How to Clean Your Engine Bay

Even if you take your car through the car wash every week like clockwork and regularly schedule a deep detail to keep the interior looking brand new, there are still places on your car you’re probably missing. The most common of these? The engine bay. With so many mechanical parts and opportunities for things to go wrong, that area under the hood seems like it should be off-limits to a soap and a scrub brush, right?

Not necessarily. Although cleaning an engine bay does require a little more finesse than, say, scrubbing your tires, it’s important to include it in your routine.

Importance of a Clean Engine Bay

Because an engine bay isn’t exposed to the elements the way the rest of your car is (and because your children aren’t sitting inside eating fruit snacks), it seems as though there’s no need to clean it. However, although you aren’t likely to get spots of sap or spilled milk, there’s quite a bit of gunk that builds up inside an engine bay. Oil acts like a magnet for all kinds of dirt and debris, which are kicked up from the road and enter through the cracks. The result is a gunky, dirty mess that only gets worse the more it’s allowed to build up.

Not only is this mess unsightly to look at, but it can also cause problems with your car’s efficiency. This dirt may cause excessive wear and tear to the engine, hide serious problems that need your attention, and even prevent your engine from cooling properly.

How to Clean an Engine Bay

To maintain your vehicle’s value and keep things running great, keep an eye on your engine bay and wash it every few months. (Hint: For maximum safety, wait until your engine has cooled down before you attempt to introduce cold water to it. You also want to avoid getting water into the alternator, battery terminals, engine computer, and the air filter, so either cover them up with plastic or avoid direct sprays of water directly on the engine itself.)

  • Pre-Rinse: Just as pre-rinsing your car’s exterior helps to knock off loose dust and debris, so too does a pre-rinse soak help keep things moving.
  • Degreaser: An engine bay needs a heavier degreaser than regular car soap. Most car part stores sell a spray degreaser that will cut through the oil and grime quickly and easily. Spray it on, let it set, and use a wash brush or cloth to wipe it away. Depending on the state of your engine bay, you may need to repeat this step.
  • Rinse: Degreaser shouldn’t stay on the engine bay, so make sure you do a thorough rinse after you’re done scrubbing. Avoid high-pressure sprays so you don’t knock anything loose inside the engine itself.
  • Soap Like Normal: Once the degreaser has done its work, you can wash the engine bay area with the usual car wash soap, which will provide a nice finish. (Rinse again, as necessary.)

Because engine bays can be intimidating for those who aren’t accustomed to looking under the hood, you might choose to have your engine cleaned by professionals at Utah Auto Spa (see our Additional Services section for auto exteriors). This is a great way to keep things running smoothly without requiring you to put in too much extra effort!