May 2011

Engine Detailing 101

There’s no feeling like driving your sparkling clean, fully detailed car. Gleaming paint, bright chrome and a spic-and-span interior can make an automobile look and feel like a million bucks. Some enthusiasts, however, want to take things one step further and make sure that when they pop the hood, the engine compartment looks just as spectacular as the rest of the vehicle.
Engine detailing can do a lot to bring out the beauty of a well-engineered engine. Especially now that engine bays are as highly styled as the interior, there’s no denying the visual appeal of cleanliness under the hood. Many people are intimidated by the idea of tackling such a delicate cleaning job, though, due to the complexity of modern engines and the number of sensors and other electrical components present underneath the hood.
For this reason, many people turn to the detailing services offered by their dealership when it comes time to deep clean their engines. The detailing professionals employed by new car dealerships are specially trained to safely and effectively remove dirt and grime from a motor and its surrounding components without risking any damage to delicate electronics.
How do they do it? One of the first steps taken when detailing an engine is to let it cool down. Even an engine that has been running for only five to 10 minutes can build up a significant amount of heat, and introducing a stream of cool water or chemical cleaning products to a warm engine can result in potential cracks in rubber, gaskets and even metal. The detailing gurus at strongly caution anyone against cleaning a hot engine under any circumstances.
The next phase of preparing an engine to be detailed involves locating and protecting any parts that could potentially be harmed by liquids or chemicals. Typically, this means wrapping the vehicle’s alternator, cold air intake filter or ECU box. Sometimes, exposed sensors are also covered to prevent potential water damage. Next, a generous dose of liquid degreaser is sprayed onto the engine and is allowed to sit for a short period of time. Degreaser works to dissolve grit and oil residue that may have baked onto the engine over thousands of miles of use.
When it’s time to rinse off the degreaser, forget power washers or even a stiff spray from a pistol-grip garden hose attachment; engine detailing is all about the gentle touch. Dealership detailing pros always use a low-pressure stream of water when rinsing down a motor. If the water sprays out with too much force, there is always the chance it could displace a sensor or wiring harness attachment point. A direct blast of water can also work its way between engine seals, potentially leading to water inside the block or intake. This can be difficult to dry out and could, in a worst-case scenario, lead to engine damage.
A spray of water won’t take care of all the dirt under the hood, so detailers typically have to get in there with a cleaning mitt or a soft brush to agitate dirt in all of the nooks and crannies. A second rinse is usually done after this step, which is then followed by drying via an air blower and a set of shop towels. Finally, the motor is given an application of the same protectants and waxes that are used to give your car’s paint and trim a deep shine and glossy appearance.
A clean engine doesn’t just look great; it also helps avoid heat buildup and other problems caused by dirt and contaminants that get layered on while driving. And if it’s trade-in time, it’s well worth the few bucks to have your car look its best. Call us today for an appointment, so our detailing professionals can keep your engine looking and performing its best.

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