Cleaning Motorcycle Components made easy

Effective cleaning of components is an integral part of rebuilding or reconditioning an engine. Using an ultrasonic cleaner can simplify and quicken this task while also providing improved results.

Whether your are a full time mechanic or a part time enthusiast one of the hardest tasks when rebuilding or reconditioning an engine is the process of cleaning parts before re-assembly in order to ensure they will perform to the desired level. Older engines are prone to carbon build up which reduces the air flow through the engine and can cause running problems. However, there is a method of cleaning available that uses no harsh solvents, is fast and effective and requires only a minimal amount of effort. This method is ultrasonic cleaning.

The process of ultrasonic cleaning utilises high frequency sounds waves which are radiated through a liquid medium. These sound waves are created by a number of transducers which are bonded to the base of the ultrasonic bath. As an electrical current is passed through the two transducer crystal rings they become agitated and vibrate at around 40,000 times a second. This vibration converts the electrical energy to sound energy which is then transferred through the base of the tank into the liquid. As the sound waves pass through the fluid microscopic bubbles form. These bubbles continue to grow in size until they become unstable and cannot support their own density, causing them to implode. This is the phenomenon known as cavitation. As these bubbles collapse the surrounding cleaning fluid rushes in to fill the gaps, which creates an action similar to that of a scrubbing brush, but thousands of times a second per cubic centimetre. It is this process which gives ultrasonics its powerful cleaning action and makes it the most effective method for removing contaminants from hard substrates or complex shapes. This process can be further intensified by adding a cleaning detergent to the liquid. Ultrasonic detergents work on the same principle as a normal household detergent by aiding the loosening process.

In Layman's terms; If an item is submerged within the cleaning liquid any surface area which is in contact with the liquid medium will be exposed to cavitation, and therefore the cleaning action.

Ultrasonic cleaning represents a number of benefits over alternative methods which are available. People are being urged to move away from traditional methods which use solvents to remove baked on deposits as these are both hazardous to the environment and can be dangerous to those using them. Solvent based systems also take longer to remove deposits with items often needed to be soaked in the solution for a long period of time in order to break down the baked on carbon and fuel residues.

The first benefit of using ultrasonic cleaning is the timescale for cleaning items. A typical cycle time for a heavily contaminated item is a mere ten minutes. Once the item is placed into the tank and the cycle is started the cavitation action will immediately begin to break down the deposits. A ten minute cycle in a heated ultrasonic bath, with a suitable detergent will be enough to remove even the most tenacious of substances. Because of this short time scale the speed with which parts can be cleaned and prepared for re-assembly is far shorter than using a solvent based system.

Another major benefit of ultrasonic cleaning is its ability to reach hidden areas. As was previously stated, cavitation will occur anywhere where water particles can reach. This means that items such as cylinder heads, which have a number of internal channels, will be thoroughly cleaned throughout. The cleaning fluid will flood these channels enabling the scrubbing action to work in even the deepest and smallest spaces.

Although there are a number of sprays available which break down carbon deposits, they do not have the ability to completely remove carbon in the same way as an ultrasonic cleaner does. Ultrasonic cleaning is particularly useful for cleaning items such as injectors and carburettors. Cavitation will occur inside the injector jet nozzle or carburettor, breaking down debris that has built up inside, resulting in an injector which sprays out a perfectly conical shape fuel jet, and a carburettor which has maximum air/fuel flow resulting in better fuel efficiency and smoother torque and power curves.

Another commonly cleaned item is brake calipers. Over time the seals on the pistons can become worn allowing dirt to lodge around the piston. When this occurs the caliper will require reconditioning, and an ultrasonic cleaner is the perfect method to use to ensure that no traces of grit are present prior to installing the new piston seal. It will also clean off carbon dust which has built up from the brake pads leaving the caliper in almost new condition. By removing the bleed nipple prior to placing the caliper in the tank and allowing the chamber to fill with water it will also mean that the internal areas will be cleaned. Any debris which has become lodged in the inlet or within the chamber itself will be broken down and removed leaving the caliper free from potential blockage problems.

Ultrasonic cleaning is also substantially cheaper to use than other methods. Once the initial purchase of the unit is complete all that is required is a small amount of detergent (typically between 2 and 10% of the total capacity). The type of detergent used will be determined by what is being cleaned. It should be noted that aluminium is a non-ferrous metal which is relatively soft, meaning a milder detergent will be required in order not to cause surface pitting. The detergents also increase the longevity of the cleaning fluid. How frequently it will need changing will be determined by the level of use but a typical mixture will last a couple of days based on several cycles a day being run. Water usage can be significantly reduced and all the detergents used within ultrasonics are environmentally friendly and can be disposed of without the need for special treatments, which will lead to further cost savings.

Although these are the most common uses for ultrasonic cleaning, its uses are extremely diverse. Almost any item on an engine can be cleaned from the rubber oil and coolant hoses through to bearings and gear sets. In some cases, items such as gearboxes can be cleaned without the need for complete disassembly which can save valuable time. The use of ultrasonic cleaning is not just limited to engine parts. Almost any part of a bike can be cleaned provided the correct detergent is used.

Ultrawave can offer a wide range if ultrasonic baths and tanks which can meet any requirements. Units are available from 0.5 to 90 litres, meaning there is a model for everyone from the home based bike builder through to larger bike workshops.