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I've been repairing/cleaning/havin' fun for the last 5 years now but have yet to discover what I would call an excellent means of cleaning the chemically blackened die-cast side frames, especially those found on EMD trucks - they have so many cracks & crannies. The pictures below show untouched trucks as I got 'em, then one side cleaned with alcohol, then the other side cleaned with a heavy concentrate of Dawn dish liquid. The goal is to eliminate that nasty looking white stuff, which I assume is corrosion, not really dirt. On the backside of a side frame I chipped away some of the corrosion with a very small screwdriver flat blade and it does chip off, but it's waaaay too easy to scratch right through the chemically blackened layer.

I'm looking for something that will not scratch the blackened frames, so any kind of wire brush is definitely out, which kind of leaves just chemicals. I have in the past used WD-40 and/or lightweight oil, but those too seem to dry over time leaving a mostly unimproved surface.

Do you have a magic formula?

IMG_4452 Untouched left axleIMG_4453 Untouched right axle

IMG_4451 Alcohol cleaned using a toothbrush, left axle

IMG_4450 Dawn Liquid Detergent cleaned using a toothbrush, right axle

So the winner so far is Dawn - but I believe there must be something better. Let me know what has worked for you. I did do a number of searches on this forum, but didn't find anything despite knowing that I have read something in the past. Thanks!!!

George

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Let me throw one more question at ya, do you think Evapo-Rust will remove the chemical blackening? I seem to remember that as a concern from some previous discussion - and I really don't like the look of spray painted trucks.

And as long as I'm on the topic, have you ever chemically blackened your trucks? Is that a process that might be commercially available (at a reasonable cost) somewhere?

George

Great question George. Looking forward to the answers.  

Me too, Rich - otherwise it's a good scrubbing in Dawn with about a 50% clean result. Interesting experiment last night, I dry scrubbed both (previously untouched) couplers with a fairly soft toothbrush and about 99% of the corrosion came off. Dunno if it was the nature of the metal or what, but it did a great job. That said, the corrosion on the truck side frames seems a lot worse, so that may be why it didn't work as well there.

I do not like to introduce any water to the zinc, so I wash the castings with naphtha.  Then the casting is wiped and air blown dry. Then I spray the castings with Triflo, which is a light oil with Teflon powder in it.  I scrub the oily castings with a bristle brush.  The fine detail is cleaned with small head cotton swabs on wooden sticks. These are available from McMaster-Carr. Then the casting is blown dry and dried with paper towels. The areas that are heavily corroded with either rust or zinc oxide will be lightly wire wheeled with a Dremel stainless brush first.  This method almost always removes the white corrosion and restores the black finish. I have been using this method for many years and have never needed to repeat it.

I do not like to introduce any water to the zinc, so I wash the castings with naphtha.  Then the casting is wiped and air blown dry. Then I spray the castings with Triflo, which is a light oil with Teflon powder in it.  I scrub the oily castings with a bristle brush.  The fine detail is cleaned with small head cotton swabs on wooden sticks. These are available from McMaster-Carr. Then the casting is blown dry and dried with paper towels. The areas that are heavily corroded with either rust or zinc oxide will be lightly wire wheeled with a Dremel stainless brush first.  This method almost always removes the white corrosion and restores the black finish. I have been using this method for many years and have never needed to repeat it.

Thanks David, I'll give it a go! Surprisingly, I have a small spray can of Triflo from years ago, just forgot about it. I will need to purchase some Naptha however. I'll let you know how it comes out.

George

@Obuckler posted:

I left some postwar truck sides soaking in evaporust overnight instead checking it every few hours and yes that did remove all the chemical blacking and turned it whitish. I returned it to a good appearance by blueing it.

How did you blue it? Which product and what process? I looked thru the spare trucks I have and found a candidate to experiment on - half of one side frame is "normal" while the other half is missing all chemical darkening - This truck is useless as-is, so it would be a great one to experiment on. Plus I have several other trucks where the black appearance could use improvement.

George

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