If your Ford had a Matthew McConaughey, it would be a Lincoln

Weekend Wrenching: Nitro-What?

I learned something new.

A friend’s been daily-driving this ’94 F-150 since he bought it a few months ago. It’s needed some work, and still needs some work, but this weekend we were able to resolve a very irritating issue. He’s had to visit the gas station every day or two because the front and rear tanks both leak. Rust-tacular!


He’s been able to get by with just putting a little bit of gas in the front tank at a time, because it only leaks if filled more than half-way, hence the frequent refueling stops. So he ordered up a new front tank, along with new straps, and a new pump/sending unit assembly. (Dropping the tank is just too much work to take a chance re-using the original pump, so we figured this would be money well-spent.)

We got the truck up in the air, dropped the old front tank, and were just about to put the new pump/hanger assembly in the new tank, when I noticed something. There was a big gash in the new sending unit’s float, which had also cut through a little plastic baggie that the float arm was wrapped in for shipping.

Artisitic interpretation of damaged float because I was too lazy to get a real photo

Oddly, there was zero damage to the box, which must mean that something happened during or prior to packaging, and somebody didn’t notice (or didn’t care), and just tossed it in the box anyway. This “gash” had broken the float into two pieces, and broken off some small chunks, too.


Because this was a special-ordered part, it wasn’t likely that we would be able to get a replacement on a Saturday. And we quickly dismissed the idea of trying to tape or glue it together, and returned to the parts store to weigh our options.

Sure enough, they didn’t have another one in stock. BUT they did have some other sending units in stock, which gave the counter guy an idea... He located one with the same size & shape of float, and we were able to carefully grind down the crimped end of the rod and swap the good float over to the otherwise-intact arm. After re-crimping the rod to keep the float and washer from sliding off, it was good as new. (And yes, the cannibalized pump was set aside with a strict DO NOT SELL warning so that the store would not pass the problem on to another customer.)


Anyway, while at the store, I noted that the float seemed to made of some kind of plastic, which the guy at the counter quickly identified as “nitro-something” (I forgot what he called it, so I had to try googling it later). After a quick search, I guess he must have said “Nitrophyl”.

Supposedly, Nitrophyl doesn’t leak or saturate like older float materials, which I think is super-cool. I had no idea this stuff existed, but apparently it’s been aroudn for a while now. I thought the only options out there were brass and plastic. Now I kinda wish I had looked into alternative float material instead of soldering the carburetor float back together on my father’s CL100 last year.

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