Tag Archives: aluminum

  • Honda Develops Technology To Weld Steel And Aluminum Together

    Car manufacturers are always looking to reduce vehicle weight and thereby improve fuel economy. Toward that end, automotive giant Honda has developed a new technology for the continuous welding of steel and aluminum.

    They call it Friction Stir Welding (FSW), a solid-state joining process in which two metals can be intermixed using mechanical pressure. The resulting weld strength will be equal to or better than conventional MIG welding.

    Honda expects this technology to cut body weight by 25% compared to a conventional steel sub-frame, but you won't be using this technology any time soon in your garage shop. Conventionally, FSW requires the use of large equipment, but Honda has developed an FSW continuous welding system applied to a highly versatile industrial robot.

    Honda plans to first adopt the technology to the North American version of its 2013 Accord before expanding to other models.

    Read more about this breakthrough automotive welding technology here.

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  • Perfectly Powder Coated Wheels- 10 Tips to Make Your Wheels Look Great

    It's a known fact that a set of wheels can make or break a car. We've seen some of the biggest "junkers" become legendary with a nice set of wheels and a ride height adjustment. The opposite can happen when you have a nicely restored vehicle that has dirty, beat-up, or badly finished wheels. It can ruin the overall appearance of the car or truck. We're here to show you how to make your rolling stock look as good as your ride with these 10 tips to powder coated wheel perfection.

    1. Preparation Is Key!- Powder Coating, like traditional paint, requires a clean, dry surface for the best results. We suggest to media blast your wheels down to bare metal for the best powder adhesion. Powder coating is a "high-build" coating that will fill the texture left by media blasting. Eastwood offers DIY Media Blasting Kits that make it a pretty affordable option. The other option is to remove the finish chemically or mechanically. Both methods can be quite messy and time consuming, but they do the job. Once the wheels are free of any old coatings, wash them down with a solvent like PRE or After Blast to remove any grease, dirt, or grime. At this point we'd suggest wearing clean rubber gloves. The oil from your skin can transfer to the surface and actually cause imperfections in the powder during curing. Remember, the cleaner the better!

    Removing Paint From Wheels Chemically

    2. Pre-Bake Wheels- The wheels on your vehicle are subjected to some of the harshest conditions on your vehicle. They see extreme temps, brake dust, grease, grime, salt, and anything in between. No matter how often you cleaned the wheels (especially cast wheels), they'll still have some residue or contaminants baked into the metal. Those contaminants can release when the wheel is heated up. If that happens when baking and curing your powder, it could cause popping, bubbling, or even a fisheye effect in your cured powder. We suggest to bake your wheels at 350-400 degrees for 30 minutes to an hour to assure that you have released and baked out the years of contaminants in the metal. This way when you apply the powder and cure it at a similar temperature, those contaminants would have already been released.

    Pre-Baking Wheels

    3. Assure you have a good ground connection- Grounding your wheels to the powder coating gun is very important. Most wheels have some tight corners and crevices that can be difficult to get the powder into. The static charge that is created by grounding the wheels and charging the powder is what helps the powder cling into every crevice. Without a good ground the powder won't stick in these spots and you'll get an uneven finish. We've had luck by running thin metal wire around or through each wheel and then connecting the ground to the metal rack the wheels sit on for coating and curing. This allows you an easy spot to clamp your ground clamp to the rack or even the wire under the rack.

    4. Hot-Flock you wheels- "Hot-Flocking' is a procedure where you preheat the part and immediately coat the wheel. The hot wheel will help the powder "stick" to the surface easier as the powder may begin to melt as soon as it hits the surface. This technique takes some practice to perfect. You will need to be quick with laying the powder down so the part doesn't cool too much. Also be mindful to avoid laying too much powder during this method as you can get "runs" or "clumps" of powder that will collect in one spot.

    5. Use High Temperature Masking Tape- Use this high temp tape to mask off lug holes, hub bores, and any other areas that have a tight tolerance and could cause issues when refitting the wheels. You can also use this tape to mask off portions of the wheels to apply a second coat of powder for a custom application.

    6. Apply Clear Coat Powder- Use your choice of clear powder to add an extra layer of protection to your wheels and make cleaning brake dust and road grime off easier (high metallic and textured powders especially hold dirt and grime!). Additionally our high gloss clear powders really give your finish a "deep" "wet" look.

    Gloss Clear Powder over Wheel Sparkle Silver Powder

    7. Protect the inside of the wheels- One of the nice things about powder coating is that it helps seals the metal and keep your wheels from corroding. We have found a good practice while powder coating your wheels is to apply a layer of powder on the inside barrels of the wheels to protect them from corrosion. The inner barrels or hoop see the harshest conditions. You can make the coating as basic as satin black powder or go full custom and use an eye catching Translucent or Candy Powder.

    Custom Powder Coated Wheels

    8.Remove anything that shouldn't be coated- If you don't want it coated or it can't handle the heat, you must remove it before starting the process. This includes valve stems, sealing rings, trim pieces, lug covers, hubcaps or center caps, etc.

    9. Use metal or high temperature filler on damaged wheels- Have a wheel with some "curbing" or damage? Use an all metal filler like Lab-Metal to fill and sand imperfections smooth. Powder Coating can have some filling properties, but heavy scratches or gouges need to be filled. Alternatively you could use an AC/DC Tig Welder to weld and fill major damage.

    10. Use a Quality Powder Gun- As mentioned earlier, powder coating wheels can be difficult with all of the crevices and tight areas you need to coat. Not all powder coating guns are created equal and you need to make sure you use a gun that has the ability to switch to a lower voltage that allows the powder to cling to those hard to reach areas. Our Dual Voltage Powder Coating Gun is one example of an adjustable voltage gun.

    If you follow these tips and take your time, you can make your wheels look as good as the rest of your ride and last just as long too!

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  • Make it Fit- Building and Modifying a Custom Aluminum Radiator With the TIG 200

    In the world of building modified cars, you have to be willing to think outside the box to make different parts jive when building a car. Whether it's notching the frame to lower a vehicle, rolling the fenders to fit oversized wheels/tires, or fitting an upgraded radiator to cool that larger engine you stuffed under the hood, you have to be ready to modify and customize things to make it all work correctly.

    This is the case especially when building small cars with larger or higher horsepower engines, where space is at a premium. I've always come up against issues finding a radiator that was just the right size that fits nicely, and cools the car better than the stock radiator did. There are a lot of large aluminum radiators for sale out there on Ebay and other sites to fit street rods and muscle cars, but the smaller ones to fit the space I needed are slim to none. Even the ones that are close to the right size, usually don't have the outlets in the correct place. Luckily we had a couple large aluminum radiators suited for small block Chevy V8's laying around and after eyeballing them, I decided to try cutting them up and building a radiator to suit my needs. It's only metal right?!

    I started by cutting the end tanks off the core at the welds, Once these were off I could cut the core down to the height I needed. The core is basically (in this case) made up of rows of thin aluminum tubing that are connected by fine metal fins and then housed at each end by base plates. Once I broke it down to the basics like this, it was pretty easy to see what needed to be done to cut the core down to a more suitable height for the Volkswagens I was building. I first marked and cut the base plates on each end between two coils (the thin metal tubing that the coolant flows through). This got me to the height I needed, and I then began cutting and sectioning the end tanks to the size I needed and moved the outlets to where I needed them. Some sort of tape here comes in handy and helps hold it all together to give you an idea of what it will look like and even allows you to do an initial test fit. Remember it's a lot easier to change the radiator layout when it's held together with tape rather than weld!

    With everything taped up it all seems a lot more doable.. just weld each seam up, pressure test, and mount it in the car right? Well in this case.. not exactly. By moving both outlets over to the same side, I needed to convert it to a dual pass radiator. Originally the coolant came in one port and had to travel across the radiator through the coils to the other outlet and back into the engine, but now the coolant would take the easiest path and straight down through the other outlet. So to make a "dual pass" radiator I needed to add a plate below the top inlet that blocks the water from flowing straight out the bottom port and instead through the coils, thus lowering the coolant temperatures. I cut a piece of aluminum plate to size, then sanded it with a belt disc sander until it was a tight fit with a slight bevel. I then used the Eastwood TIG 200 to weld the cap to the endtanks. Before I laid the final weld sealing the two halves of the end tank together, I took some high temp, waterproof epoxy and sealed the edges around where the plate sat near the coils. Using epoxy avoided putting any unnecessary heat into the coils and sealed the plate from leaking.

    With the radiator now converted to a dual-pass, I welded the rest of the endcaps onto the core and added my outlets and overflow port as needed. I did a basic pressure test by capping off all of the outlets, spraying the seams of the radiator with soapy water, then applying around 20psi with an air nozzle off of the compressor through the overflow outlet. Any air bubbles that popped up I cleaned and rewelded the area. With all of the leaks fixed, I was ready to install the radiator and fill the cooling system.

    The verdict is in, both radiators I built hold more coolant, dissipate the heat better, and overall keep the engine temperatures lower, giving me a huge piece of mind when cruising during the summer. The cost of a custom one-off radiator to fit my exact needs would have cost me close to what a new TIG 200 retails for, so once again tackling a project like this helped me save money and get some more time under the helmet with the TIG 200.

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  • Keep this in mind in 32 years- Ford To Make Aluminum F-150 Trucks

    In 2044, when you (or your child) is looking for an "antique" 2014 Ford F-150 pickup to restore, don't be surprised if the body panels are largely aluminum, not steel.

    But this is a Ford! This is a Truck! How can they do that? Well, thanks to Washington's latest fuel-economy regulations, Ford is working on switching from steel to aluminum to reduce the weight of its F-150 by about 700 lbs. (about 15% of its current weight). By cutting that weight, trucks can go farther on a gallon of gas, and it could also lead to smaller engines, further boosting fuel economy.

    But will you, a potential customer, go along with this drastic change? Will the most popular truck in the U.S. be as safe and durable as we expect from a Ford F-150 pickup? There's a lot at stake here, considering the F-150 is one of the most profitable vehicle lines in the world, and it's outsold every other vehicle in the U.S. since 1982.

    There are also a few interesting manufacturing problems that Ford has to deal with. Since aluminum is not magnetic, they'll need to invest in powerful, power-hungry vacuums to transfer the aluminum sheets within the factory, instead of the giant magnets they now use on steel. Aluminum is also "springier" than steel when pressed, is more likely to tear if pressed too quickly, and it scratches more easily.

    But Ford engineers continue to work on the first prototypes, so I think I'll reserve judgment on the 2014s until I can actually drive one. Sure hope their "Built Ford Tough" slogan will still apply!

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  • You know you're in "deep" when....

    I use that statement quite often.. seems in the "car world", there are a number of different levels of being an "enthusiast". Some of us like to simply shine up our daily driver, personalize it a bit, make it our own. Then on the other spectrum, there are people like myself. We are the "sick" ones that let our "hobby" take over our life. After recently finishing 2 major projects (and forfeiting a personal life outside the garage), I came up with this list below to use as a way to check if you really are in "way-deep". This could possibly be a eye opener to allow you to take a step back and possibly "back off" a little (AKA save you marriage :p ), or possibly serve as a way to console yourself that you aren't the only one and there are many others that have the same sickness as you! (Imagine an AA meeting for car-people). In that case.. Hi, my name is Matt, and I am in "way-deep" with old cars.

    I recently really came to this conclusion about myself. I was finishing up a restoration on a set of vintage race wheels (full story to come later this month). You see, I went to further lengths than some people go to when doing engine swaps. Making these wheels fit and look "proper" on my daily driver Mercedes 190e was no quick, or easy feat. These wheel were the complete wrong offset, bolt pattern, etc for my car. This is overlooking the fact they were 20-25 year old race wheels that needed a full restoration! I went so far as to having custom wheel adapters machined to adapt the bolt pattern to my car and center caps machined from scratch to replace the original caps that were missing from the wheels (and made of "unobtanium"). Below are a couple neat photos of the caps being machined by a friend of mine... that was pretty much the defining moment for me, when I realized I am way, way in "deep".

    Here are my sure-fire ways to tell if you possibly have a problem with this sickness we call a "hobby". Feel free to comment or email with some of your "signs"!

    -You find yourself spending the majority of your spare money on your project or things related to the hobby.

    -You routinely break plans with family/significant other/friends to work in your garage on your project.

    -Greasy finger nails and  busted knuckles regardless of your "9-5" job.

    -When you aren't working on the project, you are talking about it... even if the person you are talking to has no idea what you are talking about.

    -You begin to sleep less and less in favor of late nights in the garage.

    -Skipping work to get a jump on a part or car you "HAD to have"

    -You find more and more of your clothing becoming "work clothes" without even realizing it.

    -You take more pictures and document more of your project than you do of your own family.

    -Mandatory family events and trips you try and work out a way to insert something relating to the hobby. (For me I've been known to search the local craigslist ads for areas where I will be traveling through)


    Don't forget to take a break once in a while and spend some quality time with the family, and keep the peace. Be happy that you have a understanding family/significant other, that puts up with you getting so far into it!

    Thanks for reading, I gotta get out in the garage and work on my next obsession... I mean "project".


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