Engine Wash vs. Engine Detailing

Aside from keeping all of your vehicle’s engine components from functioning well, it’s also important to have it thoroughly cleaned. Ideally, owners should have it cleaned at least twice a year. There are two options that you can get as a car owner. 

While some might think that both are the same, the two cleaning methods actually differ, from the supplies needed, overall service cost, as well as the entire procedure. With that being said, which one would you go for? 

Engine wash

From the name itself, this cleaning method requires the use of water. This should be done carefully, as some of your engine components could be damaged by water. That’s why select parts of your engine bay such as the computer box, ignition coils, distributor, battery terminals, fuse box, airbox intake, and many others are being covered in order to avoid it from getting wet. Notably, it’s more affordable than engine detailing, then again, if you’re handy enough, you can actually do this at home.

Materials needed:

  • Garden hose along with a watering wand
  • Blower or compressor
  • Spray bottles
  • Stiff fiber-bristle brushes
  • Wrenches
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Vacuum
  • Degreasing agent 
  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mask


The first step is to let your car cool down as spraying water on hot components of your engine could potentially cause damage to it such as warping and cracking. Once the engine has cooled down, secure all covers found on your engine including the caps to prevent the entry of water and other chemicals on the containers. Moreover, you must also secure its filters and electrical systems with plastic and electrical tape to avoid the following components from being exposed to water. 

Remember to wear your protective gear before you clean the engine bay. Your rubber gloves, safety glasses, and a dust mask should protect you from the annoying grime you’ll encounter while going through the process.

Start by removing as much dirt and dust using the vacuum and your brush to get through the tight edges of your engine bay. After doing that, you can now start sprinkling it with some water. You’re better off using warm water to avoid cracking and warping if the engine is not fully cooled. After this, you’re going to have to degrease every surface exposed on your engine bay then carefully rinse it with a low-pressure spray.


  • More affordable 
  • Can be done at home 


  • It must be done meticulously as some parts of your engine can be damaged by water.
Engine detailing

Unlike an engine wash, engine detailing has a waterless process making it safer yet slightly more complicated. Meaning, doing this cleaning method will require more time and patience than your average engine wash. You must have good attention to detail in order to successfully perform each step.

Materials needed:

  • Vinyl gloves
  • Dry paintbrush
  • Vacuum
  • Cotton buds
  • Detailer spray
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Degreaser 


Put on your gloves first then carefully brush off the dust and vacuum the surface areas of your engine bay. For tighter edges, use the cotton buds in order to get to the grime. As for overlapping components, soak the microfiber cloth with the detailer and wipe it down on the surfaces. 

Take note that the degrease will only be used when the detailer spray can’t hack it. Also, do not bother cleaning or finding other clever ways to clean those unreachable areas on your engine. Most especially, do not take apart your engine just to clean it.


  • It’s a waterless process making the entire process less messy.
  • It’s also safer for your engine.


  • It’s more expensive.
  • Requires more time and patience.
Engine Wash vs. Engine Detailing

It actually depends on you, if you’re more confident in doing the waterless process of engine detailing, then go for it. On the other hand, if you’re that careful in performing a water cleaning process, then have your vehicle engine washed. Now, if you’re considering having it done in a shop, then perhaps, it would depend on how much you are willing to spend. An engine wash is slightly affordable but it puts some of your engine components at some risk, while engine detailing is safer though it requires more time and effort. 

Whichever you go for, both outputs should present a clean engine bay, just make sure that the one who will perform any of the routines has the right knowledge and experience in order to avoid damaging your precious engine.

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