You probably clean your car’s exterior every so often, and even if you don’t a decent amount of rain can keep it from getting too bad. You might clean your interior now and then, but even if you don’t all you’ll see is some dust on the dashboard and dirt on the floors. But have you ever bothered to clean your engine? If not, it can get downright filthy.

Fortunately, a filthy engine doesn’t make it less efficient or wear down the parts, at least as long as you keep up with your service visits and replace your engine oil on time. But a dirty engine does make it harder to work under the hood, plus it won’t impress anyone if you feel like showing off or a potential buyer wants to look under the hood. Fortunately, there are ways to make your engine bay look good as new.


Image via Flickr by Ernesto Andrade

The number one reason engines gather such a thick layer of dust is because the dust gets stuck on a thin layer of grease thanks to vaporizing engine oil. That means you need a cleaning fluid that can cut through grease, and while some of them are water-based the strongest kinds use powerful solvents. Just make sure you set something down to collect what comes off the engine and take care how you rinse the washrags out, because grease plus solvent counts as hazardous waste.

Wire Brushes

Modern batteries don’t produce nearly as much corrosion as they used to, but you can still see some depending on brand, age, driving conditions, and more. Start by removing the negative cable and then the positive cable, and after that you can use a stiff wire brush to scrub off the corrosion and make the battery run better in the process. With the wires disconnected, you can also clean the battery, pull it out, and then clean the tray it sits on. Wire brushes can also help loosen caked-on dirt, at least on metal surfaces.

Plastic Bags and Plastic Wrap

While you can pull the battery out easily enough, there are other electrical parts under your hood which you shouldn’t expose to too much cleaning fluid no matter what type it is. This includes the alternator, the cables, and the ignition wires. Just make sure you take the plastic off after so it doesn’t melt later and wipe off the parts with a dry rag.

Air Compressor and Shop Vac

Image via Flickr by Mike Roberts

This is another tool to use before the degreaser. An air compressor can save you a lot of time by blasting the loose dust off the engine before you begin scrubbing. And if you have a vacuum in your other hand, it’ll suck up the dust before it can settle back on your engine.

Just remember that, aside from your battery, cleaning your engine is mostly for the sake of appearance. So, if you find a spot that’s hard to reach and hard to see, you don’t need to worry too much if you skip cleaning it.


Clean Your Filthy Engine

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