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  1. #1
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    How to clean an engine compartment

    How to clean an engine compartment


    The most important thing....

    Tape-off and cover over ANYTHING you don't want to have to replace because it was damaged.

    AND spend your time up-front doing a really good job of taping-off and covering up anything you don't want to risk damaging and then having to replace.

    You can read all about how engines and engine compartments are designed to get wet and for this reason there's no risk involved when detailing an engine and the engine compartment, but when it's your engine and your time and money, you can decide what's best for you and let the other guys do it how they want to do it.

    As for me?

    After cleaning an engine compartment I want to turn the key, fire up the engine and have zero problems. Zero.

    I like to take the time to do a really good job of tapping-off and covering up anything I don't want to get wet and risk having to either replace or simply have problems with.

    I really only prefer to detail my own engines and engine compartments too. I teach 'Cosmetic Engine Detailing" in my detailing boot camp classes because this type of engine detailing is profitable for detailers and due to the amount of plastic inside modern cars, trucks and SUVs, it's usually more than enough to make a customer, (that in most cases cannot identify a single component in the engine compartment except the oil dipstick), happy.


    Blow out engine compartment
    First thing you want to do is blow out the engine compartment using some manner of compressed or forced air. This is where the Metro-Vac Sidekick comes in handy as you can simply plug it in and go to town with it. One of my favorite tools in all my arsenal of tools.





    Tape-off and cover any water-sensitive components
    Here's the engine compartment in my 1975 Jimmy and it's gotten a little dirty since the last time I cleaned it.

    Carburetor
    The first thing I did was remove the air cleaner and poked a clean microfiber towel into the openings of the 750 Holley Carburetor. This way, if any kind of liquid gets past the tape, past the tinfoil and past the plastic, the microfiber will absorb the liquid.

    HEI Distributor
    For the distributor I covered with Saran Wrap, then formed Tin Foil around the Saran Wrap and then use more 3M tape to hold the entire mess onto the distributor so when I'm brushing around it or rinsing with water it won't come off.


    Alternator
    Yeah yeah yeah... everyone says it's okay to get these wet. Guess what, even if it is okay, when I'm blasting any kind off grunge off other areas I don't want it to get into the alternator. So you can leave yours uncovered but for me and my engines, I'm covering them up.






    That's about it... the MSD Coil burnt out from too much engine heat so it's just on the firewall for looks. I like MSD ignitions but the stock HEI ignition system is more than adequate for a daily driver. Plus, the higher the voltage you go for your ignition, the harder the spark tries to find anywhere to jump to and this by itself can cause problems.






    Spray APC or Engine Degreaser on engine and inside engine compartment
    I love the Tornador Air Foam Guns! Dang near anything you use with these guns will foam and that's true for Amazing Roll-Off...




    Spray the engine and engine compartment down with your choice of all purpose cleaner, since my engine compartment isn't that dirty I'm using the Amazing Roll-Off. If your engine is really grungy, then a dedicated Engine Degreaser will work a lot better. I built this engine and installed it myself 4 years ago and it's never dripped a drop of oil so it doesn't have any oil grunge on the side of the block or anywhere.














    Allow the foam to dwell
    After spraying everything down with foam a let it soak in and penetrate any dirt or oily film and then this is key,

    Agitate well with a brush









    Scrub with brushes
    I didn't have anyone around to take pictures of me doing all the actual dirty scrubbing parts but that's what I did next, scrubbed everything I could reach and I used a variety of different brushes to do the job.

    I would say the brush I used the most and worked the best was the Speed Master Wheel Brush.




    Rinse
    After agitating everything you can reach with a brush, then rinse the engine and engine compartment down using a water sprayer. Be careful not to blast anything covered up and taped off.











    Blow engine dry
    After rinsing the engine, I blew it dry using the Metro-Vac Sidekick. Again no pictures but I love this tool and it really does a much better job than an air squirter and an air compressor.





    Start Engine
    After blowing the engine dry, start the motor and let the motor run for about 15 minutes or so. This will warm the motor up enough to evaporate any water off the engine and out of the engine compartment and it will also vaporize any cleaning solution or other residues. This is important when detailing other people's engines because you don't want any smoke or odor coming off the engine when they pick up their car. So do this before they arrive.




    Products used...







    At Autogeek.net

    Autogeek Z-011D Tornador Air Foamer HP

    Metro Blaster SideKick

    Amazing Roll-Off

    Speed Master Wheel Brush

    Speed Master Jr. Wheel Brush

    1” Round Detailing Brush

    Mothers Fender Well Brush

    3M Automotive Performance Masking Tape 3 Pack


    Action Time!
    Now get out there and get to cleaning your engine compartment. You can do it and of course, we can help...


    Mike Phillips
    Director of Training Autogeek & Marine 31
    IDA Board Member - Certified Detailer - Skills Validated Detailer - IDA Recognized Trainer
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  2. #2
    Senior Member ihaveacamaro's Avatar
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    Re: How to clean an engine compartment

    Holy crap Mike, how could you even tell what's what after that foam!!

    Dang that was some thick foam.

    Great how to!

    Engine compartments are what I'm most terrified to detail.
    Nova College of Dental Medicine Class of 2017
    Please check out my detailing YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/roshan517

  3. #3
    Senior Member zmcgovern45's Avatar
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    Re: How to clean an engine compartment

    It's a shame that most newer luxury (and even base) cars have engine bays that are so completely covered with plastic panels. You can't even see my engine without removing several plastic pieces.

    ... nice job and great write up, as always!

    Retired Professional Detailer

  4. #4
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: How to clean an engine compartment

    Quote Originally Posted by zmcgovern45 View Post

    It's a shame that most newer luxury (and even base) cars have engine bays that are so completely covered with plastic panels. You can't even see my engine without removing several plastic pieces.
    That's actually a good thing though as it helps keep the engine clean by protecting it and it makes doing "Cosmetic Detailing" fast and easy. I borrowed this term from my buddy Mel Craig and he hit the nail on the head with this term and upsell when detailing cars for money.

    Cosmetic Detailing --> Underpromise and Overdeliver


    This means, don't promise to scrape the burnt grease off the side of an engine block, instead, tell your customer you'll do a "cosmetic engine detail" and charge around $50.00 to $70.00.

    Then just keep it simple and follow these quick and simple steps I teach in my detailing boot camp class...

    1. Work in shade or shade on engine.
    2. Blow out loose debris with Sidekick.
    3. Cover and protect components with plastic, tinfoil & tape.
    4. Apply Degreaser or APC - Agitate with selection of brushes.
    5. Do Low Pressure Rinse.
    6. Blow & wipe dry with Sidekick and towel capture technique.
    7. Apply dressing to all rubber, plastic and vinyl – Wipe dry.
    8. Run Engine.
    9. Close hood and done.


    Just taking a dusty, lightly grimy new car engine compartment and doing the above doesn't take a lot of time and creates a dramatic visual difference that the customer will notice.

    Be sure if you're selling this with a detail job to also open the hood and inspect the engine compartment with the owner. If the engine compartment is older and a disaster then this type of service won't fit the car and don't offer it. For really grimy, neglected engine compartments on older cars you really need to charge by the hour or don't offer the key word, "cosmetic" engine detail but offer a "Engine Detail" and charge a higher price.

    The beauty to the Cosmetic Detail is you're "Cherry Picking", you're picking cars that don't have horrible engine compartments and sprucing them up cosmetically and for most newer cars and for customer base you want to build, this is a good approach and a win/win business deal in that it's good for you and our customer.


    "Frequent car care is easy car car"

    Explain the above to your customer and let them know that having you do a cosmetic engine detail doesn't cost a lot and keeps the engine compartment looking new. This helps protect the resale value. If they let it go and it goes from lightly dirty to a grimy mess, well then it will cost a lot to undo all the years of neglect and let someone else have the blessing.


    Cherry pick your engine detailing job. Pick the low fruit off the tree and let your competitors have the rest...





    Quote Originally Posted by zmcgovern45 View Post

    ... nice job and great write up, as always!

    Thank you. I own easy stuff that's easy to work on by choice and because I'm fortunate in that I can own this type of stuff. I don't have to work on my own rigs often but when I do I like everything to be clean. I also like to be able to pop the hood and show off a clean engine, it makes a huge difference when other "car guys" are checking it out.


    For all you guys that don't have a Metro-Vac Sidekick... get one... you'll love it for all kinds of detailing related tasks.


    Mike Phillips
    Director of Training Autogeek & Marine 31
    IDA Board Member - Certified Detailer - Skills Validated Detailer - IDA Recognized Trainer
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Dr_Pain's Avatar
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    Re: How to clean an engine compartment

    This thread should have been titled:

    How to clean your engine compartment LIKE A BOSS!!!

    I don't know if I enjoyed the foam fest as much as looking at that powerplant! Love your truck Mike, even if I am a Ford man!

    https://www.facebook.com/FlawlessFinishDetailing
    Dr. Claude Tremblay, Co-owner/Senior Detailer, Certified CQuartz FINEST Installer

  6. #6
    Member KyleP's Avatar
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    As you can see... the majority of under my hood has a nice big plastic piece over it... judging from this picture do I need to cover up anything next time I do a engine detail on my car?


    Sent from my SCH-I535 using AG Online

  7. #7
    Senior Member Finemess's Avatar
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    Re: How to clean an engine compartment

    Holy handfuls of cleaning foam Mike. Looks like it cleaned up very nice. Super pix, I did mine today with purple power and dried then CD 2.
    'Cause there's just something women like about a pickup man.
    Rich

  8. #8
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: How to clean an engine compartment

    Quote Originally Posted by KyleP View Post

    As you can see... the majority of under my hood has a nice big plastic piece over it... judging from this picture

    do I need to cover up anything next time I do a engine detail on my car?


    No but that's because with a little effort you could easily "detail" your engine compartment with either a spray detailer or a light strength dilution of an APC or something like Optimum Power Clean or even Optimum Opti-Clean.

    Get some tatty microfiber towels and tatty terry cloth towels for doing this type of work.

    The 4 minimum categories of wiping cloths


    Then if you desire, apply a dressing. I'm not a big fan of any type of dressing that would stay oily, or sticky as this actually causes dust and dirt to accumulate on surfaces.

    A product like 303 Aerospace Protectant, USED CORRECTLY is wiped to a hard dry finish, thus no oily residue on the surface.

    See what I say about how to use it in this article in step #4


    How To Restore and Protect a Vinyl Top using 303 Products



    Mike Phillips
    Director of Training Autogeek & Marine 31
    IDA Board Member - Certified Detailer - Skills Validated Detailer - IDA Recognized Trainer
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  9. #9
    Member KyleP's Avatar
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    Thanks Mike. Megs quick detailer would work for my engine?

    Also, I used tire dressing last time will it hurt if its made with acids?

    Sent from my SCH-I535 using AG Online

  10. #10
    Senior Member AeroCleanse's Avatar
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    Re: How to clean an engine compartment

    Using a steamer works great too.

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