How To Clean An Engine Bay Correctly!

If you are wondering how to clean an engine bay and get those show room results, we have you covered. The engine bay collects a significant amount of dirt and grease over the years. Keeping it clean has some great rewards if done correctly.

You can use this video from Chris Fix for a more hands on visual guide. We will be adding a few extra steps though for maximum cleanliness!

In order to clean an engine bay correctly, you will need to remove the grease/dirt, organize the engine bay, and then finish off by detailing the engine bay. 

Before starting any repairs, be sure to disconnect the negative battery cable!

We cannot express this enough, we are not liable for any self harm/damage to your vehicle during this process. Do this at your own risk!

Cleaning the engine bay has major electrical components that can be damaged if the correct steps are not taken.

This will give your engine a shiny new look, ensures no wires or small pieces are broken, and overall it can sometimes improve the way your engine performs if done correctly.

Grease and dirt can cause all sorts of issues down the road. It also just looks cluttered and messy too, which we don’t want. Let’s get started step by step with our engine detailing journey!

Rinse It Down!

With all of your electronics down and powered off, it’s time to wet the engine bay. Obviously you don’t want to just go blasting things down with water. Take your time and if you can wrap any electrical components up, do it.

Anything with a wire coming off of it that is visible should be wrapped. You can use zip lock bags, trash bags, etc… to wrap up all the surface electrical components. Is it going to be the end of the world if some things get wet? No, but you should always be prepared.

Many things in the engine bay do actually stay dry for the most part. However taking an extra step of caution always makes sure we don’t ruin anything during the process.

Once you have everything prepped and ready to roll, go ahead and use a spray bottle to wet down the surface.

We never recommend hosing down the entire engine bay.

Using a spray bottle on mist is the easiest and cleanest way to distribute water to each section without over saturating it. Once you have everything you need soaked down, give it a wipe down with a microfiber towel.

The goal here is to just remove the top layer of dirt. We will actually get it super clean in the later sections. This is your prep step and you want to remove as much surface dirt/grease as possible. Your end results should be a dull finish.

When people ask us how to clean an engine bay, we always stay true to it’s all in the prep work.

How To Clean An Engine Bay – SCRUB!

With most of the surface debris now gone, we can really focus on getting those small minor details now. We will be using the Chemical Guys All Purpose cleaner to tackle this job. This cleaner does an absolute incredible job at getting everything clean with a natural finish. How To Clean An Engine Bay

You can also substitute the all purpose cleaner for the non-sense cleaner as well. The non-sense cleaner has no smell so it might help some of you with sensitive sniffers!

To start, take any form of soft brush and spray the product onto the brush itself, not the actual surface.

What you are going to want to do here is apply your cleaner and then with some elbow grease scrub each section with the cleaner. What this ends up doing is agitating all the loose dirt/grease we kicked up during the rinse down process.

You won’t actually remove all the surface debris here, but you will get it loose enough to where it will wipe away.

Up And Down, Left To Right!

Scrub in horizontal and vertical motions going back and forth between the two movements. This will create a cross stitch pattern and remove all of that hard dirt/grease in all the tiny crevices. Dirt and grease do stick in hard to reach places. Just make sure to give it a quality scrub to aid in the dirt removal.

The more time you spend using the cleaner and brush, the easier it is to remove debris later.

Make sure you hit your coolant lines and other pieces of plastic trim that is typically easy to miss.

Once you have scrubbed down the entire engine bay, we can move on the removal step.

Clean Up All Debris!

After scrubbing, make sure you come back through with a dry and clean microfiber towel. Make sure you use plenty of finger strength/elbow grease and come back through with multiple repeating passes.

As you dry off the surface your rag is going to get filthy. Be sure to swap out to a clean rag as needed so we are not just moving the dirt around. You want your towels to pick up all the dirt/grease and remove it from the engine bay, not stir it around.

For extra credit, have a dry detailing brush available as well. Have one for scrubbing and one for drying. This will help you get in those small cracks in plastic lines and such. This also helps with cleaning up the wire protectors that are scattered throughout your engine bay.

You want these to look great as well so the whole job gets completed!

Continue to work your way around the vehicle’s engine bay until everything is cleaned up.

The engine bay should now be clean looking but now we need to restore it/condition the plastic pieces underneath.

Most vehicles have plastic covers for the fuse box, make sure you clean this up as well!

Restore The Surface! How To Clean An Engine Bay

With everything now scrubbed up and clean, it’s time to give it that show room shine!

We will be using another Chemical Guys product here. The VRP cleaner. This cleaner works on all vinyl, plastic, and rubber making it a great choice for the engine bay. What this is going to do is restore the surface and condition it.

Conditioner is super important because once your vinyl, plastic, or rubber dries out it becomes brittle. After some exposure to the hot and cold temps of your engine, these components eventually crack and get damaged.

You can prolong the life of all of these things by adding a cleaner with conditioner to it.

Before getting into any of the VRP cleaner though, make sure you clean the actual metal parts of the engine.

Once you have scrubbed everything down, apply some engine degreaser to a clean towel and buff it onto the engine itself. Anything metal you will want to use the cleaner on. It should shine up and give it a nice wet look once again. Still wondering how to clean an engine bay? Were almost done!


With the metal parts now clean, repeat the same process but with the VRP cleaner. Spray some onto the towel/brush directly and massage it into each of your hoses, plastic pieces, and trim. This will look like it leaves wet residue and it’s suppose to.

Wipe down everything under the hood that is vinyl, plastic, and rubber. This will include all plastic covers, wire retainers/guards, and your hoses. This will leave them looking like new and will moisturize everything to ensure a show room clean shine!

Once you have finished up the restoration process, follow back up with a dry clean towel.

This should contain 0 cleaner and is only here to remove any excess residue. You should now be looking at a shiny new engine bay! Nice work.

Interested in doing more for your vehicle? Be sure to check out our car restoration guide and our get started guide to restoring a car with little or no experience! We hope you enjoyed our guide on how to clean an engine bay!