The first serving of a Car Cleaning Guru video duo see’s me embark upon a 500 mile round trip to film myself tend to the neglected 560bhp engine bay of this racy Rosso Red Ferrari 458 Italia.
Simple common sense underpins most of the the advice presented and to those who have enough of it I’ll probably be stating the obvious however even an old dog can learn new tricks so I advise sticking around to fully get to grips with the tips!
The first is a simple one but something can prevent costly damage being done to the exterior of the car while the engine cleaning is taking place and that’s to lay some soft towels down over the paintwork to prevent it from being marred, scuffed or scratched.
Rear-mid engined supercars like this are configured for more even weight distribution not ease of access so during the cleaning there will inevitably be a certain amount of leaning over the body to get to the various engine components. A few towels carefully placed around the working area will help prevent any unnecessary damage being done and they don’t have to be plush microfibre types like the ones I used here, simple terry towels will do the job just fine.
To run parallel to protecting the panels with towels you should also try and wear soft “paintwork friendly” clothing with as few buttons and zips as possible yet if your attire does have them (as most working garments do) you needn’t strip off as they can be temporarily covered with some tape to keep them out of harm’s way.
Next on the engine cleaning agenda is to take its temperature to make sure it’s not too hot. A small amount of heat can aid the removal of deeper more ingrained grease and grime however if the car has just been driven and the motor is thoroughly warmed through you should hang fire until it cools to the touch.
A quick caress of the major engine components is all that’s required to assess the situation just be careful not to handle any hot exhaust manifolds or you’ll be spending the night getting acquainted with a bag of frozen peas!
The final precautionary pre-cleaning stage is to cover any exposed parts you don’t want coming into contact with water. This tip also goes for cleaning the engine of almost any other car however it’s especially important on high performance supercars as any damage caused by water ingression could be costly.
Some plain old “plazzy bags” are all that’s required to waterproof the engine bay, wrapping them around exposed components and securing them with elastic bands or tape to help give a watertight seal.
I tend to focus on the alternator, coil packs and any other vulnerable electrical connectors, overlooking air intakes which on rear engined supercars like this are connected to external inlets as well as fuse boxes which are usually located somewhere inside the cabin or under the bonnet.
It can be a bit of a faff however the 10 minutes or so it should take to adequately cover the correct components means you can then go on to give the engine bay a thorough clean without having to constantly worry about certain parts getting wet.
Modern supercars will usually have either fully-encompassing under trays or extended rear diffusers of some sort to aid aerodynamics so it’s important you don’t leave things lying around the engine bay that could accidentally drop into its bowels as they won’t readily fall onto the ground below but instead get caught on the additional parts which can make them difficult to retrieve.
If you have suitable pockets then plonk detailing brushes into them inbetween use or keep them, as well as any other tools in an empty bucket beside the car to prevent the high performance needle in haystack situation!
To take things one step further you can tie some string to your tools which also wraps around your wrist meaning if they do accidentally slip out of your hand you still have the means to recover them. I don’t generally do this and just ensure I keep a firm grip of whatever it is I’m using (and latex gloves certainly help) but considering most detailing tools have a small hole in them for hanging there’s nothing wrong with making use of them.
Although wetting down the engine bay is an essential part of the cleaning process excessive pressure isn’t necessary so if like mine your washer is adjustable make sure you reduce its capacity considerably so that you’re working with the lowest possible psi.
If you don’t have that luxury though, then think about temporarily substituting your washer for a hosepipe along with a light spray nozzle to reduce the risk of water being driven into the numerous nooks and crannies and whichever tool you go with, don’t let its jet get too close to the components and keep the flow of water moving at all times.
To avoid detailing products drying on the various painted and unpainted surfaces of a supercar’s engine bay I tend to split the area into sections whether that be top half/bottom half or engine/side panels/airbox, cleaning and rinsing them off separately before moving onto the next section and this approach was especially important for me here as I also had the strong sunlight to contend with.
If you’re working in the shade or the engine bay just isn’t that dirty then you can get away with cleaning and rinsing everywhere in one fell swoop but I find you’re more likely to overlook areas quickly jumping from one zone to another and so prefer to clean methodically just like when washing the body of a car.
Doing things this way also means you can spend more time attending the various parts as you won’t feel the need to rush to avoid product residue baking on to previously cleaned components.
A product selection tip next which centres on using a dressing or protectant that features UV blockers to prevent exposed engine parts from fading in the sunlight. Most motors are safely tucked up under a bonnet or “hood” and so aren’t regularly exposed to harmful UV rays, however a supercar’s engine is usually on display under a rear window or glass panel and so should be adequately shielded.
For this video I went with Auto Finesse Dressle; a water based spray on walk away type dressing that contains potent UV inhibitors. Having not yet dried the naturally aspirated engine bay though I went ahead and buffed all areas of it over with a few microfibre towels following application to simultaneously ensure the product was throughly worked in while all standing rinse water was soaked up.
Moving on from the detailing of the actual engine bay it’s also important to make sure the inside of the rear glass is clean and presentable using a simple ammonia free glass cleaner and a microfibre towel or two.
During the cleaning process the surrounding glass can easily become contaminated with a fair amount of overspray especially if you’re using a pressure washer and although it can be awkward to do (as there’s essentially a whole car in the way) the last thing you want is for your spotless engine to be obscured by dirty watermarked windows so spend some time properly cleaning them off. Once done, the crystal clear glass will then enhance the look of the freshly cleaned engine making it appear even sharper and shinier.
Engine bay attended to it’s also important to wash the exterior of the car because even if you’re careful there will always be a certain amount of overspray contaminating the rear end and it’s not sensible to let that sit on the surface.
If tackling an engine in direct sunlight like I was here it’s also a good idea to rinse the various panels off intermittently during the process to prevent any product overspray from baking onto the red hot paintwork.
Due to this fact I only ever undertake or advise an engine bay clean if the exterior of the car is also going to be given at least a basic wash and dry otherwise you just end up displacing dirt from the engine onto the exterior. So, if you’re thinking about properly cleaning the motor also set some time aside for washing the exterior to mop up the mess!
Once everywhere has been sufficiently cleaned, washed, dressed and dried it’s then time to fire up the beast and let it tick over to properly finish everything off.
Before you do this though remember to remove all the plastic covering the various components (I usually do this after the final rinsing and before the dressing) and don’t rev the car up just let it idle naturally until the engine gets up to temperature ideally with the rear window or hatch open to allow any excess water to evaporate. Letting the engine warm through like this will also allow any protectants you’ve applied to fully cure on the surface enhancing their durability.
And that’s pretty much that! There are I’m sure additional things you can do to achieve an even safer and more thorough clean but these tips cover the nuts and bolts of supercar engine bay cleaning and despite how daunting a task it can be so long as you follow them you should be just fine.
It is a physically demanding job though and regardless of how much common sense you employ the back bending, knee locking and general contortionism required to properly complete the task is sure to take its toll yet the fact you shouldn’t have to do it again for quite some time means the blood, sweat and tears should be considered a worthwhile investment!