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How to Easily Clean Your Engine Bay

You spent all that money on your vehicle, and you likely want to keep it looking new. You scrub the bugs off the front, make the wheels shine, and even vacuum out the crumbs from the seats. However, keeping your engine bay clean is important too.

Today, we’re looking at how you can clean your engine bay and show your vehicle a little TLC. Let’s get started.

What Is an Engine Bay?

The engine bay is the front compartment on a vehicle that houses many of the essential mechanical components of your vehicle. You’ll find the engine, alternator, battery, and fluid reservoirs for power steering, coolant, and washer fluid.

There’s a host of other important components, including a maze of wiring that allows them to operate in sync.

How Do You Clean Your Engine Bay?

Cleaning your engine bay isn’t complicated. You’ll need a few simple cleaning supplies like a garden hose and rags. Here are some steps to follow.

KEEP IN MIND: Always reference and follow your manufacturer’s manual for how to treat your specific engine. Not all engines are alike. This is a general guide for knowledge. Verify with your manual before cleaning.

Dry Clean

The first step to cleaning your engine bay is to dry clean it. Remove any accumulated debris on the lower part of the windshield and open the hood to examine the bay. You’ll likely find leaves, sticks, and other objects that have slipped under the hood. Using compressed air or a leaf blower helps blow away stubborn debris.

This is a good time to disconnect and remove your vehicle’s battery. While you don’t have to remove it altogether, we prefer to have room to clean around the terminals. A lot of dirt and debris typically hide around the battery. 

Wet clean

The second step is to do a wet cleaning. Make sure the engine isn’t too hot that you can’t touch it. Putting cold water on a hot engine can cause the metals to cool quickly and cause warping or cracking.

Many of the components in your engine can withstand water, but it’s best to avoid going overboard and soaking them. 

Clean the Hood

Much like washing the outside of your car, start at the top and work down to the bottom. Spray down the underside of the hood with soapy water and wipe it down with a microfiber towel. If your hood liner needs washing, use a carpet cleaner.

Allow it to soak, and then spray the underside of the hood with water to eliminate any remaining soap.

Clean the Bay

Next, you’ll want to start cleaning the engine’s area in the bay. Spray it with mist to avoid forcing water into any electrical connections. Wipe down any easy-to-reach areas and surfaces with a cleaning cloth. Rinse the area again to eliminate any dirt you’ve knocked loose, and grab some soapy water to spray the area liberally. 

You can use a host of brushes to reach all the hard-to-reach compartments.

Once you’ve sprayed with soapy water and scrubbed the engine bay section, rinse it with a misting of water and move on to the next section. Repeat this until you’ve cleaned entirely around the engine.

Clean the Engine

You can now finally move on to cleaning the actual engine. This can be a daunting task, and you’ll get the best results if you split the job in half. Focus on one side and wipe as much of the dirt off as possible. You’ll likely have no trouble getting a couple of rags worth of grime off your engine.

You can then start spraying it with soapy water. Use your brushes to scrub it. You can easily remove intakes and other parts to allow you access to more of it. However, only remove things if you know what you’re doing. 

Once you’ve cleaned everything, use a microfiber towel to wipe off the soapy water. This helps keep your electronics safe and avoids attracting future oils and dirt.

Dry It Off

The last step is to dry any water sitting in your engine bay. Use a clean microfiber towel to soak up the water and leave a clean, smooth surface behind. Wiping it off allows you to pick up any remaining dirt and clean any missed spots.

Close up on engine bay.
Your engine bay is home for your engine, alternator, battery, and fluid reservoirs for power steering, coolant, and washer fluid.

What Can You Use to Clean Your Engine Bay?

You don’t need many fancy cleaning supplies and tools to clean your engine bay. You’ll need soapy water, an assortment of brushes, microfiber towels or other cleaning cloths, and a garden hose with a nozzle with a misting option. You’ll likely already have most of these items around your house.

Is It Safe to Spray Your Engine With Water?

Most of the components of your engine are safe and protected from water. However, it’s not a good idea to soak them. If water gets into some of the sensitive areas of your engine, it can cause some serious issues. It’s not worth the risk.

We also don’t suggest using a pressure washer to spray down your engine bay. Not only can it force water into sensitive components, but it can damage aging electrical connections and wiring. If you use water, use a misting setting, and don’t overdo it.

Pro Tip: Pesky check engine light on on your dash? This is How to Easily Reset Your Check Engine Light.

Man cleaning engine bay with rag
It’s okay to use water in your engine bay, but do not over soak it!

What’s the Best Engine Degreaser?

While soapy water can do the trick, it’s not as effective as an engine degreaser. The best one is the Orange Degreaser from Chemical Guys. It’s got professional strength and has a citrus-based formula that leaves your engine compartment smelling like a Central Florida orange grove. It loosens grease, oil, dirt, and other grime and makes it easy to rinse your engine bay clean.

How Often Does an Engine Bay Need to Be Cleaned?

How often you clean your engine bay will depend on how often you drive your vehicle and where you go. Most people can get by cleaning their engine bay every three to six months.

However, if you live on a gravel road or frequently take your vehicle off-roading, you may want to do it more regularly. The more often you clean it, the less elbow grease it will take.

Pro Tip: Do you use your vehicle to tow your RV? It’s important to know Should You Change Oil Sooner If You’ve Been Towing? We uncovered the truth for you!

Should I Clean My Engine Bay?

Most people rarely clean their engine bay. However, cleaning it helps you keep out critters and run smoothly. Cleaning grease and other grime off your engine allow it to cool quicker and keeps dirt out of sensitive areas. 

You can follow these cleaning steps to have a sparkling engine bay in no time. Maybe the next time you wash your car, you can also pop open the hood and tackle this project. You may even want to show off your shiny engine.

When was the last time you cleaned your engine bay? Tell us in the comments!

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