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Model Car Engine Detailing – What Do You Need and How to Do It Yourself?

Model Car Engine Detailing

Model Car Engine Detailing – What Do You Need and How to Do It Yourself?

Are you ready for an automobile detailing challenge with a difference? You can have a lot of fun on a smaller scale with model car engine detailing. First and foremost, choosing the right scale will make all the difference to your model car engine detailing experience. Some of the smallest model cars simply don’t have space under the hood to accommodate a scaled-down version of a real-looking engine. For example, 1:64 scale model cars, around 3ins long, are popular children’s toys because this size is perfect for little hands at play. However, it is unlikely you will find a true-to-detail engine with crankshaft, connecting rods and pistons in a teeny toy car.

Instead, look out for the larger 1:4, 1:8 or 1:12  scale model cars. Some of these are expertly crafted to create an accurate reproduction of a full-size car but in miniature form. This attention to detail includes an engine with all its working parts and components. Moreover, you can also purchase stand-alone model car engine kits. This is if you want to build a working engine and hone your detailing skills. These transparent models offer a great view inside the engine. You can see how everything works and it gives you a better understanding of what is involved when cleaning a real-size engine.

Supplies You Need for Model Car Engine Detailing

The supplies you need for model car engine detailing are similar to those used for model car interior detailing. You simply need to replicate car engine detailing tools but on a miniature scale to clean belts, exhaust valves, fan, spark plugs, cylinders and so on. A model car engine model built from a kit doesn’t use gasoline to power the engine. Therefore, you won’t need a degreaser to remove a build-up of oil. However, the following supplies will come in useful:

  • Compressed air (canned air for cleaning keyboards and electronics is perfect)
  • Cleaning wipes
  • Selection of fine brushes
  • Toothpicks
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Small bottle brush or toothbrush
  • Tweezers
  • Cotton swabs
  • Desktop craft lamp or similar
  • Magnifying lens
  • Hairdryer
  • Engine dressing or detailing spray

You can pick up supplies at most arts and crafts stores that have a wide selection of products suitable for model car engine cleaning. Look out for small, pointy paintbrushes that are good for cleaning tiny components. Alternatively, old make-up brushes or disposable mascara wands will double as small detailing brushes.

Steps to Take for Model Car Engine Detailing

Model car engine detailing is a great immersive experience that closely follows the steps of real engine cleaning.

1. Get Your Workstation Ready

Preparation is important. Model car engine detailing is more enjoyable and relaxing when you have adequate space to lay out all your cleaning tools and supplies within easy reach. A large, uncluttered table/desk or worktop is ideal. Good lighting is important, too. It helps to avoid eye strain when you’re cleaning fiddly parts of the model car engine. Go for a design that helps you easily direct the light source, such as an angled desk lamp or a head torch.

2. Note the Different Types of Model Car Engines

The much smaller non-functioning model car engines don’t have a “running” engine and are often put together with glue, so bear this in mind before you start model car engine detailing. Avoid using any cleaning solutions or direct heat or water that may loosen the glue and dislodge small parts of the model engine.

In contrast, working model car engines are usually fitted with interactive cables, moving crankshaft, a working distributor, cooling fans, powerful pistons and cylinders. Components are often snapped or screwed together without any adhesive but it is still important to take care when detailing so as not to dislodge any of the smaller parts. Cables are plugged into battery pack distributors to make the engine fans turn and create a realistic engine sound.

Some miniature car engines are created with more than 300 parts, so model car engine detailing is intricate work that requires patience and a careful approach. The same advice applies to cleaning a real-size engine. If you need help, call the experts. One of DetailXPerts’ detailing specialty services is engine steam cleaning.  This technology is extremely effective at cleaning and is also kind to the engine and the environment.

3. Main Procedures of Model Car Engine Detailing

Although you are not working on a real-size engine, it is helpful to follow some basic engine detailing procedures.

  • Before you start model car engine detailing, make sure the engine is not running. Some working scale model cars or engine kits have a battery-operated engine that turns over to replicate the sound of a real car engine. To protect the functionality of your model car, switch everything to “OFF” before you start any detailing work.
  • Cover any electronic modules. If you are going to wipe down or lightly spray water on the dustiest areas of your engine, use plastic wrap to cover up any motorized parts, exposed components and any spark plugs illuminated by LEDs. Think like you would if you were going to pressure wash your car engine safely by taking the necessary precautions.
  • Use your fine brushes to remove all signs of visible dirt. For trickier nooks and crannies, compressed air will blow away any hidden dust particles and is also suitable for “fake” model car engines that are constructed with glue or other adhesives.
  • For more stubborn dirt particles, use your cleaning wipes in the same way you would when removing thick layers of grease and oil from a regular car engine. Dirty surfaces may benefit from a light spritz of water. Then you can agitate the dirt with a disposable mascara wand or fine paintbrush. If you ever decide to clean your own car engine, oil and grease can make it challenging work. Check out our engine steam cleaning recommendations.
  • Get into tight spaces and grooves with a small bottle brush or a toothbrush. On a real-size engine, you would use a pipe cleaner to do the same job. If you are looking for ways to clean your real car engine without resorting to power washing it, check out the benefits of engine steam cleaning.
  • Wipe away the loosened dirt with a microfiber towel. You can also wrap part of the microfiber towel around the bottle brush and use it to access the hard-to-reach spaces when you’re model car engine detailing.
  • If you have used any water to spruce up the dirtiest parts of the model car engine it is important to dry them off thoroughly. Use a clean, dry microfiber towel. Cotton swabs are also useful for soaking up any excess moisture in small corners of the engine. Alternatively, use a hairdryer on a low heat.

4. Polish the Engine for an Immaculate Finish

Once the engine area is completely clean and dry, use an engine dressing or detailing spray to bring a good-as-new shine to the engine. Model car engines can be made up of rubber, plastic and metal parts. Check what materials are used and then choose a compatible polish that won’t degrade any of the parts. Give the car you drive the same care and attention with DetailXPerts’ auto washing and auto detailing services.

5. Post-Detailing Procedures

After you have detailed the engine, keep it as dust-free as possible. This is especially important if you have an engine-only kit that doesn’t have a car hood to protect it from dust and dirt. Use a breathable cover or storage bag that allows moisture to evaporate.


Model car engine detailing is a fun and educational process for car enthusiasts. But, if you want to have a go at it, your cleaning tools need to be size-appropriate and suitable for working on fiddly components. The detailing steps give you an opportunity to see how the engine works. Moreover, they give you a close inspection of its features and functions. Most importantly, this can be useful if you decide to have a go at cleaning your real car engine.

Admittedly, car care can be challenging, time-consuming work. So why not schedule an appointment with DetailXPerts? You can have your real car professionally detailed, inside and out, by our skilled team. This includes expertly cleaning the engine to ensure the smooth running of your vehicle.

We specialize in steam cleaning and detailing for optimum results and a greener way to clean cars. Check out some of the amazing reviews our DetailXPerts team across the US receive for their wonderful work, for example, the ones our North LA team gets on Yelp.


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