How to Clean Metal Gas Tanks

by Brenda Priddy
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gas tank image by Mat Hayward from

With disuse, a fuel tank can become rusty, dirty and full of sludge. The best way to clean the tank is a several-step process that clears away the contamination and seals the metal against new corrosive materials that may cause the tank to rust or become damaged again. When cleaning a metal fuel tank, it is important to take all safety precautions. Always work in a well-ventilated location or outdoors, and wear appropriate safety gear.

Step 1

Siphon any gas inside the tank into a container safe for use with gas. Discard the fuel if it is contaminated, or set it aside if it is safe for reuse.

Step 2

Disconnect the fuel lines leading from the tank to the engine. Unbolt the tank from the brackets holding the tank in place, and take it to a clean and flat work surface.

Step 3

Remove the fuel sender from the top of the tank by turning it counterclockwise until it breaks free. If the fuel sender breaks, you can simply replace it with a new one when the tank is clean.

Step 4

Rinse out the tank with a garden hose. Place a long chain inside the tank while it is full of water and shake it around to loosen any rust. Turn the tank over and drain it of the water and any large chunks of dirt or debris.

Step 5

Put on eye protection and rubber gloves. Fill the tank about one-third of the way full with water. Add about one-quarter of a gallon of muriatic acid to the water. Slosh the water around in the tank until the acid reaches all of the walls inside the tank. Pour out the mixture. Repeat the process until the water comes out clean.

Step 6

Fill the tank with water and add half a gallon of acid. Allow the tank to soak overnight.

Step 7

Pour one quart of tank sealer inside the tank. Slosh the sealer around the tank until all the walls of the tank are coated with the solution. Drain the excess sealer outside of the tank before it dries. Wait two to four days before adding fuel back inside the tank.

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