Isopropyl Alcohol

I recently took a job working for the military doing “reset” of OH-58 helicopters. I have 30+ years working as an aircraft mechanic, from everything from DC-3’s to 747’s. I was shocked to see all of the electrical wiring hosed down with water, removing all of the dust and dirt from the middle east. Isopropyl alcohol is used for cleaning everything electrical, and even removing all kinds of dirt. In additions, generators and alternators are dipped in this solution to remove all carbon dust. It works well.

Anybody thought about using the same process for cars, fans, starters, alternators, etc?

I don’t recommend it. As you know, military aircraft and every part and material in them is designed, tested, and qualified to withstand extreme environments and whatever maintenance protocols they’ll be subjected to. That’s why they cost many millions of dollars each. Cars are not.

Hose your engine compartment and you’ll be back here posting asking why so many electronics are fried in your car’s systems. And tha isopropyl just may damage some elastomers.

Drying out rubber components.

It’s a matter of who is paying the bills…Car owners do not have access to government-paid detailers…Car mechanics are accustomed to working in grease up to their elbows. Aircraft mechanics are not…It’s a matter of money and who is paying that money.

Joe Consumer’s electrical contact cleaner is alcohol based.

It’s much more than that. Military vehicles need to be able to continue to function reliably under conditions that civilian vehicles will never see. Monsoons, mud, dust storms, extreme heat and vibration, the works. And the CANNOT fail, as the success of the mission and the lives of the troops depends on their continuing to operate. The MUST be extremely environmentally resiliant.

I speak with 4 years of experience as an avionics tech on B52s and 23 years as a quality engineer, much of it involved in the design and qualification of military hardware.

Isopropyl alcohol comes in different strengths. The military is probably using 99% because the regular rubbing alcohols at 70% have about 30% water which could fry a lot of electrical components. Do they dry them off with compressed air afterwards? I have to agree with tsm on this one.

The Military has an UNLIMITED budget. Joe consumer does not.

“And tha isopropyl just may damage some elastomers.”

The only common material that will be attacked by isopropyl alcohol is flexible vinyl. It will leach the plasticizer out, leaving the PVC behind. The rubber hoses and wire insulation will all be OK.

My radio fanatic friend always sprayed water on solid state electronic boards then put them in the sun to dry. “Crash” fixed my chess computer too.

Although the list is not complete, isopropyl alcohol seems to be a fairly innocuous solvent in that it is compatible with most of the materials listed with the notable exceptions of nylon and polyurethane.

Limiting the exposure time by clearing with an air blast asap is added insurance.

I use isopropyl alcohol to clean pine sap from my car with no damage done.

Yes, you may use isopropyl alcohol safely on automotive components. It is a fairly innocuous solvent. The key is in drying the component after washing. Isoprope has a lower boiling point than water (181F, 82C) so it evaporates more quickly. And it does not conduct electricity, as does dirty water. You may use it on your car.