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Engine Bay Cleaning


Jim Neville
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Now that my '50 Windsor is in the garage for it's winter hibernation I was looking at cleaning up the engine bay area. It has the 251 original flathead in it. I have had the car for a little over a year and never really got to clean all the nooks and crannies. There is a lot of grease and crap on the engine, mostly on the bottom end. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what would be the best way to clean it up. Would a degreaser do the trick and a few old tooth brushes and lots of elbow grease? Thanks.

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Jack up the car. Remove front tires. I’d probably remove any splash pans, inner fender window too. Lay out some cardboard. Start with a scraper putty knife and get the big chunks off. A screw driver will help in tighter areas. Get a solvent brush a toothbrush for tighter areas. Kerosene works awesome to breakdown old sludge. Swap out cardboard as needed to clean up your work area. 
 

Effort will pay off. 
I did this and got great results. 
 

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Edited by keithb7
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Wear old clothes and cover your eyes.  Once you have the majority of the old grease and dirt cleaned up then you'll be able to see where the leaks are coming from.  Fix those as you have time.  One of the other culprits on these old cars are the five hundred (I lost count) or so lubrication points that need regular maintenance.  We would pump grease in one side until it came out the other side.  Then just leave the extra grease - and over time it would turn into the monster you are dealing with now.  

 

After you have the majority of the old stuff cleaned you'll find that working under the car will be much more pleasant.

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1 hour ago, Kilgore47 said:

Wear old clothes and cover your eyes.  Once you have the majority of the old grease and dirt cleaned up then you'll be able to see where the leaks are coming from.  Fix those as you have time.  One of the other culprits on these old cars are the five hundred (I lost count) or so lubrication points that need regular maintenance.  We would pump grease in one side until it came out the other side.  Then just leave the extra grease - and over time it would turn into the monster you are dealing with now.  

 

After you have the majority of the old stuff cleaned you'll find that working under the car will be much more pleasant.

You were close with the count of 500. I think it is 25 and you have to work to find them all.

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Lay down some thick plastic sheeting on the garage floor, use some squares of wood between the plastic and your jack stands.  That will keep the gunk off the concrete.  Don't use any purple cleaner, it's affect the paint.  back when I climbed wind turbines one of the things we did was clean the insides.  This was a once a year maintenance so the gunk built up.  We;d manually remove the majority of the grease and oil build up then use Simple Green to get the remainder.  Now these turbines are painted white, inside and out, when we were done they were military clean.  One thing, if you use green Simple Green and don't wipe it off it'll leave a green stain.  We used clear Simple Green, half and half with water, in spray bottles.

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I will throw in a pitch for simple green all purpose cleaner.

We will need to use scrapers, picks, screw drivers  to dig out the large tough areas.

Some areas we might want to use some sort of brake cleaner spray .... some gasoline or paint thinner.

Then use the simple green to finish it all off.

 

Seems @sniper is on target today and beat me to it   :P

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For me it really depends how much crud I'm seeing. If bad another option prior to starting any hands-on is to plan a trip to a local do-it-yourself car wash with the wands for water pressure when desired. There are some by me that have doors for the winter months and selectors for soap, engine degreaser, and rinse. Very helpful if you spray some cleaner on the problem areas first and drive it down. You should be able to get the top, sides and bottom of the motor and sides/bottom of the trans where most leakers make deposits. With water pressure you can get some blow back as you go so safety glasses or a shield should be worn with some old clothing.  Once finished at the car wash I start the cleaning as others described and then detailing. Just be careful around the distributor and thoughtful where you pull the trigger for the higher water pressure.

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Apart from using scrapers, old screwdrivers, an old butter knife or similar I'd also suggest either kerosene or mineral turpentine to seep into the still attached old grease & crud, then maybe a couple of old paint brushes to swerl the crud and loosen more then a good degreaser..........old pieces of towelling, a roll of paper towel even cheap toilet paper....basically anything that you can get the crud off and allow the degreaser to work.........I use a heavy duty degreaser then a hard water jet..........after that you can start to see whats actually there........the areas around grease nipples, ie, kingpins,upper/lower inner /outer bushes & pins and tie rod ends are notorious  for nice hard, baked on crud.....the kero or turps first helps to soften this crud............andyd 

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I was introduced to this product via a video from the Experimental Aircraft Association. It was presented as an effective and safe way to dissolve grease so it can be easily removed. I only have one brief use of the product but it might be something somebody wants to try. Who knows, it might be the newest 'latest and greatest'.  :)

 

The product is Foam Coil Cleaner that is used to clean condenser coils in residential/commercial HVAC systems. In that application condensation on the coils washes away the cleaner, in our application a rinse with a pressure washer or garden sprayer could do the same. My brief trial found it 'drip dries' taking light grime with it.

 

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https://www.amazon.com/dp/B007I7KZN0?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details

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I've never had them attack paint. It will etch aluminum though. I use it regularly, never had an issue. I pull old cars and bikes out of back yards, sheds and garages on the regular and the first thing I do is clean the underside , engines, suspension with purple power. 

 

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