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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I want to clean up my engine compartment, as thoroughly as possible. (Ideally, I would pull it out, take it all apart and spit shine every single piece by hand. However, I do not have the tools or skills to allow me to do this. I am now in the market for alternatives.) It's not really all that dirty--pretty much the only thing the previous owner did was keep the engine compartment relatively clean. But I want to get it insanely clean, as I think I have an oil leak or two, and I want to trace where this stuff is coming from, etc. I've gotten two recommendations, and both say the other one is wrong.

1) Get can of Engine Brite. Protect distributor and alternator. Spray entire engine (except the two aforementioned parts) in Engine Brite. Use entire can, if possible. Let it sit for a little bit to sink in. Spray it off with a garden hose.

2) Go to coin-operated car wash where you get a wand to clean by hand with pressurized hot water. Protect distributor and alternator and wash out the engine with the wand. Hot water and steam is a good thing.

Now, I was told by the supporter of number one that number two would probably break things because of the pressure, etc. Supporter of number two said Engine Brite could possibly chew up bits and pieces of my engine. I find the latter marginally dubious. However, I can't really afford anything beyond what I have budgeted for already, so I don't want to accidentally hurt my engine. Any suggestions, experience, etc?


1,611 Posts
Personally, I lightly spray the engine down with water, spray diluted Simple Green on the motor and lightly scrub with a soft bristled brush. Re-rinse the engine.

A day or two later I spray the entire engine bay with No-Touch Tire Bright (I think it's made by Armour All). Engine bay looks pretty darned close to show quality afterwards.

I tend to do this about once a year and it stays nice. I have never had any negative effects by using this method, so I continue to do it.

Discussion Starter · #3 ·
We dont get engine brite here in the UK but its almost certinally a mild acid like other engine cleaning products that we do get here. This can make plastic parts brittle and discolour them, as well as making paint work 'misty'. I wouldny worry too much with 1 aplication but I personally wouldnt use it regulally (as in once a month or two)

Car wash jet wash's (wands what ever) are pretty crap at cleaning engines unless you mainly want to clean off loose dirt\grease etc... Engine brite + jet wash would be good.

The best method Ive used is a high pressure steam cleaner, very simular to the jet wash (same sort of pressure\water coverage etc..) but using steam\bastard hot water insted of the cold\warm water of a jet wash. This gets rig of ingrained dirt etc... basically does a much better job.

Things to be worried about are the distrib & altonator (like you rightly said), where the plugs go into the head, air box etc... although most obviously delicate parts will be fine unless you spray directly at them. Another problem is some items need grease on them, you will be removing this, so you might want to re lube moving parts afterwards.

The absolute best way is the take bits of 1 at a time and polish them. Im sure you know aluminium with a bit of sanding and polishing comes up like chrome:cool: and theres a hella lot of aluminium on our cars. Maybe start with the steam cleaning then take one small item off a weekend at a time to be detailed? Polishing is hard work but needs 0 brain power and you have these fine forums to help you remove\assemble parts:)

2,341 Posts
What I've done

This is my engine bay. I did all the work here without any of those "spray the whole engine bay with water" type products. Basically the best way of cleaning engine parts it with a toothbrush, paper towels, and a good cleaner. I personally use Simple Green. You just have to take the engine bay basically 1 part at a time. Start and one corner and work from there.

On Metals:
1. Polishing aluminum: If you choose to polish an aluminum part, and want a very high quality finish, be prepared to do some work. Basically sand the part from 120 grit all the way to 200 grit sandpaper. then use some polishing compund eith a buffing wheel and then a metal polish. I use Mothers aluminum polish. If you just want the aluminum to look nicer get a wire wheel on a dremel and go over the surface and then use some metal polish. Polishable things in the engine bay are valve covers, intake manifold, throttle body, 3000 pipe, alternator, AFM, thermostat housing.

2) Any other metal: dont polish, or attempt to polish. You will remove the zinc coating and rust will become an issue quickly. You can either have these parts painted, powder coated, or ceramic coated, depending on the part and heat assocated with the part.

3) Hard Plastics: Ive found in cleaning hard plastics, something like Laquer Thinner works well. It will remove most grime nd make the plastic look newer. (it will usually take off that dried dead plastic on top.

3) Rubber hoses / lines go over them with wither rubbing alcohol or simple green. this usually will clean them off. Some armorall on them will give the high gloss finish.

4) Any rusty metal part- sand off as much of the rust as you can and re-pain t it.

5) Aluminum paint does look nice over rusted or ugle parts of the the throttle body (the steel parts)

ok thats all i can think of, i hope this helps
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