® Abrasive Blasting

It was a mess. A workbench covered with oddly clean looking but slippery, gritty engine parts, and limp cardboard boxes underneath held more. I was starting my first day with a new shop, and this was my first project, a Honda CX500 that the tech before me had not had time to complete. Very soon I held in my hand something I had never seen before, a glass bead encrusted aluminum piston. The engine's crankcases and cylinder heads were likewise contaminated. I remember it with a shudder.

Many people think that glass beading is a good way to clean engine parts. It's not. That engine was assembled and somehow ran and stayed together, but as we never heard back from that customer it's anyone's guess as to how long. If there is one thing I have learned in almost fifty years in this industry, it's that glass bead cabinets are death. No matter how well you think you have cleaned those parts afterward, they are never clean enough. The glass adheres in the cracks and crevices of aluminum parts with an electrostatic tenacity, continuously shedding its damage throughout the oil supply. There has been more harm done by glass beading machines than any other single piece of shop equipment I can think of.

I have seen cylinder heads that were painstakingly washed, heated, re-washed using straight Simple Green and flushed with high pressure water, still drop glass dust into their engines after being assembled. Other parts have been cleaned in all manner of ways and have never lost their gritty feel. A GSX-R750 where I worked wore out its piston rings in 1000 miles due to glass beads (Wiseco actually asks about glass beads when you call their customer service line). Countless oil pumps have seized, valve guides gotten trashed. There is plenty of reason soda blasting and dry ice blasting have emerged as superior choices in the abrasive blasting of engine parts. Even wet blasting, merely the same process but with water added, is better. Take heed.

Last updated: October 2022
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