Thursday, February 14, 2013

DIY: How To Clean Your Car's Engine

Video by saabkyle04
Words by Luis.

A lot of people freak out at the thought of getting their car's engine wet, even though sometimes they'll drive right through a deep puddle without giving it a second thought.

The engine bay, and its contents, will take a good soaking every once in a while, but the engine keeps on tickin', so there's no good reason — with a few common sense precautions like covering the distributor cap, if applicable, as shown in this video — not to give your car or truck's engine a good bath every once in a while.

Engine detailing is a great DIY weekend project.

I like to start with the engine warm enough to soften some of the oil and grime on it, but I do not recommend working on a hot engine. I usually stay away from high-pressure nozzles and do not like using a pressure washer. Of course your engine may require a more aggressive approach, but you will have to decide that.

Most of the time, I simply let the cleaner do the work and I scrub those areas that require special attention. When the time comes to rinse the engine and engine bay, I like to use just enough water to rinse the engine cleaner off the engine and other components, and then I follow with a dry rag to make sure everything is fairly dry.

At that point I run the engine for a few minutes, but I do not like to do so while working on it. That can end up in disaster very quickly.

If the weather is nice, you can also leave the hood open for a while to let it air dry, but if you spray water near the battery — and chances are you will — make sure the area around the terminals is completely dry.

Of course, this is an excellent opportunity to clean the terminals thoroughly, install new felt anti-corrosion rings, and a generous coat of battery terminal grease or Vaseline®. This will help extend the battery life and it will look nice. You can buy the felt rings and grease (usually as a kit) at any auto parts store for a few bucks.

I like to use Simple Green® to clean the engine and engine bay. Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner is not as strong or corrosive as some other cleaners out there, and it is non-toxic and bio-degradable, which is good for the environment and your driveway.

Simple Green makes several products, some stronger than others, but I always use the regular-strength, all-purpose stuff you can buy almost anywhere, and that works just fine in my opinion.

Of course, depending on how dirty your engine and engine bay are, you may have to use a stronger, more concentrated cleaner. Still, I would let the chemicals do the work and then scrub, scrub, scrub, but stay away, if possible, from using a pressure washer.

After I'm all done, I spray some WD-40® on hinges and latches, and even give a few squirts to the fan belt. WD-40® is a Water Displacer, so it's the perfect product for such jobs.

Again, this is a great weekend DIY project, so go to the auto parts store and get the stuff you'll need to take care of your vehicle.