Keeping your car’s engine clean can have beneficial long term effects on its performance. The flowing are some quick and easy steps to clan your engine:
Warm up Engine
The first thing to do is warn up the engine. Let it run for about 5 minutes. This helps loosen up grease and dirt. This is best done outdoors so that the fumes can dissipate. Don’t leave your car running in a closed garage for long. Even a small amount of fumes adding up can be unhealthy to breathe.
Park Vehicle in Best Spot
If you’re at all environmentally conscious, you don’t want to park your vehicle where the runoff will go down storm drains or form puddles that children will play in or that are difficult to clean up. Thus either park it in a driveway or empty lot where you are not too concerned about grease and chemicals accumulating, or take it to a car wash that may use a waste water treatment system. In the latter case the engine runoff from the cleaning will wash down drains but still be filtered and treated so it is environmentally safe. If puddles form in your driveway, try to clean them up as thoroughly as possible afterwards.
The risk of electric shock from getting a battery wet is a real one and should not be ignored. So you need to unhook your battery before cleaning. Unhook the negative terminal first, then unhook the positive. Be sure that this step is taken care of before you proceed with the cleaning.
For Older Engines – Cover Air Intake and carburetor
Vehicles built and sold before the early to mid 1990s still used carbureted engines. Carburetors, for anyone who doesn’t know, are chambers in which gas and air are mixed before being sent to the intake manifold and exploded by spark plugs in the cylinders. Also included in this general system is the air cleaner (this looks like a large circular component – inside is the circular air filter) into which the air that is mixed enters. Both of these items are prone to having water enter them as the engine is being cleaned so they should be covered up with plastic. The plastic bags from supermarkets or garbage bags work well. You can tape the plastic on with duct tape, or better yet, tape that is designed withstand higher temperatures. This will protect these components from getting wet, which could affect their function.
If you have a more modern vehicle, in all probability it is fuel injected and this is not as much of a problem. Sealed injectors inject fuel/air into the cylinders directly and they is little space for any water to get in.
Cover all Electric Components
Any electrical components that are exposed need to be covered with plastic as well. Things like the battery, the alternator (if it’s in plain view), fuses, then solenoid, starter (again if open and exposed), spark plugs, and wires should be covered as completely as is convenient. Electrical components can malfunction if they are exposed to too much water.
Do a “Dry Scrub”
You first want to scrub the engine while it’s dry with an abrasive brush to loosen any debris and dirt. This will make it easier when you do add the cleaning fluid.
Prepare Cleaning Solution
An easy and effective cleaning solution to use for engine cleaning is simply grease cutting dish detergent and warm water. You can mix this right in the sink. There are, of course, also other products such as engine degreasers and mineral spirits that you can use if the vehicle’s engine is very greasy.
Now just wash all greasy and dirty parts of the engine that you can see and reach. A semi abrasive scrubby, ordinary rag, steel wool, and even an old tooth brush can be useful cleaning implements. You can start with the soap solution and if after you have scrubbed all you can there remains a lot of grease, use degreaser or mineral spirits. Be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions for these stronger grease cutting chemicals.
When you are all done scrubbing, rinse the engine with a hose. Be sure to do this thoroughly so that all the soap is washed away.
Let Engine Dry
Leave the hood open and let the engine dry out for a few hours if possible before using the vehicle. After that time, remove the plastic covers that you’ve put on the various parts.
That’s it! Your engine will now be clean and dry and a pleasure to look at and drive.