May 2, 2010

Car Talk

How to fix a punctured gas tank -- without breaking the bank

Syndicated columnists

Dear Tom and Ray:

My company has a '93 Ford Club Wagon equipped for wheelchairs, as our company provides services for people with developmental disabilities. Some jerk punctured a hole in our fuel tank and took the fuel. We tried to repair it with a screw and some epoxy. It lasted for a couple of days, until the epoxy was eaten away. Is there another way to fix this, or do we need a new fuel tank? I hope not, because we have very little money. We need to fix this van, as we had it equipped with a lift and can't afford to replace it. Thank you!
-- Linda

Tom: You can fix this, Linda. In fact, you can fix it pretty easily and cheaply.

Ray: This van is old enough to have a metal tank. So, go to your nearest auto-parts store and buy yourself a fiberglass gas-tank repair kit.

Tom: The kit you want consists of a piece of fiberglass mesh, along with a little paintbrush and a special epoxy that won't get eaten away by gasoline.

Ray: The first thing you have to do is drain the tank. That may already have been done for you, thanks to the jerk. But if not, you need to siphon the remainder into a suitable container (i.e., not a co-worker's travel mug) and give yourself a dry surface to work with.

Tom: Then you need to sand the area around the hole. Get as close as you can to the bare metal, because if you leave any rust, the rust eventually will fall off and take the patch with it.

Ray: Then get a pair of rubber gloves, and follow the instructions on how to mix the epoxy. Be aware that it gets very hot to the touch once it's mixed.

Tom: You smear a layer of the epoxy around the hole with the paintbrush, then you embed a piece of the fiberglass mesh in that epoxy so the mesh sticks to it and bridges the hole in the tank.

Ray: And then you "paint" the mesh with a solid layer of the epoxy, and once it dries, voila! No more leak.

Tom: It'll work, Linda. We use it every time an irate reader or customer punctures one of our gas tanks. And that happens all the time! Good luck, and keep up the good work.

(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk Web site.)

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