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How to: Cleaning your cooling system with vinegar

Old 08-02-2011, 04:53 PM
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Default How to: Cleaning your cooling system with vinegar

Thought I would bump this up for a spring cleaning tip with the boating season just getting under way for many members. Might be a good time to "decrust"



The test was to see the effectiveness of using vinegar to remove salt and scale deposits from a marine engine.
The test subject is a salt water used 1994 Yamaha 130 V4 with unknown history of maintenance until about 18 months ago. At that time I purchased the engine and have used it about 80% in salt and flushed thoroughly after every use. I recently ran the boat for about 50 miles in fresh water and then a nice salt water run about a week ago.

I filled a large heavy duty garbage can about 2/3 full with water and added 4 gallons of vinegar. The boat has a nosecone and uses a transom mounted water pickup so I disconnected the house, primed the pump, and dropped it into the water then lowered the lower unit as far as possible.

Yes, that is a little grass stuck in the t-stats. Last time out I ran through a lot of floating grass in Charlotte Harbor that gets pickup up by my transom mount pickup.

These are pics of the test subject, thermostats, and housings prior to the test.
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Last edited by Mr. Demeanor; 05-07-2012 at 09:09 AM.
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Old 08-02-2011, 04:57 PM
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I ran the motor for about 20 minutes and then the temp started to creep up due the water in the garbage can getting hot. I checked one thermostat and found most of the salt gone
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Old 08-02-2011, 05:00 PM
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These are before and after pics of the same t-stat after 20 minutes
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Old 08-02-2011, 05:05 PM
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I continued to run the boat on and off all day for maybe an 1-1/2 hour total but didnt see whole lot of improvment. When I finished I pulled it apart again and this is the result. The scale on the thermostats simply wiped off leaving the shiny surface in the second pic. of it.
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Old 08-02-2011, 05:13 PM
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When I started, the scale (not salt) buildup was hard as iron. I noticed when I was done it was very soft...kind of gooey. There was no way I could have removed it prior to this test but after, most of it easily came out with a spray from a garden hose and I scooped some out with a screwdrive. I think going for a good run in the boat right after this treatment would remove a lot of that loosened material that just didnt get washed away idleing in a bucket.
This is the t-stat housing before the test and after a good squirt with a hose and a little cleaning.
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Last edited by Mr. Demeanor; 08-02-2011 at 05:26 PM.
Old 08-02-2011, 05:16 PM
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Heres some video I took before and after. I saw a small improvement in water pressure but I wouldnt put a lot of weight on that which could be caused by a small change in how it was idling.

Edit: Looking at the video, the change in water pressure was pretty significant.


Last edited by Mr. Demeanor; 08-02-2011 at 08:25 PM.
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Old 08-02-2011, 05:20 PM
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Overall, I am completely convinced vinegar does a great job of removing salt and even loosens the scale buildup inside the cooling system of a fresh water cooled engine. This will now be a regular part of my maintenance program. As far as it comparing to salt removing products sold to boaters, I cant imagine they would work any better. The salt is almost completely gone which is the goal IMO.

A few words of caution:
1. Remove your prop to avoid a potential accident.
2. The water GETS HOT.
3. Dont leave your boat idleing unattended.


Here is the garbage can. The water started clear. When it all settles, I will pour off the top and post pics of what came out.

New pics added. There is a lot of "gunk" the the bottom of the can which was cleaned before the test. The white stuff came out of the opti and is pretty fine like powder. The grey and grit came out of the Yamaha. The pics dont do the amount of crud removed from the engine justice and I am sure the salt was all suspended in the water I siphoned off.
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Last edited by Mr. Demeanor; 08-04-2011 at 09:59 AM.
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Old 08-02-2011, 05:21 PM
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Thats it. I will edit and upload video later.
Thanks
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Old 08-02-2011, 06:31 PM
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Good posts. I may try the same on my 16 year Yamahas.
Old 08-02-2011, 06:59 PM
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Excellent real world testing....I am sure many on here will appreciate your efforts,, Thanks
Old 08-02-2011, 07:03 PM
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fantastic...ive been toying around with trying this...thanks for posting...
Old 08-02-2011, 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Cracker View Post
Excellent real world testing....I am sure many on here will appreciate your efforts,, Thanks
Definitely! Excellent project......I wonder if there's a way to just plug the bottom of the engine cooling system and pour the vinegar in from the top and let it soak a while, then fire it up in the garbage can and blow it all out?
Old 08-02-2011, 08:01 PM
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Originally Posted by maxie View Post
Definitely! Excellent project......I wonder if there's a way to just plug the bottom of the engine cooling system and pour the vinegar in from the top and let it soak a while, then fire it up in the garbage can and blow it all out?
You could drop your lower unit and plugged the water tube that goes up into the midsection but at some point it will come out the exhaust side. I would fear it would back up the exhaust side into the cylinders. I'll have to think about that...
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Old 08-02-2011, 08:17 PM
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Excellent post!
Would you say your concentration was about 10% +/-
Old 08-02-2011, 08:26 PM
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Video added.
Old 08-02-2011, 08:45 PM
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Thanks for taking the effort to photo this.
Vinegar is certainly cheaper than salt-away or similar product. I think I will start using vinegar in the salt-away dispenser for regular flsuhing and then may
be the garbage can every several months.
IMO, the earlier Yamaha's metallurgy was inferior. I had a 1986 v6 special 220hp that three times I had to pull the heads and clean out the water passages and both water jacket covers corroded through after about 12 years of ownership( it was used to start with also). I'm pretty good about flushing too though that motor wasn't run real often. I still have older yammie 2 strokes but I am obsessive about salt-away but I will switch to the vinegar.
Old 08-02-2011, 09:26 PM
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Im knocking around the idea of pulling the heads on this motor to raise the compression. They will get anodized before they get modified and reinstalled.
Old 08-03-2011, 04:26 AM
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Why not just use salt away?
Old 08-03-2011, 05:43 AM
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Originally Posted by v70cat View Post
Why not just use salt away?
$$$$$$$$$$

Great thread,thanks for taking the time to document.
Old 08-03-2011, 05:58 AM
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Vinegar is just an acid. Personally I've used dishwasher detergent as a closed cooling system cleaner for decades, but it's a base. I've also cleaned manifolds with strong hydrochloric acid to dissolve rust. But, you've gotta STOP the cleaning reaction!

When you combine an acid and a base, you get salt and water. Anytime you introduce either an acid or a base into a cooling system you should neutralize the system to remove any residual acidic or caustic residue to prevent further deterioration. Then, flush with clean, ph neutral water.

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