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What is THE answer for disolving carbon off engine parts?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Untame, Jan 18, 2012.

  1. Untame
    Joined: Jan 5, 2011
    Posts: 214


    The local machine shop uses a wire wheel on a bench grinder to take the carbon deposits off pistons and valves. I can understand the valves, but using a steel brush on aluminum pistons makes me cringe (especially on the ring grooves).

    I've tried most solvents on it to no avail. Parts cleaner? Nope. Sea Foam? Nope. Carb & Choke cleaner? Uh uh.

    Yesterday I tried Simple Green. 1:1 mix with water, and let it soak 24 HOURS. I'll say that it cut the grease well, made it so that varnish would wipe off, and it softened the surface of the carbon deposits. But it failed to meet my expectations. I still couldn't drag a broken piston ring through the grooves well enough to clean them out.

    Has anyone used Slip 2000 Carbon Killer? It is made for cleaning gun parts. I can't find anything on their website that says it would harm aluminum, but they do say that it "dissolves copper" among all of the things it cleans. They claim that carbon deposits will just wipe away. At the very least this would be handy on valves.

    Info sheet attached.


    Attached Files:

  2. Probably 30 years ago, I got a spraycan of some type of carbon remover. Said to wear rubber gloves,etc. I didn't wear gloves and the carbon just melted right off of a flathead-and my fingertips turned to plastic for about a week. Wonder if they pulled it cuz the propellant hurt the ozone??
  3. Torana68
    Joined: Jan 28, 2008
    Posts: 1,333

    from Australia

  4. Shaggy
    Joined: Mar 6, 2003
    Posts: 5,207

    from Sultan, WA

    Why not use a nylon wheel instead?

  5. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 51,166


    When I worked at the machine shop, we usually replaced pistons....but on those we had to reuse, it usually took work to get the carbon off them, ie. careful scraping. Same with the carbon caked in heads, manifold crossovers, etc. It's a bitch.
  6. Try warming that simple green/water solution in a pot, on a hot plate, to about 150-180 degrees and let it soak. It cleans a lot better hot.
    BradinNC and pitman like this.
  7. Untame
    Joined: Jan 5, 2011
    Posts: 214


    Anyone tried soaking stuff in Dexron/Mercon ATF?

    I'm sure oven cleaner (lye) would also take care of the carbon, but would it harm the aluminum?
  8. Untame
    Joined: Jan 5, 2011
    Posts: 214


  9. shoprat
    Joined: Dec 23, 2006
    Posts: 1,109

    Member Emeritus
    from Orange, CA

    I've used carb cleaner on pistons. Worked fine, just had to pay attention.
    U can use broken rings to clean ring lands if u don't have the tool.
  10. Alex S. L.
    Joined: Sep 22, 2010
    Posts: 75

    Alex S. L.

    Steam? It works when you put a spritz of water into the intake of a running engine.
  11. Bonneville Avanti Dan
    Joined: Jan 21, 2011
    Posts: 243

    Bonneville Avanti Dan
    from California

    On our Bonneville engine last year we used some used stock pistons and we just soaked the pistons in Super Clean and 10% water. Water activates the cleaner. Bought at Wally World about $9 per gallon. Just keep an eye on them because if you leave them in too long it will attack the coating that is on most pistons from the manufacturer. It even cleans the grooves out. If you place the container with the pistons in it in the light you can actually see it working.
  12. Topless Ford
    Joined: Feb 10, 2007
    Posts: 560

    Topless Ford

    I bought gallon can of berrymans carb and parts cleaner at auto zone. i soaked each piston for a couple of hours and then sprayed them off with brakeclean, then a water hose. I then lightly scrubbed the ring land area with a small brass brush. A broken ring for a scraper was needed on a couple of ultra tough spots. Physical labor was less than 5 minutes per piston and they looked brand new when I was done.
  13. KWashburn
    Joined: Jul 23, 2006
    Posts: 109


    ATF always worked for me. Good luck.
  14. Untame
    Joined: Jan 5, 2011
    Posts: 214


    Nix the oven cleaner idea -- I guess it dissolves aluminum.
  15. Bilt
    Joined: Jun 23, 2011
    Posts: 311


    Have you looked into "Gunzilla" cleaning solvent. I use it to clean my AR15 which is aluminum and it works pretty well with carbon removal.
  16. The castrol superclean works, I use it in a turkey roaster to clean all kinds of engine parts, just heat it to 200* and in about 10 minuts my pistons only needed the goop scraped off them. Like avanti dan said just keep an eye on it. also don't put polished aluminum parts in it.
  17. May sound cliche, but soak them in WD40. It might take a couple days, but the WD40 will dissolve the carbon to the point where you can wipe it off with a rag.
  18. 1950ChevySuburban
    Joined: Dec 20, 2006
    Posts: 6,188

    Member Emeritus
    from Tucson AZ

    GM Top Engine cleaner works best. Buy it at your dealer. Smells nice too!
  19. bryan6902
    Joined: May 5, 2008
    Posts: 1,137


    Gasket remover spray. Comes in an aerosol can. Spray them and let them sit 15-20 minutes and it all scrapes off fairly easy with a scotch brite pad and some hot water. Make sure they get rinsed well.
  20. Mike51Merc
    Joined: Dec 5, 2008
    Posts: 3,856


    I bet the family dishwasher (with a generous dose of Cascade) would do the job!
  21. 1950 silver bullet
    Joined: May 11, 2011
    Posts: 175

    1950 silver bullet

    Soda blast them !!!
    henryj1951 likes this.
  22. Anderson
    Joined: Jan 27, 2003
    Posts: 6,836


    That's what we do where I work. Nothing gets them cleaner with less of a mess, and no chance of messing them up. Rinse with water, done.
    henryj1951 likes this.
  23. restojon
    Joined: Dec 12, 2011
    Posts: 6


    Soda Blasting works great!!! It is safe enough to use on jet engine and turbo charger turbines. I do aluminum parts all the time with no damage and really cleans them nice.
    henryj1951 likes this.
  24. No it was probably the Naptha, it was discovered that naptha causes cataracts, liver and kidney damage and numerous other health issues. :D

    Actually water alone will turn carbon build up into a mushy pasty substance. Here's is something you can try for shits'n'giggles. Get an old car that you know for a fact is carboned up, fire it up and speed up the idle. Now dribble a little water down the carb, not so fast as to kill the engine. Watch out the back at all th crap that is flying out the tail pipes. that's carbon.
    henryj1951 likes this.
  25. terryr
    Joined: Feb 8, 2007
    Posts: 286

    from earth

    Yeah, lye attacks aluminum, and it's also restricted now because druggys use it to make meth. [so now we can't buy it but they still get it somehow. great.]
  26. One word..... kryoil penetrating solvent ...Hope I spelled it rite. Rusty part remover also used by gun owners to clean firearms ..Great stuff
    henryj1951 likes this.
  27. Russco
    Joined: Nov 27, 2005
    Posts: 4,252

    from Central IL

    BTW Simple Green will ruin aluminum parts if left to soak for too long.
  28. Simply glass beading the domes of pistons is a great way to make them bettter than new. Engine shops have been doing this for decades, even the old good race ones. You could even use a $10 H/F sand blaster with moderate pressure and sand from home depot. Buy the fine stuff used for leveling ground before pouring concrete, it has a name but I cant recall it at the moment. Leveling sand maybe. Be sure to tape up the ring lands with some masking tape, the blue painters tape is fine. Keep from blasting in the pin bores if you are not going to hone them. Back years ago, the Winston Cup guys would glass bead the inside or underside of the pistons too. Wash them REAL good first with mineral spirits and then with hot soapy water. When finished, blow dry with high pressure air. TR
    henryj1951 likes this.
  29. BTW, I'm not to keen on many of the solvents mentioned. You dont know what its doing to the metals from a chemical reaction standpoint, especially left unattended. If you use porknbeaners panther piss, be sure to wear protective rubber gloves and a close pin on your nose. TR
    henryj1951 likes this.
  30. Bucksnort
    Joined: Dec 24, 2007
    Posts: 3,302


    I use walnut shells in the blast cabinet
    or if it is giving me a hard time I will switch to glass bead but lower the pressure.
    henryj1951 likes this.

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