Who doesn’t like when their car is fresh and clean? A nicely-kept car looks attractive cruising down the street or sitting pretty in your driveway, and some even swear it drives better. But if you want to take care of your ride, you also should get rid of the dirt and grime under the hood. While the engine bay is not directly exposed to the elements, debris and dirt may creep in from openings under and around the hood.

Engine bay cleaning might sound intimidating—how do you even wash this thing? However, following these 10 steps can turn the job into one of your many afternoon tasks and a very gratifying one. So here’s how to clean your engine efficiently at home.

How To Clean Engine Bay

How To Clean Engine Bay

Step 1: Pick A Date 

Ideally, plan your cleaning day on a warm day. More temperate weather, especially low humidity and wind, will help dry the engine and components faster after washing.

Step 2: Let Engine Cool

If the car is on,  turn it off, pop open the hood, and let the engine cool for about 15 minutes. Hot engine parts can not only burn you but can also be compromised by rapid deflation if spattered with cool water.

Step 3: Remove The Necessary Components

Remove any detachable plastic parts under the hood. You can scrub those separately. Also, remove the negative terminal from the battery. This will help prevent electrical components from getting wet and damaged. Feel free to remove the battery if it helps, but it’s not necessary. The battery should be fine.

Step 4: Cover Delicate Electrical Components

Cover any delicate electrical components using plastic bags—components such as the battery, engine control unit, and ignition wires. If you feel like you’ll be expressly cautious when rinsing, then feel free to skip this step. However, covering these components will allow you to clean more thoroughly with less risk of ruining anything.

Step 5: Degrease The Engine Compartment

Spray the entire engine section thoroughly with a degreaser. Any household degreaser will do, whether that’s a kitchen cleaner or a purpose-made engine degreaser (found in most auto-parts). We like Simple Green. When degreasing, make sure to cover every square inch.

Step 6: Scrub As Needed

Depending on how soiled your engine bay is, scrub as needed.  Some areas, like the valve cover, may have years of accumulated oil and grime. Use a small brush with synthetic (not metallic) bristles to clean away the gunk. Spray some more degreaser if necessary.

Step 7: Rinse

If you own a power washer, you can use it to rinse the compartment (make sure to use a light setting), but a standard hose will work fine. If you have none of those things, you can use the sprayer at your local car wash. Start by rinsing the entire section, working from back to the front, washing away all that degreasing formula. 

Step 8: Dry Or Wipe

If you own a compressed air can, you can dry blast the nooks and crannies to eliminate excess water. If not, don’t fret – wipe everything within reach with a rag (or towel). This will also help remove any leftover grime from the compartment.

Step 9: Put The Components Back In Place

Put back the negative terminal on the battery and remove the plastic covers concealing the electrical components.

Step 10: Repeat

If your engine compartment is excessively dirty, feel free to repeat. Quick degreasing once a year or two will help keep your engine clean and operating smoothly. 

Helpful Tips To Clean Your Engine Bay

Take A “Before” Picture

The last thing you want is to forget where some parts fit after removing them. Yes, the old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies in this scenario, but you must dive deep to get a deep clean. Before you start removing parts for the big rinse, grab your phone and snap a couple of pictures of the engine bay. Even if you have a great memory and know your way around the bay, a picture can still be invaluable. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple glance at the “before” picture to know exactly where that weird thing was attached.

Use Chemicals Suitable For The Job

You may be tempted to get an aerosol can of foaming degreaser at your local auto-parts and fog the entire engine compartment. Don’t do that!

While aerosol engine cleaner works great, it’s designed for very heavily soiled engines. Most of the time, that stuff is overkill for average engines. It may also cause more damage and corrosion if you don’t rinse off everything. So instead, spend a little extra time by using a few rags, spraying your degreaser of choice on the rag, and simply wipe away the dirt. 

Wiping away dirt is more time-consuming, but it has its benefits: It prevents chemicals from forcing their way into nooks and crannies and helps you become familiar with your engine bay. Noticing a lot of oily accumulation in one spot? Investigate the troubled area to see whether there’s a leak somewhere in need of a fix.


Start the car and allow it to reach operating temperature. This should unload any remaining moisture and dirt. Then, if you’ve been tackling this project at home, bring the bag of soiled pads and the container of contaminated water to a hazardous waste collection facility.

The engine bay protects your car’s engine, so it’s essential to keep it well maintained. Kind of like taking care of your well-being to lower your risk of contracting a severe disease down the road.If your engine is a dirty, oily mess and brings it back to good condition, with these few tips.