Here’s How to Clean an Engine properly: 7 Easy Steps

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We all know a clean engine will help your car run smoothly. However, do you know how to clean an engine properly? Let us take you step by step.

Everyone loves a clean and shiny car. People have their vehicle washed all the time. What about cleaning the engine? Quite many may overlook this step, but it actually does more good than you ever think.

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Why do I need to clean my engine?

How To Clean An Engine Properly

Clean an engine – Before and after

The myth has been told that an engine needs dirt or oil to work more smoothly. However, it is totally false information. In fact, the less dirt left on the engine, especially the air filter, the better.

When no dust or dirt is migrating on it, the engine can cool down quickly and more efficiently. Even the bearings or pulleys can be benefited from this as they will wear out less.

In short, not only a clean engine compartment will make your car look newer, but it also helps your vehicle run more cooling and better maintained.

However, the idea of washing the big bundle of metal and plastic might sound daunting sometimes. Don’t worry, following our step by step guidance on how to clean an engine and you’ll get the job done right.

How to clean an engine?

Here are what you’d need on how to clean an engine efficiently and quickly.

Step 1: Schedule a day

It is advisable to have your engine cleaned on a warm day. Warm weather means low humidity with some dry wind. This will make sure the water can quickly evaporate, so the engine and its components dry out fast.

This might be a small step, but it is essential for the cleaning to be successful.

Step 2: Prepare your car

1. Cool

If the car just ran before the cleaning, flip up the hood and let the engine cool down at least for 15 minutes. Never clean on hot engine components, they might either burn you or be damaged by the rapid contraction once in contact with cool water.

2. Remove

If there is any debris stuck in the grill, vent openings, or hood, try removing them. Use a small handy brush if you can’t access to compressed air.

You should remove the negative terminal from your battery to avoid it from being damaged by the water. You can even remove the whole battery if you want to, it’ll still work well either way.

3. Cover

Cover all the sensitive electrical components like sensors, batteries, or ignition wires using plastic bags. You can use tape or rubber bands to fix those bags in place. If there are any exposed wires, you might as well cover them for extra caution.

Although the engine is most likely waterproof from the manufacturer, this step will ensure these electrical components are protected throughout the cleaning process.

Step 3: Applying engine degreaser

How To Clean An Engine Properly

Apply degreaser

Make sure to use water or citrus-based cleaner. Petroleum-based ones might work faster, but they are also too harsh that they could degrade the hoses.

Spray the degreaser thoroughly over the entire engine compartment, yet from the bottom-up direction. This way will ensure the degreaser not drip down on you while you’re cleaning.

Pay attention so you won’t overspray it because too much degreaser can remove the wax of your fenders. Actually, you can hose them off if it happens to get on your fenders or exterior surface. However, for the extra protection, you might consider covering them first hand.

Leave the degreaser soak for around 3 minutes, or 5 if you think your car engine is pretty dirty. It will help the degreaser to loosen up all the dust or dirt.

Step 4: Scrub

This step is needed depending on how dirty your engine is. If it’s clean, you can skip the scrubbing part. However, if there is massive dirt buildup, you can use a long-handled brush to clean hard-to-reach parts of the engine. Any small brush with bristles, except metallic ones, will work well.

You can also opt for car wash solution to use together with the brush for easier wash-off.

Step 5: Rinse off

Any hose will work, no matter it is a regular garden hose with water set, or power washer on a light setting, or sprayers in any DIY car wash.

Rinse off the whole compartment, from back to front to make sure you get rid of all the degreaser. Try not to spray directly on electrical components or areas that not easy to dry. 

Step 6: Leave it to dry

After washing off all the degreaser, you can now leave the engine to dry. Then just use a microfiber cloth to wipe off any excess water and dirt.

If you remove the negative terminal from the battery in step 2, don’t forget to put it back.

Step 7: Finishing

You can spray some plastic or vinyl care spray for non-metal areas for better maintained, giving them a smooth, non-cracking surface and a subtle shiny finish.

To end the cleaning process, make sure to remove all the plastic bags you put in at the start. You won’t like a melted plastic negatively affecting to your engine.


Question: How often should I have my engine cleaned?

Answer: It is ideally advisable by experts to clean your engine every three months to ensure it functions smoothly. However, depending on your environment, you might consider cleaning it more or less. For an instant, if you live in a place dusty and polluted, you should clean it regularly or even more to make sure the dirt isn’t stuck in the engine for long. Or else, if your environment is clean or squeaky clean, once or twice a year is already good enough.

Final words

With our step-by-step guide, we hope you now know how to clean an engine properly. With just about an hour and some careful steps, your car engine will always be clean of dirt or dust. All to ensure you smooth and happy rides. 

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