Should you clean your engine bay? This question comes to mind when you raise the hood of your car and the sight isn’t that pretty.
Dust, grit, grease, a stained engine cover does not look good, to be honest. But should you clean the engine bay? Will it cause any problems?
In this article, you’ll see some information about this topic that will perhaps let you make an easier decision.
Also, it would be good to read our other article related to this topic, what to avoid when washing the engine bay. Click here to read it.
Besides this, you have a video at the end of the article that you can also watch on our YouTube channel.
SHOULD YOU CLEAN YOUR ENGINE BAY?
The answer is yes but under certain circumstances which we’ll talk about later in the article.
Some good reasons for cleaning the engine bay are:
Let’s be honest, I don’t know a driver out there who cares about his/her car who doesn’t like a clean and shiny engine bay.
It’s much better to see than a dirty, gritty, and greasy engine and the plastics around it.
Also, as a bonus, a clean engine bay looks much better when you want to show off or sell the car.
A well-maintained and cleaned engine bay will certainly give a good impression and added value.
Better possibility of spotting a problem
A clean engine bay will enable you to spot, for instance, a leak much easier and solve the problem on time.
It’s the same for other assemblies also. There’s a much better chance that when making checkups you’ll spot any anomaly and repair it on time.
When the engine is dirty, it’s much harder to find out where and what’s wrong. Leaks especially.
Saving the engine, various components, and assemblies from future decay
By this, I mean situations when you’ve had a massive coolant, fuel, or oil leak for instance. In some cases, because of pressure, these can spread or splash all over the engine bay.
If left over, especially if the fluid is aggressive (which lots of car fluids are to some extent), it can cause damage. This goes double for rubber parts, electronic parts like sensors, connectors, and else.
So, if you clean the engine bay immediately after the problems are solved, you may save yourself from future problems.
Getting rid of bad smells
Again, I will mention leaks as a good example. If you’ve had a fuel leak for instance (especially on a diesel car), you won’t be able to get rid of the nasty smell easily. It can last for days if not weeks.
The smell will probably be present in the passenger cabin since it can get in through the ventilation system. Also, it will be noticeable from the outside like when the car is parked.
Another less common situation is if you’ve had problems with animals in the engine bay, namely rodents. The filth caused by them has a very bad smell and washing the engine bay may be the only solution.
If you want to read more about how to solve problems with animals in the engine bay, click here.
In all these cases, properly washing the engine will, almost always, solve the problem.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU CLEAN THE ENGINE BAY?
From personal experience once every year is more than enough. Even once every two years is OK.
This is unless there was some kind of problem like a massive coolant or oil leak that sprayed all over the engine bay. Of course, you’ll then clean the engine bay immediately after the repair.
The fact is that when the engine and all of the assemblies are functioning OK, the engine and engine bay only get dusty over time. Sometimes it can barely be noticed.
A huge help for keeping the engine bay clean are the underbody protective panels and splash shields. This is the first line of defense against water and dirt from the road which is the main cause of the engine getting dirty.
If they are all in place and properly mounted, the engine bay will stay much cleaner.
Without it, you’ll be washing the engine bay all the time.
After washing, the first rain or snow will return you back to square one.
WHERE CAN YOU WASH THE ENGINE BAY?
Two places where you can do this:
Cleaning the engine and engine bay is a popular DIY task. It is of course doable but under certain circumstances.
The engine bay is not a regular part of the car for cleaning like the car body or the interior for instance.
You have to take very good care that you don’t damage anything. Lots o parts are very sensitive to pressurized water and certain cleaning solvents.
This goes double for older or high-mileage cars where lots of parts (hoses, connectors, etc.) become brittle over time and can be easily damaged.
Knowing what you should do, how to protect certain parts, and what kind of cleaning method to use are key to doing the job properly.
Otherwise, you may cause some serious and costly damage.
Visit professional cleaners
Normally, I’m a proponent of DIY work around the car but regarding should you clean the engine bay, I highly recommend visiting a professional.
For one, most of them have the expertise and proper tools and cleaners for the job. Lots of these tend to be expensive making them not worth buying for the DIY solution. But without them, the job just isn’t the same.
To put it simply, when pros do the job properly, most DIY work can’t match it.
Another important factor is that most professionals will know what they’re doing and how to avoid hot spots for problems.
Yes, this will cost you more, that’s for sure but if the job is done much better and safer, it’s well worth the extra money.
Washing engine bays is usually done in car washes or car cleaning and detailing companies so this is the first place to look and ask for the service.
IS IT SAFE TO WASH THE ENGINE AT A CAR WASH?
Under certain circumstances, yes it is although it’s not recommendable nor economical.
Most car washes use pressurized water and we’ve mentioned what kind of damage this can cause.
Also, as mentioned, the engine bay is not a regular part of the car for cleaning. You have to make certain preparations especially regarding protecting parts of the engine.
When you combine these two factors with limited time in that kind of car wash, you don’t get exactly get a good terrain for the job.
Simply put, you need lots of time, precision, and preparation and a car wash isn’t the best place for that.
Exceptions for this would be better-equipped car washes that may have the tools and machines specifically for cleaning the engine.
When mentioning car washes, if you want to see how to wash your car in a self-service, coin-operated car wash, click here to read an article dedicated to that specific topic.
HOW TO KEEP THE ENGINE BAY CLEAN?
Regular maintenance and checkups
Regular maintenance and checkups will enable you to spot any problem on time that may pollute the engine bay or engine.
Oil leaks, fuel leaks, coolant leaks, or other problems can be usually spotted on time and thus prevented.
If unchecked, it will cause constant filth inside the engine bay and it will always look messy. Even if you wash it, it will soon be the same again.
Make sure you have all the protective underbody panels and splash shields
Lots of cars, especially older and used ones, are missing these panels. The most common reason is physical damage like potholes, not returning them when maintaining the car, not properly tightening them, and so on.
When in place, these panels form a lid that protects the engine from water, mud, and snow splashes from the road.
So, these essentially keep the engine bay clean in the long run, and if you really want to keep your engine bay clean then better invest money in installing these panels instead of frequently washing the engine bay.
We’ve mentioned the proper interval for cleaning the engine bay. Additionally, we’ll mention the importance of cleaning it on time.
Don’t be too obsessed with this, but don’t wait for it to become a pig stack.
If you notice grease and filth piling up, best clean it as soon as possible. Less filth means less work and better end results.
I must, once more, emphasize perhaps the most crucial part of this article:
The engine bay and engine demand preparations and certain precautions when cleaning them.
This goes double if you drive an older or high-mileage car where certain parts and components in the engine bay may have become brittle or fragile over the years.
The engine bay contains lots of parts, that in regular exploitation and conditions, successfully cope with the environment.
But if you hit them with pressurized hot water, for instance, they may give in and you’ll suddenly have a serious problem on your hands.
One that may include not being able to start the car, having to tow it, expensive repairs, and so on.
So, if your doing it as a DIY job, be sure to make the needed preparations, take your time, and pay attention to detail. Also, having some additional tools like a good steam washer will come in very handy.
But before you start, ask around how much professionals charge to do the job. It may easily turn out that letting someone else do it is safer and cheaper.
Especially if you want to avoid problems or you have less experience with cars.
So, should you clean your engine bay? Yes certainly. Should you know something about it and be careful? Definitely.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com
SHOULD YOU CLEAN YOUR ENGINE BAY? YOUTUBE VIDEO