Misc. Shop chemicals

Capt. Mike

I started this thread for those odd-ball and one-of-a-kind shop supplies that don't justify a full line thread. Please use this for your favorite items. Readers -- do your own research! Posts may be put up from one-time users, "I heard", or other sources without insuring the product is safe or compatible with the Westy. Proceed with caution.

Capt. Mike

PB Blaster

I'll start it off with one that's so outrageous, it actually works. Their can, their infomercial type ads, and their "As seen on TV" label normally has me running for cover. However, a friend found some on the shelf at Wal-Mart, and not finding tried & true Liquid Wrench, bought a can for a badly rusted antique car job. It worked!

I relented and bought a can myself. It goes on more like a foam than Liquid Wrench so there's less run & drip. We all know Liquid Wrench's propensity to disolve plastic and ruin paint, so that's a plus. I'll assume PB Blaster is equally unfriendly to plastic & paint, however.

First used it on a Bush Hogg rotary mower blade that was literally frozen. The air impact didn't touch it. Several coats of PB Blaster, the neighbor's kid's muscle and a little perserverance and it came off.

My next attempt was the radius arms during my Vanagon front suspension overhaul (posted elsewhere). They had frozen solid from calcium chloride roads and 130K of debris and rust. I soaked them, applied just a little heat, and both came loose in about 2 rounds.

If they only sold it in a plain wrapper . . .!

Capt. Mike


LPS is a brand name of industrial lubricants and other chemicals. You're more likely to find them at the industrial supply than the automotive store.

LPS-1 is basically WD-40. Many places don't carry the LPS line because they don't think beyond the brand recognition for the lead product.

But LPS has other grades, LPS-2 & LPS-3. LPS-2 is a heavier, more weather resistant version of LPS-1.

LPS-3 is well worth having in the shop. It was primarily designed as a weather resistant rust protector. It's ability, even in harsh salt environments is vastly superior to WD-40. Their own assessment is 'not recommended beyond one year.' Compare that with the few days of WD-40!

It is not as clear as WD-40 but semi-dries to a good coating with good cling. I'm using it on the many unpainted components under my Dodge truck like suspension and drive-line. Yes, I'll have to touch it up, probably every major service, but on a quiet night, you can hear a Dodge rust, so anything that staves off the repairman is worth it. Or that it might prevent a part from becoming one with the chassis come replacement time.

Another major use is to coat parts you have in stock. I notice a set of rotors on my shelf have that nasty looking, but harmless layer of rust stain. Yes, it will clean right off with the first application of the brakes, but you kind of like new parts to have the bright, shiney look.

Oh, you won't find it at give-away prices at Sam's Club. Expect to pay in the $10 a can bracket. Worth it.

LPS has a complete line of products and a browse through their site is educational. They also produce most of the common auto chemicals like brake cleaner, anti-seize and some coatings.

Capt. Mike

Permatex® Battery chemicals.

Permatex® makes two spray cans of chemicals for batteries that I use on a regular basis. One is Battery Cleaner #80369 for neutralizing spills and the dreaded white cauliflower look around the hold-down or cable terminals. It immediately foams, much like a baking soda mixture, and will then rinse. It doesn't replace a good bead-blasting or wire-brushing of the corroded metal, but is a good starter clean-up.

The other is their Battery Protector & Sealer #80370. This is an electrically neutral protective coating to spray the terminals and cable ends with. It has a semi-transparent purple tint and works. I am a believer in the anti-corrosive terminal felt rings for under the cables, but this is compatible and goes on over.

These help reduce an ongoing problem with any battery. It must vent and that venting gas is corrosive, so it will eventually attack anything near like the hold-down brackets, terminals or trays. You might also consider the anti-corrosive Battery Mat® for underneath your battery. These are typically sold under private label at most auto parts stores. There isn't such a thing as "too much" when trying to avoid these damages.
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Capt. Mike


I hope I'm preaching to the converted. Anti-seize is $5 insurance against hundreds or thousands of dollars of future repairs. Almost any repair assembly should get extensive use of anti-seize because some day, you're going to have to repeat that repair.

There are 3 basic types of anti-seize. Most contain high percentages of aluminum, copper and/or graphite in a paste lubricant. A 2nd version contains higher copper concentration which allows use at higher temperatures and and increases electrical conductivity for use in electrical applications like O² sensors, spark plugs and ground strap connections. The 3rd adds nickel to provide greater anti-rust protection in very high temp applications like exhaust systems.

Anti-seize should be used on threads or nuts in most reassembly applications. And I'm dead-serious, MOST. If you have ever had a bolt or nut round off, a stud come out (instead of the nut), or had some close-fitting assembly refuse to come apart, then you are looking at an application where anti-seize probably should have been used. There are some applications were anti-seize should not be used, but if in doubt, it probably should have been!

Exceptions: Stainless steel hardware probably is not necessary. That it doesn't rust or oxidize is usually sufficient protection. If mixed, however, use anti-seize. For example a stainless nut going onto a steel stud or bolt. This does not apply to aluminum, where a steel bolt is going into an aluminum housing, such as the VW case. Aluminum tends to oxidize and creates an electrolysis reaction with steel, so the anti-seize provides protection from that fusing or galling.

Another might be specific lock-nut or lock-bolt uses, especially if they are using a plastic or chemical compound to achieve the lock such as Nylok nuts or the lock bolts (as in many disc brakes) that have a nylon insert or compound.

Anti-seize can be purchased in cans (usually with brushes in the lid), tubes and even spray cans. A $5 can will last for years of heavy shop use.

Some common applications you've probably experienced might include axle nuts. Remember trying to get off a nut installed with 250 ft-lb. torque and it wouldn't budge with a 500 ft-lb. impact wrench? Should have had anti-seize! A mini-version is the lug nut. How often have you found the lug nut you put on with a 94 ft-lb. (Bay Window) or a 123 ft-lb. torque wrench (Vanagon) that won't come off with an impact wrench or 2' cheater bar? Rotors are usually attached to the hub with a countersunk set screw, which the high temps of the rotor will fuse together. How about CV joints, where you're are trying to remove a socket-head screw buried deep into a trailing arm box? I think exhaust system hardware is a no-brainer. I'll even advocate loosening and reapplying anti-seize every now & then. How about the flanges on the cooling system plumbing? A Vanagon waterpump is bear enough to change without adding stripped out socket head flange bolts. Any suspension & drive-line component is a candidate, including bushings & ball joints. The flanges of my pick-up front rotors are so closely machined that they rust together and you can ruin the bearing hubs getting them off. Dodge doesn't believe in using anti-seize on the assembly line so the first time you have to replace the U-joints (They don't believe in packing them with grease, either.), the hub will be fused to the steering knuckle.

On the subject, but not a true anti-seize, are hose connections. Use of a grease anti-seize may contaminate the fluid carried. For most hose applications, I'll use a spray silicone, which usually helps protect the hose as well.

Anti-seize should NOT be confused or used with an "assembly lube", but that's for a future post.
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Capt. Mike

Assembly Lube

Assembly lube is meant for reassembly of internal engince components but can have many other uses. It is primarily meant for applications of metal-against-metal, such as crank bearings, piston pins and valve gear.
Advantages of assembly lube: Easier assembly of tight fitting parts such as piston rings; ability of items to align during assembly (example, crank & cam shell bearings); protective coating while engine is open; protections during first fire up before oil has circulated; compatible with oil -- does not have to be removed.

Disadvantages: This is NOT an all-purpose lube to replace anti-seize; do NOT use in brake piston assembly -- not compatible with brake fluid; no retention or weather resistance.

Most is brightly colored -- red or blue -- so you can see coating before assembly. One type also contains MOS². I have a race engine builder friend who does not use this type feeling there exists a possiblity of the little tiny MOS² particals scoring a bearing, but he works in tolerances you & I only read about and rpms several times your Westy. I'm comfortable with its use in standard VW applications.

It's cheap enough to use a fresh can for any full engine rebuild -- thus no dirt or contamination.
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Capt. Mike

Silicon seal
aka: Gasket maker, RTV sealant, caulk.

Silicon seal is one of the great inventions, so was probably accidental like the Post-It note. It is one of the great sealers as it is quite flexible and molds. It skins quickly (to the touch) and then cures to a slightly flexible seal.

Advantages are that it forms to voids, including filling scratches and nicks in metal-to-metal seals. It is resistant to most chemicals and oils. It can be formed to provide nice 'caulked' seams. It handles expansion & contraction with temperatures better than almost all others and can resist vibration and flex cracking.

Proprietory, there are only two manufacturers -- GE & Dow. So all of the products you see are repackaging or licensees. However, there are many levels of quality. They are pretty much backwards compatible, so using a higher quality then specified normally does no harm.

Because of quality and application differences, it can be quite confusing to purchase. Shop manuals will specify the car manufacturer's brand & part number, infering that anything less will cause plagues, glaciers to melt and at the very least, void the warranty. It's 99% bull. They do have legitimate specs though, in temperature and chemical resistance that must be met.

Temperature seems to be the largest variable with some lesser caulks (builders' supply) being only in the 250-300°F range. Most for automotive use are 400°F or above. The high-temp and specialty applications run 500-700°F. Permatex® probably has a dozen. Thus one should match need, erring on the side of higher quality.

To add to the confusion, it is available in several colors. Color only means something within a vendor's line. Color can be chosen to either compliment looks (for example black on black painted parts) or to accent the seal to see coverage (red between black parts). Clear where visible on the body.

The squeeze tube is the most common application. [See the <Valco Cinncinati> post in <TOOLS>.] It is also available in cartridges, pressure cans and pre-made strips. The preformed strips are meant primarily for long gasket surfaces like valve covers and differential cover plates. I've tried them and don't like them.

VW -- at least through the Vanagons -- rarely used this type of sealer in mechanical applications, and then not as engine gaskets. Silicone seal is NOT an acceptable substitute for the split case sealant. VW uses gaskets in most other applications. It is not a cure-all for other problems like warped or damaged V/C's or surfaces, nor license to reuse gaskets. It is not a suitable sealer for paper gaskets like water-pumps and carb gaskets.

VW occasionally used a version around body bolts and joints such as pop-top and sky-light hardware. It is not a good 'glue'. Yes, it can be tough to remove from surfaces once cured but its internal adhesion is not sufficient to replace good adhesives. It will shear or pull away in strips. It can sometime be used to hold a gasket in place until the item is mounted and will improve the seals around rubber gaskets such as tail-lights. However, in the latter it can stain or damage the rubber gasket if removal is necessary. Cured, it is hard to remove from painted surfaces and anything rough. Its chemical resistance makes it difficult to disolve.

Large packaging like caulk tubes are usually one-time. By the time you need them again, they have hardened and nobody seems to have a good reseal option. Caps or tape might hold for a few days.

Tubes usually have a removeable plastic application tip (cut to chose bead size) that can be removed and the original cap put back on. If you have squeezed smooth from the bottom and there is no air in the tube, this will keep the product useable for a considerable period of time. To reuse the application tip, allow the product to fully cure. Roll or flex the tube slightly and then pull with a forceps or blow out the opposite end with compressed air. The cured plug will come out leaving a clean nozzle.

Like any product, proper use is important. Too much will squeeze out and into the cavity sealed. A blob of silicon is not a good additive to your engine oil! It can also be disturbed or smeared when reassembling, negating the careful bead applied.
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Capt. Mike

Contact Cleaner

Every shop should keep a can of electronic contact cleaner around. This is NOT the Electrical Cleaner & Degreaser at the auto parts stores -- they can disolve plastics. I mean the contact cleaner from an electronics supply like Radio Shack. These have the ability to dissolve corrosion or oxidation and film without damaging wiring or harness modules. Most contain a lubricant as well that is non-conductive. These should be used any time you are working with connector blocks, switches and relay sockets. Do allow to dry and wipe away any excess but they will help prevent that 'froze' connector and reduce resistance at connections. Often, corrosion and oxidation will cause a terminal to overheat from the increased resistance and then melt or damage the item or connector. Most are marked safe for plastics and circuit boards.

A companion product is tuner cleaner/renew. Similar function for multi-contact or resistance devices like the rheostats on dash light dimmer controls.