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Discussion Starter #1
Tecnically, this isn't a tool, but since I changed the water in my "engine vat" today I thought I would take some pictures and share them.

Here she is, a 55 gallon drum with a lid.

On the front is a thermostat for an electric hot water heater.

On the back, at the bottom, is a heating element for an electric hot water heater. It is a 110 volt, 2000 watt element. It's the highest wattage 110v one I coud find. It take a while to heat the barrel up from cold but it will doi it (about 8 hours). You can get elements in 220 volts up to 5500 watts, you can also wire up dual elements.
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Here is an engine that has just finished its bath. I have bailed out several gallons of water to expose the engine.
It's a 1980 Ford 302, and it was nASSty. I didn't take any "before" pictures though.


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Stubborn (head gasket) material that would take endless scraping peels right off. If it won't peel off then one swipe from a razor blde take it clean off.


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The carbon in EGR passages can be hard as concrete, but many times after a bath the carbon breaks apart like sand.


This carbon was a little tougher, but a few seconds with a screwdriver and this passage is clean.


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Before a squirt from the water hose.




Notice how the oil pan gasket came off in one strip.


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The block and head casting was really grainy and rough.


WTF?!! No valve stem seals! Maybe they disolved or broke away inside the engine.


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After I have bailed out all the dirty water, I tip the barren upside down over a bucket and spray out the sludge.


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Heres the element.


I place a piece of channel iron over it to keep it from getting damaged. There is a piece of angle iron in there too so blocks will sit level across the bottom. And it leaves a gap so water can circulate under the engine too.


I fill it 3/4 full, thats enough to cover most any engine.


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This is the stuff that makes it all melt away.


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The engine that I showed may not look clean but the pictures don't do it justice. The block casting was VERY rough, almost like 40 grit sand paper. It was striped to the bare metal.

I will clean about 5 engines (block and heads) between fluid changes, depending on how dirty each one is.

You can fit a Big Block Chevy (block and heads) in a 55 gallon drum.

I clean my engines this way mainly for inspection purpouses. I know that the best way to clean an engine is to bake and blast it.

Price to pay a machine shop to vat ONE engine, around $50.
Total investment in this "engine vat" is about $40 ($60 if you have to buy the barrel too, I already had one).
 

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Nice!!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
What about adding an air hose to it to 'aerate' it? Do you think that would help any? That is a nice clean setup. I like it alot.
I doubt it would benefit much. The water actually circulates on its own, the hot water rises and the cold water sinks.

If you wanted to, you coud put a 5000 watt element in it and boil the water, that would be all the "aeration" you would need.

I also think that would stir up all the grime. As it is, the grime just sinks to the bottom.
 

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Thats a cool idea.
 

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Great idea chief!
 

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I doubt it would benefit much. The water actually circulates on its own, the hot water rises and the cold water sinks.

If you wanted to, you could put a 5000 watt element in it and boil the water, that would be all the "aeration" you would need.

I also think that would stir up all the grime. As it is, the grime just sinks to the bottom.
That makes sense. I had one on a parts washer and you could put the plug in the drain, fill it up and set the part on a grate w/ the air tubing under it. Next morning, it would look like new. That's why I was asking.

My luck I would drink too much beer and forget it was in there and boil all the water off. popcornn
 

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Discussion Starter #11
My luck I would drink too much beer and forget it was in there and boil all the water off.
Thats why you need a barrel with a lid. My vat doesn't boil the water, but it will steam it, the steam condenses on the bottom of the lid and drips back down into the barrel.

The lid is not secure, it just sits there like the lid on a cooking pan. I do put a chunk of lead on it to keep the wind from blowing it off though.

What do you do with the dirty water?????
Personally, I use it as herbicide around all my junk/cars/fence-line.

Before the tree-huggers have a heart attack, this stuff isn't as toxic as you think. It is Alkaline (the opposite of Acid), so it works not because it is poison but because it makes the soil alkaline. The really tough weeds (tumbleweeds, sand burrs, those with the needle covered leaves and big purple flowers) will still grow because the alkaline soil doesn't phase them. I keep those weeds in check with Round-Up.

The oil is emulsified, meaning the molecular bond is broken. It's no longer oily, it disperses in the water.

The sludge/sediment/crud that sinks to the bottom, I funnel it into empty jugs and throw it into the dumpster.

I'm not saying this stuff is safe to drink, and the powder will definetly cause chemical burns, so use caution while handling it.
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If a guy wanted to, you could pour it down the drain. After all, it IS just drain cleaner. It might even still clean your sewer pipes.

The dookie and urine you flush down the toilet is probably more toxic. In fact your blood is slighty alkaline (just above water), so we humans are TOXIC!

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I start fresh with 3# (thats 3 bottles) in the barrel, if after a couple of engines I notice a decrease in cleaning power I will add another bottle. Anything past 5# you might as well change the water, clean the vat, and start fresh.

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Some quick FYI,

#1-Tide (the laundry detergent) has Lye in it. It can also be used, I have done it myself, but I don't recommend it. The problem with Tide is that it also has OTHER chemicals/fragrance/stuff in it, and you have to use a LOT to get the same cleaning power as straight Lye. Tide is about 9% Lye, and there is so mush perfume in it the steam will gag you.

#2-Lye is also called "sodium hydroxide" or "potash", it is a powder or chrystal.

#3-You used to be able to buy Lye in 50# and 8# containers at most hardware stores. Plumbers called it "sanitary lye", and used it to sanitize the area wherever sewage spills occured.
Now the 1# bottles are about all you can find, most hardware stores and some grocery stores have it. It's with all the other drain cleaners.

The only way to buy it in large quantites now is from a chemical supply house.

#4-DO NOT use liquid drain cleaner, that stuff is totally different. DO NOT use Drain-Out crystals, or simmilar products. They contain other chemicals and aluminum. MAKE SURE what you use is 100% LYE.

#5-Lye is used in the production of "Meth", no I don't know how. In some communities Lye is regulated and you have to show ID and signature for it. I suspect this is one reason why you can't find it in bulk anymore.

#6-Lye is used to make hominy, that corn dish we love to hate. (I hated hominy as a kid, now it's not so bad)

#7-Lye is "alkaline" or "base", which is opposite of acid on the Ph scale. It can be neutralized with vinegar (which is acidic).

#8-Lye is hygroscopic (it will absorb moisture from the air and disolve), so it MUST be stored in a sealed container.

#9-Legend has it, the Mob would use Lye to dispose of bodies. They would cover the body with lye in the grave. It could destroy any evidence and and decompose a body in as little as 24 hours.

#10-Lye has been used to make soap for centuries.
 

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sweet....a friend of mine works for a company that makes the big parts washers that run on the same principal......but it sprays the parts and rotates them........

ever thought of a pump of some kind to spray the parts to help in the gunk removall.....
 

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Sweet! This is a great idea! The only thing I would think of adding is a small rotating spray, like a sprinkler to help wash the parts. Soaking is great, but water jets help clean just as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I just thought I would give you a long term update on my DIY engine vat.

It is still in use and working. To be honest I don't use it as much as I used to (mostly because I spend my time doing other things) and I haven't put an engine in it in over a year.
However I have used it to clean many other small parts and projects, like parts for the rabbit rod I am building, a steering box, an antique oil pouring can, and a set of white spoke wheels stripped to bare metal for repainting, and various other nik-naks and doo-dads.

The last time I cleaned it out the heating element was looking corroded and pitted but it still works fine.

The thermostat switch gets stuck and will stay on or off too long. I can bump it and it will start working again. I suspect it is because the vat lives outside and that switch wasn't made to be left out in the elements, the terminals and stuff have rusted.

I did try and use antifreeze mix in it, because antifreeze does have some cleaning properties on aluminum. (Or so I read on another forum) I got the used antifreeze and tried to clean both aluminum and iron parts, and well.....it sucked. The parts just didn't come all that clean so I am back to the lye solution and only cleaning iron.

I sprayed the outside of the barrel black, with leftover spray can automotive undercoating. I had hopes that I could harness the energy of the Sun to help heat the barrel and.....it sucked. The barrel will get quite warm to the touch ABOVE the water line, but down below the water line it is still cool. At best the water will get lukewarm on a blistering +100 day.

I ran it alone on a meter and it cost about $10 a week to run 24-7 in the fall. I ran it for 4 weeks straight at that time.

The Red Devil lye is getting hard to find. It is a component in the manufacture of Meth so a lot of places simply stopped selling it. There is only one place around here that still sells it (the old ACE Hardware), it used to be 1.99 at the grocery store....the price has doubled since I started using the vat.

The next time I change the solution I will try some ZEP degreaser floor soap, because I fear The Man is going to make it even harder to get lye in the future. It can be purchased online, but it's hazardous and the shipping charges are way too expensive.
 
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