Advice for cleaning the engine compartments

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 1991

Dear Tom and Ray:

Please give me your best advice on cleaning engine compartments. Do they need it? How often? What's the best method? Thanks for the advice.

RAY: Well, Vern, the slobs of the world (my brother included) will be delighted to know that your car's engine is one thing that almost never needs cleaning. Unlike the oven or the basement, the engine can be safely ignored for years without any ill effects.

TOM: There's no HARM in cleaning it, if it makes you feel good. And in fact, cleaning the engine can be a diagnostic tool.

RAY: If your car is leaking oil, and you don't know exactly where the leak is coming from (because there's oil all over the engine), cleaning the engine is a good first step. If you have the engine thoroughly steam cleaned, and then go to your mechanic a few days later, the origin of the leak will usually be obvious.

TOM: And whether you're cleaning the engine for business or pleasure, it's best to have it professionally steam cleaned. While you could probably get it just as clean in your driveway, you can't safely dispose of all the oil and gunk that comes off the engine. That stuff is hazardous, and most repair shops and car washes have traps to catch hazardous materials so they can later be disposed of properly.

RAY: So if you're feeling the urge to do some spring cleaning, Vern, we suggest you start with the basement. And when you find that hammer and chisel you've been missing, you can get started on the oven.

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