I have managed pretty well so far without one. We have a bike wash station, and a utility sink that has done the trick with most stuff in our shop. Every now and then I use a bucket or a jar to soak stuff in degreaser. I'm interested to see what other folks have to say.
First off, I think any reputable service department should have a parts cleaner. I hope that doesn't sound rude; I just think the opportunities for labor upgrades and quicker turnaround times make it an essential tool. I've used solvent-based, heated aqueous, and ultrasonic cleaners and they all do a fine job, though I feel like solvent-based parts washers don't generally work as well as they should, and expose mechanics to an unnecessary workforce hazard.
A dedicated bike wash station (even if it's just a stand and a hose outside the building) is equally essential. I don't like to turn customers away (or shame them) if they bring in a dirty bike. The difference between cleaning a disgusting bike and relatively clean bike can be just a few minutes with an efficient wash station, and you bet that customer that didn't have time to clean his bike will be grateful for the service (even if you charge a little extra).
Our heated aqueous parts washer was recently upgraded to a new stainless steel tub type. It gets used daily for drive train cleans, shifter flushes, wheel washes, etc.. The really filthy bikes get washed outside with a garden hose, bucket and brush. Customers usually agree to the up-charge when we take the time to explain the difference between a simple wipe down vs. a thorough cleaning and polish. Hope that helps.
My mobile shop has a heated ultrasonic cleaner. It's been great, as anticipated. The start-up cost was not insignificant, but it's been a helpful differentiation that many local shops don't have (or don't advertise as having). Thank you for the Simple Green tip, which might explain that broken-chain incident. As many of you may also know, be careful when using an ultrasonic cleaner with anything that's been anodized, which can lead to discoloration/etching of those respective parts (e.g., logos/coloring on crank arms, derailleurs, hubs, and/or lock rings).
I went with a Crest 1100HT (HT for heater-timer) with analog dials. It's just big enough to fit a crank-arm with an attached chain ring(s), but 90% of the time I use it for chains, cogs, and cassettes. Three years ago, it was the same brand and capacity as my local REI, sort of. Their unit was three times as large, but divided into three separate tanks; they could run a larger volume of material, but nothing larger than that what I'm able to clean in my (just-one) tank. I did a lot of research at the time I bought it, almost all of which I've forgotten. I went with the analog dials as they were purported to be more robust than the electronic buttons. It was expensive, but I've never had any problems with it and I don't regret the purchase. It's been a great tool and a great marketing bonus as most of the local shops (at that time) did not have one.
My associate mechanic suggested the upgrade to stainless which has been a noticeable improvement. Much easier to find master links and other random drivetrain parts against a bright stainless backdrop vs black plastic.
Post by cargobikeshop on Feb 28, 2017 14:52:23 GMT -6
Update on my parts washing situation. I recently purchased two different units.
First, I got a 3.5 gallon Homak aqueous from Northern Tool (http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200646596_200646596). Running the Von Haas concentrate (http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200641908_200641908). This easily holds an assembled crank arm for cleaning. Works pretty well. Certainly is not a drop it in and forget it solution, you need to use a parts washing brush.
Second, I bought a 2L ultrasonic cleaner by X-Tronic (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MA1E8IF). Before committing to a $1000 plus unit I figured I'd give a cheap option a try. This unit has a 30-day risk free warranty and a 1-year your cost to return warranty. The 2L version easily fits a 32T cassette in it, but will be a tight squeeze with anything bigger. I went 2L rather than 3L to use less solvent every cleaning. Looking back I know now that I'd do 3L next time to ensure I can get bigger cassettes in easily. I've done a couple chains and a cassette. Unit heats up to 80 deg C well and has enough ultrasonic vibration to it to work. Long-term durability will be big question, as it's cleaning fine.
Overall I have less than $300 invested in these two tools and can clean just about any part on a bike that needs it.