EASY RUST REMOVAL
By Chris Ritter - Arkansas Pontiac Association
We've all faced it. Rust is an evil demon. The scourge of car restoration!
Getting rid of it can be as hard as giving away ugly puppies.
There are a multitude of solutions for rust removal. Some of them include sandblasting, naval jelly, acid dipping and encapsulating paints.
Most of these include the use of caustic chemicals or health endangering dust.
How would you feel about a method that is easy, safe and environmentally friendly?
The electrolysis method of rust removal has been around for a long time. Basically, you'll be using a electrolyte bath and a low voltage charge to
turn surface rust into iron. This neutralizes the rust without removing any additional material (good metal) from the part to be treated.
Here's what you'll need. Start with a plastic container big enough to hold the part you intend to work with. You need a battery charger to provide
the electrical charge. Find some old, disposable iron rod for the positive electrode and some clamps to hold it in place. This part needs to be disposable because it will pit and corrode
as it's used. Make a trip to the local grocery story and find a box of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda. This is what creates the
electrolyte solution. You'll also need a tablespoon or measuring cup. Toss in a stout rod and wire (coat hangers work well) to dangle the parts into the solution.
Here's our plastic tub with our iron electrode clamped to the side. We've placed a pair of rusty hood hinges inside and are putting in enough
water to cover the hinges. Keep in mind that the removal process works better if the electrode surrounds the object. While the setup in the photo
worked, we had to move the hinges around a few times to get the best results. Another option would have been to make a "T" at the bottom of the electrode
to give it more surface area below the water line.
Add the washing soda to the water and mix it in. Add one tablespoon of powder per gallon of water. There is no real benefit to making the solution
any stronger than that. It's the electrical current that removes the rust, no the solution. By mixing it at this level it is totally harmless. The
solution will, in theory, last forever. It does get awfully nasty after it's used once or twice so you can change it out but it's not required.
If you lose volume because of evaporation, just add water.
Use a rod across the top of your container to hang the parts from. Use the wire to contact a clean metal area on the piece to be de-rusted. You
might need to wire brush an area on heavily rusted parts to get a clean contact.
Polarity is VERY important. Connect the positive lead of your batter charger to the electrode. Connect the negative lead to the wire that the part
is hanging from. Get it backwards and you'll actually be eating slowly away at your good metal. Not good!
Plug up the charger and walk away. Don't freak out when you come back an hour later and the water looks like this. It's supposed to. Another way
to tell it's working is if you see a fine line of bubbles rising in the water.
How do you know when it's finished? Occasionally inspect the parts. When all the rusted areas turn black, its finished. Pull it out, rinse the part with
fresh water and blow it dry with some compressed air. The bare metal should be painted or oiled down to prevent flash rust from occurring.