How to Clean Your Engine Bay

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Engine bay (Photo: @adamoboccitto via Twenty20)
If you want to take on the task of cleaning your car’s engine bay, here’s what you need to do. You can’t have a healthy car without a clean engine. When oil and other gunk are caked on to your engine, it can trap heat and potentially damage your vehicle’s mechanisms. A clean car engine runs cooler and has a lower risk of overheating.
Cleaning your engine bay regularly also makes it easier to spot potential problems, like leaks. It goes without saying, catching problems early-on is far better than letting them go on unchecked.
While it is relatively easy to clean your engine bay, it’s important to follow the proper steps and precautions. Whatever you do, don’t grab your pressure washer and start spraying. The wrong places getting wet under your hood could spell disaster for electrical components within the engine bay.
It’s recommended that you clean your engine on an annual basis, so it’s a maintenance task that is definitely worth learning. Here’s how to achieve a clean engine bay.

Materials Needed:

  • Microfiber cloths and towels
  • Degreaser
  • Electrical tape
  • Gloves
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Spray bottle
  • Shop vacuum
  • Synthetic fiber brush
  • Water
  • Wire bristle brush
Once you’ve gathered the materials and popped your hood, you can get started!
  1. Cool the engine: If you’ve driven recently, allow the engine to cool completely before cleaning your engine bay. Engines that haven’t cooled down generate enough heat to cause serious burns.
  2. Cover the components that shouldn’t get wet: The alternator, battery, coil packs, distributor cap, and spark plugs could all be damaged by water. Wrap what you can with plastic bags and seal with electrical tape.
  3. Tighten up caps: Make sure all caps and dipsticks are securely in place. This prevents water from mixing with the other fluids under your hood.
  4. Brush off grit and grime: Use a synthetic fiber brush to dry clean plastic surfaces and the wire-bristle brush to dry clean metal surfaces. This will dislodge the big pieces of gunk and oil buildup.
  5. Vacuum: Clean out loose dirt, oil, grime, and leaves with a Shop-Vac.
  6. Spray exposed surfaces with warm water: Fill the spray bottle with warm water and spray generously onto the exposed areas in the engine bay.
  7. Spritz on the degreaser: Put on gloves to protect your skin, then spray degreaser onto all of the exposed surfaces in the engine bay according to the product’s directions. Let it sit at least 10 minutes so it can break up the remaining oily residue.
  8. Rinse: Using a low-pressure water source, such as a garden hose, rinse the degreaser off of the engine components.
  9. Wipe the engine bay down: Using a microfiber towel, dry the engine bay. Keep your car’s hood open to dry any remaining moisture.
  10. Remove the plastic: Remove the plastic bags. These items can be wiped down with a damp cloth if they could also use a little freshening up.