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Choose the Best Engine Cleaner for Your Car 2018

Get rid of the grime laying on your motor with these engine cleaners

Published September 10, 2018

As time goes on, engines end up quite messy. That’s when a decent engine cleaner is needed. Dirty engines also cause it to underperform and look terrible. With the best engine cleaner or degreaser, you’ll increase the engine’s life and enhance the aesthetic appeal as well. This is especially important if you’re trying to sell your car. The trouble is, most people don’t know what to look for in a quality degreaser. With that said, we’ve picked out the ten best engine cleaners to make the selection easier for you.

Reasons to Use an Engine Cleaner

Engine cleaners are substances designed to remove oil and grease from your motor. These tough to clean materials are difficult to remove and require the use of something heavy-duty.

The biggest reason to use a degreaser is so your engine performs better. Grease, dirt, and oil cause the engine to run less efficiently. In addition, once the engine is clean, you’ll also be able to tell if there are any oil leaks you should pay attention to. If you find this early on, you might save yourself lots of money in repairs.

Cleaning your engine regularly also keeps mechanical issues at bay. As soon as you notice any dust or petroleum on the motor, it’s advised that you wash it. The nice thing is that anyone can do it; you don’t need to have any sort of car experience to get your engine clean.

The final reason you’d want to clean your engine is if you were planning to sell your vehicle. If you show a neat and tidy car, you have a better chance at getting top dollar. Which is also the reason you’ll want to invest in the 10 best auto detailing supplies.

Types of Engine Cleaners

Types of Engine Cleaners

There are many varieties of engine cleaners on the market, so it’s essential that you understand the differences.

Petroleum-based Cleaners – Contain ethanol and distillates which remove grease as well as oil, gasoline, and additional lubricants.

Metal Solvent Cleaners – Clean the machinery like motors, joints, and bearings. They are effective at removing tough grease.

Vapor Solvent Cleaners – Clean differently because they work as a vapor after heated.

Ultrasonic Cleaners – Use ultrasonic waves to remove grease and residue from engines. These are more expensive and aren’t often used.

Foam Cleaners – Best for car engines and electrical appliances. They must be wiped off without any water.

Environmentally-Friendly Cleaners – Made from vinegar, baking soda, soap, lemon juice, or other products that are natural. They clean without posing any threats to the environment.

How to Pick the Best Engine Cleaner

The first way most people choose their engine cleaner is by brand. That’s an excellent way to tell if a product works because there are just some brands that are top-notch. Aside from purchasing something with an excellent reputation, there are some other considerations you’ll want to think about.

Formula – Check the ingredients to ensure there aren’t toxic and hazardous chemicals. This isn’t just for your own safety, but also to protect the engine.

Odor – The last thing you want to do is drive around after cleaning your engine and have a horrible smell coming from under your hood. There are some engine cleaners (mainly the cheap ones) that cause vapors which are dangerous to inhale. Stay away from those.

Residue – If your engine cleaner leaves behind a residue, that defeats the purpose of cleaning it in the first place.

Versatile – You want a cleaner that cleans lots of surfaces, not just one specific type of metal or alloy. It’s also important that it won’t damage your steel, rubber, paint, or plastic over time. The best engine cleaners can be used on other items as well.

How to Safely Wash Your Car Engine Bay

Washing Your Car Engine Bay

Cleaning your engine requires cautiousness because there’s a lot that could go wrong. It’s not difficult to destroy your electrical components or break the wiring loom because of a powerful pressure washer.

The benefits of cleaning your engine far outweigh the potential hazards. Not only does it create an aesthetically pleasing vehicle, it actually makes your engine more manageable to work on and increases your sale price, too. With that in mind, you must be cautious and think carefully about what you’re doing.

Many detailers will tell you that it’s okay to use water near electrical sensors as long as you’re not drenching them. Personally, we feel better avoiding water altogether because it’s just not worth it to us. Electrical components are expensive to replace.

That’s why we’ve outlined the safest method of cleaning your engine without the use of water.

1 – Prepare your engine. Make sure it’s cold and remove any debris. Then cover your air intakes, ignition wires, coils, and sensors.

2 – Remove baked on dirt. Simply take a wire brush and remove it.

3 – Apply the engine cleaner/degreaser. Use one of the recommended products and spray down the area. Allow it to sit for 30 seconds, or whatever’s suggested from the manufacturer. Then, use your wire brush and work the degreaser in where needed.

4 – Dry your engine. Once you’ve scrubbed it in, use a microfiber cloth to remove the cleaner from your engine bay. Examine the area to ensure there’s no pooling near hidden wires or compartments.

5 – Apply a shine and protect product to detail the engine. Spray it onto a microfiber cloth and then rub it in. Don’t spray it on the engine or you might leave behind abrasions.

If you must use a water method, spray the pressure washer on the widest setting possible.

Top 10 Best Engine Cleaners Reviewed

In no particular order, here are the ten best engine cleaners we found for your consideration. They all feature amazing reviews and are easy to use.

10. Griot’s Garage 11235 Engine Detailing Kit

Griot's Garage Engine Detailing Kit

This option from Griot’s Garage is one of the more expensive per-ounce in our review, but well worth every penny. It’s a combination package featuring an engine bay degreaser as well as an aftertouch dressing to create a stellar finish.

To use it, you simply follow the cleaning guide above and then apply your finish at the end to restore the shine and color. This degreaser fights the ground in dirt just as easily as the light debris. Then, when you apply the dressing, all your plastics and rubber shine with a black satin finish, good enough to take to the car show.

The best part about this kit is that it’s versatile. Use it on your motorcycle, utility vehicle, snowmobile, boat, and all-terrain vehicle as well.  Another perk is that the formula is low odor, so you don’t have to worry about toxic fumes coming from your engine.

9. Chemical Guys CLD_201_16 Signature Series Orange Degreaser

Chemical Guys Degreaser

Before you look at this price and write this product off, keep something in mind. The Chemical Guys Degreaser needs to be diluted 20:1 with water for general cleaning jobs. That means if your engine isn’t terribly greasy, you don’t need to use this at full strength.

Chemical Guys is a leader in detailing products because they work. This concentrated formula was created with heavy-duty degreasing in mind. What we like is that it’s already in a spray bottle. A lot of other products come in big jugs that require you to pour into your own spray bottles.

This solution removes tough dirt, grime, grease, and debris with ease. It’s also easy to clean off. Dilute this and use it on your wheels, undercarriages, and even the shop floor for a quick spot clean. There’s no limit to the places you’ll be able to clean with this.

As a perk, the orange scent is sweet and refreshing. Of course, we wouldn’t buy it just to make our engines smell like a bag of oranges.

8. Oil Eater Original 1 Gallon Cleaner/Degreaser

Oil Eater Cleaner

Our main reason for liking Oil Eater Cleaner is simply that it works. Many users claim over and over again how easy it is to remove ground in oil on shop floors, grease from automotive tools, and dirt from the engine.

This cleaner safely dissolves engine oil and grease on most products because it doesn’t use abrasives, petroleum solvents, or acids. It’s also biodegradable, so you could use it on a septic system if you wanted to.

This gallon is heavily concentrated and it should last you quite a while when used correctly. They even offer a handy dilution chart to make sure you get the right strength for the job. On the table, they provide ratios for floors, tubs, carpets, grills, tile, asphalt, concrete driveways, decks, boat hulls, siding, white wall tires, and stoves. As far as industrial uses are concerned, there are dilution formulas for engines, floor scrubbers, pressure washers, exhausts, machinery, tools, parts washing, plus your hood.

We wonder what this degreaser can’t do!

7. Simple Green 19128 Crystal Industrial Cleaner/Degreaser

Simple Green Cleaner

The reviews on a degreaser don’t come much better than they do on this Simple Green Cleaner. It’s one of the few on the market that is 100% biodegradable. There’s also no harm to your health while using it plus it’s fragrance-free.

Don’t let that deter you from believing it’s not heavy-duty enough to tackle your toughest dirt problems, though. The potency of this cleaner is perfect for industrial, home, and automobile use. Anywhere you have oil stains or grease; you’ll be able to get them right out with this product; even if they’ve become deeply embedded.

Just make sure you dilute it accordingly, although it would be hard to hurt almost any surface with this product. Keep in mind that you might pay a little more for this than some other options on the list, but you get what you pay for. Aside from its impeccable strength, you really can’t put a price on something that won’t harm you or the environment.

Consider all the other places you can use this cleaner. Some customers have used it already for their bike chains, kitchen cleanup, plastic storage containers, bearings, and even greasy clothing.

6. POR-15 Cleaner/Degreaser Surface Cleaner

POR-15 Cleaner

For those of you looking for a multi-purpose solution, you can’t do much better than with POR-15 Cleaner. It’s not just for automotive use, but also great for industrial purposes and household tasks. Many people also use it for their marine equipment, bikes, and off-road vehicles as well.

Like many of the others, this formula comes heavily concentrated. You’ll want to keep this in mind when looking at the price. You’re going to get far more use out of it then you would initially think possible.

Customers have found this solution works great on any oil stains, algae, soap film, wax, musty odors, and mildew. It’s usable on multiple surfaces without an issue; just be sure to test a small patch first before trying something new.

You might also use it before applying preventative coatings or paint for protection against rust. Simply put some of this on first to remove all the oils for a better finish.

This product is 100% water soluble, so it leaves behind zero residue. You might consider wearing some gloves while working with it as it can be rough on the skin.

5. KRUD KUTTER KK32 Original Concentrated Cleaner/Degreaser

Krud Kutter

Ratings don’t get as close to perfect as they do with Krud Kutter. In fact, if you ask anyone who degreases most anything, chances are they’ve heard of this product.

It’s popular among general cleaners mainly because of its degreasing and stain removing capability. Just like our other top picks, you have to dilute this formula to its appropriate strength before use. There are also lots of sizing choices, so it’s easy to get exactly what you need for your next job.

Use this formula to remove adhesives, glue, oil, grease, crayons, markers, pet stains, paint overspray, tree sap, tape residue, ground-in oil stains, wax, and so much more. This could easily replace your current carpet stain remover, floor cleaner, pet stain remover, and tile cleaner to save you tons of money.

The company also claims it’s good for gutter stains, bird droppings, brake dust, lipstick, fireplace soot, and suntan oil. For heavy cleaning purposes, use it on your grill, machinery, driveways, and grout. You could also clean your appliances, porcelain, patio furniture, wheels, and mini-blinds as well. With all the strength, it’s still gentle enough to use on your television screen, computer screen, mirrors, glass, lights, and windows.

Not only is it versatile but it’s also biodegradable, water-based, non-flammable, non-toxic, plus non-abrasive. That means it’s perfect for the environment and you. There’s also no bleach, ammonia, or petroleum-based solvents included in the formula. You’ll also find that there are no overpowering fumes or strong vapors to contend with.

4. Meguiar’s D10801 Super Degreaser

Meguiar Degreaser

The Meguiar Degreaser is well-known for its excellent cleaning ability. Not only does it clean a multitude of materials, but it’s fast-acting so you don’t have to wait long to see results. It works well on stains, no matter how long they’ve been sitting.

What most people love about this particular cleaner is that there’s no residue left behind. It’s also entirely possible to use this without water; just apply it and wipe it off. The pleasant fragrance left behind is a bonus, especially when dealing with areas that had deep odors.

Don’t just use this for your engine cleaning, but also on your list of tough jobs. In fact, customers found success using it on their car interior as well. Another customer used it to clean their leather seats and found it took off 13-year old grime. On top of that, there was no harm to their leather and no discoloration. They claim it’s as good as taking the vehicle to the detailer, so it looks like this product could save a lot of money.

With proper dilution, a gallon could last for several years depending on how many places you need to use it.

3. Spray Nine 26832 Heavy Duty Cleaner/Degreaser and Disinfectant

Spray Nine Heavy-Duty Degreaser

If you want a versatile cleaner, look no further than with Spray Nine Heavy-Duty Degreaser. This formula cleans, degreases, and disinfects at the same time. It effectively removes stains, eradicates mildew, and gets rid of mold.

The specially formulated spray provides an accelerated cleaning experience. Aside from using it on your engines, you’ll find numerous purposes for it. In fact, it could replace most of your current cleaners.

The company claims that it’s great to use around the house on your tools, vinyl, engines, walls, concrete, sinks, bathtubs, tires, stainless steel, plastic, ceilings, showers, and more. On top of that, it kills many viruses and bacteria in just 45 seconds which is something the other products didn’t offer.

In your garage, you might consider using it on your vans, SUVs, trucks, cars, and RVs. Spray down parts of the exterior and interior of your vehicle including that bug splatter on the bumpers and your grimy door panels. Professional drivers also find success with it on city buses, school buses, delivery trucks, plus heavy equipment cleaning.

At your office, you can disinfect and clean desks, work benches, kitchens, bathrooms, and the cafeteria. You might even want to spray down the office tools and equipment to stop the spread of germs. In an industrial setting, you would be wise to use it on conveyors, machinery, treated metals, shelving, and the kitchen.

The formula weakens a stain’s ability to cling to the surface, allowing it to be removed. It also contains no bleach and is VOC compliant. With no petroleum or chlorinated solvents, you know this is a safe option.

2. S100 12005L Total Cycle Cleaner Bottle

Total Cycle Cleaner

For an efficient way to deal with engine grease, you might consider this Total Cycle Cleaner. It takes your hardest jobs and turns them into light work. You can use it on your car, truck, motorcycle, or industrial engines as well. It’s proven to be safe on paints, alloys, plastic, rubber, and chrome.

Cleaning occurs in as little as five minutes depending on how bad the grime is. The non-acid, biodegradable, ph-controlled formula also contains corrosion inhibitors to protect your belongings. Consider using it for your marine and lawn equipment as well as your snowmobiles.

You have to purchase this by the 1.32-gallon, but once you see all the ways to use it, you’ll find a purpose for it all.

1. Simple Green Pro HD Heavy Duty Cleaner Concentrate

Simple Green Heavy Duty Cleaner

We end our list with another Simple Green Cleaner, but this one is slightly different than the others we reviewed. The concentrated formula makes up to 14 gallons depending what you need it for.

This professional-grade cleanser is ideal for degreasing engines and automobiles with ease. Not only that, but you can then use it in the kitchen and bathroom for deep cleaning.

It’s safe on metal, so you don’t need to worry about it corroding the engine. It’s also completely non-toxic, making it one of the most reliable options for you and the environment.

Use this on your walls, floors, industrial equipment, RV, and appliances for a deep-down, overall clean. You could even utilize it during parts washing, pressure washing, or ultrasonic cleaning.

It’s been tested to work safely on a variety of materials including painted surfaces, polished steel, stainless steel, aluminum, chrome, vinyl, plastics, canvas, counters, cabinets, refrigerators, stovetops, showers, sinks, tile, and so much more. Outside, use it on your tools, wheels, engines, landscaping equipment, grills, machinery, and bumpers.

You have to purchase it in a one-gallon container, but once you figure out everywhere you can use it, you’ll be glad you did. In fact, most people find themselves getting rid of other cleaners in favor of using this one.

Final Thoughts

You want to protect your car engine from grime, dirt, oil, and debris. It helps your motor to run smoother, extend its life, and make it look better. You’ve spent a good deal of money on your vehicle, and you must protect that investment.

With the best engine cleaner and degreaser, the task of maintaining your engine has never been easier. Simply spray on your favorite formula, allow it to sit, and then wipe off. With many of the formulas listed above, you don’t even have to put forth much effort to get the clean you desire, and you don’t need to spend a lot of money either. Now, you no longer have an excuse to neglect your car or its engine.

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Brian Jones
About Brian Jones

I am an ASE Certified Master Tech, but spend more time with my awesome family now than I do on cars. In my spare time, you'll still find me playing with tools, cars and many other "manly" gadgets.

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