1971 Body/Chassis FSM

1971-74 F Engine FSM

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Rust Removal Via Electrolysis

How to De-Rust your whole Land Cruiser Tub

My BIG Tub

My BIG Tub

DISCLAIMER #1: Recently it came to my attention that some folks feel there is a slight danger to using the following process to de-rust certain components. Steering components, brake components or anything with bolts or studs under tension. There is a little understood phenomenon called Hydrogen Embrittlement that occurs during chrome plating and other types of electrolysis. It basically can weaken a metal by introducing hydrogen atoms into the metal matrix. I am not a metallurgist so I am NOT qualified to even give an opinion on this matter one way or the other. However, after reading the information I came to the conclusion that this is not much of a factor in what I am doing. It appears to be more of an issue when Chrome Plating a part than de-rusting a part. Regardless my advice is this: Follow the links provided below, read, and make your own decision. Do any of the following at YOUR OWN RISK! I take no responsibility for anything that may result from this procedure.

DISCLAIMER #2: If you use stainless steel as your cathode when setting up a tank you are creating another hazard that you may not be aware of: Hexavalent Chromium ... What is this? Read about it here

For your safety and others use normal steel for your cathode. This allows you to just dump the water on the ground or down the drain assuming there are no other contaminants in the water like paint or solvents off the parts.


Funny but potentially dangerous story : About a month ago I was in the basement getting ready to pull a batch of small parts from the de-rust tank. The tank is a large uncovered plastic tub about 28" across. I had 10 small metal parts suspended in the solution by clip leads from a 2" piece of strap metal that goes across the top of the tank. The total current draw with this many pieces is about 2 amps. If you have seen my web site you know I have two ways of powering the tank. One is a small battery charger good for up to 8 amps and the other is an adjustable power supply good for 4 amps. They sit side by side on the floor so I can reach over and quickly turn them off when I need to pull a part out to check it's progress. When the de-rust tank is in use with a lot of parts a thick layer of nasty rust colored, slimy 'foam' develops on top of the solution. I also know that when the process is working that Hydrogen and Oxygen are produced. Several times I have taken an open flame and put in the tank just to see if the hydrogen would burn. Not once had I even got a sputter.

Well this batch of parts were done so I reached over and turned off the adjustable power supply, grabbed the strap metal and started raising it out of the solution with the parts suspended from it. Next thing I know I hear a sharp report almost like a gun shot sound and I'm suddenly and completely covered in the rusty slimy foam from the tank! The damn thing had exploded! It did not burn me at all it just threw that nasty foamy stuff EVERYWHERE! About a 10' diameter circle and straight up to the underside of the floor were covered... After cleaning my drawers and getting it out of my face and hair I went back to the tank to determine what had happened. Took about 3 seconds to realize that I TURNED OFF THE WRONG POWER SOURCE! I had left the adjustable supply on by mistake. When I pulled the parts out one of the swung over and shorted against the cathode. The resulting spark ignited that harmless 'foam'! Later experimentation showed that the foam is mostly hydrogen gas! I guess the dirt,grease and oil from the parts (yes I do clean them but in a kerosene tank)make a film that allows the foam to form using the hydrogen and oxygen bubbles. The perfect combo for an explosion... Oh you may be wondering why it did not explode the times I had an open flame in there? I had only done this early in the cycle BEFORE the foam developed.

Well there is my story. I changed my hookup to include a terminal strip with an on/off switch. I now turn that off which turns off BOTH power supplies.
Be careful with this stuff!


Rust Removal Via Electrolysis


While researching rust removal techniques I came across a reference to using electrolysis. This sounded promising and easy so I continued to inquire into it. I located several sites that told how simple it was and came home one evening and built a small tank.

Bucket PArts Cleaner

Fig. 1

My 1st Tank


ph Plus

Fig. 2

ph Plus (Sodium Carbonate)

Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

Fig. 3

Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

I used a 5 gallon bird seed pail, three 12" x 2.5" pieces of stainless steel channel I had laying around, some 12 gauge wire, a bottom of a flower pot to hold the stainless in place and an eight amp battery charger with a current meter. I also bought a 2 lb box of Arm & Hammer baking soda. See Fig. 1 above for the tank.



Battery Charger Regulated Power Supplt

Fig. 4

First try: 8 amp Battery Charger then the regulated power supply


In Use 1 Close Up

Fig. 5

First use!


I used 4 gallons of hot water with a table spoon of straight baking soda per gallon as I could not find the Soda Wash that you are supposed to use. I hooked up a wheel cylinder from the FJ40 and as you can see in Fig. 3 it fizzed nicely! After about 30 minutes I pulled it out and it was definitely working. I then played around with moving the electrodes closer to the cylinder. The closer you moved it the more current was drawn from the charger and the greater the fizzing.

I left it in overnight then pulled it out and scrubbed it off with a tooth brush and soap then spent just a minute with a wire wheel to remove the white stuff ... See Fig. 6 for the results.


Before After Side Before After Top

Fig. 6

The Morning After

What is Actually Happening in the Tank?

Magic? No it's actually a little more complicated than that. As stated above, I'm not a chemist so you will just have to read all about it here.


**Update 5-19-2005 ** Washing Soda Vs. Baking soda

I finally found a local source for pure Sodium Carbonate and ran a quick test to see if it is in any way superior to the baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate).


Fig. 7

Rusty Running Board Supports

Baking Soda Solution Test

Baking Soda Test

Fig. 8

New Anode

Pure Sodium Carbonate Test

Fig. 9

There is a difference!

There is a difference!

Fig. 10

Test #1

I used two identical pieces of badly rusted metal (running board support brackets from my FJ40 See Fig. 7). I put the first piece in my existing baking soda bucket (See Fig. 8) for 12 hours then removed it. I used just a tooth brush and water and scrubbed the part. About 70% of the rust had been converted and just brushed right off. In the corners of the folds there was still rust that had not been converted. I set the part aside to dry.

I then emptied the bucket, cleaned it thoroughly, added 5 gallons of fresh water then 5 tablespoons of pure Sodium Carbonate. I mixed it up and then put the anode and the other support in it. See Fig. 9. This part was also left for 12 hours. Again I used a tooth brush to clean the part. About 90% of the rust was converted and the residue came off just a bit easier. Fig. 10 compares the two brackets.

Conclusion: There is a big difference between these two! Faster rust removal/conversion and easier final clean-up.

Test #2

This is an engine side cover that had been degreased in my kerosene based parts cleaner. It was rusted a bit, had paint on it in most places and the inside had that layer of brown oil sludge that you can never get off. It also still had most of the cork gasket stuck to it. See below for the result in the Sodium Carbonate tank after just 24 hours! Compare Fig. 11 to Fig. 12 and Fig. 13 to Fig. 14. Made a believer out of me! All I did to this part was use a scrub brush and some soap, no wire brushing! Note also that the cork gasket just came right off with my fingers! There was still a bit of cement left but I know a wire brush will take that right off.

Degreased Ready for tank

Front Before

Fig. 11

After 24 Hours Front

Front After

Fig. 12


Back Before

Fig. 13

After 24 Hours Inside

Back After

Fig. 14

Wheel Well Side

Fig. 15

Wheel Well Side

Fig. 15 shows the paint lifting that occurs while in the tank. This is a wheel well side panel that was half in and half out. You can clearly see where the paint has started bubbling off. Note: Paint that is adhered firmly will NOT lift off! You will still have to grind off any paint that remains.

Tips for anyone wanting to build their own De-Rusting System

    1. DO NOT use this method of de-rusting on aluminum parts or parts that contain aluminum or magnesium!!! They will be eaten away VERY quickly! Chrome plated parts will likely have the chrome peel off. Copper parts will also be eaten, though not as fast.
    2. Use as much steel as possible for the anodes. Ideally you would have a steel cylinder or pipe as big as your container. Or if your container is square then you would line the sides and bottom with interconnecting plates of steel. Connect the steel pieces with stainless wire NOT copper if the leads will be in the solution!
    3. Fill your container with water until you are about 2" from the top of your steel. DO NOT submerge your copper leads if that is what you used! They will quickly corrode and will actually deposit copper onto your steel or iron piece. This will result in two dissimilar metals in contact with each other and guess what? The steel will rust even faster once removed! Keep the leads out of the water..
    4. Add a tablespoon of baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) or much preferred, Soda Wash (Sodium Carbonate) for each gallon of water. Arm and Hammer Soda Wash should be available at your local store or you can get a PH enhancer from your local pool or spa supply company that is 100% pure Sodium Carbonate. I finally found a product called ph Plus made by Regal in a 6 lb container for $8.95. See Fig. 2.
    5. Connect the + lead of the charger or power supply to the stainless or iron in the bucket. This is the  + Anode.
    6. Connect the - lead of the charger or power supply to the part being de-rusted. Use a file or wire brush to get down to shiny metal to ensure good contact. DO NOT get these leads reversed or you will DESTROY your part!!! Your part is the Cathode or - side.
    7. Suspend your part into the solution with a steel wire (preferably stainless) so that it is equidistant from all anodes. This ensures equal current flow to all areas of your part. Note: Russ Kepler on the TLCA board suggested the following 'I'd suggest using a 316L wire, very low corrosion, strong, and makes a decent fill wire when you're welding. This wire can be gotten from McMaster-Carr or MSC. Also use steel alligator clips not copper or copper plated ones.
    8. The larger the part, and the thicker the rust layer, the longer you need to leave it in the solution. I just make a habit of leaving all parts in the tank for 24 hours then checking them. I turn the part every 8 hours so that all areas are exposed to the anodes. Note that if you have all the sides of your tank covered with anodes then you will not need to turn the parts.
    9. After each run pull your anodes out and scrub them with a stiff wire brush to remove the 'rust' coating. Stainless steel can go two or three batches before cleaning. Iron or mild steel plate will develop an ugly rusty black coating that must be removed between each batch or the efficiency will be GREATLY reduced. Make sure to scrub them well, this coating will reduce the flow of electrons!
    10. If your parts are extremely rusty then the rust will fall to the bottom of the tank and accumulate. You will need to empty it every now and then to keep the rust from shorting out your part to the anode.
    11. Wear gloves anytime you are handling the parts or the solution! If the Hexavalent stuff is true then it's some nasty stuff. It's just a good idea regardless when messing with chemicals. Not to mention that the black magnetite produced as the rust is converted does not want to come off your hands easily.
    12. Once you pull your part out of the solution, scrub it down with a stiff brass wire brush and soapy water to remove the loose magnetite, dry it with a hair dryer or heat gun, go over it with a brass wire brush on a drill if it needs it then immediately prime it, powder coat it or spray oil on it. If you fail to do this the part will flash rust in front of your eyes! Note: Russ Kepler also mentioned a couple of products to help stop the flash rust: Boeshield and LPS-3. Just don't forget to clean this coatings off before final finish!



    Some examples of what this process can do

    FJ40 Hub

    Hub Before Front Hub After Front Hub After Back Hub After Side
    Fig. 16
    Before and after
    Total time in the solution was 24 hours. Scrub with soap and water then one light pass with a wire wheel. These results are just too cool!

    The Drag Link Box

    Long Parts Cleaner
    Fig. 17

    Box for Drag Links

    I built this box to do the short drag links/tie rods. It's just a long cardboard box, lined with a garbage bag, lined with sheet metal from an old computer tower case.

    Long Prts Cleaner In Use
    Fig. 18

    Drag Link in the box fizzing away!

    Since I was using my current regulated supply for the bucket I hooked up the Battery Charger again to power this box. Due to the boxes smaller size (parts are much closer to cathodes and larger surface area of the cathodes) the current was over 8 amps! This was way too high and resulted in very vigorous fizzing. I set it to 6 volts which dropped the current to about 4 amps, still to high. So I hooked a 12 Volt lamp in series which dropped it down to about amp. Perfect ... The orange caps on the ends of the drag link insulate it from the cathodes.

    Current Limiter
    Fig. 19
    Blue light Current limiter
    Here you can see the limiter in action. This was taken 1 hour into the session. Note the solution has already taken on a rust colored tint.

    Fig. 20                                  Fig. 21

    Knuckle and Relay Rod

    In Fig. 20 I have the long relay rod and various other small parts in the tank. I left the rod in for 24 hours then turned it over for another 24 hours. It still did not get the inside rust out. I then took some stainless rod I had laying around. I fabbed up some plastic insulators for the rods ends, ran the rod through and connected the + lead to the rod. That worked great! After 24 hours I was able to tap the rod with a hammer and get gobs of scale to fall out. See Fig. 24 below for the results. I'm going to soak a rag in Rust Bullet and run through it when I'm ready to paint it.

    I also put an entire knuckle assembly into the tank. I ran it for 24 hours then turned it upside down and ran it another 8. See Fig. 22,23 for the results.


    Fig. 22
    Knuckle and Seal Retainer Plates

    Fig, 23

    They look like they just came out of the casting mold! :-)

    Fig. 24
    Relay Rods and Drag Link
    All cleaned up and nowhere to go ...

    New Tank

    Fig. 25

    New Tank with brake backing plate in it


    Brake Drum

    Fig. 26
    Brake Drum before.

    Brake Drum Done

    Fig. 27
    Brake Drum after...

    Mid Bed Sheet metal

    Fig. 28

    Mid bed sheet metal

    Front Leaf Spring

    Fig. 29

    Front Leaf Spring


    Final Conclusions:

    This works! It's fairly clean, simple to setup and maintain and gets rid of ALL the rust! The part I like best is the garage stays so much cleaner due to much less rust dust generated from de-rusting parts with a wire wheel on a drill.



1971 Body/Chassis FSM

1971-74 F Engine FSM

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