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Homemade BMW motorcycle parts washer (car parts too) 

by Duane Ausherman

Build your own parts washer cheaply and easily.  Since I had recently retired (1975) from a BMW dealership, I found that I was spoiled with having a Safety Kleen parts washer.  I was lost without my parts washer.  So I built this one over 30 years ago while living in Fort Bidwell, Ca.  This page is in response to several requests for information about my homemade parts washer.  Caution, use only approved environmentally safe solvent. 

washer.JPG (96268 bytes)

It consists of only a few basic parts.  I used a sink that I found in a stream bed after a flood.  It sits on a homemade frame made with angle iron from old bed frames salvaged from the dump.  The tank is a standard 15 gallon drum barrel with a top that has a standard bung hole in it's center. 

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This shows the plumbing adapters that I needed to reduce the sink drain down to a reasonable size and dump into the tank. 

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This picture shows the tank.  The second bucket is a 5 gallon paint type.  It has many holes punched onto the bottom for the solvent to flow through.  I use 3 layers of any soft cloth (old "T" shirts work well) cut in a circle and laying in the bottom.  The inner bucket is a one gallon paint bucket with holes in it's bottom and only one more round cloth as a filter.  I change it more often than the larger one.  The dirty solvent must pass through a grate in the sink, through the first filter in the one gallon bucket, through the 3 layers of filter cloth in the 5 gallon bucket and then into the 15 gallon barrel.  It works fairly well. 

pump.JPG (45920 bytes)

Here you can see the pump.  The pump just sits, immersed, on the bottom of the barrel.  The first pump was whatever I found laying around, but it failed after only 6-8 years.  This one is a Little Giant pump that I bought from WW Grainger for maybe $15.  It lasted about 18 years and only broke recently (2001) when I pulled it out to photograph it for this page.  See the broken outlet in the upper left? Just about any pump will work just great.  I just replaced the exact pump, but slightly improved, for $70.  Not so cheap. 

leg.JPG (21163 bytes)

Since I make things for my pleasure, sometimes I go a bit crazy.  Here you see the bottom of one of the legs.  It can be adjusted with the bolts to sit steadily on uneven concrete.  All 4 legs are adjustable. 

You can see that I really spent a lot of money on this item :-) There is nothing fancy about a parts cleaner.  Find any sink.  You could fasten it on the wall and not need a frame.  Don't mount it on the 15 gallon barrel like Safety Kleen does, as that is too low, unless you are under 5' tall.  Make anything to filter the solvent.  I keep my "old" solvent and often use it for soaking and pre-cleaning really nasty parts.  My current solvent stays clean much longer that way.  I bought a 55 gallon drum of it from Chevron over 25 years ago and am just now using the last of it.  It has been my only real expense.  The flexible nozzle and hose is an official one from a real parts washer that my old Safety Kleen service guy gave me.  I turn it on with a standard wall switch.  If I were to build this today, I would consider using a foot switch.  I used a ground fault type outlet for the parts cleaner.  I painted everything on it one day when I was painting other things.  I have a back splash made from an old metal sign.  I used whatever I had as I was over 50 miles from any type of supply place.  Besides I like to improvise.  Research and use only approved solvents. 

pit.jpg (54257 bytes)

The shop is built with a grease pit.  It is wired and 6 feet deep.  It is wonderful for doing any type of under the car work.  I find that I tend to inspect them more often too.  Normally it is covered with 2X12's to prevent people and animals from falling in.  I once had to retrieve a stray nursing cat that had fallen in. 

Another homemade parts washer.  You might get enough ideas to build one yourself.

The environmental nazis got us again

Recently I have noticed that this page is getting a lot of readers.  I was wondering why, but I think I have it.  I recently ran out of the 55 gallon drum of solvent that I purchased 30 years ago.  I went over to my local auto shop and asked them what to use.  I got an earful.  About mid 2004, California outlawed commercial solvent machine service.  Safety Kleen is not servicing this area now.  My friends bought a solvent machine and do their own servicing.  The have tried a variety of solvents.  The water soluble stuff doesn't work well.  They are now using Mineral Spirits (paint thinner) from the local discount place.  I tried it and it works well.  My guess is that you are reading this because you have been forced to seek an alternative. 

Let me see if I understand it.  We used to have a lot of solvent machines in repair places serviced by a company that had to follow the environmental laws.  Now they are out of business and we have these same shops doing their own servicing with what ever procedures they choose.  Did we shoot ourselves in the foot......again? Are we better off?


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This page was last edited: 12/28/2006 - copyright Duane Ausherman
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