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3 effective ways on how to clean a fuel tank of rust

How to clean a fuel tank of rust

So, you are thinking about restoring that old car or motorcycle? Maybe it’s an antique, and maybe it’s a classic one. Either way, if it has a fuel tank, there is a fair chance of some rust in it. If you plan to restore the vehicle’s finish, the rust in the tank will have to be removed. Here I’ll show you several ways on how to clean a fuel tank of rust.

To clean the fuel tank and get rid of rust, you should get the fuel out of the tank, seperate the tank from the car, clean with water and soap and then apply anti-rust spray inside the tank to prevent future rust. You should allow the fuel tank to get dry before you apply any anti-rust sprayer. 

The most important area of the engine that owners often overlook is the fuel tank. The fuel tank can be a place where rust can start to occur. In the real sense of it, you do not want rust to take place in your car tank; else, it will cause some damages to your car engine.

Rust is probably the most common issue for steel fuel tanks. When fuel goes bad, it tends to form a layer of rust on the inside of the tank. This is usually caused by improper storage or not filling up with fuel soon enough after getting gas. Cleaning them can sometimes be a challenge if you have new, used, or rusted-out fuel tanks.

Some will demand you remove the tank from the car to wash thoroughly for effective cleaning. Also, you can choose to wash so that you do not have to remove the tank. Either way, you end up getting your task done.

So, let’s go through how you can clean your fuel tank if you ever have it filled with rust. Your first step to cleaning your tank is to get quality fuel tank cleaner. There are many you can get out there in your local stores or on amazon. One of them is the WD-40 Specialist Rust Remover Soak.

Negative Impacts of Rust in the Gas Tank

How to clean a fuel tank of rust

Rust in the gas tank is a serious problem. It can reduce the amount of fuel that reaches your engine and lead to expensive repairs. Rust can also cause leaks, which can result in a fire or explosion if they’re not addressed promptly and properly.

However, here are some of the impacts of rust in your gas tank:

1. Difficulty starting up

One of the most common negative impacts of rust in the gas tank is difficulty starting up. Rust can build up over time and create small particles that are too large to pass through the fuel system and filter, which means that those particles stay in your tank.

These particles can clog up your fuel filter, causing it to not work properly and your car might have trouble starting.

2. Higher emissions

The first negative impact of rust in the gas tank is increased emissions. As rust builds up in your car’s engine, it increases pressure on components and causes them to wear out faster than they would if they were not being compromised by corrosion. This causes more friction, which generates more heat and therefore higher emissions.

3. Increased engine wear

Another negative impact of rust in the gas tank is increased engine wear. As mentioned above, rusting accelerates wear on parts like pistons and valves because these components are being put under more stress than they should be by corrosion. This increases maintenance costs over time and decreases fuel efficiency.

4. Check engine light on

The check engine light means that your gas tank has rust in it. Rust is a chemical reaction between iron and water, and it can be caused by many factors, including using a poor grade of gasoline or not taking care of your car’s fuel system.

Rust can cause damage to the fuel pump in your car’s tank, which will prevent you from getting the right amount of fuel into the engine when you need it. This can cause your vehicle to stall while driving and may even result in an accident.

5. Stalling

Stalling is the most common negative impact of rust in the gas tank. It’s caused by the rust deposits clogging the fuel line, which prevents your car from receiving enough fuel to run properly. When this happens, you’ll notice that your car has trouble starting up and may even stall out while driving.

6. Rough idling

Rough idling is a common symptom of rust in the gas tank. When rust builds up in the gas tank, it can cause rough idling by clogging up the fuel line and causing uneven flow through the carburetor. This causes your engine to run poorly and make it hard to start.

If you’re experiencing rough idling, you may be able to get rid of it by cleaning out your gas tank and replacing your fuel filter. If this doesn’t work, you’ll need to replace the fuel pump as well as any other parts that have been damaged by rust buildup in your gas tank.

Can you save a rusty fuel tank?

Yes, you can save a rusty fuel tank. Rust is a common problem with old cars, but it’s not one that needs to be a permanent issue. In most cases, rust will only affect the exterior of the tank and can be easily removed before it causes any damage to your car’s engine.

If you want to save your rusty fuel tank, here are three steps to follow:

  1. Buy a rust remover product at your local auto parts store.
  2. Follow the instructions on the package for how much to apply and where to spray it on your car’s rusted areas.
  3. Let the rust remover dry for about 20 minutes before washing off any residue with water and soap or an automotive degreaser product like Simple Green.

How to clean a fuel tank of rust?

How to clean a fuel tank of rust

Now that you get to know it is possible to save a gas tank with rust, here are different ways you can clean your rusty gas tank. You can use any of the methods below to get your car back to its best condition.

1. Using abrasives

You can use abrasives to also clean the gas tank. First, determine how much rust there is on your tank. If it’s just a few spots, you may be able to use a wire brush or power washer to remove the rust without having to replace the entire tank.

If the rust is widespread, you may need to replace the tank altogether.

Once you’ve figured out where the rust is and what kind of treatment will work best for you, here are some things you can do:

  1. Apply an abrasive chemical cleaner directly onto the affected area and let it sit for 15 minutes before scrubbing with an abrasive pad or wire brush.
  2. Use a power washer with nozzles designed for removing rust from metal surfaces. The nozzles will blast away loose debris without damaging nearby surfaces or causing further damage to those areas already damaged by corrosion.

2. Using chemical

You can clean a fuel tank of rust using chemical.

  1. Put on your safety gear, including gloves and eye protection.
  2. Clean off any loose rust and debris from the inside of the tank with a wire brush or steel wool, then rinse the tank out with water.
  3. Mix up a solution of muriatic acid and water, following the manufacturer’s instructions for how much to use for different sizes of tanks. Pour this mixture into the tank and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how much rust you want to remove from your tank (the longer you leave it in there, the more rust you’ll remove).
  4. Rinse off any remaining acid with fresh water from your garden hose before removing any residual acids from the outside of the tank (a scrubbing brush will help get rid of any stubborn spots).

3. Using electrolysis

Cleaning a fuel tank using electrolysis is a great way to get rid of rust and restore your fuel tank to its former glory.

You’ll need:

  • Rust remover
  • Baking soda (optional)
  • Water
  • Electrolysis unit (available at most hardware stores)

Step 1: Make sure that the electrolysis unit is clean and dry. Then fill up the tank with water. If you want to speed up the process, you can add baking soda to the water. It will help break down any dirt or grime that might be in your tank.

Step 2: Turn on the power for your electrolysis unit. This should be done before putting anything else in with the water, because it could short out if something metal touches it while it’s turned on.

Be careful not to let anything metal touch it once it’s turned on either as it could cause an electrical short and start a fire.

Step 3: Add some rust remover into your tank as well as some baking soda if desired, then let it sit overnight or for however long you’d like for results to show up (usually about 24 hours).

Safety Precautions When cleaning rusty Gas Tank

How to clean a fuel tank of rust

To protect yourself from any potential dangers associated with cleaning out your rusty gas tank, follow these tips:

1) Be sure to wear protective clothing including gloves and eye protection when handling chemicals and other substances that may be harmful to your health if they come in contact with your skin or eyes;

2) Always follow manufacturer’s instructions when using any product inside or outside your home or business (if applicable);

3) Never mix products together unless they are specifically designed for use together.

4) Never use a torch or open flame to heat up the tank. The fumes from using a torch can be dangerous and ignite flammable vapors that may be present inside the tank.

5) Do not use compressed air, as it may cause the rust particles to become airborne and inhaled into your lungs.

6) Do not allow sparks or any other source of flame near your working area. This includes cigarettes, matches and lighters.

7) Keep an eye on all openings in your tank as you clean it, so you know if anything comes out of them unexpectedly.

8) If you spill any gasoline on yourself while cleaning your tank, immediately wash it off with soap and water and then rinse yourself off with plenty of fresh water.

Tips on to clean a fuel tank of rust?

1. You should get fuel out of the tank

The first thing that you need to do when cleaning your tank is to get the fuel out of the tank. If you have the tank filled, you should get the fuel out. You can do that by locating the fuel hose that connects to the tank and then remove to collect the fuel into the can or keg.

2. Separate the tank from the car

Separating the tank from the car might be such a difficult task for you to do. You should allow an expert to do this task for you. However, if you are a DIY lover just like me, you have got nothing to worry about.

So, if you are doing the task yourself, you need some essential tools. First, you need to raise the front section of the car just the way you do whenever you want to change the car tire. Do ensure you use a strong hydraulic lift that will raise the car enough for you to move under.

Get enough lift stand as I will suggest you get four stands. Position the stand under the car, and then you can be sure moving under the car is safe for you. Now, you should reach out to your ratchet and socket to loosen the clamp on the fuel filter tube and vent tube.

Once you have done that, you should disconnect the hoses from the tank, disconnect the fuel lines, filler tubes, vent pipe, and others before you lower the tank on the ground. If you do not know or you are forgetful, you should snap or keep a picture of each stage so you can find it easy to re-install.

3. Clean, patch, or replace the tank

You should then move on to clean the tank once you have removed it from the car. Take it closer to your faucet and allow water to flow through the tank. Once you have done that, you should make use of a fuel tank washer in the tank.

Some chemicals such as nitric acid, acetic acid (white vinegar), phosphoric acid, hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, muriatic acid, oxalic acid, and citric acid can do the magic. You just need to pour any of them into the tank carefully with your gloves on.

Shake the tank as easily as you can. You can leave for thirty minutes and then wash off by running water through the tank. You should keep running water until it is clean. Then you can leave the tank to dry off before you install it back in your car.

Also, before you install, you can apply fuel tank flush or chemicals that help prevent further rust accumulation. Prevention is indeed better than cure.

Read: Flat tire – what to do?

How to clean a fuel tank of rust

How to clean a rusty gas tank with muriatic acid?

One of the ways you can clean the rusty gas tank is through the use of muriatic acid. Before applying muriatic acid in the tank, you should have your safety goggle, hand gloves, and nose mask in use.

Place the tank on the floor while you carefully pour the acid into the tank. Once you have poured the acid into the tank, you should carefully move the tank in a circular motion to ensure the acid is evenly distributed inside the tank.

Leave the tank for one hour or more and then lift a part to get rid of the acid in the tank. Run through water and finish up with fuel tank flush, then leave the tank to dry before you re-install in the car.

What is the fastest way to clean rust out of a gas tank?

The fastest way for you to get rid of rust in a gas tank is to bypass the process of removing the tank. You just need to lift the tank and ensure you have the stand beneath to keep it secured. Then you can go under to disconnect the fuel tube and all others that link to the engine.

If the tank still has gasoline, you should empty it into the can or key. Then you can pass a hose of water through the gas opening to flush the tank. You can go ahead with adding anything you wish to add, and you should not be under the car while doing this.

Once it is done, you have to leave the car for minutes to dry off and then use an air dryer or blower to ensure no moisture is left in the tank. After that, you can fix back the whole tube and wires you disconnected in the first place.

Will vinegar clean rust out of a gas tank?

If you’re looking for a chemical-free way to clean your car, vinegar may be the answer. Vinegar (the kind made from white or apple cider) is very acidic and can be used as an alternative to other cleaning products. Vinegar can be used to remove rust from metal surfaces, including the inside of your gas tank.

However, there are some precautions you should take before using vinegar in this way:

  1. Don’t use vinegar if you think your car has leaded gas because it will cause lead poisoning.
  2. Don’t use vinegar if you have a rubber or plastic hose running through your engine compartment or undercarriage because it will cause them to deteriorate or even disintegrate over time.
  3. Do not mix different types of vinegar together when cleaning metal surfaces as this could produce toxic chlorine gas which can damage eyesight, irritate lungs and skin, and even kill people who inhale it.

How do you clean sludge out of a plastic gas tank?

If you’ve got a plastic gas tank, you should use water and soap to do the cleaning. Some chemicals will react with the plastic material and damage the tank.

So, it is best that you only use some scrubbing materials with water and soap to wash. You should shake vigorously once you have them all in the tank, and you will get to see the result.

How do you clean a metal fuel tank?

The best way to clean a metal tank is through the use of chemical substances. I have mentioned above some chemicals you can use to clean your metal tank.

If by any chance, you choose to use water to clean the tank, you need to ensure you blow the tank as any trace of water can lead to rust formation in the tank.

Also, you need to ensure that you use a fuel tank flusher, which will help prevent rust formation after washing the tank.

How do you clean a contaminated fuel tank?

The first step to cleaning a contaminated file tank is to get the fuel out of the tank. You should get a fuel injector and pour it into the tank. The product works so that it prevents the contaminated particles from getting through the fuel into your engine.

It destroys them, and they pass out as gas emissions. Also, you can go through the process of washing thoroughly either with water or chemical.

How do I clean out my gas tank without removing it?

The best way to clean your gas tank without removing it is to raise the car, empty the tank, disconnect all you have to, and then wash.

The only challenge is that you might end up leaving water in the tank. So, you should ensure you make use of an air blower to keep the tank completely dry.

What happens if you put vinegar in a gas tank?

Vinegar is also a good consideration for cleaning a gas tank that is corroded. It works great at ensuring it breaks down the rust properties and prevents the formation of new ones.

How bad is rust in a gas tank?

You don’t just want to leave rust in your tank if you care so much about your car engine. The engine of the car is at risk if you do so. The fuel will run to the engine through the hose or tube, and some rust particles can follow that same part.

Once they finally travel to the engine, it disrupts the engine’s performance, and you get to experience sluggishness with your car. Also, it can damage the car engine.

How to keep the gas tank from rusting after cleaning?

If you are asking, how do I keep my tank from rusting? I will tell you that you should ensure you use a fuel injector or polisher once a month. The product helps in ensuring that no form of rust takes place on the car tank.

Also, you can choose to use a flusher now and then as prevention is better can fixing the tank once the rust formation occurs.


This page is a comprehensive one on how to clean a fuel tank of rust if you are faced with such challenges. We have you covered with all you need to know about rust, the effects on your car, and how to get rid of them in different scenarios.

If you don’t clean a rusty gas tank, it could cause problems with the fuel system and engine of your car. The fuel system is responsible for delivering fuel from the tank to the engine and then burning it, which produces energy that powers your vehicle.

When you have dirt and rust in your gas tank, your engine will have trouble getting enough fuel to run properly, which can lead to issues like stalling or poor acceleration.
The best way to prevent this is by keeping your gas tank clean.

You can do this by draining out old gas and replacing it with fresh gasoline every few months. If you don’t want to keep doing this yourself, consider hiring a professional service provider who can do it for you.