. I used a new clearcoat this time with good results again a picture of what I used is included below.
After two coats of bascoat
Basecoat used. Paint codes - Nason Nissan AJ4 red W9270
After 3 coats of clear - I spray extra clearcoat since I will be color sanding and buffing the tank.
Clear I used. I got this from TP Tools. Next I will "color sand" the clear. After that I will buff the clear and then apply the decals.
Color sanding is basically leveling the clearcoat for a mirror like surface after buffing. I always spray a few extra coats of clearcoat since I know I will be doing this process. You don't want to sand through the clearcoat. Here is the process I use and some background:
Here are some of the materials I use. Spray bottle with a little dishsoap mixed in, 1500 grit sandpaper, sanding block (flexible), and a bowl.
Ok here is a pic of the tank after the basecoat and clearcoat paint has dried. Notice the wavy reflection. This is caused because the paint surface is not level. The color sanding and buffing will correct this for a mirror like reflection in the paint.
I first wipe down the tank with a 50/50 mix of water and rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. I use a microfiber cloth.
I let the 1500 grit sandpaper soak in water for about a 1/2 hour before I start to sand.
I wrap the 1500 grit sandpaper around a flexible sanding block/pad. I spray the surface with the water/dishsoap mix and sand in a circular motion.
I use a rubber squeegee to wipe the water and clearcoat mix from the tank.
Sand just enough to get a uniform dull surface. The pictures above show the dull surface next to the glossy surface so it is easy to know which areas still need to be sanded. I always use ample dishsoap and water mix and dip the sanding pad in the bowl consistently. You don't want to dry sand here as you might go all the way through the clearcoat.
Ok. I have a nice uniform dull appearance. Don't worry the paint is not ruined - in the next step I will use a buffer to bring back the shine better than it looks after it was first sprayed.
After the color sanding is done I wipe the tank down good with a microfiber cloth and a 50/50 rubbing alcohol and water mix. I use a variable speed Makita buffer with 4" buffing pads from SM Arnold. I wrote a review on the Makita Buffer MAKITA BUFFER REVIEW. The buffing compounds I use are from Meguires. I have had good results with these products but there are other good products out there too. I want to say that I learned color sanding and buffing from a DVD from Kevin Tetz call paintucation. Learning how to machine buff from a forum is not very practical. You tube may have some good videos on this too I am not sure.
Makita buffer used
Buffing pads used. This kit comes with the 4" backing plate for the buffer
Buffing compounds used. When these run out I think I am going to try 3M products.
This is the setup I use. I have a piece of angle iron and that is clamped into the bench vise. The gas tank is bolted to the angle iron and the wood is placed under the tank for extra support.
After first stage of buffing. I buff one section at a time using a dime size of compound. After each stage of buffing I will wipe down the tank with the rubbing alcohol and water mix. Note that different pads are used for the different compounds.
Buffing finished now I have a clear reflection in the paint. Next I will put the decals on.
Again I recommend getting a good video on this process to learn buffing as you can damage the paint if done incorrectly.
With the buffing complete it's time for the decal placement. I got the replacement decals from Indian chief. He runs atctanks and decals. Here is a link to his site where you can get quality decals - atctanksanddecals. I used a product called sticker on to help install the decals. This solution allows you to move the decal for placement and then it will set up and stick once you have it in position. I ran out of the sticker on and found out that it was basically water and a little dish soap so I mixed up my own.
Decals from atctanksanddecals. I will cut each decal out of the large sheet to make the installation easier.
Took the laptop out to the shop so I can view my digital pictures of the decal location measurements I took before I stripped them off the tank.
I use a magnetic measuring tape and some 3M masking tape.
Using the 3M masking tape as a "guide" for the decal placement
Spray the dish soap water solution on the adhesive side of the decal. I put just enough on for a consistent slick surface. Make sure the area of the gas tank where the decal is to be placed is clean.
Decal installed. I will sometimes use a body filler spreader to press out all of the air under the decal and get it to lay flat. The decal will set up in 5-10 minutes.
finished the decal install. I will wipe the tank down with wax and grease remover careful not to touch the decals and then wax the tank.
I just installed some tank decals on a 1983 BIG RED 200E. I wanted to show that it is sometimes easier to install the decals as a "set" so you don't have to worry about getting the spacing correct. In this case the side decals are individual but are on the same backing paper with the correct spacing. In this case I located the one lower corner and lower horizontal line and then installed the decal set from there. Use patience as you are putting a flat decal on a curved surface. I started from the bottom and worked my way to the top.
With the decals installed on the tank I am moving on to restoring the gas cap. A freshly painted tank and an old faded cap don't work well in my opinion. Before I get started I wanted to mention that you can (at the time of this post) still get a new OEM gas cap for about 40 bones from partzilla (part # 17620-HC3-771). The gas cap gasket is also available new for about 5 bones part # 17631-VM6-300.
Gas cap before
Removed the gaskets. They are cracked and need to be replaced
I used a wire brush and then wiped them off with wax and grease remover. I don't media blast them.
Mask them for painting
Here is the paint and primer I used
Primer applied. Remember to switch the vent and recoat.
Black paint applied. They turned out good - there is some reflection picked up in this image
I have no experience in rebuilding/restoring the OEM petcock. They are riveted and are not designed to be taken apart easily. The reason I have not invested much time and effort into the OEM petcock is that replacement petcocks that look very similar to the OEM petcock and are readily available (ebay and Amazon) and are very affordable.
New petcock next to OEM petcock
Got the new OEM gas cap gaskets in. They fit just fine but you may want to lightly lube the gasket so the cap twists on an off easily.
Old gasket shown on the right.
Additional tank pics
Some related post links:
Fixing a Metal Gas Tank Leak with MIG Welding and Red-Kote Coating
1982 Honda 200E BIG RED Tank Decal Location Measurements
1983 Honda 200E BIG RED Fuel Tank Decal Location
1984 Honda 200ES BIG RED Decal locations
Product Review: Atctanksanddecals.com Replacement Decals for BIG REDS and Other Vehicles
Sticker On Decal Application Spray Review