Cleaning Up Your Act
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Life's messy - and if you plan on rebuilding it, customizing it, and showing it off - you need to clean it up. These are just the tools you need to do it.

Parts Washer

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A parts washer like this is for cleaning internal engine parts and stuff like that. You use this to make sure it's all perfectly clean before you assemble it, to remove "varnish" type deposits, and stuff like that. The amount of cleaning action you get is directly related to the type and strength of solvent you put in the tank. It has a small pump to recirculate the solvent with a flexible "gooseneck" where the solvent comes out at. You can get various brushes and other attachments for the outlet; mine is a simple one with no brush on it. The top has a "fusible link" that holds it up. In case of a fire, it slams the top shut and smothers the fire - nice to know if you plan on using this thing in a garage attached to your house. The tank on mine holds a usable 20 gallons (out of a "rated" 30 gallon size), and there is a small shelf and basket inside to puts parts on and in. I also bought two small enclosed wire mesh baskets to use for really tiny parts.

It works very well for large, dirty parts and gets the majority of the gunk off, or at least loosens it up so you can pressure wash the part. It won't be a replacement for my 3 gallon roaster pan full of carb cleaner. I need both of them as they serve different purposes. The carb cleaner is much stronger, but harder on the parts. It's better suited to carb and stuff like that. The parts washer is for cleaning entire cylinder heads, lifters, pushrods, or other internal parts like that. You could also use it as a final cleaning after the carb cleaner gets most of the crud off, but usually there isn't much crud left after the carb cleaner is done with it.


Media Blast Cabinet

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A media blasting cabinet like this is for removing rust, heavy grime, and fun stuff like that. If you've ever heard the terms "sandblasting" and "glass-beading" - this can do it. The basic apparatus is the same, it's all about what type of blasting media you use. The cabinet itself is just a box to contain the dust (media blasting out in the open is very messy work...) and to have someplace for the blasting media to collect at to be sucked back up for re-use (it goes fast if you don't re-use it...). There is an inlet for compressed air (that's what provides the power to propel the media and make it do useful work) and a gun and trigger assembly that combines the air and blasting media in a method not unlike a perfume atomizer. A basin in the bottom of the cabinet with a wire mesh screen on top holds the blasting media and has a suction tub leading from the lowest point up to the gun and trigger assembly.

Using it is pretty easy. You put the part to be blasted in the cabinet, close the door, hook up the air line, and put your hands into the gloves in the front. Hold the part in one hand, and the gun in the other - and then point and shoot - how long you hold the trigger and how close you get the gun to the part is all based on how much gunk you need/want to remove, and how fragile the part is. This is the perfect tool for cleaning valve covers, oil pans, and other similar parts before painting them - and that's exactly why I bought it. The only drawback is the space inside the cabinet - the larger the better - and the more money it costs. For reference, this cabinet is really a touch too small to do an intake manifold for a small block Chevy. It can be done, but it's pretty tight/tough.

I'm already thinking about buying the critical pieces and combining them with a home-made box that's larger and easier able to handle large parts. My thought is to make it big enough and strong enough to hold an engine block, with room to move it around inside and work on it. All you need pre-made are the gun and the gloves - the rest of the cabinet can be built inexpensively. I was figuring on using a 1-piece fiberglass bathtub/shower stall as my starting point. It already has a built-in drain, and covering the front and top with a big sheet of Plexiglas gives you the window you need. Put the gloves right into the front window, and put a simple fluorescent light on top to provide light. Use lots of caulk and rig the front to hinge out to provide a way to open it up and put stuff in, and build a stand (with a wire mesh top) in the tub area itself to hold the parts up and away from the pile of blasting media in the bottom.


Pressure Washer

Nothing beats high pressure water and some soap to clean driveways, houses, vehicles, and other large things that can get wet. I finally got a nice heavy duty gas engine powered unit to replace the tiny electric powered unit I got for $99 from Harbor Freight years ago. The difference more pressure makes is simply amazing - both in how fast you can remove grime and how much stuck on grime you can remove. This unit has a 6.5hp engine and is rated at 3100psi/2.8gpm. It came with quick-disconnect hoses (one of the big reasons I stepped up to this model), 5 interchangeable nozzles (one of them is a special low pressure soap nozzle), and a low-pressure soap dispenser hookup on the high pressure side after the pump. I also bought a longer wand (all the better to reach into deep engine compartments and under parked/immobile vehicles) and a high pressure soap dispenser nozzle (it has the soap hookup right at the nozzle with a longer soap pickup hose and it dispenses soap and water at high pressure - very effective). It was pricey, but worth it. I also waited for a good sale and got it for a good price. Don't forget to get some cleaner/soap designed for pressure washer use.

This unit proved it's worth on the inaugural use. It not only did an awesome job cleaning out the engine compartment on a 1989 Ford F150 that I was doing an engine replacement on, it also cleaned the outside of the truck (it had moss on it from sitting for a year or so) and the driveway (it had moss as well - it'd been quite a while since I cleaned it since the truck was parked there for so long) incredibly well. It even managed to remove stuck-on gunk and rust stains from the driveway that my old pressure washer couldn't touch - and that was using the widest angle (aka, lowest pressure) white nozzle! I did find out I had to be careful how much force I applied to the red pavers - too much and I got red water because I was actually tearing up the pavers - wow. You really do need to watch out how much force you apply - use a wider nozzle, hold the nozzle further away from whatever you are cleaning, or lower the engine speed. Any or all of these may need to be done to reduce the applied pressure to an acceptable level.

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Comments? Kudos? Got some parts you'd like to buy/sell/barter/swap? Nasty comments about my web page so far? You can email Mike or Debbie.

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Page last updated 01/02/2009 01:51:39 PM