Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at a multimeter, a simple tool that will save you so much diagnostic time; played around with an adhesive that does as it says on the tin; and looked at the the pass-through ratchet, a tool strong and versatile enough to be your daily driver ratchet. This week’s Cool Tool is an ultrasonic cleaner, a device that cleans parts and tools without all of the hard labor.
This recommendation comes from several readers, who actually prefer these devices over a previous Cool Tool, the Parts Washer.
Working on cars and around the home or garage is dirty. Not only can you get absolutely covered in grease, but your parts and tools can, too. If you’re like me and have to wrench in Midwestern winters, then you’ve almost certainly have worked with some absolutely disgusting car parts. I’m talking your normal road grime and leaked fluids all baked in by road salt and rust. And if a wrenching session gets really dirty, your pretty tools will also get gunked up.
I find the washing of a tool or a part to be pretty cathartic. There’s something calming about making something clean again. I especially love it when I find an old car part from a junkyard, clean it up and realize that it’s in great shape. But not everyone enjoys putting in elbow grease to clean a part. And sometimes you can’t get into all of the nooks and crannies, either.
That’s where an ultrasonic cleaner comes in.
Ultrasonic cleaning has been around forever. As a vintage issue of Popular Science explains, ultrasound-based cleaning processes have been widespread in commercial applications since the 1950s, with the technology hitting home appliances in the 1970s. The premise back then is the same as it is now. Cleaning stuff by hand takes a lot of time. What if you can get that time back by having a machine do the heavy lifting for you?
Ultrasonic cleaners generally consist of a tank for whatever you are cleaning, a generator to convert electrical energy into an ultrasonic frequency, which the transducer uses to create mechanical energy. The transducer vibrates and pulses, creating compression sound waves. The process causes cavitation bubbles to form in the tank, which implode after making contact with the item you are cleaning. The result is supposed to knock whatever is gunking up your part right off.
One way to use an ultrasonic cleaner is to just put your parts and your solution in the tank and let it rip. However, that leaves you with a dirty tank to clean. Steve’s Small Engine Saloon on YouTube has a neat trick, put the part and your solution into a separate container.
I’ve heard of some people putting the part and solution in plastic bags or glass beakers, too. These cleaners are used for everything from cleaning fine jewelry to medical equipment. Its uses go far beyond your car!
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!