How to Wash a Car Engine at the Carwash

Regularly cleaning your car is an effective way to keep it in good condition. The engine does the majority of the heavy lifting when it comes to keeping your vehicle operating smoothly. It consists of countless moving parts, and many of these parts come in touch with oil, leaky fluids, grit accumulations, and even debris and chemicals kicked up from the road.

This is particularly evident if the engine has any form of leak. Liquids like oil have a higher propensity for attracting and trapping dirt, resulting in a buildup that can solidify in time.

We already explained how to clean your car’s engine block; now, we’ll walk you through the process of doing it at the carwash. 

Although you don’t have to clean your engine every time you wash your car, it is a good idea to do it at least once a year. Washing it at the carwash will save you time because everything you need should be there. Experts may also be present to assist if you’re lucky. Although, if you follow our instructions, you won’t have to rely on others.

Let’s begin

Washing Your Car Engine at a Carwash

1. Prepare Your Engine

Depending on your car’s age and model, there are a few things you need to do before you start washing your engine. 

Newer cars, like those manufactured after 2000, are usually protected adequately. They usually feature plastic engine covers and plastic or rubber coats on all connections. For cars like this, be cautious around the fuse box, alternator, and any other electrical components that appear to be exposed. 

For older car models, cover the alternator, carburetor, and distributor with plastic bags and attach them with tape or rubber bands. Also, put your battery in a plastic bag or disconnect the negative terminal cord. While this might be inconvenient, it is a precaution that helps avoid dangerous electrical currents.

2. Remove Loose Dirt

Remove any visible dirt from the engine compartment before cleaning. Almost every engine has leaves, dirt, and dead bugs in it. You should pay special attention to dirt magnets like vent openings, grills, and battery boxes, to name a few.

Most debris can be cleared with a hand brush or cloth, but some cars have spots that only compressed air can reach. Vacuum cleaners are also very effective for cleaning out debris.

3. Degrease the Engine

You’ll find that the dirt accumulated in engines is usually hardened and difficult to remove. Most engines need to be degreased to loosen up grease and oil before washing. Ordinary kitchen soap won’t cut it.

Simple Green is a great choice and Chemical Guys Signature Series is a good alternative. Read the labels and select the best option for your needs.

After applying the degreaser, start up your car for a few minutes. A slight increase in temperature makes the degreaser more effective. However, be careful not to make your engine too hot.

Break up debris with a brush or cloth in places where there is a lot of accumulation. Any degreaser that spills on the paint should be swiftly removed with a cotton cloth.

Regardless of what degreaser you decide to go with, always follow the manufacturer’s directions, although most brands recommend soaking for 3-5 minutes.

4. Scrub the Engine

Scrubbing may not be necessary if your engine isn’t filthy, but parts like the valve cover require special attention as they may contain a buildup of debris and oil from whenever your last wash was.

Scrub the engine with a clean cloth, towel, or brush.

5. Wash the Engine

First, ascertain that you have a low-pressure hose or sprayer on hand because high-pressure sprayers can displace components and connections while also forcing water into the engine’s sensitive areas. Most car washes are equipped with high and low-pressure settings, so be sure to confirm the settings before you begin.

When you begin, ensure you spray the entire engine to rinse off all of the degreaser.

6. Dry the Engine

Engines follow the same principles as cars when it comes to washing. Don’t let your engine air-dry because this can result in water spots and undermine your effort.

To remove excess water, use an air compressor or leaf blower. If you don’t have any of these, wipe the engine down with a hand cloth. Doing this will also remove any missed debris.

After that, start your car and let it run for 5 minutes to dry off the inside components.

7. Make it Sparkle

Now your engine is clean, but the plastic parts are most likely dull in appearance. However, several excellent engine bay dressing products on the market can give it a glossy look.

Griot’s Engine Bay Dressing does an excellent job of giving your car engine its “spark” back. Whichever product you choose, spray all surfaces that you want to shine with it. Then, allow 30 minutes to 1 hour to dry before wiping it away with a microfiber towel.

Doing this restores your engine’s appearance and adds an extra layer of protection between it and future oil and grease accumulation, making future cleanings easier.

8. Replace Removed Components and Remove Protective Coverings

In the first step, we advised that you should remove specific parts like the battery’s negative cable depending on your car model. We also recommended you cover specific electrical components. Be sure to replace any components you removed and also uncover anything you covered earlier.

9. Check for Leaks

If the engine compartment is clean, routine maintenance of your car will be simple. Because you need to regularly inspect the fluid level and belts, it is critical to maintain a clean engine compartment.

So, after cleaning your engine, use the opportunity to check for any leaks that may appear.


Cleaning your car engine has both technical and aesthetic benefits. If the engine is covered with dirt, it will be challenging to locate a leak or other issue. The issues will grow if the panel and components are black with dirt. A clean engine also prevents clogging and corrosion in the inner parts and generally maintains engine health.

Learning how to wash your car engine at the carwash will save you money while also extending the life of your car. 

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