How to Clean an Engine Bay Without a Pressure Washer




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Video tutorial on how to clean your engine bay without using a pressure washer or hose. I have had this tutorial requested quite a few times and was waiting for my engine bay to get somewhat dirty in order to produce this video. When cleaning the engine by, this should be done when the engine is cold so you do not risk burning yourself or risk the soap drying. I always find it important having a clean engine bay as it looks amazing, great for resale, much nicer to work on when doing maintenance, easy to spot a leak, and any debris build up such as leaves or mud can cause areas to rust out, so this is also preventative maintenance.

Tools/Supplies Needed:

vacuum cleaner or air compressor

clean cloth -toothbrush or paint brush

bucket of water


spray bottle with water

plastic protectant/conditioner

rubber gloves

Step 1:

Perhaps you maybe worried about getting excessive water in your engine bay, worried about affecting electrical components, or maybe you don’t have access to a pressure washer or hose, well this is the alternative methods.

I always find it important having a clean engine bay as it looks amazing, great for resale, much nicer to work on when doing maintenance, easy to spot a leak, and any debris build up such as leaves or mud can cause areas to rust out, so this is also preventative maintenance.

Step 2:

First start with removing any loose debris with an air compress or vacuum cleaner. With a vacuum, you can either blow off the engine or vacuum up that loose debris. This will help stop dirt from spread and cut back on some of that grim which will need to be removed by hand. Sometimes you can use the assistance of a soft brush, such as a toothbrush or paint brush to agitate the surface. Rubber gloves would also be used to keep your hands clean and protect them from any sharp components.

Step 3:

Once satisfied, we can now move onto clean the surface by hand. Here I have a bucket of hot tap water with some dish soap added. Normally I wouldn’t recommend a dish soap on a vehicle as it will remove wax or oils which protect the surface, but in this case we want to cut back the oily residue in an engine back. Using a soft cloth and toothbrush, wipe down the surface. A paint brush can also be used as well for those hard to reach areas.

For some components such as engine covers, they can be removed and cleaned with a hose. But specifically for this tutorial, I am staying away from a hose or pressure washer to show that is can actually be done.

Rinse the cloth and tooth brush as needed and you will most likely need to change the water in the bucket more than once as well. This is a process that does take patience and persistence due to the tight hard to reach spaces and does take longer than compared to pressure washing the engine.

If you get into a really greasy area, I would recommend using a product called Spray Nine which cuts back oil and greasy with ease such as on this power steering reservoir. Some components such as wiring harnesses may need to be pushed out of the way, depending on their design to get underneath those tough hard to reach places.

Step 4:

After that, if you wish, you can add a protectant to the plastic components such as the engine cover. Depending on the product, this will help repel dirt along with preventing the plastic from becoming brittle or discolouring and it gives you that showroom finish. For this I am using a product called 303 Aerospace which can be purchased from A link to the product will be included in the description below. This provides a layer of protection will giving the plastic a subtle satin shine to what would be found on plastic when new. Apply it to a soft cloth and work it into the surface.

Some components will have tight edges or complicated designs, not necessarily easy with your fingers and a cloth. So instead I am using a soft clean toothbrush, spray a small amount of product onto it, wipe away the access in the cloth if needed, and then work it into the surface.

Step 5:

At the end we are left with a clean engine bay by using an alternative method, I believe these results speak for itself.

Due to the possible splattering from using a toothbrush, misting from degreaser, or plastic conditioner, I would recommend giving the vehicles a quick wash so we do not risk any damage to the exterior paint.

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    6 Discussions


    1 year ago

    I always use kero brushed on to all the greasy dirty ares first . Let it soak for 10 minutes and work it with the brush again then hose off with a finger held hose . Then i might mess around the edges like you have done. Why make it hard for yourself ? pressure sprayers cause problems with electricals

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Excellent tips, thank you!


    1 year ago

    Excellent idea. Sometimes pressure washers create problems by forcing water into places it should not be, like electrical boxes. The hand method is much safer.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you! I totally agree, I used a pressure washer when working as a detailer. It was extremely rare if a problem ever happened, but the pressurized water will find parts which will be requiring replacement sooner than later.