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Gas Tank Welding: Readers Tell How They Do It
We got lots of response to a story in our last issue about the dangers of welding fuel tanks. Thousands of big fuel tanks all over North America can be had for the taking as gas stations and other fuel suppliers have been forced to update to meet new environmental standards. Many farmers have found ways to use the big tanks for everything from calf barns to chemical storage sheds. The problem is working on them safely. Here are a few suggestions from readers on how to avoid the catastrophes detailed in in our previous story:
After reading the article about unsafe welding practices in your last issue, I thought I should write you about some of my own experiences in regard to safe brazing and welding of fuel tanks.
  Over the past 40 years I have brazed quite a number of car, pickup and tractor tanks and on one occasion brazed brackets on a D-17 Allis gas tank to adapt it to fit on a WD Allis. These tanks were all prepared for safe welding by running a car exhaust into them for a full 2 hours (not 1 1/2 hrs.!). This completely dries out the tank, and it will not be hot to the touch.
  I first saw this done saw at a Hutterite colony once. I watched some men weld a loose fitting on top of a 4020 Deere diesel fuel tank right on the tractor with some fuel in the tank. The men simply drove a gas tractor up beside the tractor and ran a flexible exhaust hose from the exhaust on the gas tractor to the filler hole on the tank to be welded. Then they started up the gas tractor and ran until the motor almost choked, filling the tank with exhaust. They went ahead and welded the 4020 tank. The carbon monoxide from the gas tractor displaces the oxygen and won't allow either a fire or explosion inside the tank. (Robert T. Valetine, Rt. 2, Box 2, Wolsey, S.Dak. 57483)

I read the article on welding fuel tanks in the last issue of FARM SHOW and wanted to tell you how I deal with the dangers of working on fuel tanks. I'm not a professional welder. Just a farmer who has a gas tank to repair now and then.
  The method I use is foolproof and safe. I remove the gas tank, remove all plugs and any gauges that are in the tank, which leaves several openings for air. Then I take a 6-ft. piece of rope or baler twine and soak it in gasoline. I put one end in an opening in the tank and stretch the remainder of the rope out away from the tank. I light the end farthest from the tank. The flame goes up the rope to the tank and will flash the vapors, rendering the tank harmless. You can then weld up any holes or replace sections without any fear of explosions. If the tank ruptures when it flashes, it probably wasn't worth fixing in the first place. This would probably not be a good idea on big fuel storage tanks which have a lot more fumes in them but works well on small tanks. (Donald Stewart, 10120 Jersey Mill Rd., Pataskala, Ohio 43062)

Here's my comment on welding or working on fuel tanks. Gas tanks are dangerous no matter whether they're wet or dry and no matter how long they've been empty. To eliminate the danger of explosion, your best bet is to fill the inside with exhaust. If a tank is wet inside, I first fill it with water and then drain the water out. Then I run gas engine exhaust from a 5 hp. motor into the tank. If it's a small tank off a vehicle, I let it run for a few minutes. On a bigger tank - 100 gal. or more - I let the motor run while I weld the tank. I've never had a problem. (Perry Jay Yoder, Yoder & Sons Repair Shop, 6035 W. 800 South, Topeka, Ind. 46571 ph 219 593-9992)

The only safe way to weld, patch or braze fuel tanks is to use the exhaust from an engine (car or tractor). I've been doing this for over twenty years. Just recently I repaired a school bus with a 60-gal. tank. First, remove all the fittings to open holes into the tank, then insert a flexible hose into the tank with the other end on the exhaust pipe of another vehicle. Start the engine and let it run while you are welding (from a fast idle to slightly faster, depending on tank size). The exhaust rids the tank of oxygen so you can

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1999 - Volume #23, Issue #2