Degreasing & Cleaning Engine Bits

Ferrari Message Board Archive 10/00-8/02
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Degreasing & Cleaning Engine Bits

Post by wwwboard » Fri May 10, 2002 6:44 pm

Posted by Jonathon

Hi everyone,

I've been cleaning up the parts I currently have off my 330 engine, and its been a challenge to get the aluminum parts clean.

Most of the sludge came off easily when hit with Gunk brand engine cleaner/degreaser and a toothbrush, but a very dark brown varnish/tar remained particularly on the internal parts, very similar to the Tom's pictures during his engine's dissassembly.  This varnish seemed to soften on the smaller parts if they were left in hot soapy water, but not all comes off and this won't work for the bigger bits.  I tried the following with NO luck:  Gunk degreaser, Carb cleaner, Brake cleaner, WD-40, MEK, Acetone, Naptha, Denatured alchohol, Laquer thinner, Mequiers wheel cleaner, Meguiers metal polish, Windex, 'Orange' household cleaner (similar to Simple Green), and aviation Metal Prep.  Ric Rainbolt suggested the Gunk then brake cleaner with a brass brush worked for him, but it didn't for me.

What finally DID work was POR-15 Marine Clean: http://www.por15.com/faqs/faqmarin.html It's listed as an alkaline cleaner, safe for metals (apparently), but really really harsh on your hands.  But boy it works well with only minimal scrubbing. So now the parts are very clean, but not the nice shiny polished aluminum look I expected see - more a dull aluminum.  I haven't hit the big pieces with this yet, and was told by Les Putnam to look for the light coffee colored sealer used by Ferrari (which is there on the top oil sump casting for example).  That should stay, obviously!

So, is Marine Clean too strong to be used on the engine aluminium?  Any metalurgists out there?  What finish(s) should be expected on the engine interior parts?

Thanks everyone,
Jon

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Re: Degreasing & Cleaning Engine Bits

Post by wwwboard » Fri May 10, 2002 9:57 pm

Posted by Chris Coios

Jon,

I believe the inside of Ferrari castings during the early V-12 era were generally painted with a very thin coating of zinc chromate.  I have seen this light green primer on NOS castings.  Indeed, I speculate that castings may have been painted with the primer before final machining because I cannot imagine them masking every machined mating surface.  The brown varnish you describe may be the zinc chromate discolored by the oil.  PPG/Ditzler and DuPont used to make zinc chromate enamel primer, but it is no longer available.  I have used it to touch up the inside of castings, but I only have a little left now.

The exterior of the castings were also painted with zinc chromate primer and then silver paint to protect the aluminum.  Early Ferrari V-12's are painted, not bare aluminum.  The aluminum paint color is not as harsh as silver radiator paint in color, but not gray either.  After experimenting with dozens of products, I have found that Harley Davidson high heat silver is a reasonable match, with the added benefit that the silver does not come off on your hands like some silver paints.  I do not know how durable it is in the long term.  You will have to hunt for a zinc chromate based primer that is compatible with the top coat.  VHT also makes a high heat silver, but the color is too gray.  I have noticed that the very early cars may have had a silver that differs from later 12's.  The best retoration shops probably have their own custom brews for the color.  I wonder how Ferrari painted the exteriors of the engines.  I am guessing that they loose-assembled the castings without gaskets for automatic masking of machined surfaces, and then separated them again.  Old pictures often show silver paint on the ends of the studs!  Pure speculation here, and someone else may know more about this?

As for the cleaner, I would be cautious about anything caustic.  Do not hot tank mixed metals without knowing what the solution is or you may end up with a molten lump.  Most of the parts cleaners are not very potent anymore.  Once upon a time Gunk Hydro-Seal would clean off carbon from pistons and remove all old oil films.  It also would take your skin off.  The same product today does not have anywhere the same strength it seems, probably because of environmental issues.

I have had success with treating the casting exterior, after basic degreasing, with paint stripper followed by a good rinse and dry.  Then l have used 15 minute repeated applications of DURO (Loctite) "Aluminum Jelly", with a fine scotchbrite rub, followed by thorough water rinse and dry.  This is a very mild acidic jelly, that does no harm to the metal (or your hands) with short exposure.  It will remove some remaining grease stains and it will remove surface oxidation and light corrosion, leaving a satin sheen.  It works well as preparation just prior to painting the aluminum, similar I think to a conversion coating.  You can find this product at a good old-fashioned hardware store.  It comes in small plastic jars. Ask if they will order you a small case of 12.  At $3+ a jar however, it adds up.  The best bet may be to consult with an aircraft restorer who deals with aluminum all the time.

One method to be cautious with is glass bead blasting.  I think glass bead blasting a block or a head is a bad idea.  The glass beads will come back to haunt you from every little crevice.  A shop once did guides and dressed valve seats for me on a pair of heads.  They blasted the heads.  Everytime I moved the head another little pile of beads would fall out from a water jacket.  I spent hours and hours flushing the heads,  Eventually I found a brass musical instrument craftsman who had a long ultra-sound tank.  He was kind enough to submarine the heads and sonic out all the loose beads and scale.  Most ultrasound tanks however are too small.  This fellow also had this incredible industrial vapor degreasing unit.  Fantastic results, but an expensive thing, beyond the means of the home mechanic, and perhaps environmentally banned by now!  

A few last notes.  I believe that the Marelli distributor bodies are not painted.  The aluminum jelly gives a very nice natural finish here.  Aluminum jelly will also loosen black varnish from zinc carb castings, but limit the exposure to a few minutes and rinse well.  Ford makes carburator cleaner that really works.  Go to your local Ford/Mercury dealer parts department.  Mildly acidic, it will remove tarnish and scale from brass jets without harm, but do not soak for more than 24 to 30 hours, or the solution will show tiny film traces of brass.  Sorry for the long-winded response, waiting for the train home from work!  If I'm wrong about anything, I stand corrected.  I can retire from the site after this!  Chris  &nbsp

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Re: Degreasing & Cleaning Engine Bits

Post by wwwboard » Fri May 10, 2002 10:51 pm

Posted by zac

try the Zep purple industrial degreaser from Home Depot has worked for me for years it's cheap works great and is somewhat enviro safe.

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Re: Degreasing & Cleaning Engine Bits

Post by wwwboard » Sat May 11, 2002 12:36 am

Posted by Lee2811

Zinc chromate primer is still available from the aircraft supply houses in spray cans. Try Aircraft Spruce & Specialty or Randolph. To remove the other residue mentioned, try Easy-Off oven cleaner. It is especially good for burned on oil deposits. Permatex gasket remover in spray cans works well also.

Good Luck.

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Re: Degreasing & Cleaning Engine Bits

Post by wwwboard » Sat May 11, 2002 8:09 am

Posted by David Haney

Boat U.S. sells zinc chromate primer by the can for 9.99. It is the real stuff. I have used it for years.

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Re: Degreasing & Cleaning Engine Bits

Post by wwwboard » Tue May 14, 2002 6:12 pm

Posted by Jonathon

Hi Guys,


Thanks for the great replies (especially Chris!).  I have lots of filthy bits still, so have plenty of opportunities to try out your suggestions.  I picked up some Simple Green yesterday, and it works better on the tar than anything on my first list (same as the Gunk degreaser I guess), but still not as well as the Marine Clean.  My routine is to scrub full strength using an old toothbrush for a minute or so, then rinse in tap water, and have seen no aluminum dissolving away thank goodness!

The crankshaft thrust bearing journal has all of the coatings noted by Chris - the interior surface has a light brown (tinged with green) coating except on the machined surfaces.  On its exterior, you can see a nice light green primer, mostly covered by a silver paint.  This is evident on the block too (where it's clean enough to see), and yes, some of the studs have silver sprayed on them also.  Fwiw, Hersch (sp?) Aluminum paint is used on vintage V-12s by my local restorer.

The folks at JagLovers.org also caution not to bead blast any engine parts - "The gift that keeps on giving" is how they put it!  I have used the Stits Polyfiber EP-420/EP-430 2 part green epoxy primer (it is a chromate primer, they just don't CALL it that), it sticks well to clean and etched parts and dries to an hard impervious surface.  This was recommended over the spray can type because 1) The spray type IS dissolved by the Stits chemicals (which are MEK based) used to glue fabric to wings, and 2) it isn't an aerosol, so it isn't in the air to breath.  The Stits and Randolph Chromate primers are both available at http://www.aircraftspruce.com/main.html.  Also, I have a few tips on prepping and using the stuff here:  http://www.sportflight.com/kfb/howto.htm, courtesy of the Kitfox builders list.

Cheers,
Jon
http://www.jb330gt.com


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Re: Degreasing & Cleaning Engine Bits

Post by wwwboard » Sat May 25, 2002 3:55 pm

Posted by Jim P

I've used a paste-type product sold in tubes at most gun shops.  Not sure what the chemistry actually is but seems safe and works great.  It's called "Flitz" and made in Germany.  I'm fairly certain it's the same stuff, but in liquid form, that you can get from Dillion Precise (bullet reloading equipment co.) used in bullet case cleaning vibrators to clean the brass prior to reloading.  Lot of Harley guys (me included) use it.

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