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How to Clean an Engine Bay

Learning how to clean an engine bay isn't difficult.

Car detailing is all the rage, as owners seek to present their vehicles as showroom new. Many car owners give the most attention to the paint, chassis and wheels, exterior lights, trim and cabin. However, the engine bay is one area that’s easily overlooked, but worthy of your attention. Here’s how to clean an engine bay, giving it a shine that you and everyone else will admire.

Select Your Location

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Cleaning an engine bay is a messy job, so you’ll want to choose your work location wisely. Expect some splatter and a lot of runoff; this isn’t a job you’ll want to do in the garage.

You should take care to avoid letting runoff pollute the environment. Water containing grease and chemicals will head to the lowest point, perhaps traveling down your driveway before emptying into a storm drain or pouring into the sewer system. A professional garage or car wash facility is your best choice for a location, as both have the equipment for capturing and containing pollutants.

Assemble the Materials

You could bring out a series of tools, including a water hose, spray bottle, a bristled cleaning brush and a shop vacuum. That’s the complicated way, but it isn’t the only method for cleaning your car.

Fortunately, you can clean your engine without a lot of tools. Yes, bring your work gloves, goggles and rags, but also a can or two of foaming engine degreaser to get the job done with less hassle.

Apply Degreaser to a Cool Engine Bay

With goggles and gloves on, you’re ready to start your work. Lift the hood and secure it in place. Allow a hot engine to cool before getting started.

Apply a thick coat of degreaser, covering the engine, transmission, radiator, air conditioner a shining engine baycompressor, alternator, power steering pump, water pump, master cylinder, windshield wiper fluid reservoir and other exposed surfaces, including the firewall, sides and inside the front of the vehicle. You’ll work about 10 inches away from the surface as you apply the degreaser.

Rinse and Repeat

Allow the degreaser to penetrate for at least three to five minutes, but keep it on longer if the grease buildup is significant. Rinse with water — a garden hose set to gentle should be sufficient. If grease remains, repeat the process.

Dry It Out

Finally, wipe down all surfaces with shop towels, reaching into each nook and cranny to remove residual water droplets. A leaf blower or hair dryer set to low will also help dispel water.

When the work is done, it’s a good idea to take a couple of photos and keep them for future reference. Use these pictures as a benchmark for the next time you clean an engine bay.

Check out all the chemical products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to clean an engine bay, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.


Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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