A labour of love

Electrolytic cleaning and zinc nickel plating parts

Electrolytic cleaning and zinc nickel plating parts

Something a bit different for today’s update. Through the course of this project I’ve accumulated many boxes of parts for my car, parts that were stripped off and squirrelled away for later refurbishment or replacement, and ultimately refitting once the time comes. With the welding and painting now all a distant memory, the time has come to start working through these boxes and tidying things up. There was probably a point in time towards the start of the project where I thought many of the parts that I stripped off would just get a quick wipe down or lick of paint and be bolted straight back on, but it’s fair to say the standard of finish I’ve achieved is considerably higher than I originally set out for, so I’m looking at a lot of these bits through a different lens now. It just doesn’t seem right to cut corners and refit any scruffy old bits now, and so here I am learning another new skill.

I had quite liked the idea of trying to restore and replate/repaint more of the original parts for a while, but I’ve really fallen into the trap of convenience and already bought new replacements for many of them. It’s the blessing and the curse of everything being so readily available off the shelf for the MGB I guess – why spend hours or days restoring a rusty old part when you can have a shiny new one delivered in a couple of days with no effort at all.

Well as I sifted through the boxes of parts still to be refitted and did the mental calculations of how much it would cost to replace them all, I decided enough was enough and ordered an electrolytic cleaning kit and a zinc nickel plating kit from ePlating. These kits are not cheap at first glance, but they do include everything you need to get started, and the chemicals can be used many times over to restore multiple parts, so it becomes more cost effective the more parts you treat. Also once you’ve made the investment in the kit, the replacement chemicals are much cheaper to top up for use in future projects. Looking back at what I’ve cleaned and plated so far I probably haven’t yet broken even, and I kick myself thinking about all the parts I’ve needlessly replaced when they could have been brought back to new condition with this kit, but here we are – I’ll know better on the next project.

Anyway, getting started, I began with the electrolytic cleaning kit and selected some crusty heating system components as my first victims. These were all satin black painted originally, but a lot of the paint had lifted over the years and they were now covered in surface rust. I set the kit up as per the instructions and prepared the parts for stripping.

After a few hours in the tank I had what looked like a delicious lasagne bubbling away on the bench šŸ™‚ The effect really was impressive to watch.

I failed to take a picture of the fully cleaned heater parts, but they really did come out as very clean and rust-free metal.

Next up was my Lockheed brake servo. I already have a rebuild kit for this which includes a full set of internal seals etc. but it would seem a shame to rebuild such a scruffy body. It would likely have been a zinc nickel finish originally, but had been painted silver at some point in the past and was now looking quite rusty again, so was an ideal candidate for a full makeover.

Below shows how the brake servo looked after disassembly and having gone through the electrolytic cleaning process. I did have to give it a quick going over with a drill-mounted wire brush to remove the last stubborn remnants of paint, but again the results of the process were very impressive and saved a lot of labour.

At the same time I had also disassembled the handbrake assembly for treatment, here are the components after cleaning, all ready for re-plating.

There are several stages to the plating process, all very well explained in the instructions provided in the kit. The picture below shows the main zinc nickel plating stage itself. I did find that my results improved the more parts I did, there are some adjustments that can be made to the chemical mixture, and the voltage and amps provided to the plating circuit, which can help to refine the process for a better finish.

Below picture shows some of the finished parts. The plating kit includes both yellow and blue passivates, which provide the final colour of the part after the main plating stage. For the parts on the left I used the blue passivate to get a silver finish approximating their original appearance, and the parts on the right were finished with the yellow passivate for a gold appearance. I was generally very pleased with how everything turned out, a few parts had some surface pitting that could not be completely disguised by the plating process, but most parts came out looking as good as new.

And here is my fully re-plated brake servo after reassembly using the rebuild kit (will cover this properly in a future post). Really delighted with how this looks after a reasonably small amount of effort to restore it, so much better to see it in the original plated finish than to have just given it another quick rattle can paint job.

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