copper washers | FerrariChat

copper washers

Discussion in 'Technical Q&A' started by Bob Downing, Dec 22, 2003.

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  1. Bob Downing

    Bob Downing Karting

    Nov 7, 2003
    Full Name:
    Saw a neat trick on the discovery channel (car is reborn show)
    Take a propane torch and heat your copper crush washers cherry red, when they cool they are soft again and can be reused to seal all your leaks.
  2. carguy

    carguy F1 Rookie

    Oct 30, 2002
    Alabama (was Mich.)
    Full Name:
    Yes Bob that is a neat trick. I believe that this is a one time shot....and can't be repeated, not sure exactly why. It's pretty easy to simply get new copper washers, but if they are not available for the specific application then heating them up is the only way to go.
  3. CraigFL

    CraigFL Formula Junior

    Jan 17, 2001
    Panama City, FL
    Full Name:
    One of the unique things about copper is that it "work hardens". You can see it do this if you've ever tried to bend a copper wire and then try to bend it back. Because of the work hardening effect, it actually gets stronger where you bent it so it will not bend back in the same place but somewhere nearby where its softer. This would mean that a hard washer wouldn't conform to surface irregularities as well and may not seal.

    Torquing down a copper washer and leaving it there can have this effect also. Annealing (heating to red hot and allowing it to cool) will reverse the effect so that the washer is soft again and can seal better. It can be done over and over again.
  4. ricrain

    ricrain Karting

    Nov 1, 2003
    Dallas Area
    Full Name:
    While I've used this trick in crunch circumstances (and it works quite well), you also have to spend time cleaning the copper of oxidation after the torch. That ends up being a fair amount of time spent "restoring" a 30 cent washer. I also figured out that even with the cheapest torch (propane or butane), the cost of the fuel exceeds the cost of the washer. Like I said, useful in a crunch (e.g. day before a track event, and no stores are open), but not really effective as a practice.

    The one really cool exception to this rule is solid copper head gaskets. :) (ref:
  5. Lawrence Coppari

    Lawrence Coppari Formula 3

    Apr 29, 2002
    Kingsport, TN
    Full Name:
    Lawrence A. Coppari
    Most home workshops have propane torches that are used for other purposes. I seriously doubt that you use 30 cents worth of propane to heat a washer cherry red. The heating takes just a few seconds. Just suspend the washer on a thin wire so holding it does not remove the heat. Needless to say, the suspension wire should have a higher melting point than copper.

    As for spending time cleaning the residue off the washer, just rub it on emery cloth. Fold the cloth between your thumb and index finger and pull the washer through it. The residue quicky comes off. It takes me about 2 minutes to clean a washer excluding the time for it to cool off so I can pick it up. I use them over and over unless they are not the flat type.

    Eventually the washer will get too thin to use. But if you are careful with torque application, they last a long time. I don't use a torque wrench and the specified torque for this. I just tighten until I feel the gasket 'give' indicating you've exceeded the yield point of the metal. This is generally below the prescribed torque value and does not thin the gasket as much. Furthermore, copper probably exhibits hysteresis and the original torque values might not apply.
  6. ferrarifixer

    ferrarifixer F1 Veteran

    Jul 22, 2003
    Full Name:
    Phil Hughes
    We should of course, all be using aluminium washers to reduce corrosion and reactions from disimilar metals.

    How many threads have been ripped out of sumps and oil tanks.?......using copper causes a reaction which eventually softens the threads of the adjacent metal. If that thread happens to be marginal....such as 308 engine sumps, TRossa oil tanks etc etc, the chances of ripping the thread out are higher, especially as the cars get older.

    Using aluminium washers will not be a miracle cure, but will lengthen lifespans will keeping gorillas off the tools!
  7. ricrain

    ricrain Karting

    Nov 1, 2003
    Dallas Area
    Full Name:
    Sorry to be a PITA on this, but if you spend 2 minutes on a 30 cent washer, that has a net payoff of $9/hr. Now tell the truth, you DO make more than $9/hr don't you? :)
  8. ShanB

    ShanB Formula Junior

    Jul 9, 2003
    Full Name:
    So....what's a good source for copper washers? - sounds strange but I can't seem to find them anywhere I've looked.
  9. Steve King

    Steve King F1 Rookie

    Feb 15, 2001
    I just bought a dozen of these for my 77 from T Rutlands at $1 a piece. Thats 12 years worth of oil changes if I can remember where I keep them. So far I tape them to my 1/2 dozen Baldwin filters. $8 each from my local truck supply store.
  10. tatcat

    tatcat F1 World Champ
    Owner Silver Subscribed

    Sep 3, 2001
    panama city beach FL
    Full Name:
    rick c

    oh yes, and you could wash out your old condoms and roll them up for re-use. washers are cheap do not re-use them. don't be pennywise and pound foolish it just ain't worth it.
  11. ferrarifixer

    ferrarifixer F1 Veteran

    Jul 22, 2003
    Full Name:
    Phil Hughes
    We all know about penny/pound...but sometimes you just don't have the bits to hand, and if you're doing it in your back yard, it's better to anneal them than to just re-use them in their work hardened state......Reason #1, Book#1, Page#1 for Ferrari's reputation of oil leaks.
  12. Verell

    Verell F1 Veteran
    Consultant Owner

    May 5, 2001
    Groton, MA
    Full Name:
    Verell Boaen
    tatcat, FerrariFixer's Right On,
    When you're 30 minuites 1-way from a source of copper washers, or it's Sunday afternoon, or 1am, or at the track... then the annealing trick is a great one to have in your pocket.

    Your analogy is flawed. An annealed washer seals just as well as a new one, so there's no risk involved.
  13. Motob

    Motob Formula 3
    Professional Ferrari Technician

    Nov 11, 2003
    Frederick, Maryland
    Full Name:
    Brian Brown
    The correct sized crush washers for many of the early cars ('50-'60s) are no longer available from any source, for example the large crush washer on the brake proportioning cylinder on a 250 Lusso. Annealing and reusing the original crush washer is the only option.

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