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Old 05-12-2004, 02:51 AM   #1
Airtime OP
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Joined: May 2004
Location: Brownsville, Oregon
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cleaning clogged radiators?

Hey bikers,
I'm looking for some radiator advice. I have 5 mid '80's Honda CR's. I bought two of them new back in '85, and the rest recently on ebay.
They all have some kind of crud at the top of the radiator cores, semi blocking the flow of coolant. I can rod out some of the cores in the radiators that have caps, but no way to see inside the radiators that don't have radiator caps.

Does anyone know of some kind of chemical that will dissolve the build-up?
Or do I have to send the radiators to someone that advertises they can clean clogged aluminum radiators??

I recently bought a pair of radiators on ebay that are in perfect shape, except for the crud at the top of the cores...

Any advice will be appreciated.
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Old 05-13-2004, 10:31 AM   #2
markherman
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radiator cleaning

what is the radiator made of? i know that in the past Ford diesel trucks' radiators needed to have a Ford Additive put in every so often to hold down scaling etc. There is also a recommendation once buildup accumulates to use a Ford or Cummins equivalent chelation (phonetic?) treatment. have you inquired of a dealer to determine what the core is made of? that would be a start.
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Old 05-14-2004, 12:40 AM   #3
Airtime OP
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Thumb radiator cleaning, solved...

The radiators are aluminum. I don't know what alloy, but I don't think the alloy matters.
I did some online reasearch, and found that some radiator shops use a caustic solution to clean plugged radiators. I discovered that sodium hydroxide (also called lye or soda ash) may work. Sodium hydroxide (from here on out, I'll call it lye) reacts with aluminum, and makes hydrogen gas as a by-product, so care has to be taken not to blow yourself up when the lye comes in contact with aluminum.

I found some lye at the local grocery store, in granular form. It's used as a drain cleaner. I forgot to get some kind of acid to flush the radiators to neautralize the caustic after using the lye, but when I got home, I found some leftover battery acid (sulfuric acid) that I figured would work, in diluted form.

Now came the experiments...I was able to dislodge a few chunks of the scale build-up thru the radiator cap hole with a small welding wire, and used the chunks to test the lye solution and battery acid to see if either one would dissolve the chunks.

Turns out, the battery acid worked the best. In a little pool of battery acid, the little chunks dissolved completely in a matter of a few minutes. The chunks just got smaller and smaller till they were completely gone.

The lye solution (granules mixed with water) also softened the chunks, but they didn't just go away by themselves, like the acid reaction. It took a little turbulance to dissolve the chunks.

After squirting some battery acid in to a radiator and letting it soak for a while, I took the radiator outside and used my pressure washer to flush the radiator completely, and lo and behold, all the scale was gone. Pressure washing the radiator core before soaking it with acid, had no effect on the scale, so I know the acid worked. I may soak the core in some of the lye solution for a short while, just to make sure it's totally clean inside.

I'm happy with the results. I think it solved my problem. Before cleaning the radiators in my '86 CR250, I couldn't even blitz up my hillclimb without it overheating...It'll be interesting to see tomorrow, how the bike performs with clean radiators...
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Old 05-15-2004, 11:42 AM   #4
advsurfer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Airtime
I found some leftover battery acid (sulfuric acid) that I figured would work, in diluted form...
what ratio did you diluted it? i'm thinking 'bout doing that to my VW.
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Old 05-16-2004, 10:42 PM   #5
Airtime OP
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Thumb battery acid as a radiator cleaner

I used the battery acid undiluted to clean my dirt bikes aluminum radiators. It worked most excellent. I just plumbed both radiators together with some old radiator hose, and filled them up with some leftover acid I had sitting around (when you buy a die-hard motorcycle battery from Sears, there's always a bunch of extra acid). I let them soak in the pure acid for about an hour, then drained it back into the original clear container. There is a mass ammount of crud that settled into the bottom of the container, which had to come from the radiator's core.
After draining the acid from the radiators, I flushed them for a while with my pressure washer, blasting fresh water thru them.
Inside the radiators, the aluminum is shiny clean now.

I didn't even bother with using the Sodium Hydroxide...I was a little afraid to, due to the warnings I read about how sodium hydroxide reacts with aluminum. My gut feeling is it wouldn't have hurt the aluminum much, if I would have soaked it for just a short time.

The result of the acid cleaning is excellent. I rode the bike hard for about an hour this afternoon, blasting around my trails and up the big hill climb, without any hint of overheating. As I said earlier, I couldn't even make it up the hill climb one time without it steaming to a stop halfway up, before the cleaning.
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Old 05-20-2004, 02:28 PM   #6
advsurfer
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Wicked

thanks, Bro. i will be doing this in my 89 VW's radiator. if it doesn't work...then i'll get the radiator i know i need right now anyway. l8rs.
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Old 05-20-2004, 02:57 PM   #7
pierce
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Quote:
Originally Posted by advsurfer
thanks, Bro. i will be doing this in my 89 VW's radiator. if it doesn't work...then i'll get the radiator i know i need right now anyway. l8rs.
my 89 VW (german built Jetta GLI 16v) had a hybrid radiator with plastic side tanks. I'd be cautious with acids. I put 250000 hard driving miles on that car and never had any cooling system problems... It always had either real VW or a similar OEM coolant in it, I had the coolant flushed every couple of years. I did have to replace the expansion tank and cap at one point, the original turned brown and cracked after around 100K miles in 3 years, turns out this was a factory defect but it was off warranty and the replacement VW tank was quite inexpensive and easy to install (did it myself in the parking lot of a dealer as it failed when I was on a road trip).
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Old 05-20-2004, 03:07 PM   #8
Guzz
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Don't forget to neutralize the battery acid, even after preasure washing them out. If I remember, a solution of water and baking soda will do the trick. Careful, as it will 'foam' a bit.
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Old 07-11-2012, 08:45 AM   #9
alexisan
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how did the battery acid work out?

I have got a similar problem:

http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=807204

just nothing would resolve it.

Hope to find help, Alex
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