Lookin' Good Under The Hood
For some of us, opening the hood is a rare occasion. It's not the first place you clean and it's certainly not the first spot you show the car show judges, unless you've just detailed it that is. The key to an engine detail is time; there are a lot of intricate parts and components, and spiffing up the area requires a little elbow grease. Taking your time will yield great results and better yet, a healthy engine compartment. To make things easier on you, here's how to make the most of an engine detail and some tips to help you out along the way…
First things first, you'll need some supplies before detailing your engine. Starting with the obvious items, you'll need a degreaser, an old cloth (so you can throw it away afterward), and a parts cleaning brush. Tip: Rather than an old cloth or towel, old t-shirts work great for cleaning your car's engine. These products will be used for the important clean step, which you'll follow with a pH neutralizer (prep) and a plastic conditioner (protect), which will need either a foam or cotton applicator. If your engine is particularly dirty, you may want to use rubber gloves to keep grease and grime off of your hands. Tip: Putting a sheet of plastic on the ground below the engine will help pick up fallen grease, grime, dirt, and runoff so it doesn't gather and to your garage floor. With your products and accessories in place, it's time to begin your engine detail.
Whenever working under your car's hood, be sure the car has had ample time to cool off. Tip: Surfaces may be hot as long as an hour after driving, so parking in the shade or garage will speed up the cooling process. The only thing left now is to pop the hood open, prop it up, and let's begin. The first thing you'll want to do before you start cleaning is to assess the situation; take note of heavily soiled areas, tough to reach spots, and whether or not you're going to clean the underside of the hood. If you've decided to clean the underside of your hood (typically painted) make sure that's where you start. (You dont get your freshly cleaned engine covered in falling dirt.) You'll want to wet the cloth or wash mitt, spray the degreaser, agitate, and rinse off when complete using some water. Then, using the old t-shirt, rag or wash mitt, spray the degreaser and start cleaning the dirty areas on the engine itself. For caked on grease and heavy dirt, use the parts cleaning brush to breakup any bonds. Tip: A paintbrush, old toothbrush, or parts cleaning brush is also great for getting into those hard to reach areas that would otherwise go untouched. And now, that the engine surfaces are clean, it's time to neutralize.
Drying Tip: To dry those hard to reach areas, an easy way to dry up excess moisture from cleaning is to start up the car and let it idle for a few minutes. The heat will evaporate the moisture and you're ready to go.
Special engines require special attention. If you've got a lot of steel wires, braided cables, or delicate finishes on various parts of your engine, use blue detailers tape to tape off and cover these sections. Although your detail might do no harm to these, it's always best to take precautions
Think of neutralizing the surface as preparing the surface for the specific protection product that's going to be applied next. By neutralizing the surface's pH level (7), the plastic conditioner will be better absorbed by the wire casings, tubing, and plastic panels living beneath your hood. A neutralized surface means that the conditioner won't have to battle with any residual chemical pH levels that would otherwise hinder the effectiveness of the protection process. With your pH Neutralizer, lightly spray the plastic and rubber surfaces that you plan on protecting. Wipe dry with a microfiber towel or a cloth, and move on to the protect step.
Any and every time you clean your car's engine it's extremely important to apply a protection product. Protecting not only allows for easier cleaning next time, but it can really add years to the surface's appearance, too. All that faded plastic, cracking trim, and discolored tubing is no match for a quality plastic conditioner, and when applied regularly, the surface can be completely rejuvenated to look like new again. Using your applicator, pour a dollop of plastic conditioner and gently work it into the surfaces that require protection. Tip: You can condition everything from rubber trim to the plastic cap on your washer fluid reserve. Conditioning wire casings, rubber tubes, and more will help to brighten up the look of your engine and take years off of its appearance. Once you've conditioned, wait a few minutes and see if any areas need reapplication. Often times, when rarely treated, the plastic surrounding your engine will get very hot and very dry, meaning more attention is needed during a detail.
Importance of Detailing your Engine
Your car's engine is the single hardest working component of your vehicle. With all that hard work, it gets pretty hot under that hood of yours, and that's not good for all the various parts of your engine; tubes, paneling, trim, pipes, etc. When these surfaces get hot, they become vulnerable to fading, cracking, and can even crumble to bits over time. By detailing your engine even once a year, you'll be preventing the dangers associated with high heat and you'll be adding years to the life of your car.