Aftermarket off-road parts are expensive . . . if they’re any good. And many can last a lot longer than their looks do. Rebuilding any old 4x4 means you’re going to bump into dirt, rust, grease, and other grimy substances. The perfect example of this is our 1969 Ford Bronco. This thing sat close enough to the Pacific Ocean for the past 15 years to suck a bunch of salt out of the air. Salt and steel make rust, and we’ve got plenty. Add a generous dose of grease that would be found on any 48-year-old truck and you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.
Since the Bronco was a magazine project it has several cool old parts, parts that have a little rust and a lot of use left in them. These parts, with a little elbow grease and some tools, can be just about as good as new and perfect for our plans for this Bronco. With that in mind we talked to the folks at OEM tools about their 20 Gallon Parts Washer (PN 24801) and Bench Top Abrasive Blast Cabinet (PN 24815) to see if we could use them to bring these old but good parts some new life.
Although we found it for less, our OEM Tools 20 Gallon Parts Washer (PN 24801) lists for $159.99 and came with everything you see here—minus, of course, the dirty valve cover and the mineral spirits. The manufacturer recommends nonflammable water-based degreasers. The tool is easy to assemble and is made of 20-gauge powdercoated steel. It has an integrated pump with a filter, a 6-foot power cord, and a flexible nozzle. The lid also has a fusible link and will automatically close if there is a fire in the unit. The tub is 31 inches wide and 21 inches deep and comes with a cleaning shelf, a parts tray, and a drain plug for changing out the degreaser.
The pump moves plenty of fluid, and the flexible nozzle allows you to direct the flow of degreaser where you like. Almost instantly our grime-caked and -baked valve cover started cleaning up.
What grease was too stubborn for the flowing degreaser is easily knocked down with a small scrubbing brush inside and out of the valve cover. This thing’s great! How did we live without it?
Once it was out of the parts washer we wiped the valve cover down with a rag and let it dry for a few minutes before taking it back to the grimy engine from whence it came. The difference is remarkable, but we’re betting we can get it even cleaner with the $122.99 OEM Tools Bench Top Abrasive Blast Cabinet (PN 24815).
Speak of the devil. Here is the OEM Tools Bench Top Abrasive Blast Cabinet. We filled it with glass beads from our local supplier, hooked up our compressed air line, and got to blasting.
The unit requires a little assembly and comes with everything you need to get started minus the blast media. A couple of filters allow the just over 3 cubic feet of work area to breathe while keeping the media and dust inside the cabinet. You can also hook up a shop vac to help keep the dust down inside the cabinet. You are also supplied with four different-sized porcelain nozzles, replaceable clear lid protectors, and a low-voltage light.
We’re guessing we will blast off all the red powdercoat from inside the blast cabinet. This thing should last for years and clean thousands of parts.
Getting back to that valve cover, here it is after a stint inside the blast cabinet. Different blast media offer different levels of hardness and cleaning effectiveness. We plan on blasting steel and aluminum parts, and glass beads are almost perfect for both of those metals. Harder media might damage aluminum, and softer ones will take too long to clean stuff off our parts. Also, you absolutely do not want to use sand in any blasting situation because the silicon dust it creates is dangerous to your health. Instead use approved blasting media for whatever you are trying to clean or etch.
Here is another part we wanted to clean up with the media blaster. This is a Borgeson steering joint, and at about $75 a pop they aren’t cheap. All the joints on the Bronco are rusty from its time near the Pacific, but they aren’t worn out, just ugly. Before putting this part in the sandblaster we threaded some old 5/16-inch bolts into the part to protect the threads for the set screws.
After 10-15 minutes in the blasting cabinet the steering joint looks new. We could even see the part number and “Borgeson” stamped into the part.
Man, we have lots of work to do, but with a little help from the Parts Washer and Blasting Cabinet from OEM Tools we should save ourselves lots of money reusing and renewing otherwise-good parts. This is a period-correct power steering brace from James Duff that was just as rusty as the rest of the Bronco when we pulled it off. Now it’s as good as new.
Normally rusty old tabs and brackets would be junk, but no more wasting perfectly good parts just because of a little surface rust.