Car Engine Cleaning:
Simplified tips for success

best auto detailing tips tag line

Car engine cleaning is one of those areas of auto care and detailing that is full of bad and misleading information. Many people are stuck in the past with techniques of how to clean their car engine that are largely based on cars of old, versus cars built using new technology.

The engines of today's modern cars are vastly different than the cars built 20+ years ago. From the many "how to clean a car engine" video's on Youtube, to the many posts made within car forums, it is an area that is often over-complicated with bad information from misinformed people to the point where most people are afraid to clean their cars engine due to hyped up concern and fear.

A Clean Engine is a Happy Engine

While I have many customers in my professional world who never give their car engines a second thought, I personally think that detailing should extend to all areas of a car; including cleaning under the hood.

Dirty Car Engine

Cleaning car engine

Clean Car Engine

picture of detailed car engine after cleaning and detailing

"Which of the car engines above would you rather see when opening the hood of your car? Which engine do you think would be treated with more respect from your auto mechanic?"

Car Engine Cleaning Made Simple

  1. Use effective engine degreaser.
  2. Apply degreaser to all areas of dirty car engine.
  3. Agitate excessively dirty areas of engine.
  4. Spray engine off with water.
  5. Blow off excessive water with leaf blower.
  6. Start engine and allow to reach normal operating temperature.
  7. Apply engine dressing if desired.

car engine cleaning

Automotive Engine Cleaner:
Super Degreaser

This Super Degreaser put out by Meguiar's is one of my favorites and would hate to try and operate without it. Since it is professional grade product, you will not find this at your local retailer. And many of you might find it over-kill as far as purchasing an entire gallon if you are simply a driveway detailer.

The good news is that this product is a concentrate and can be custom blended to suit your specific needs and can also be diluted to fit endless cleaning tasks.Just know that this is not the only degreaser that will work and you may want to see my best degreaser page for additional alternatives to the Meguiar's degreaser.

It is also a product that has almost endless cleaning applications that I use in both interior and exterior cleaning/detailing. You can see how I use it for the following:

How to Clean Car Upholstery

How to Clean Car Leather

"Cleaning and detailing your car engine to professional grade results requires both effective and safe products, combined with the right tools."

Meguiar's Super-Degreaser

Meguiar's D10801 Super Degreaser - 1 Gallon

  • One of my top favorite products I use professionally. (this is the exact degreaser I use in my videos)
  • Concentrate that can be custom blended for hundreds of uses.
  • Non caustic.
  • Does not leave white residue after drying; washes away clean.
  • For engines I use a 4:1 dilution.
  • Professional grade product; cannot be purchased at your local retailer.

Meguiar's Super-Degreaser Spray Bottle

Meguiar's D20108 Super Degreaser Bottle - 32 oz. Capacity W/ Meguiar's D110542 Chemical Resistant Sprayer

  • Match your spray bottle to the contents of that spray bottle.
  • Has markings on bottle for traditional dilution ratios.
  • If you're going to do it right, might as well really do it right with a dedicated labeled spray bottle.

Chemical Resistant Sprayers

28mm Gray Chemical Resistant Spray Head 9-1/4" Dip Tube (6-pack)

  • My first choice in sprayers.
  • Chemical resistant.
  • The most ergonomically friendly sprayer available.
  • What I use professionally.
  • These are identical to the gray sprayers you might see in my pictures throughout this website.

Darren's Note: Regardless of the sprayer head you choose and regardless of whether it is labeled as chemical resistant or not, you just never know how many sprays each head will deliver. For this reason I always keep extra sprayer heads on hand.

Tire/Wheel/Engine Brush Kit

Chemical Guys ACC_G09 Body and Wheel Flagged Tip Short Handle Brush

Chemical Guys ACC_G01 20" Long Handle Body/Wheel Brush with Flagged-Tip Bristles (Angled Head), , 1 Pack

  • Use these brushes to agitate heavily soiled areas of your car engine.
  • Especially useful for degreasing and cleaning the under-side of your engine hood.
  • You don't necessarily need to get both versions, but based on your car/truck and the reach you will need for car engine cleaning, you may need a longer reach brush to save your back.
  • My professional choice in quality brushes.
  • Feathered bristle tips for extra effectiveness and safety.

"There are many people apposed to putting any kind of dressing on their car's engine in fear of attracting dirt/dust. Any dressing will not actually "attract" dust, but simply allow dust to attach to it easier. The real reason for the bad press is that now dust shows better on a freshly cleaned, detailed, and dressed engine just like dust shows better on a black car. I myself am a huge fan and consider a topping of dressing as a sacrificial layer between my engine components and incoming dirt that I can simply wash away easier next time around."

Chemical Guys Back to Black

Chemical Guys AIR_SPRAY_1 Black On Black Instant Shine Interior & Exterior Spray Dressing

  • I am a huge fan of aerosol dressings as they are both extremely convenient, they deliver a much finer mist than that of a traditional pull-trigger sprayer, and ideal for intricate areas such as a car engine.
  • Product warning says "Flammable". You will not be spraying this to any open sparks or on a hot engine, and in 25+ years I have never had a problem.
  • You will love the results.

CarPro PERL Plastic and Rubber Protectant

CarPro PERL Coat Plastic & Rubber Protectant 1 Liter

  • True professional grade product.
  • For use on both interior and exterior.
  • Vinyl, rubber, plastic, leather.
  • Also an excellent engine dressing.
  • Multi-use product.
  • Hydrophobic.
  • UV inhibitors.

Darren's Note: The simple and easiest approach to dressing your car engine after you are done with car engine cleaning is to use the aerosol dressing above. But to be more economical, you can get a liquid dressing (also good if you are off the main land and you can't have an aerosol can shipped by air) and use this professional grade product to achieve the same results. When using this dressing on an engine, I dilute down 1:3 (one part dressing and 3 parts water) as I want a thinner mix that will work better on all the intricate parts of your engine.

Darren's Professional Tips:

When car engine cleaning, there will always be heated debate as to whether to apply some form of engine dressing to your car engine after you have degreased and cleaned it.

Use the following guidelines to help you make a decision:

  • Not recommended for off-road vehicles. (I know many that do and I would myself as I consider a dressing as a sacrificial barrier between my engine parts and new dirt. Meaning: I apply a dressing that I accept will show the dirt and dust, and in some ways, allow the dirt and dust to "stick to" the car engine and components better, but is also a layer of separation between the dirt and my actual engine and components.)
  • Water based dressing. (As a rule I prefer water-based dressings as opposed to the typical clear, solvent based dressings promoted as durable, long lasting dressings that are very difficult to clean off before any new applications of dressing.)
  • Becomes a sacrificial layer that can easily be cleaned off each time you want to repeat car engine cleaning steps from above.
  • I recommend either dressings above to take your freshly cleaned car engine to a level 10!
  • Watch "how to video's" below for specific steps and tips.

Car Engine Cleaning "How to" Video

Darren's YouTube Video Channel

Make sure you check out and subscribe to my YouTube video channel as I continually upload more and more tutorial videos that are taken straight from my world as a professional detailer at Auto Fetish Detail. You can subscribe with my YouTube icon just below!


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