Over the past few weeks we’ve looked a crowfoot wrench, a tool that allows you to turn a fastener in a cramped space; a huge battery that can provide power out in the field without emissions or noise; and a propane heater, a device to keep your butt and your hands warm this coming cold season. This week’s cool tool is a parts washer. It’s an often overlooked tool that comes in handy with the dirty job of working on cars.
This suggestion comes our way from one of my Gambler 500 teammates, who often gets used, dirty parts from junkyards to fix their rally car.
Wrenching is often a really dirty job. The environment, especially here in Illinois in the winter, isn’t kind to cars and the parts that keep them together. Your car’s parts can get covered in all sorts of dirt, salt, mud, other organic matter and road grime. That’s bad enough, but parts can be made absolutely filthy when the vehicle leaks fluids and they combine with the aforementioned grime.
A good and maybe a bit cathartic process in wrenching is cleaning up years of built-up gunk on car parts. There’s something about breaking past all of the grease, dirt and oil to find a still-shiny part. Or maybe you’ve gotten a part from a junkyard and you want to make it look decent with a new coat of paint before bolting it on. Regardless, there is a number of solutions to your parts cleaning quest. The simplest way is to break out a rag and some elbow grease. You could also throw some chemicals into it like brake cleaner. But if you want to do a deep clean and avoid spending loads of cash on cans of brake cleaner (this stuff adds up over time), then you’ll want a parts washer.
Now, don’t look at the dishwasher in your kitchen and think that’s going to be an acceptable parts washer.
Because sure, the dishwasher may get your parts clean, but it’ll also cover your eating utensils and plates in whatever grime your car parts had. Our own David Tracy used a dishwasher as a parts washer and he ended up eating with oily dishes for months. I was luckier in cleaning a motorcycle carburetor with a dishwasher, but it’s still not worth it. No, you want a washing tub that’s just for your parts and maybe even dirty tools.
Parts washers comes in a variety of sizes from small portable units to basins that take up a sizable amount of space. Portable parts washers allow you to clean parts just about anywhere and they don’t take up a ton of shop space. Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame put one to the test on his YouTube channel and it did a decent job at cleaning up an old part.
The Torin Big Red parts washer used by Savage can be had for about $125. You may want to add a flow-through parts washer brush and that can run you about $20.
If the Torin is too rich for your blood you can find cheaper parts washers online for as low as about $45.
Some of these parts washers do have limitations that you should be aware of. The use of strong solvents may damage the pump and other parts per some Amazon reviews, so make sure you use the right fluids, and that the parts washer can handle the projects that you do. Also, these parts cleaners do take up space, so if you have a tiny garage (and you’ll want to keep this in a garage due to the solvents in play, even though these tend to have lids), you may want to stick to cans of degreaser.
Do you know of a weird or unique tool that wrenchers can benefit from? Do you want to see us put a type of tool to the test and see how it performs? Shoot me an email or drop it down in the comments!