How to Clean an Engine
If you find the thought of cleaning your car's engine intimidating, you're not alone. Due to the mechanical parts, electrical components, belts and more under the hood, many people cringe at the notion of a do-it-yourself engine cleaning job. But the process can be surprisingly simple, and you can get the task done in less than an hour with a few basic steps.
The more you drive your car, the more you'll find uninvited guests such as dirt, grime, pebbles and accumulations of oily, greasy residue. This can cause your vehicle's engine to look dingy and dirty, eventually diminishing performance and potentially leading to damage.
With a clean engine you'll enjoy more efficient cooling, less wear on cables and pulleys and a better overall life for your vehicle. A schedule of basic maintenance 1-2 times a year can help you spot any leaks, leading to a better overall life for your vehicle.
Before cleaning a greasy engine bay, be sure to check your county and state laws for public car wash regulations, as well as your car owner's manual for cleaning & degreasing recommendations. If you'd rather not clean your engine bay at home, you can go to a self-serve car wash. These facilities are required by law to recapture and clean water in a closed system that filters and collects any hazardous substances for safe disposal, before returning the clean water to service.
When cleaning your engine, it's important to use a non-corrosive cleaner that doesn't harm or degrade any metal, plastic or rubber components. You should avoid using vinegar, because the acetic acid makes metal susceptible to rust. Additionally, bleach should never be used, because sodium hypochlorite (bleach) will corrode metals such as steel and aluminum, and degrade rubberized seals.
A safer option to harsh chemicals, Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner is non-corrosive and safe for cleaning chrome, aluminum, stainless steel and other metals. The engine-safe formula breaks down tough grease, oil, road grime and other automotive fluids, making it ideal for cleaning your engine.
What You Need:
- Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner
- Scrub brush (non-metallic)
- Pressure washer with snow foamer (optional)
- Garden hose or other water source
- Plastic bags + tape
- Clean towel or air compressor
Directions for Cleaning an Engine
Before cleaning your engine, make sure it's cool to the touch. Avoid spraying it with water to accelerate the cooling process, as this could potentially lead to damage through warping and cracking. Lift the hood, and use the time to cover the sensitive electrical components such as the alternator, distributor & air intake system with plastic bags and tape. Then disconnect the battery terminals and remove the battery, if possible. Then remove any leaves or other debris from under the windshield wipers and any accumulation around your engine. Check beneath your car for any potential oil leaks as well.
- Apply cleaner. Spray Simple Green on your entire engine bay, thoroughly coating the area. Allow the engine cleaner to penetrate the area for 3-5 minutes.
- Agitate. Use a non-metallic bristled brush to agitate the grease & grime buildup.
- Rinse & clear. Spray down with a hose, brushing away any additional grime & dirt from your engine bay.
- Remove coverings. When washing is complete, carefully remove the plastic bags by folding them inwards to avoid spilling on your electrical components.
- Dry. Dry engine thoroughly with a towel or compressed air.
Pressure Washer Directions:
Ensure that you are using a high-pressured pressure washer with appropriate PSI and nozzle tips for engine cleaning. To avoid potential damage, we recommend starting 3-5 feet from the surface and moving closer as needed.
- Clear debris. Remove loose dirt & debris from around engine compartment.
- Add cleaner. Pour Simple Green into pressure washer detergent tank.
- Apply cleaner. Use low-pressure spray nozzle or foam cannon to apply solution to engine. Allow cleaner to penetrate soiled areas for 3-5 minutes.
- Rinse. Use a higher-pressure nozzle to rinse, keeping a safe distance to avoid forcing water into sensitive areas like your carburetor.
- Dry. Use a clean towel or compressed air to remove any remaining water.