Engine Cleaning and Dressing

There is just something about a clean, detailed engine and engine compartment that adds so much to the overall look and feel of the ride. However, I find that many people don’t detail their engines because they view it as too difficult. So, let’s take a look at what we can do.

While cleaning and detailing an engine and engine compartment is tedious work, it is very rewarding in not only looks and appearance, but in engine performance. A clean and dressed engine will perform better, run cooler and last longer without having all of the grime layered on to build up excess heat.

The very first task is to be sure that all caps are tight and dipsticks are fully seated to prevent the entry of water and cleaning materials. Also, make sure that you have plenty of good lighting handy in order to see into all of the areas.

When you are cleaning and detailing your engine, you want to be very careful in regards to protecting the air cleaner housing and engine electronics. Water and cleaners can enter the engine through the air cleaner housing as well as damage sensitive electronic equipment. Depending upon its location, you may want to cover the air cleaner opening and sensitive electronic items, including the fuse box with a waterproof material before cleaning. On most cars built within the last 10 years, the electronics are generally well protected from water, but you should use your own judgment in each situation.

To clean, begin with a good spray down of the engine and the compartment with just water. Cleaning will be most effective on a warm engine. The engine should be warm, but not too hot to the touch as it should have a chance to cool down from recent driving. Also be conscious of the temperature of the water that you are spraying onto the engine. If you spray very cold water on a hot engine, you can cause damage. If possible, use warm water, not too cold or too hot. You want to use some pressure but not excessive. A fanned out pressure spray works very well.

After an initial rinsing, you will want to apply a cleaner. If the engine is not very greasy, you may be able to get by with using a general purpose cleaner. If there is a fair amount of grease and oil, use a good quality degreaser. Spray the cleaner liberally around the engine and engine compartment. Let it soak for a few minutes. It is preferable to keep the applied cleaner area wet and not allow the cleaner to dry during the soaking time. Also, note that some cleaners will dull aluminum. If you have any aluminum show pieces, be extra careful with cleaners around them.

After a few minutes of soaking time, take some brushes and scrub those areas that are especially dirty to loosen the grime. Remember to keep the area wet with cleaner. Depending upon how much you want to clean, you will need several different brushes. There are many small and hard to reach places that will require brushes with long handles and smaller bristle heads in order to reach in.

When rinsing the engine, use a moderate amount of water pressure. Too high of a pressure will force water into places that you do not want it to go. After rinsing, look over the engine and engine compartment to see if you need to repeat the process in any specific areas. If available, use an air blower device to get rid of any standing water left in crevices and shallow areas.

Now that you have the engine and engine bay clean, you will want to apply an engine dressing to really brighten it up as well as to help protect all of the rubber, plastic and metals that are exposed to grime and decay. Be sure to allow the engine to completely cool before applying any dressings. Also note that it is often worth it to take the time to mask off any specific areas where you do not want to have dressing applied. It takes less time to cover areas than to clean them up later due to the tight places and numerous small nooks and crannies, many of which are impossible to get to by hand.

Now stand back and take in the view. And as always, enjoy your ride . . .

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