How Does a Hot Tank Work?

How Does a Hot Tank Work?

View All Parts From This Machine: John Deere 724J Wheel Loader
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As an industry leader in salvaging heavy construction equipment, we deal with 1000s of used parts every week. And those parts come to us with a little (or even a lot) of their past work spackled on their shells. Grease, dirt, grime, and paint -- our parts leave Teardown with the shadows of their history written all over them. But underneath that debris, there’s often a part that’s only a few seals, some new bearings, and some expert work in our Recon and Rebuild shop from heading back to work on your machine. But the first step to making that happen is a good, deep clean, and one of the tools we use for that is the hot tank.

What is a hot tank?

Hot tanks and ‘hot-tanking’ are common across industries that routinely work in repairing and restoring used parts to a nearly-new state. At their most basic, hot tanks are simply large containers that apply heat and industrial chemicals to a part over a certain amount of time to remove debris. 

How big is a hot tank?

From DIY hot tanks in personal workshops to large industrial hot tanks, the size of a hot tank is dependent on the size of parts being worked on. Big Blue, the H&R hot tank at our Buffalo, New York location, is about 9 feet square and 5 feet tall with a 1200 gallon capacity. Since our parts are often large, our hot tank is loaded using a forklift and a hydraulic platform dips and removes the hot tank from the solution. 

A large blue hot tank.
The work of a hot tank can be a dirty job and Big Blue is proof of that. Maybe we should get a bigger hot tank to hot tank our hot tank.

What is inside of a hot tank?

The hot tank is filled with industrial chemicals that, when combined with water heated to around 115 degrees, will loosen and dissolve debris, grease, and paint, but not be overly corrosive to the submerged parts. In year’s past a hot tank was filled with highly toxic chemicals, but today the solution is designed to be better for the environment and safer to work with. One side effect of the current solution is an increase in the time it takes to work on parts, but given the benefit to the environment and the worker the trade-off is a clear win for the new solutions.

Why do you hot tank parts?

One of the early (and repeated) steps in our H&R Upfront Process is inspecting our parts. To get a clear picture of the condition of a part, it helps if you’re looking at perfectly clean parts. If you’ve ever been handed a used part still covered in yesterday’s muck and crud, you might have wondered, “Can I trust the part under all this?” Well, so would we -- that’s why we work hard to peel back the curtain on the real condition of our parts. 

Dings, dents, hairline cracks, even minor signs of uneven wear: all of these can be hidden under debris and the hot tank is an important tool in revealing any issues in a used part. 

The hot tank process also ensures when parts move into Recon and Rebuild they don’t introduce any contaminants into the process. It might seem simple, but clean parts in equals clean parts out.

And finally, the hot tank can remove multiple layers of paint. One of the final steps in our process is a trip through our painting shop and the hot tank ensures our paint has a clean and proper surface to stick to. A used part from H&R might not be new to the world, but it’s new to you and we want it to look that way.

Can you hot tank aluminum? Are all metals safe to hot tank?

Aluminum is a no-go with our H&R hot tank since the process and the solution inside it would be too corrosive to the metal -- we use other techniques when we work on aluminum parts. Steel and brass parts are safe to hot tank, but care should always be taken to ensure every part of your part is safe for the hot tank.

How long does it take to hot tank a part?

The amount of time a part requires in the hot tank is based on both the size of the part and the amount of matter that needs to be removed. Much of the debris will dissolve in the solution while other material will be loosened from the part and fall away to the bottom of the tank. Due to the number of factors that can influence the time, our Recon and Rebuild team are seasoned experts in evaluating the time and adjusting if more team is needed to ensure parts come out ready for a rinse, a quick drying off, and their next step in the process. 


And now on to the feature presentation! Take a trip into the H&R Recon and Rebuild shop with Parts Specialist Shawn Whiddon and watch as he walks you through our hot tank process, highlights its importance, and shows how a part goes from grimy to great with the help of the H&R hot tank.



Hot Tank Image Gallery

A disassembled brake hub.
A disassembled brake hub and final drive are ready for the hot tank.
A number of partly-painted parts.
The parts from the hub and final are collected in a metal box. The H&R hot tank is large enough that the whole bin will go in the hot tank.
Parts fresh out of the hot tank.
Parts are fresh out of the hot tank and the paint is barely hanging on -- a few blasts from the pressure washer and it'll be "Good-bye" to the old paint.
A clean part.
A Recon and Rebuild tech will also use a pneumatic buffer to fully clean the parts.
A fully cleaned part.
So fresh and so clean -- this part is ready to connect with the housing.
A restored and reassembled part.
Restored. Reassembled. Ready for work. This part looks brand new and will move on to a customer.