Safety Tips for Fuel Tank Welding

Posted on Dec 30, 2020

Fuel Tank Welding

When welding a fuel tank that includes any type of fuel at any given point, the vapor from the gas can ignite easily, posing a threat to those around. It does not matter which type of tank you are welding, such as a stand-alone fuel tank or a vehicle fuel tank, as they all pose the same risk. As a matter of fact, the constant flying sparks during the welding process are typically the primary concern that interacts with the residual fuel in the tank.

Why Is Fuel Tank Welding Not Safe?

Fuel tank welding is a process of welding gas or diesel tanks, which can be extremely dangerous. The primary risk of welding a fuel tank is the possibility of combustion or fire. Not only does this pose a threat to the welder, but also anyone who puts themselves at risk to rescue the welder from the interior of the fuel tank. Therefore, it is vital to follow certain safety guidelines when operating a welding machine.

When welding a fuel tank that includes any type of fuel at any given point, the vapor from the gas can ignite easily, posing a threat to those around. It does not matter which type of tank you are welding, such as a stand-alone fuel tank or a vehicle fuel tank, as they all pose the same risk. As a matter of fact, the constant flying sparks during the welding process are typically the primary concern that interacts with the residual fuel in the tank. Although these sparks might seem insignificant and harmless at first, they can be unexpectedly hot as they are flying across the premise. 

According to reliable sources, molten metal, flying sparks, and spatter are the leading causes of explosions and fires in fuel tank welding. The small particles can actually travel up to 35 feet across the working area. These particles can not only travel a far distance due to the small size, they can get stuck in areas like your clothing, pipe holes, cracks, etc. without you even noticing, all of which can be potential factors for fires.
 

:: Read More: How is an Exhaust Pipe Welded with an Exhaust Welder?

How to Weld a Fuel Tank Properly?

With that above said, if you absolutely are required to weld a fuel tank or gas tank, here are some of the tips that will prepare you for a safe fuel tank or gas tank welding process:
 

1.) Turn off the Power

The first thing you need to do before working on the fuel tank is to make sure everything is shut off. First, ascertain that the ignition is switched to the off position, and then make sure the battery has been disconnected. This will prevent sparks from potentially setting off any fuel left in the tank. Once this is done, you can then move on to draining the remaining fuel that’s still inside the tank.
 

2.) Draining Fuel Tank

Next, you will need to proceed to drain the fuel tank or gas tank completely in an approved gas container that can be used in conjunction with flammable liquids. It is advisable that the draining of fuel tanks or gas tanks is not be performed near or over an inspection pit.
 

3.) Remove Fuel Tank

The next step upon draining the fuel tank or gas tank is to remove it from your vehicle. Keep in mind that high amounts of fumes may be released during the fuel tank or gas tank removal process, therefore, it is important to make sure that the process is coupled with proper ventilation equipment.
 

4.) Cleaning the Tank

After safely removing the fuel tank or gas tank from the vehicle, you need to clean the tanks before welding. The fuel tanks or gas tanks should be cleaned thoroughly with soap and water multiple times to ensure there is no residual fuel or fumes left inside. 

To do so, check again and see if all the power, including the vehicles, has been turned off. You do not want the sparks to ignite any fuel within the tank. Next, proceed to wash the fuel tank with warm water and soap. Refrain from disposing of the water in drains because it can lead to both hazardous situations and pollution.
 

5.) Ventilate Fuel Fumes

After cleaning the fuel tank, you will need to remove the fuel fumes from the tank using ventilation equipment like an air hose for at least an hour, or until there are no fumes left to be evacuated. It is recommended to conduct a chemical test to ascertain that all fuel fumes have been removed thoroughly and that the tank is now safe to weld.
 

6.) Welding Based on Compliance

Now you are poised to start welding. Make sure that all of the welds done on the fuel tank or gas tank are in compliance with all safety standards and specifications. When finished, the tank should be left to cool for a while, typically within 5 to 10 degrees of 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
 

7.) Inspect the Welds

When you feel that the tank is cool enough and has reached the desired temperature, you can now proceed to test the integrity of the welds and examine for any leaks by adding a little bit of fuel to the tank. Do not reattach the tank back to the vehicle if you notice an even slight bit of leak. And if no leak is present, feel free to attach the tank back following the manufacturer specification.
 

Material Complexity 

Lastly, we’d like to address what ought to be done if you happen to be dealing with a fuel tank made of stainless steel or aluminum – these are generally some of the toughest materials to weld. The first thing you will be required to do is to identify exactly the grade of the metal of your tank to be welded. Denote the metal with a number by stamping, as it indicates what kind of filter rod to use. Next, examine the gas level against the thickness of the metal. For instance, you will want to add helium to your argon to increase the arc temperature if your aluminum reaches over 0.5 inches thick. You will also be required to take the thickness of the tank into consideration to ensure improved penetration of the join.

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