gas tank painting

Dec 16, 2003
Hi. Not a Norton but I'm sure the process is the same. What is the best (easiest) way to remove paint from a gas metal gas tank. Sanding (what grit/type of paper) or is it easier using chemical peeling products such as safety strip or Zip Strip. (do they still make zip strip?) Part 2, What is everyone's thoughts on restoring the inside of the tank? I've never done one but from what I have read it involves swooshing different liquids around the inside. Is it easy enough that anyone could do it? Which product works the best? Thanks...



Hi Stavenstumper,

I'm in the same boat. There's a thread here somewhere. Do a search using "gas" and "tank".

I've done one tank insides as follows:
1. Clean out as much as possible with a high pressure sprayer like the one at a do-it-yourself car wash or a home model.
2. Then plug the petcock holes and put in 1-2 packages of 1/2" - 3/4" carpet tacks with either MEK (Methyl Ethyl Ketone), or just plain water. Acetone is OK, but it's nasty on laquer and enamels. Close the gas-cap hole and shake yourself into oblivion for a good 30 minutes. (If it's real bad, you can drain the junk into a strainer, and put the tacks back in with fresh liquid). This method WILL get down to bare metal. Drain and make sure you get out all the tacks :shock:
3. Then add in a bottle of Phosphoric acid paint-prep found in a local hardware store. There are other sources as well. This etches the metal surface and prepares it to receive a sealer. When done, the tank surface should be a dull gray color.
4. Then I flush thoroughly with water several times to get all traces of the acid out.
5. Then I rinse with MEK to remove all H2O moisture.
6. Air or blow dry.
7. I then used a product called "Kreme", but the thread above recomends another product. I may give that a try. Kreme is a white liquid that appears to be a latex compund (just a guess). This is poured into the tank and swirled around to coat every surface of the tank. Let dry 24-48 hours, add a few petcocks, some petrol, and drive away.

As far as external paint stripping, any stripper works well as long as it contains Methylene Chloride (MECL2), (they all pretty much do). Wear gloves and a respirator if possible, or do it outside. MECL2 is readily and quickly absorbed through the skin, as well as being a known carcinogen. You can tell if you've got in on you because the area contacted starts to burn :shock: :shock:

A word of advice. If tank prepping is not done properly or thoroughly, rusting will begin under the coating and work its way through the tank wall un-noticed. It's also a bear to remove (I have such a tank calling me).

Let us know how it goes.


Thanks Dana. That's some process. :? I'll give it a try. Do you think you can substitute rubbing alcohol for the MEK (I believe it also repells H2O). I could probably get some MEK from work but it may take some doing. They're pretty tight with the chemicals. Meaning they are not just kept laying around. I'll let you know how it comes out.


paint removal

Here's my .02: Use the sealer from Bill Hirsch. The tank must be perfectly clean inside for any sealer to work so the advice given above is good. I've never tried it on a m/c tank but I have stripped paint from robust parts like car wheels by soaking them in auto store paint stripper and then hitting them with a pressure washer. No need to sandblast or scrape so the sheet metal comes out nice. One thing though, I had a commercial painter strip the original metal flake blue from a pair of Norton side covers and he said it was the toughest paint he had ever encountered and I watched him sandblast it: it was tough!. The stripper/pressure wash thing would work better than a sandblaster on this stuff.
Dec 5, 2003
Country flag
i just got the Motorcycle Tank Sealer kit from Bill Hirsch. It has a strong alkaline cleaner an acid rust/metal prep solution and a can of sealer. The whole package costs $33.00 including shipping. I haven't used this product but several people have recommended it--- so lets see. I'll give an update once I've used it. As for sandblasting vs. chemical stripping both have their pluses and minuses. I opted for a chemical strip on my tank. I was afraid of getting a lot of sand in the tank that i couldn't get out. Remember anybody that does sandblsting needs to be very careful to keep from warping the metal, especially flat panels. I do plan on sandblasting the frame though. I'll probably chemical strip the oil tank and side panels. The next question for me is whether to use epoxy primer or not. I'm leaning to black Imron for the frame etc. and Acrylic lacquer for the side panels and gas tank. Any comments on these choices gladly welcomed.


Hi guys,

I'm real anxious to hear how the Hirsch product goes.

As far as using Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), I would not recommend it as a water drying agent. It's highly hygroscpoic (draws moisture from the air), which is the last thing you want coming into contract with bare metal. It also takes a bit longer to evaporate -- giving it more time to draw in moisture.

MEK is sold here in the states in the Home Depot chain in both pints and gallons.

Another alternative is Methanol (the "alcohol" fuel used in CART). It's also hygroscpoic, but not as much as the above, and evaporates quickly -- before it has a chance to draw in water.

One more thing -- I just read that about a professional bike restorer in England who raps all around the tank before starting, to see if there are any thin spots in the metal from rusting. If so, it can be cut out, and a patch tig'd in, then braze filled, then ground smooth.



when you sandblast the frame make sure you use the correct grade of sand too harsh will make a hell of a mess to the finish of the metal and will show through when painting. Sikkins etching primer is popular, with the sanblasting you will achieve a good tooth to the metal so it will stick, I would stick to all the same paint finish, Laquer looks good but is very soft and you want to consider gas that might leak over the paintwork on the tank? just about most two pack epoxy paint you will find works, the old Imeron you mentioned is an old favourite, powdercoating is another story some like it, but it has its drawbacks, most frames flex a little and it can crack and is very hard or impossible to repair, paint is easier to work with.
Clive 8)


Are any of the above paints avaible in aerasol cans or do they all need to be used with an air compressor and spray gun. I only have a small (6 gal)
pancake compressure. The spray guns I've seen require much more CFMs than my compressor puts out. Are there any alternatives out there?


Gas Tank Plating

Try Caswell Plating for tank interior coating.


Update to the tank saga

Forget what I said about carpet tacks. Too much work for any tank (mine for example) with LOTS of gunk.

My arms are aching, and half the tacks got lodged in the sludge.

Here's what I've done to the tank so far, and it still smells of petroleum byproducts.

1. DIY carwash with GUNK degreaser and hi-pressure srap inside.
2. Hot soapy water with about 50 carpet tacks ... shook for an hour.
3. Overnight soak with 1 gallon of 2:1:1 MEK:Acetone:Lacquer Thinner (black stinky syrup poured out).
4. Blow dry.
5. Repeat #2.
6. Electrolysis for 24 hours at 8 amps (battery charger) with Potassium Hydroxide as the electrolyte (Draino or Liquid Plumme work too), and a mild steel rod as the anode (to remove rust). 75% of the rod got eaten away :shock:
7. Rinse with more solvent solution (still blackish).
8. Repeat step #5 (I'm getting tired of this).
9. Repeat step #6 (I'm getting really tired of this)
10. Repeat step #7
11. Gave up :x :cry:

About 75% of the rust is now gone form the two electrolysis treatments. The remainder is there because the oily residue prohibits rust removal.

I'm going to pay $60 to have a radiator repair shop to do a caustic boil, and kiss the paint goodbye.

(BTW ... my friend gave me a quart of POR-15 which I'll use).


Update ... IT'S DONE!!

Gas tank update.

Well, I finally finished -- PHEW!!

After the last post ...

1. Had a few beers.
2. Soak with gasoline for 24 hours with occasional shaking (the theory being that any gunk originally came from gasoline, so it should go back into solution) ... it came out pretty clear with some rust flakes.
3. Another serious sloshing with Tide and very hot water. Rinse.
4. 24 hr. soak with a solution of Hydrochloric and Nitric Acids ... about 10ml/5ml resp. to a gallon of H2O if anybody cares. I used reagent strength ... don't ask where I got it 8) . Tank finally came clean, down to the bare metal. Sweet :!: Also, no thin spots or pinholes.
5. Etch with Phosphoric acid solution (over the counter tank prep stuff). (Don't rinse).
6. Dry overnight with a warm hairdryer blowing through.
7. Coated with POR, drained, and let blow with cool air overnight, then 24 hours with warm. (Needs 96 hours at 70d. F to cure).
8. Had a few more beers :p

All done, with the paint intact, so I'll hold off going to the red for now.

Next steps, touch up the black chips with modelers enamel, 600 wet/dry or rubbing compound on the spots where solvent dribbled, shoot some rattle-can clear enamel to seal it (maybe).

Install petcocks, new gas-cap seal assy., new front and back rubbers, mount, run fuel lines, and fillerup :)