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MG MGB Technical - Brake Cleaner Warning

Came upon this article on another BBS
Bruce Mills

Everybody needs to read this article. It may save your life!
L A Farka

Absolutly chilling! I use these cleaners all the time. RAY
rjm RAY

The first question Napoleon would ask about an individual he was considering promoting was, "Is he lucky?" because he felt that was a required trait in a commanding officer. Perhaps, also, in life.

This individual seems like the opposite of the type of individual that Napoleon was promoting--quite unlucky and not all that bright.

First, TCE, when used properly, is an outstanding degreasing agent. But, it is almost completely unavailable even on the industrial market. Brake cleaners have, for quite a number of years, been "non-clorinated" meaning that they contain no TCE. To purchase, by chance, the last can of brake cleaner that contains TCE is rather odd. It is still available, but it takes a great deal of searching to still be able to locate it and only a very few specialist stores will carry it. The odds of finding a can of brake cleaner, containing TCE, at a store which has just run out of carb cleaner? If true, this would substantiate my theory of the individual being unlucky.

Add into this the fact that the TCE can, only under conditions of significant heat and in the presence of an uncommon gas, form a more dangerous nerve gas. And, that the individual claims that this is what actually happened.

So, we have a person who uses the more expensive carb cleaner instead of the more commonly used industrial cleaners/degreasers who, when his favorite store is out of carb cleaner, purchases the hard, almost impossible, to find brake cleaner containing TCE. Then, he pre-heats the area with an oxy-acetylene torch, but not sufficiently to drive out all of the very volatile TCE--even the residual heat after the torch is removed is not sufficient, we are told, to drive out all of the remaining TCE. Then, the individual decides to weld up the area using argon gas instead of using some other form of welding such as stick welding or carbon dioxide as the shielding gas. As a result, the very small amount of TCE which might have remained "deep in the pits" was converted to nerve gas of sufficient quantity that it was able to reach, several feet away, the person doing the welding and at a sufficient concentration to cause a great deal of damage to him.

As I said, a very unlucky individual.

Les Bengtson

Hi Les,

Is that your tongue I can see wedged in your cheek??

Chris at Octarine Services

Hi everyone, i am more used to post on the mga bulletin boards but i often read the mgb technical bbs as my mga has a overbored 3 bearing b engine.
I also have experienced the effect of burning trichlorethelene fumes when many years ago i decided to clean the air filter in my honda motorcycle with neat TCE. It cleaned and degreased the filter perfectly but i made the mistake of refitting it before the TCE had evaporated. The bike was in the garage with the back wheel poking out of the open doors.
When i started the engine the exhaust emitted a dense cloud of white smoke which mostly blew outside but when some of it blew back into the garage, the first breath of it knocked me to the ground and i was unable to breathe for maybe a minute or so. It kind of paralysed my lungs and i almost blacked out but i managed to crawl outside and fought for my breath for almost 30min.
It left me with asthma like symptoms for a few months and someone told me later that he thought the burning TCE gave off cyanide fumes which would explain the effect.
So I dont use it anymore and i would advise anyone using it to take extreme care when using anything with TCE in it.
colyn firth

with all these people warning us with their near death stories, one would think that at least one brand name would be mentioned. We all read the name on the can but how many know what's really in the can? Without looking write out whats in all the spray cans in you shop, bet it's a short list. RIC

With all due respect to Les, CRC branded "Brakleen" in the red can contains tetrachloroethylene ( > 95% by Weight):

It is readily available in this part of North Carolina. Perhaps Arizona is different.

The CRC Brakleen in the green can is indeed non-chlorinated and is sold side-by-side on the shelf with the red cans....
Rob Edwards


Before this panic gets out of hand we should look at the chemistry. Which TCE?

According to the literature, the reactions referred to involve trichloroethylene NOT tetrachloroethylene.

In another thread to which I responded it was suggested that argon was also involved in the reaction - argon is a totally inert gas.

David Overington

Chlorine + hi temps = BAD
A perhaps more common catastrophe is cutting through AC/refrig lines with a torch.

FR Millmore

Guys. You are missing the message. The author is absolutely correct. We take it for granted that the products we use and quite frankly MISUSE, are safe. The author is pointing out that this is not the case and he is correct.

Use ammonia as a cleaning product, don't spray chlorine based products with it or you produce a deadly gas.

Phosgene is a common byproduct of a number of items around the house. It is why the old brass pump fire extinguishers were so deadly, they contained TCE and when you sprayed it on a fire, it created phosgene.

We find these in garages all the time.

I work as a safety manager and one of the first things I teach new hires is that they have to stop thinking that just because they can buy it at a grocery or hardware store does not mean it is safe.

READ THE LABEL, Follow the Directions and use the product as it was intended.

This thread was discussed between 17/09/2009 and 19/09/2009

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