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Detailing-Engine Detailing 101
First you should remember that you never detail a hot engine. The best time to detail your engine is in the morning when it has been sitting all night. If you throw cold water on a hot engine then you run a much higher risk of causing damage. You definitely want to make sure the engine is cool before you start work. (Duh!) Some people recommend warming the engine to loosen build-up but it should only be slightly warm. If its too warm, the degreaser will dry and spot engine surface.
Before you begin detailing, cover the alternator, any exposed filters, and the engine's air intake. Those are the areas that you really donít want water or degreaser pooling in. Cover your exposed air filter with a bag, then be sure to remove the bag before you start your engine. You might also want to consider any other areas of the engine that might not be water friendly. If you have done any custom work then you may have electrical connections or gauges that you want to cover. Just think about what you wouldnít necessarily want to get too wet. You can always hand clean those areas after you get the rest of the dirt out. Remember: this is engine detailing and not fire fighting. Use only as much water and cleaners as needed to get the job done.
Start by degreasing the perimeter of the engine bay. The painted surfaces are fine to use degreaser on. Make sure you get the fluid containers and hoses degreased as well. Those are areas that usually get extra dirty. Spray down the firewall at the back of the engine bay and be sure to get as far down as you can. Degreaser wonít do the whole job for you, but it will certainly make things easier. (I recomend DP Cleanse-All Exterior Surface Cleaner)
To get the degreaser off you simply need to rinse it with a slow stream of water. You can use your thumb over the end of the hose to create a little pressure, but for the most part the degreaser will do the work and get the dirt off. Anything that doesnít come off can just be wiped down. Again, donít expect engine detailing to come in a bottle or a can. You usually have to wipe it down by hand in order to get the engine really looking good.
After you have rinsed what you can, the rest needs to be done by hand. It is best if you have a wash mitt that is specially designated for engine detailing. You donít want to use the same one for the engine that you would use for the rest of the car in order to prevent cross-contamination. (I like the EZ Detail Brush)
Wash the perimeter of the engine and make sure that all the dirt is gone. You can also begin washing toward the middle of the engine where you may not have sprayed any degreaser. Some of the fluid containers and caps may need a little extra elbow grease, so make sure you get those areas as well.
Some areas may require you to use detailing brushes to get the grime off. Always use soft bristled brushes and never use brass or stainless steel ones. Those will scratch plastic and paint and really take away from the look of your engine.
You may need to mix some soapy water in a spray bottle to assist in your detailing. That helps get the areas that need to be hand detailed. You can also use a good quick cleaning product. Just have plenty of shop towels handy to wipe down the areas when you are finished. You may also want to designate a few microfiber towels for engine detailing.
The engine needs to be dried before proceeding with wax or protectants. Pick up all pools of water with a rag/towell/etc. You can also use a shop vac with the "blower" option.
After you have cleaned all the dirt off, it is time to shine it up. You can actually wax the paint if you want to, but you may want to use a high quality sealant instead. The engine bay gets way too hot for a carnauba-based wax to last very long.
To shine up the plastics and hoses you can use a quality rubber/vinyl protectant. Wipe down the hoses and all plastic surfaces to make sure they are protected against heat and stains from grease or dirt.
Here is what I like to do ... I like to dry the engine (big pools of water) & spray it down with a rubber/vinal protectant. Ie:Pinnacle Rubber/Vinal Protectant, 303 Aerospace works great, or Armorall Foaming Tire Shine works great too(and cheap!!) ... Spray it down, turn the engine on, close hood and let it idle for 5-10 minutes. You can then go back over any areas that you missed.
Hopefully this will help you guys wanting to detail your motor
Michael Charlton - Keystone Diesel