For many, having a clean and tidy car is very important. But, while most people focus on cleaning the interior and exterior, few take the time to clean under the hood. Cleaning under the hood of the car can have benefits that go beyond appearances. Basically, a clean engine compartment helps extend the life of the car and prevents electrical and mechanical problems. However, cleaning under the hood is a bit more difficult than you might think. Fortunately, with a little time and information, you can clean under the hood and extend the life of your vehicle.
Part 1 of 3: Preparing the Vehicle for Cleaning
Step 1. Make sure the engine is cold
The only time you should wash under the hood is when the engine is cold. This means that you should wait a long time after you have turned off the engine and washed it. If you wash it when the engine is hot, you risk damaging it as cold water could cause warm or hot parts to break or be damaged.
- The best time to wash under the hood is in the morning, after the engine has cooled overnight.
- Some experts suggest that it is okay to wash the engine when it is slightly warm. They say this can help in the process of removing dirt and grime. However, it is better to be careful and wait until the engine cools down.
- Never wash under the hood immediately after you've been driving the car.
Step 2. Cover the delicate parts of the engine
Before washing under the hood, you should make sure to cover or protect some parts that could be damaged by water. This can be done by securing vulnerable components with plastic bags and plastic tape.
- Covers or protects the air intake of the engine.
- Covers or protects the alternator.
- Protects all electronics, electrical connections, and relays or sensors.
- Covers or protects the distributor cap. Water can easily get under the lid. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and secure it with tape. If water seeps under the lid, you can spray WD-40 to remove it. If this doesn't work, you will need to replace the cap and rotor.
- If you are not sure about the damage that water could cause to certain parts of the engine, cover them.
Step 3. Remove the filters from the engine compartment
The next step is to remove the filters that could be damaged or ruined. This is important as filters are extremely vulnerable to water and there are places where it could collect and damage the engine or other parts.
- The filter that you should surely remove is the engine air filter. Almost never, if it is exposed in the engine compartment, will you also have to remove the cabin filter.
- Make sure to cover any filter inlets with plastic, just like you did the electronics and other areas.
- Store the filters in a clean, dry place.
- Make sure you put the filters in a place where you won't forget them. It is very important that you replace all filters after washing the engine compartment.
Step 4. Remove the battery cables
Before you continue cleaning under the hood, be sure to remove the battery cables from the car. This is important as you will be using water in the engine compartment and this could short out the vehicle.
- Find an appropriate tool to loosen the nuts holding the battery cables.
- Disconnect the negative cable.
- Disconnect the positive cable.
- Don't let the positive leads touch any metal parts in the car. This could short the vehicle.
- Lay the cords on a table or in the garage where they won't come in contact with water.
Step 5. Gather your supplies
After you have prepared the car, you will need to gather the rest of the materials that you will need to continue. It's important that you have everything you need to wash under the hood quickly and effectively and make sure to remove all the water when you're done. Make sure you have:
- car soap (wax and polymer free)
- microfiber towels
- a hose and low pressure sprayer.
- rubber or vinyl protector
Part 2 of 3: Cleaning under the hood
Step 1. Spray degreaser on areas that are not delicate
Before spraying water on the motor, you should spray a degreaser on the non-delicate metal parts. The degreaser will help loosen the grease by spraying it on the engine.
- Take the degreaser and spray it all over the engine compartment.
- Avoid sensitive areas with electrical connections.
- It is okay to degrease hoses and fluid containers.
- Do not spray degreaser in areas where it could drip or fall on the engine.
- Leave the degreaser in for several minutes.
Step 2. Rinse the motor
After you have left the degreaser on for a while, you should rinse the engine with a regular stream of water. Rinsing will help remove dirt, grime, and degreaser. This way you won't scratch delicate metal or plastic parts during the washing process.
- You should rinse with low pressure and low volume.
- Position the hose sprinkler so that you can spray.
- Don't flood the engine compartment. Do it slowly and carefully.
- Pay special attention to the areas that you have already degreased and be sure to rinse them.
Step 3. Clean the engine compartment with a mixture of soap and water
After degreasing and rinsing, take a soap and water mixture and clean the engine compartment. Cleaning it with soap and water will help remove any remaining degreaser, dirt and grime.
- Use a microfiber towel.
- Avoid soaps that contain wax or polymers.
- Make sure you follow the directions on the soap bottle and dilute it properly.
- Gently clean and pay attention to heavily soiled areas.
Step 4. Spray the engine compartment again
After you've cleaned it with soap and water, you'll need to rinse it again. Just like you did before, make sure to go slow and use low pressure. The goal is to remove soap and dirt without letting water get into delicate areas.
Step 5. Dry the engine
The next step will be to dry the engine. Unlike washing the car, you should avoid air drying to remove all the water from the engine compartment as quickly as possible. This will ensure that the water does not get into delicate areas.
- Dry the engine compartment with microfiber towels.
- Pay special attention to hard-to-reach areas and areas where water could collect and where it cannot be drained.
- Clean the coils, distributor, alternator, and other similar areas.
Part 3 of 3: Putting the pieces back in place
Step 1. Remove the plastic bags that protect the delicate parts of the engine
After you've dried most of the engine, remove the plastic bags you used to protect the delicate engine parts. This will allow you to continue cleaning and finish the task.
- Be thorough when removing all the plastic tape from the motor. If you forget a piece, it could damage the motor.
- Clean plastic bags before removing them, just as a preventative measure.
Step 2. Apply protectors to the rubber and vinyl parts
After the engine has dried, run it over and apply protectants (that are safe for cars) to the rubber and vinyl surfaces of the engine. This way, the engine will not only look clean, it will have a new appearance and it will be protected.
- The guards will help extend the life of the rubber and vinyl parts in the engine compartment.
- You can put wax on the painted surfaces of the motor, but be aware that the wax probably won't last long due to the heat.
- As with degreaser, soap, and water, avoid applying protectants to delicate areas that you covered with plastic.
Step 3. Reattach the battery cables and filters
After you've removed all the plastic, dried the engine, and applied protectors, it's time to attach the battery cables and filters to return the engine compartment to the way it was before you started washing it. This way the car will work the same as before, but the engine compartment will be cleaner.