Engine Cleaning and Detailing

The engine is the heart of your vehicle and proper maintenance is needed to maximize its service life. That includes changing the fluids and changing parts that needs to be replaced, but most of the time we stop at that, we often neglect to clean the engine, leaving greasy dirt and grime in there that can rob engine performance.

Most of us are intimidated when it comes to cleaning the engine, especially newer cars with EFI (electronically fuel injected) engines because of the fear of damaging a part that can be expensive to replace which is a valid point. Having said, that this can still be done safely as long as you don’t drown the engine with water.

Can I do this safely without messing up the engine?

A Dirty Engine Bay is not a Pretty Sight - Engine Cleaning and DetailingYes it is, you just have to take proper precautions and protect the electrical components which will be discussed below.

Before we get started please refer to the tools required for engine cleaning and detailing for product suggestions.

Important Note: This guide is applicable to cars with internal combustion engines, for hybrid or electric vehicles please check with the manufacturer first before doing this because these cars have more electrical components that can be damaged when it gets wet.

  1. Make sure the engine is cool. Do not attempt to clean a hot engine, spraying cool water on a hot engine bay can warp or crack metal, plastic and rubber parts inside. Some recommend warming up the engine to loosen up grime, but not too warm though as water or cleaner will dry on the surface and leave a mark.
  2. Best time to clean would be early in the morning when the engine has time to cool down overnight.
  3. Cover the alternator, intake manifold or exposed air filters and other exposed electrical components that can be damaged with water. Use a plastic bag and maybe some old microfiber towels for extra protection from water. Use the microfiber as the first layer then cover with a plastic bag, this is optional, in most cases a plastic bag is good enough.
  4. Most new cars have an engine cover that you may need to be remove to clean effectively. Don’t worry, it’s easy to take off, you just need the right sized socket wrench to take off the cover.
  5. Get started by spraying engine degreaser on the engine bay. Get all of the areas covered to loosen up the greasy dirt. Lightly hose afterwards, remember don’t turn it on full blast, you just need to rinse off the dirt with a slow stream of water. You can add a bit of pressure by putting your thumb on the hose. Wipe down excess water and dirt with a microfiber towel.
  6. After rinsing and wiping down, next step would taking off the rest of the dirt by hand. Get a wash mitt (you can use an old one, just make sure it’s not the same wash mitt you use on the body) and a detail brush ready for this step. If you don’t have a wash mitt available, you can use an old microfiber towel.
  7. Check the area under the hood, this part may also need some cleaning. Spray with a degreaser, let it sit for a few moments then agitate with a toothbrush then wipe off with a towel. For more stubborn stains you can use a cleaner wax for painted areas.
  8. Dilute optimum no rinse with water in a spray bottle. We recommend this product because it doesn’t require any rinsing. Spray this mixture on the engine bay then agitate with your wash mitt, use a brush for hard to reach crevices then wipe off with a microfiber towel. Do one section at a time because you don’t want the rinseless wash mixture to dry up.
  9. Once you finish, you need to dry the engine bay completely before apply any wax, dressing and protectants. Use a blower or compressed air for this purpose. Some vacuum cleaners like the Metro Vac N Blo have this functionality as well, so you may want to invest this.
  10. Last step would be to apply a good vinyl or  rubber protectant, to protect the rubber and plastic parts from dirt and heat from the engine. Please read the instruction for proper application methods and if buffing is required.

Here are some of the tools you’ll need…

A clean enigine bay…

A Clean Engine Bay - Engine Cleaning and Detailing

Depending on the weather conditions and environment, you may need to do this around once a year. As part of your maintenance routine, take some time after each car wash cycle to wipe down the engine bay with a damp towel, this only requires a few minutes and will keep your engine bay clean and looking sharp for a long time. Not only will it look good, your car will also perform better.