Author Topic: Heat dispersants, Ceramic coatings, Oil shedders, etc Misc rantings  (Read 310 times)

Online Sluggo

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Okay, feel free to ignore as my rantings are not always welcomed, Or universally endorsed.
As my friend Ken Armann says "Best taken in small doses" (He is a California British bike shop owner, Chiropractor and naturopath and smart guy).

I started experimenting with a variety of coatings about 20 years ago due to an association with a few local shops who were also starting to use such coatings as well as visiting a few shops who were offering the coatings.  Some are still around, some are not, But one shop was a pretty die hard bunch of racing enthusiasts and they have a long history of racing all kinds and types and have been especially passionate at the Land Speed record game and hold a number of records.

One of my other vendors of my shop back in the day and a guy I considered a good friend was Dan Hall (R.I.P) and Dan ran a machine shop catering to racers as well as was active in the racing fraternity for many decades.  Dan did not do coatings for others but was an avid applicator and user on his own stuff.  He was also a big time gunsmith and collector and he used it on many of his firearm builds.

So, as my Scottish friends say.. "A bit of a chew" this may be a long read and tedious for some but for those interested ill ramble a bit and hopefully somebody benefits.

So, probably some good articles and websites who can explain the details better so Ill keep it light on specs and keep it fairly general.

Theres a variety of coatings that the local shops apply and some seem to be more benefit than others, and only you can truly decide what the benefit might be and that can vary depending on application and cost/use/results is just part of it.

What I have used are the following and applications:

Heat dispersant.   This seems to be typically a Semi gloss black finish only but MIGHT be available in other colors.  I have only seen it in Semi-gloss black.   Good for many applications from Brake drums and components, Oil pans, Cyl blocks, heads, cases, or any other medium where heat is a problem.  Works well in my experience. Good value for the $$$$$

Ceramic Heat barrier coatings,  Can be used in many ways, but I have used it on exhaust systems both for used or custom pipes where Chrome is gone or knackered and prohibitive to rechrome,, Or used in new exhaust to prevent blueing and cut down on heat.  Very useful for my Buells where the rear cyls get  cooked,  Comes in variety of finishes depending on shop, applicator and end use.  Used to be Finishline used to offer a lifetime gurantee on exhaust coatings but got away from that on some of the colors but I used to know a lady with a Purple exhaust on her bike.  Most typically more common colors such as Satin & gloss Blacks, Silver, Chrome replica (Extra shiny silver), & Gold,   Works very well in the apps I have used and depending on many factors the value is debateable but I consider it a good value $$$$$

Friction modifiers or Moly coatings.  This is a contentious topic as there are a number of products out there.  But I have used 2 shops applying their versions and in general had very good results.  Can be used anything that rubs or slides but typically most often applied to Piston skirts, cams, and transmission parts.  On a few builds years back we did most every part imaginable and it was quite expensive but overall I think in many cases its a good option and good value $$$$$ But some parts it does not seem worth while unless you are flush with cash, want bragging rights, or totally OCD.

Engine ceramic coatings.  I am putting this separate from the early mention because I am not certain that this is a one size fits all product and I have seen a few cases where it flaked off or worn away and some caution should be used inside an engine.  I have had good success with piston tops but only mixed results with valve faces and combustion chambers. I DO think the inside of exhaust ports is a great use and so far, have had good results and significant heat drops in the apps we used it in.  (Many cyl heads can use all the help they can get and some of the highest oil temps in an engine are in the head)

Oil shedding coatings.  This is debatable for many but IMHO there are a few really good uses for this and the best one is the bottom of pistons. (undersides)  Not all pistons have this problem but the underside of the dome sees tremendous heat from Combustion and Oil can coke.. Or turn into nasty charred material, in the least It breaks down oil thats trying to cool that piston so any help here is a good idea. The oil shedder allows oil splash but keeps it from clinging.  I know a few that use it in engine cases and oil pans in Auto applications but overkill for old British bikes IMHO,, but Pistons is where I use it.

Decorative ceramic or powder coatings.  There are some that use some of these coatings for appearance and custom finishes.  Ill touch on that in a minute for a well known Norton guy,, And for some of the Salt racers it can be useful as well to prevent corrosion. I have not done a lot of this,, But Im building some display cut away motors and other machinery for our museum and promotion work so will be exploring this further but the tech has come a long way as well. A lot of very interesting coatings out there and more all the time.  Theres several local shops doing something called "Hydroforming" and it appears to be a variety of wraps and coatings that vary from a carbon fibre appearance to some very wild custom finishes that defy my descriptions.

As to Powder coatings, Aint no such thing as a one size fits all powder coat.    many of the above coatings are technically a "Powder coat" as well but for this discussion I am talking about electro applied dry powder that once baked is similar to a baked on enamel paint.  Again, theres a seemingly hundreds of varieties.  Some are VERY hard and durable, Some are soft and easily damaged, Some are very glossy, but not all.  One of my local coaters showed me several of his catalogs and the variety is boggling.    I have had mixed results with them. I had shop customers who were very unhappy with powder coatings that they had done. (I was not involved) and some swear by them but sure can complicate peoples lives if you have to work or service, or repair something.
I used to have a partner in my shops early days & he LOVED powder coat.  Did several of his Nortons and one day wrecked a recently built bike he had spent 2 years building. Went down hard and did a lot of damage.   He tried to sand it off, sandblast it, chemically strip it all without success.   At that time there was about 38 Powder coating shops in the extended area but only 1 that would strip it off.    Many expletives were uttered.  Being stubborn & a bit of a Masochist he of course re-powder coated everything after repair.
I do custom paint & bodywork and I am a big fan of modern paints, I can repair a lot of damage without having to strip down the entire vehicle and often times do a spot repair without any disassembly.  So, my thoughts are I will paint most parts but I like to powder coat certain components.  Centerstands, side stands, and some bracketry But frames and other parts I prefer a modern Poly or catalyzed enamel.

So, here are some anecdotes on some coatings and experiences.  I went and discussed these coatings with Dan Hall, Dan ran a machine shop in North Portland Oregon  and while sadly he passed away some years ago, he was a very well known racer and expert in certain types of circles.  Porsches, Air cooled VW, Italian, British cars and bikes were common to see parts in his shop.  We discussed our firearms as well and Dan told me "You can take any of my guns and bury them in the desert or throw them in the river and leave them for 10 years, go back and retrieve them and they will be totally functional" He used a variety of coatings on them from the lubricants to ceramics.  They performed better and worked very well the way he did the coatings on them.
But more specific is his racing engines.  Dan did all kinds of racing but he mostly competed in sports car racing regionally as well as sometimes nationally.  PIR, SIR, Sears Point, Laguna, and sometimes road Atlanta or Mid Ohio when chasing a title.
Dan told me that of course he did all the std engine blueprinting and performance mods, but after he was done he said

" I dont rebuild my motors anymore. They never need it. I recoat them when they need it.  On those old British bikes you are working on most of your customers will never wear out the coatings in their lifetimes, but on my race engines I get 1 to 2 seasons out of them before I recoat them.  On  my cars I can tell when the coatings are going away as I lose 200 or 300 RPM and normally on the main straight at PIR I can see the temp gauge bouncing as the thermostat opens and closes but when the coatings are wearing out the temps run hotter"

Thats pretty exceptional as he is hitting well over 100 mph as the main straight is very long at PIR and many cars have extreme heat control problems on that track in the summer. 

He told me he coats EVERYTHING in & outside his motors, trans, differentials and does all his brake parts.
I test drove his hill climb car and that gearbox in most cases is crunchy in most cars but on his it shifted like silk. 

One of our local coating shops is called Finish Line coatings, Russ & Lana are great people and very passionate about racing, business comes second.  They race on the salt and have for decades. The list of their customers are a long list of every type of racer imaginable and you wont find any who say the coatings are a waste of time.   They used to sell copies of the book over the counter but many years ago some guys wrote a book called "How to hotrod your motorhome"  This initially amused me, But I was impressed.  Motorhomes have some unique issues and problems and these guys approached Russ and Lana and did a lot of experiments and devoted some of the book to the benefits of these coatings.  The tests were conducted locally and involved before & after tests of braking systems with the coatings (HUGE improvements) Simple improvements such as the transmission oil pan. (Again a big improvement) and some of the engine parts.  I dont recall all the numbers and I never bought the book (Dont have a motorhome) but it was a great endorsement of what these coatings can do.

Theres another British bike figure that is well known.  I have known him for close to 30 years.  Kenny Dreer.  He started a small shop with 2 other guys I am friends with. Gary "Mr Linky" Lindquist & "Shaky Jake" Schonecker and back then it was called "Vintage Rebuilders" but eventually over many years became "Norton America Motorsports" and that in it self is a long story.  We had a old guy I always called "Uncle Cliffy" but he was known as Cliff "The Sandy Bandit" Mahjor and initially ran a shop with Bud Ekins but moved up to Portland and was internationally famous.  For a long time we called Kenny "The Carver Bandit" as many of us thought his prices were just as insane as the "Sandy Bandit"  Kenny lived in a little town called Carver near the Clackamas river and I now live just  a few miles from there.  (Kennys retired & in Florida now)

Kenny was quick to start using these same coatings and I often went over and visited his shop. Several times he offered me a job but we are oil & water or chalk & cheese, and while friends,,
Few people can last long in a daily working environment with him but like many of my friends I always tried to focus in on whatever his or others strengths are.  I learned a great deal from him and will ALWAYS be very grateful to all he taught me and I learned from him. We had our differences many times but I came away every time Inspired and motivated. 
But Kenny was always a constant salesman and always evolving.  Over time things changed and what was the hot product this week might not be so much 6 months later.  He rarely ever discussed failures or problems.  It was always onto the next big thing.

In the earlier days of the shop they did BSA, Triumphs and a few Nortons but eventually we all know where that led to.  One of the first things  I noticed was all his builds had nice looking exhausts and asked his secret which of course I adopted & adapted.   You mock up the build, but set aside the new exhaust. Break it in old crappy pipes set aside for that purpose. Do all your tuning, adjustments and break in miles on the old exhaust.  Have the new system ceramic coated on the ID.  The truth is,, you only need the first 15" inches but the coating tends to coat the whole pipes.  As long as you keep the exhaust tight and no air leaks they dont blue.  At the worse a little straw color the first 1" or 2".  *IF* you get a air leak, all bets are off.. it will blue no matter what.    I have had people comment on my bikes as well...
"Nice bike but shame its a trailer queen and not ridden"  (F### off!).

As well,,, used or custom pipes you had made,,, You can have coated inside & out and works great!

Anyrate,, Back to Kenny.. So Kenny almost ALWAYS "Over restored" and he took many of his builds to new standards, He was totally OCD and I admit,, I copied a lot of what he was doing, every visit to his shop was a tremendous learning curve boost.    But he tried a number of coatings for appearances.. I have an old picture from back in the day with his old Buffer and he is covered head to toe with black polishing compound and he is standing there with a goofy grin holding a 190mm BSA brake hub he was polishing.  After a while he would farm out such jobs but he was always looking for new ways to improve and some worked and some did not.  He used a number of coatings on engine cases, heads and other parts.  Polishing Norton heads and cases will drive any person insane..  Some of them worked well and the parts looked amazing and easy to maintain, wipe them off with some cleaner from time to time. Easy detailing.

But some of these coatings trapped too much heat and some after application triggered casting distortion.  I have a few stories related to that but the point is, old parts can distort or go out of whack easily so not to say dont use them, but dont assume any British Bike part will hold tolerances or specs.  ( BSA engine cases are especially prone to this, I have extensive experience in this)  So, Kenny lets just say had a few issues with some of the coatings, but he also had a lot of success.

So, Werner.  Great guy and sadly another R.I.P.  Old shop customer. He was a German Immigrant after the war and sent over to setup shop for BMW and Porsche.  He ran a very successful dealership locally and then sold out in the 1970s and then opened Salzman Motors serving German Cars.  He was a very demanding customer but fair.  If you could show him how an extra expense or upgraded part was worthwhile he WOULD spend the money.  Thats something I always respected & appreciated about him compared to many of my cheap B***** ooops, scratch that.. "Economy conscious British bike owners"   So, Germans LOVE Nortons! And he paid me to rebuild a Commando and do a mild cafe taking into consideration his age.
So, he opted for a number of coatings and was very happy with them. At the time I had a BMW 2002 as well (and several Datsun 510s which is a carbon copy in many ways of the 2002)
So Werner was working on a 2002 for his personal car as a project. He tried the coatings internally in his engine.  He ran his pistons a little tight and we think it scuffed off a little Moly and he was having some ring seating issues. Dan Hall advised just keep running it and it did clear up,., but opinions vary but with the moly piston coatings you have to be very careful on break in or leave a little room (Half thou generally). 

But anyone who knows 1970s BMW 2002 all know about the death rattle. The motor leans over and the exhaust heat is a real problem on these. They run a heat shield but they all rattle like crazy and a big complaint about them.  So, Werner bought an expensive stainless exhaust and no heat shield, Took it to Finish line coatings and had it ceramic coated inside & out.  Werner called me one day and in his thick accent told me excitedly how well it worked...

"Jah,,, I take them down I-84 and go up to 100mph,,and pull off at Troutdale and check my tune, normally exhausts are orange or red and glowing. This new exhaust,,NOTHING,,Nein,, Nothing! So I reach down and no heat! Nothing! So I grabbed the pipe and burnt my hand!  Its still hot but not glowing or hot like normal! Almost no heat coming off those pipes!" 
So, needless to say,, a very happy man.

Going fwd,, I highly recommend you look into this stuff, and do your own research.  I worked as a mill wright in a aerospace manufacturer and set aside the materials to make my own curing ovens but never got around to making them.  Dan Hall did all his own coatings but would not do it as part of his business for the machine shop.  I have several friends who do their own powder coatings,,    I might do some ceramic and lubrication coatings myself on some parts down the road, but on some parts like Pistons,, I will pay to have certain shops do the work for me. 

Here is one of my local shops..See: http://finishlinecoatings.com/

Ill revisit this thread and try and update some pictures. I have a few parts in the shop I can take some pictures of now, valves, pistons and a set of pistons from a motor that saw around 1500 miles before a partial seizure and damaged some of the parts but it would have been much worse without the coatings. The seizure issues were related to the owner and not related to the engine work i did.
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Online Black Sheep

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Gosh Sluggo, a most impressive rant! I'm still at the Neolithic stage with my bikes - SAE 40 oil and a tin of gloss black. It's amazing they are still going and doing what they should after 40+ years of abuse and neglect. More rants please! 
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Online Sluggo

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Many of these old motors were very agricultural in design and application, and thus it is to be expected they dont need rocket science to succeed.  I worked for a Ural & Enfield dealership for a while & that was interesting.  I found it charming that the Enfields at the time adopted the slogan

"Unencumbered by Technology!"  (or was it Not Impeded?) any rate, I thought that was a great statement.

I used to have and can no longer find it, but its a picture of an old BSA engine out in a field or rice paddy probably in India,,, Its running a water pump for irrigation and the fuel can is an old paint tin with the top sawed off.  Apparently it chugs away day in and day out unattended and occasionally a farmer shows up and slops some petrol in the open top can.  If anyone has that picture or something similar, Id love to have a copy,.

But on an old plonker like an A10 or a B33 with cast iron cyl and head I think these coatings can be a great benefit and intend to coat several of my motors in upcoming builds.  I did several Preunit Triumphs and their owners were very happy with them.  They dont see a lot of miles sadly, but its been over 10 years now and still performing well.

Remember that any advice received on a free internet forum is generally worth about 1/2 of what you paid for it.
We overcharge every 3rd customer to pass the savings onto you.
You can have High Quality, Low price, and fast turnaround. Pick any 2, Never all 3 at the same time.

Online Black Sheep

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Brilliant picture - and so apt... I am occasionally puzzled as to why people spend a fortune on an engine rebuild and then don't actually use it. I have no doubt that various coatings would be good for agricultural BSAs. A nagging thought says I really should think about them. In my defence, in normal day-to-day use the old things hang together remarkably well. My 1951 Star Twin has never failed to get me home in 40 years of regular use. Commuting, holidays, important appointments etc. Not a bad record.
As one old gentleman was heard to say (while looking at a Rudge as it happens), "if I knew it was going to last this long I would have specified cheaper materials". 
2 twins, 2 singles, lots of sheep