Sunday, November 14, 2010

In The Garage - Dishwasher Partswasher

If you are in a fairly thrifty mood but are looking for some sort of project for the garage, the dishwasher turned parts washer may sound interesting. If you've got $75 and dirty parts, this project could be for you. Hell, I don't even have a dishwasher for my dishes but I figured I'd try and hack this up for the sake of experimentation.

The goal here was to created a closed circuit parts washer that could heat a strong water based solvent (unlike most $200 barrel-agitator style parts washers on craigslist) as well as accomodate a large number of items. As with all things Beaterblog, low cost is of course paramount.

Start by finding an old dishwasher. The new high-temp portable units are great for doing smaller items and come with casters on the bottom for easy moving. But if you are like me and always have some sort straight six in the garage, go for as large a unit as you can find. No matter the dishwasher, you don't need to spend anything over $25 for something completely sufficient.

In addition to the dishwasher, here are other parts that will be needed. Obviously, this list could grow or shrink depending on the equipment desired:

-6 feet of 3/4" clear reinforced hose
-4 1" hose clamps
-1 Shur-Flow 110V AC pump (used in RVs, 1.5-3 GPM, simulates the ~35psi city water pressure that normal dishwashers see at the inlet)
-1 5-10 gallon storage tank (a used Harbor Freight parts wash bin would be ideal here)
-1 3/4" threaded hose barb w/ lock nut (for the exit of the tank)
-1 AC power cord
-Misc wiring supplies
-Zip ties

If you really, really wanted to do it cheap, you could theoretically remove the tank and pump and just leave the bottom of the dishwasher partially filled with solvent. The dishwasher's internal pump normally does the duty of pumping the water through the jets and back out of the dishwasher, so looping the outlet line back into the dishwasher would negate the use of the pump and reservoir.

Anyways, flip the dishwasher over and find a place to mount the pump. Then run the wires normally intended for the water inlet valve to the motor. This will trigger the pump to run whenever there is a demand for water. While you're under there, wire in an AC power plug if the dishwasher doesn't already have one.

Next, flip it back over and mount the reservoir to the top of the unit. Drill a hole in the reservoir and mount the hose barb in the side, making it seal. I used two metal pipe flanges and some rubber gasket material and threaded the barb into the pipe flange. So far, it's been leak free. On the other side of the reservoir, run the drain line into the top so that the washer's internal pump can return the used solvent to the tank.

Once all of the connections have been secured with hose clamps, give it a try to check for leaks. Also, keep in mind that many dishwashers have temperature sensors in them so that the cycle does not start before the water reaches optimum temperature. This step takes a long, long time if you are starting with cold solvent but once the water is hot, it shortens the cycle drastically. Alternatively, you can also interrupt the time switch causing an infinite cycle but I have no idea where this is or how to do this sans electrocution.

For solvent, I've had good luck with a double dose of regular detergent but will be experimenting with more caustic solutions in the near future. More pictures and information to come soon as I iron the kinks out.


  1. Yeah, this is super sick. Hot solvent machine kicks the crap out of leaving things in a cold tub overnight.

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