Coca-Cola, wonder solvent cleans my BMW tools

BMW tools & Coke

I'm so far along in fixing up my 1975 R75/6 that I decided to clean its tool kit.

Every BMW airhead of the time came with a fantastically complete toolkit that'd pretty much get you out of any situation. Sadly, the BMW does not come with know-how, for that I turn to a Clymer manual, good friends and the source of all knowledge, Internet forums.

While taking the lead in swapping out my old toaster tank for a slightly larger, better looking, model and installing a new-to-me S bikini fairing, my pal Dan Rodarte commented on the poor condition of my tool set. They were, as you can see in the photo above, slowly rusting away. He suggested dipping them in Coca-Cola and scrubbing them a bit as the kits are so handy and hard to come by. I remember the myriad guides I've seen on the internet of people doing similar things with the tasty beverage and thought, OK. Lets try it! Coke is a wonderful source of phosphoric acid and its supposed to clean rust, what'd I have to lose?

Here are some photos of the results. I simply poured a 16oz coke into a glass bowl (I wanted something non-reactive, who'd want to ruin a nice pot with Coke?) and let the worst looking tools sit for a few minutes. All I did was scrub with an abrasive green kitchen sponge. Dan warned me not to leave the tools in too long or the coke might eat too much off!

BMW chrome vanadium wrench

Same wrench, post Coke lavage

MOAR Wrench less rust

Soon the bike'll be on the road again (I'm waiting on a few silly bits to show up, should be by early next week) and I'll share a lot more about the restoration. Here's a shot as she comes back together...

BMW getting put back together

Notable Replies

  1. As the mechanical lords giveth, some taketh away. Following is from a once-running (and racing) dual-plugged R100 motor that was subsequently scrapped and her jugs/pistons removed and placed into a then-1975 R75/6. The R100 :

    From left, crankshaft bearing, crank timing sprocket, outer ring of the oil pump (with the cover slightly behind and left), the purple bottle contains human lubricant that works really, really well, then connecting rod, camshaft with timing sprocket, crankshaft (a beautiful thing if there ever was one) and finally the crankshaft "collar" that was once centered in the engine block.
    All these parts will get a thorough washing and will be displayed for my own smashed/cut fingers, spilled oil, curses of fury and joy, and simple pleasure.
    Glad you got the /6 running and I hope you enjoy the ride!

  2. As far as I'm aware the ph/cleaning power of coke (which are closely connected) come entirely from the carbonation. So anything you can clean with coke, especially those tips from internet listacles, you're probably better off using club soda/seltzer. Less sugar to leave things sticky, and it cleans just as well if not better than coke. I bartend and behind the bar soda from the gun system is one of our primary cleaners (along with no rise sanitizer). I use it anywhere things get sticky; and to clean off my metal shakers, spoons, and other tools. Longer soaks in a cup or bucket of soda can remove residue and tarnish from the internal bits of tap systems, soda guns, and other mechanical bits behind the bar. Its seems there's two things going on. Its acidic, and the bubbles provide some necessary agitation. Fresh soda from a fountain/gun system or one of those soda makers seems to work better than the bottled kind, presumably because its often more aggressively carbonated. Unfortunately it won't clean heavy tarnish/residue, rust or what can best be called "bio-film". So for that we use bar detergent like Barkeeper's Friend (no really), or metal polishes like Brasso.

    In terms of the remaining rust on the tools you should consider doing something about it. The pitting and damage to the finish will just lead to more and faster damage down the line (especially in a salty coastal area). You'll probably have to resort of fine sandpaper, steel wool, or abrasive on a buffing wheel, or even a wire brush. It's gonna remove the chrome/coating/finish if there is one which will fuck the collector value (if cleaning them already didn't) if there is any (or you care). You can try to focus very specifically on the damaged areas but your gonna lose at least some of the finish. Presumable you could have the tools re-chromed (or chromed if they aren't) if you want to strip off the finish entirely, but that seems pointlessly expensive if you aren't trying to restore them. You might be better off just buffing them to a good polish using some fine abrasive and a buffing wheel on grinder. The finer grit you polish to, the less rust prone things are supposed to be. If you oil them occasionally after they should remain rust free. Both my grandfathers were mechanics, and both swore by used motor oil to keep their tools rust free. The one grandfather used to soak his sockets in old oil before cleaning them. I just use vegetable oil, but I'm mostly dealing with knives and the occasional axe or what have.

    I've also heard good things about various "bluing" solutions. Apparently its meant to patch up the finish on fire-arms, so its not as durable as real bluing or as rust resistant. But I've heard its adequate for certain cutting edges like kitchen knives, straight razors, and splitting tools if cared for. Might work to cover the pitting that you've got, or completely replace the finish if you buff everything down. There seem to be a couple types of this stuff. Some of them seem to coat the metal with a thicker more black coating, others are just thin acid based solution that react with the metal to create the coating. I don't have links for you unfortunately as I don't know much about it. Anyone know more about this stuff (or related products I might have seen mis-labeled as bluing)?

  3. make sure you wash the coke off very very well, it will continue eating. As a vintage bike and vintage tool enthusiast, i beg you, wash, then neutralize. a nice LIGHT coating of WD-40, or even better? Max(tm) Super Lubricant. My gun shop guy recommended this instead of branded "gun oils" it works great on firearms, tools, motorcycle bits.

    and second for Simichrome, i know guys at 4 resto shops that swear by it for final cleaning and polishing

    nice looking airhead BTW. recently sold my conversion-outfit...

  4. Great choice of bike. I think the slash 5 and 6 Airheads are beautiful and functional. I love the Airhead motto "Simple by Choice". Riding one says something about you "taking the road not taken". However I would not use Coca Cola to clean my tools.

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