The Best Way to Clean a Car Engine


Cleaning your car's engine not only makes it look good, but can keep it in top-notch working order. An oil leak is much more noticeable on a clean engine than on a dirty one. Cleaning your car's engine can be done in three steps and in less than an hour. Only a few materials are needed to make your engine shine.


  • The first thing to do is open the hood and remove any debris that shouldn't be under there. Things like leaves and twigs can get stuck in the inside of the grill and vent openings along the bottom of the windshield. Remove these things by hand and blow the areas out with an air compressor if one is available.

    The next thing to do is cover all parts of the engine that shouldn't get wet. The engine compartment is made to be somewhat waterproof, but is not designed for water to be sprayed directly into it. Use plastic bags, like trash bags, to cover all sensors, spark plug openings, the distributor and any electrical connections. Use masking tape to seal the plastic around these parts so that no water gets sprayed directly on them. Some water leaking into them is okay.


  • The best way to get rid of grease, oil and grime build up is to spray your engine with a degreaser. Some commercial petroleum-based degreasers work fast and very well, but can actually damage parts under the hood. These degreasers cause vinyl and rubber materials, like hoses, to deteriorate and rot. Water and citrus based degreasers, like Simple Green, work well and won't harm any parts of the engine.

    Begin spraying the degreaser on the lower areas of the engine, concentrating on the heavily soiled areas. Work your way up to the top of the engine and allow the degreaser to sit for a few minutes, but don't allow it to dry. Be careful to not get degreaser on the painted surfaces of your car because the degreaser will strip the paint of any wax and cause the clear coat to dry out.

    Before the degreaser dries on the engine, use a long handled, stiff bristled brush to scrub all soiled areas. You can spray on more degreaser as needed until the engine parts are clean. Rinse the entire area until the water runs clear. You may repeat the degreasing steps if the engine is extremely dirty.

Polish and Protect

  • Remove all the plastic and tape that is covering your engine parts. Once these are completely removed from the engine area, start the car and allow the engine to get warm. This should take about ten to twenty minutes and will dry almost all of the parts under the hood. Once the parts are mostly dry, turn the engine off and allow it to cool so you can touch it with your bare hands.

    Use a rubber and vinyl protectant, like Meguiar's All Season Dressing, to spray on all rubber hoses, vinyl and plastic areas. If you don't want a glossy shine on these parts, use a microfiber towel to wipe them on.

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