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Using a Parts Washer to Clean Grease

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The Standard Parts Washer
Bench top parts washer

This is our newest parts washer, a BenchTopPRO. Not too cheap, not too expensive.

photo by Matt Wright, 2013
There are a number of different kinds of parts washer, but they essentially do the same thing - they get the grease and grime off of your old parts. But why would you want to clean a used part at all? The reasons are many. At the very beginning of the chain of explanation is simple cleanliness. There are lots of people who simply like to see their engine compartments looking as clean as possible at all times, and cleaning a part thoroughly while it is off the car is another way to stay a step ahead of the yucks. Parts are much easier to clean when they have been removed from the car and before they are reinstalled.

But aesthetics are the least important reason to wash your parts before installation. Whether it's a used part you've recently purchased form a junkyard or an online parts retailer, or it's a part you just pulled off of your car to service, cleaning it is a good idea. A clean part can be properly inspected for minor damage that could lead to catastrophic engine failure if left unchecked. Your ABS parts should be clean. Heavy layers of grease can prevent a part from being reinstalled properly, causing gaps in fitment, or causing gaskets to fail due to contamination and clogging. If you're doing a simple drum brake replacement, it makes the job a lot cleaner and easier if you wash your brake parts before reinstallation.

The parts washers themselves all consist of similar parts, even if they vary widely in the details of their designs. The classic example is made up of an electric fluid pump which sits at the bottom of a steel tub. This pump is connected to a flexible pipe that allows you to bathe your greasy car part in a degreasing solution until it's mostly clean. These are tried and true machines, and come in all sizes. We've used this type of washer for years, and with good results.

But with all useful ideas, innovaton is always on the horizon. We've ditched our old metal washers recently. Why? Convenience, cost and environmental concerns are all part of the decision. There are new parts washer designs that are full of innovation. They still use an electric pump to bathe your parts in degreaser, but the devil's in the details, and the details are many. First of all, there's the solution. Old school washers use a solution that must be dropped off and picked up by licensed hazardous materials transporters. The just sounds bad, doesn't it? Not to mention the fact that it's expensive! Our new washers use a biodegradable degreaser. And it works. You simply pour a degreasing concentrate into the washer, then add a chemical activator. The second biggest innovation is in the packaging of the new washer design. Gone are the heavy, immobile steel tanks, replaced now with a plastic tank that unfolds into a wash basin and drying rack. These washers can be stored upright, but still full of degreaser. Our shop washes a lot of parts, but not enough to dedication an entire corner of the shop to parts cleaning, so the ability to store the washer out of the way was huge. When stored, the washer can be pulled off the shelf, opened up, and run within about 15 seconds. Pretty amazing. Clean wheel bearings here we come! *Note: The parts washer we use currently is the BenchtopPRO. It's been a real game changer around our shop, where we clean 50-year-old Porsche parts regularly.

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