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Float bowl goo in Webers

I've begun an experiment to see if I can create the "goo" in float bowls a couple of my customers have suffered. I'm concerned that the ethanol in our gas is absorbing water from the air and then reacting with the aluminum casting. I have a Weber "mule" that has old corrosion in one bowl and the other is clean. Both have ethanol/gasoline but added 1ml water to the corroded bowl. Carb body is in my shop and I started the test today.

If someone has actual knowledge in this area I'd like to get educated, otherwise I'm on my own quest. If water combines with the ethanol then maybe a fuel additive like Extend would help arrest the problem.



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Old 10-19-2010, 02:15 PM
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EtOH is a mild acid and should oxidize the Al, producing a white "crust."

Not sure what you mean by goo (?)

maybe it is from the EtOH attacking the seals or rubber hose
Old 10-19-2010, 02:22 PM
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The white crust has been around for awhile, predating ethanol and comes with water reacting with the aluminum (check the "Before" picture of the picture on my Home web page.) I'm no chemist but I've been told that the white crust is aluminum trioxide. I've also heard that hydroflouric acid (really bad stuff and not for home use, at all!) can clean it off but this is just a rumor to me.

Perhaps there is an alternate to the hydroflouric that someone would like to educate me with?

The goo is a mystery but two of my customers reported freshly rebuilt/remanufactured carbs, new fuel lines, gas tank clean, fresh fuel and fuel turns to goo in a singular fuel bowl, one of four bowls in the system filled with the clean gas. Fuel line was disconnected from carbs and allowed to run into a catch tank prior to filling carbs from it. Cars were garage kept and never saw rain. One guy had a yellow goo and the other a black goo.

Perhaps some soap mixed with gas to make napalm?
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Old 10-19-2010, 02:35 PM
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you could have a chemical analysis done on the goo(s) - not cheap & may not help, but there are a few chemists on the bbs (I just have a Chem. degree, no prof. work in that area) and they might be able to do it cheaply.

if you're sure their investigation of the gas tanks, etc. was thorough, then I don't know what could cause that if the cars are driven frequently

do you know how long any given tank of gas sat in the car?

if Wil Ferch & Steve W. don't post you might send them messages...

Last edited by RWebb; 10-19-2010 at 02:45 PM..
Old 10-19-2010, 02:42 PM
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What a timely thread. I have a friend that is trying to start and tune a newly rebuilt 2.7RS spec motor with webers in his 914-6 conversion. He was not able to get the car to idle. I suggested to pull the tops and check the float levels. Then we found this...



The car has been sitting with a dry tank for about 2 years during the restoration/conversion. I am not sure if there was any residual gas left.

After doing some research on the goo it seems that the ethanol blends are the cause. The E10 and E15 formulations absorb enough water to become reactive with the additives in gasoline. They also have enough solvating power to strip varnish from fuel systems and then transfer these through the fuel system into the carbs.

Depending on usage the problem may go unnoticed as the material will burn out (of course clogged idle jets and passages are another story). If the cars sit for a period of weeks the material may settle in low lying areas such as the bottom of the tank and the float bowls.

I did find one Coast Guard article warning of mixing Egas formulations with MTBE formulations (IE the switch from summer to winter fuel formulations) whereby the EtOH, plus water, plus MTBE can react to give a jello-like goo. The analysis showed the compound to be di-iso octyl phthalate. This is a byproduct of the reaction and is semi-soluble and partly emulsified. btw, this process is accelerated when exposed to fiberglass. Now, you may ask, where can this be exposed to fiberglass when I have a steel tank and other non GFRP parts? I think the issue may be the distribution system. Many underground storage tanks at the local gas station are fiberglass.

This could very well be another disaster of near epic proportions caused by the strong push of special interest groups.
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Old 10-19-2010, 06:03 PM
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Great experiment!!

JMHO, but I usually see a tan or light brown "goo" left as pump gasolines deteriorate from age. I've seen this with the older MTBE-fortified fuels as well as ones containing Ethanol.

I see a LOT less of these problems with cars using race gas as it tends to evaporate cleanly (depending on each brand's formulary). This is a far better product to use in cars that are stored for the winter than pump gas.

IMHO, there is no substitute for using Stabil to help prevent such deposits as well as helping to prevent the corrosion due to separation of the Ethanol in street gasolines and its hygroscopic properties.
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Old 10-19-2010, 06:57 PM
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Steve - you're saying use race gas + Stabil, right?

funny -- I just pulled out my can to go get some race gas this am...
Old 10-19-2010, 07:40 PM
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Thanks for posting that, Jamie. I have been in contact with Paul as he is the guy who redid my throttle shafts and plates when I rebuilt my carbs the first time. Let me set the backdrop for those who need the whole story. Been rebuilding/installing a 2.7RS spec motor for my 914-6 for the last 2.5 years. When I pulled the original four cylinder engine, the gas tank was drained, pulled, and put in dry storage in my attic. On the reinstall of the fuel tank about two weeks ago, the tank was blown out with compressed air, and I swirled fresh gas in it, and then drained it dry again. The Webers were rebuilt at the end of July '09, and bolted to the motor with the rain hats on. The car has it's own dedicated garage space, and it's never sat outside. I had issues on my initial startup two weeks ago, and could only get the car started with extreme manipulation of the pump jets. Long story short, I took the carbs off and found this...



These E-tubes were brand new prior to installation.



I have been completely baffled as to where the water intrusion came from. The only thing that I can figure out is that I got some questionable gas from the pump. I purchased premium grade fuel, but it was from a store close to home that probably doesn't sell much premium gas. I have a really bad feeling that the ramifications of this problem will be haunting me for a long time. So Jamie, we may be megasquirting sooner than later!! Here are some pics of one of the carbs after cleaning--it doesn't look too bad.



amazingly, one of the float bowls looked new. Paul and I still cannot figure out how it escaped unscathed. The other carb did not fare so well, and I have some of the white chalky substance in both bowls that won't come out for hell or high water. I've tried vinegar, gasoline, soapy water, mechanical abrading with a nylon brush on a dremel tool, and both a bronze and stainless wire brush by hand.



This is the first time I've ever had an experience with fuel like this. I now have the Webers rebuilt as best I can, and the fuel tank and lines will be cleaned and dried. Fuel filters (2) will be replaced. I will now be adding the marine-grade "sta-bil" formulated for ethanol in every tank. Lesson learned.....
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Old 10-20-2010, 05:17 AM
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Jay, thank you for the details.

btw, I have heard that HF (hydrofluoric acid) will remove the white stuff. I have access to this at work. We could try a simple experiment to see if it works. Not that I want to rebuild carbs with HF but it will add some more data to the mystery.
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Old 10-20-2010, 06:23 AM
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Let me share a story about hydroflouric acid that the anodizer for Harvey Weidman told me. He was working at Beale Air Force base and was stripping some parts using HF acid. He was wearing chemical resistant laytex gloves and handling parts with a 3 foot long wooden dowel with a hook on the end. By the end of the day his hands were feeling strange so he went to his doctor. The HF migrated up the dowel, through the gloves and through his skin and was attacking the bones! He was lucky to not have lost his hands. The acid was poured into a hole and left overnight (20 years ago and safe from EPA on an AF base.) The next morning the HazMat guys, fire department and police were on site woundering why red smoke was coming out of the ground. One week later the stuff was cleaned up. If you use it at home (I can buy it easily here in Calif) you need to be scared of it and then you need to figure out what to do with it when you are done.

There are commercial services available and if you do try this stuff successfully I'd sure like to know about it!
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Old 10-20-2010, 07:34 AM
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Agreed on the safety of HF. I certainly understand the issues associated with the catalytic decomposition of bone mass. I use it at work as part of device processing. All of our PPE and waste disposal protocols are well established.

I guess I need to get the carb body or emulsion tube from Jay to do a few experiments. If anyone has parts I am willing to try cleaning them up on my own time.
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Old 10-20-2010, 08:13 AM
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jpnovak,

I figured you had the safety awareness and disposal issues in hand since you use it at your work place, I was just trying to reinforce the real hazards of this stuff...I was considering getting some (I ain't scared!) but the story I heard did scare me out of using HF acid and I hope it keeps other home shop guys from trying it.
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Old 10-20-2010, 08:43 AM
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Um, if the white stuff is so hard to remove and never comes off why remove it? No one will ever know if the insides of your carbs have white stains. Mine did and the car ran perfectly. I just got rid of any loose flakes and done.
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Old 10-20-2010, 09:01 AM
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I appreciate Paul's and JP's emphasis on these hazards.

As kids we used trichloroethelene to clean about everything. Rolled dimes in mercury to make them shiney. Played with acids (not HF, though) in chemistry class. Didn't treat the acids lightly, but never heard of it migrating up a stick through gloves and into bones!

That gets even an old, bold scoffer's attention.

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Old 10-20-2010, 09:02 AM
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I've got some main jets and e-tubes that slightly look like that e-tube that Jaybird posted. Here in IL the ethanol thing is big too. Every octane grade has at least 10% in it, according to the disclaimers I see on all of our pumps around here.

I'll definitely get some Stabil in the fuel tank of the racecar before storage. Been diddling with the Webers ever since I got the car and I don't need one more issue to deal with. Thanks to all for sharing their experiences.
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Old 10-20-2010, 09:37 AM
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I would not scoff too much - it might have been vqapor movement and not up the stick at all. Or it might have moved thru the xylem and phloem in the wood stick - those would be empty channels, that are designed over millions of years of natural selection precisely TO move liquids -- liquid can move 300 ft. thru them under some conditions. Not surprising at all.
Old 10-20-2010, 10:37 AM
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I want to know if PMO uses a better alloy than the Webers did??
Old 10-20-2010, 10:38 AM
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Once the white stuff forms it help propagate the formation of more white stuff and eats away at the carb body including the inner passageways. Rust never sleeps!
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Old 10-20-2010, 11:59 AM
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This is a big topic on the Cafe motorcycle 'boards and lists wherein the fiberglass tanks (Norvil, etc.) essentially melt - the culprit appears to be Ethanol gasoline (was deduced at a time when Ethanol was only used in Winter - that was when the problems arose).

Boaters are having a very tough time with this as well. A class action suit awaits I am sure.
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Old 10-20-2010, 12:24 PM
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Can't add to the cleaning debate but will say, stay FAR FAR FAR away from HF. Nasty stuff. Not only does it attack bones (wants the calcium to neutralize itself), it is unlike many other acids. Most acids, when they contact your skin causes an immediate strong burning sensation. HF Does not, instead it seeps through the pores of your skin (the fumes also, as HF is a gas dissolved in water) and only many hours later gives you any inkling that you have been attacked.

I have spent years in semiconductor manufacturing and this is one of the scariest substances we use.
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Old 10-20-2010, 10:17 PM
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