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Engine Detailing Basics: Why the Engine Should Not Be Running

Engine Detailing Basics

Engine Detailing Basics: Why the Engine Should Not Be Running

Dust, oil leaks, old leaves, sand and other contaminants accumulate on the engine. All these can clog the radiator and the filters. Consequently, this can lead to an unpleasant view when you open the car. Worse, it can lead to vehicle malfunctioning. This is where engine detailing comes into play regardless of the kind of vehicle in question – car, van, bus, truck, or else. Engine detailing is, by no doubt, important and you should do it from time to time. But let’s start with some basics like why the engine should not be running while being cleaned.

Why Engine Detailing Is Important

Before we go into why the engine should not be running while in detailing mode, let us remember why engine detailing is important in the first place. For sellers of used cars, cleaning the car engine is mandatory. They need the vehicles looking shiny and inviting, so that they can sell faster. When it comes to regular car owners, it depends on the personality. For example, there are car owners who wash the engine for purely aesthetic reasons. They just enjoy looking at a sparkling engine bay. Surely, there are others who neglect taking care of the space under the hood.

However, there are situations when you simply must perform engine detailing. For example, when repairs need to be carried out and dirt on the engine interferes. Or, if you suspect an oil leak and want to see exactly where it comes from. It may also be due to concerns that after the winter season and the treatment of roads with lye, the accumulation of salt, mud and chemicals can lead to corrosion. Whatever the reasons for washing the engine, you must be extremely careful about this activity. It is advisable to leave it to the pros for better results and safety for the car itself, especially for warranty cars.

Warranty Cars

To avoid warranty problems, it is best to wash the engine at an authorized dealer. This will ensure you stay in full compliance with the manufacturer’s and dealer’s requirements. First, if something happens during or after washing, the fault will not be yours. Hence, you cannot lose the warranty. Second, you do not risk incurring unexpectedly high costs for your new car. Such costs may come as a result of damaging a part because you kept the engine running while detailing it. And that’s a definite no-no.

Why the Engine Should Not Be Running While Detailing

In case you’re still wondering whether the engine should be running, the short answer is no, it shouldn’t. Do not enter the car wash immediately after you arrive. Wait for the engine to cool down, but not completely. It should be just a little warm. We do not recommend washing a hot engine.

There are opinions that it is better to wash on a running engine so that the water can evaporate immediately. However, there is a risk of short-circuiting a cable. Moreover, from the high pressure of the steam jet you can disconnect a sensor, which in combination with the running engine may lead to unpleasant accidents.

If you are doing engine detailing at home and the engine is cold, you should heat it up a little bit before start. You don’t need it to reach operating temperature, just leave it on at half its maximum speed (say 5000) for a minute and turn off the engine. This is done in order to warm the engine enough, so that the dirt can peel off a little from it and be removed more easily. It will be much harder if you want to clean a cold engine.

Where to Do Engine Detailing

Ideally, engine cleaning should be done by people who are aware of the procedure and the risks. Research carefully and choose experienced detailers. In general, they would wash it with a steam jet and a suitable detergent and then dry it with compressed air. Ask them for details to be sure they know how to do this properly. For example, ask them if and how they will insulate sensitive parts before washing. Or, at what pressure option they will use the steam jet (you’re looking for a “lowest pressure” answer here). Additionally, you can ask them about the detergent and the drying techniques for all parts under the hood.

Engine Detailing at Home

This option is much riskier. To begin with, never wash the engine with active foam. It may contain dangerous ingredients for some parts and leave you without a car.

Before you start, it’s a good idea to disconnect the battery. Then, cover electrical parts such as cables, fuses, alarms, and any air vents with insulating material such as nylon or foil for fresh storage. Cover with insulating tape or duct tape. If the engine is very dirty, you can brush it first. Use a store-bought or a DIY engine degreaser as detergent. Alternatively, you can try a homemade engine cleaner. When finished, dry carefully. It is best to leave the car with the hood open for 30 minutes to a few hours to air dry.

Problems That Might Occur

Engine detailing is a tricky thing. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for engine flushing to cause damage that can sometimes not be immediately apparent. Therefore, always consider whether it makes sense to take the risk and if so, keep it to a minimum. No one would want to give money for repairs after that.

Engine Detailing with Steam

Engine steam cleaning is the easiest and safest way to perform engine detailing. The procedure involves cleaning the top of the engine with hot steam. As you practically use almost no water, there is minimal danger to the electronic components of the car. Surely, the same is valid for truck engine steam cleaning. The best part? When it comes to engine steam cleaning cost, it turns out to be very affordable worth every penny.


Keeping the car looking and performing to the best of its ability calls for regular engine detailing. If you prefer to give it a shot by yourself, remember to do it with the engine off. Yet, if you prefer to stay on the safe side, leave it to professional detailers. If you are not sure who to turn to, call DetailXPerts. Our trained detailers steam clean all kinds of vehicles, inside and out. In addition to engine detailing, they can also offer you air sanitation, pet hair removal, and stain removal – all different eco steam detailing specialties we take pride in.

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