Cleaning your engine bay | Autoblog Details

It's what's inside that counts

On this episode of Autoblog Details, we'll be cleaning the engine and the engine bay prior to focusing on the interior, the paint, and so on. Find out how, and more important why, we clean the engine compartment so early in the detailing process.

The first part of detailing and cleaning your car

Okay, so I'm guessing you're wondering, of all the areas to detail, why are we cleaning the engine first? Well, that's a fair question. Detailing the engine is a bit messy with the respect to the paint. Water will inadvertently be sprayed on the windshield, the fenders, the front grill, and if we did this step towards the end of our detailing process, we'd be working over the clean areas to potentially scratching the paint we just cleaned.

Start with a cool engine, remove big stuff

First, make sure the engine is cool to slightly warm before working safely. If it's boiling hot, start working on the interior of the car and leave the hood open to cool. Come back in about 30 minutes. Next, remove trapped dirt, twigs and leaves stuck in the hood jams and fresh air vents. Use your hand or compressed air if you have any available. Using water to dislodge the junk only makes a globby mess of debris that drips into the holes and can be a hassle to remove.

Protect parts that shouldn't get wet

Afterwards, quickly cover up any exposed electrical parts with a plastic bag, seran wrap, or aluminum foil will do the trick. Alternators, air filters, fuse boxes, and so on, are good places to cover. The goal here is to add a bit of safety if the hose water should make direct contact with that area. If your car happens to have an exposed dip stick, wrap some tape around it to avoid water dripping down the dip stick and into your oil reservoir.

Time for engine cleaner

Now, with the hose on wide or fan mode, lightly rinse down the engine and then liberally spray all purpose cleaner while trying to avoid over-spraying on the paint. Immediately afterwards, scrub with a wheel brush, a paint brush, a toothbrush or a toothpick type tools for these tight spots. And whatever you do, do not allow the all purpose cleaner to dry on the engine parts. Remember in most cases the engine is usually somewhat warm so the evaporation can be a bit quicker than you might think. So lightly rinse again if it is starting to dry too fast. Now, fully rinse the all purpose cleaner off, and double check the areas you may have missed. If you missed anything, repeat the same steps. Keep in mind that while you're working, make sure to lightly clean off any drips on the paint or glass, especially if you're in direct sunlight, As this will leave watermarks and will only add more work to your job later.

Drying off the engine

Now, with the dirt and grease gone, dry your engine with compressed air or an electric blower while wiping with a used microfiber towel at the same time. Once nearly dry, carefully remove all the plastic protection, and then continue cleaning by hand with the microfiber towel. Before moving forward, start the engine, and let it run for two to three minutes to make sure all the fuses and computer components are functioning properly while getting some heat build up in the engine to promote evaporation.

The final touch

Finally, dress the components on the engine with a water-based tire dressing. Once satisfied with your coverage, go back and lightly wipe the dressing down to avoid attracting dust and dirt before it dries. Although engines aren't the first thing people see when looking at your car, it's healthy and quick process to de-gunk the engine at least twice a year if driven daily. To watch the next video in the series, visit I'm Larry Kosilla from See ya next time.

Watch all of our Autoblog Details videos for more tips on car cleaning and maintenance by professional detailer Larry Kosilla. While you're at it, check out Larry's other video series on how to diagnose, fix, and modify cars, Autoblog Wrenched!

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