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Discussion Starter #1
I can wash, wax, and clean the exterior of the car, but how do I keep the literal engine and everything else under the hood clean? I've only ever had super old cars until the Focus, so by the time I get the car, it's already pretty dirty in there.

Do I just spray it with water for 10 minutes? Do I need to soap things down? Is it safe to hose down the engine area after driving it to a wash place or do I have to do it when the engine is cold (if so, then this would not be possible due to HOA restrictions)?
 

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Hi there. I'll share my process that I've refined from bugging my old-man who was a mechanic and service advisor for an armful of decades.

First of all, do not wash a hot engine. No no no no no. Best to do after a full cooldown as if the water is cold enough and the engine hot enough KABLAM hot parts can crack easily. It's unlikely, but a possibility you don't want to contend with.

This is what I do:
  1. Roll up on some ramps and remove the fabric shroud beneath the engine.
  2. Put the car back down and wash the exterior/interior, allowing for the engine to cool.
  3. Pop the hood and place your hand so that it is hovering above the back+top of the engine. If you can feel heat, it might be too warm. Warm isn't bad, HOT is bad. Still, if you're new to it and can feel heat maybe leave the hood open while you tidy up from the other washing and get your stuff ready for the engine.
  4. With the engine sufficiently cool consider wrapping some aluminium foil around any visible electrical connections. I think I only cover a small handful.
  5. Grab your degreaser cleaner (SuperClean or whatever product is popular in your area) and spray the dirty bits liberally. It's probably a good idea to read the label on your bottle thoroughly as the process can be different between brands.
  6. Usually you let the degreaser sit for a few minutes while it kicks the grime's butt.
  7. After sufficient grease breakdown grab your hose and set it to a spray, but not a jet. The one thing you need to be certain of with the hose is that you aren't using too much pressure as that can damage/dislodge stuff. I usually use the garden hose for this one and set it to 'cone' or something with good pressure but not too focused. I know some people use pressure washers for this but I would never advise that unless you can adjust it right down low, but even then I'd prefer a garden hose. Too much pressure can get water into places your car would prefer to keep dry. With the electrics in our cars being, um, a little sensitive, this is a fairly poignant concern.
  8. Spray all the grime off. Be sure not to leave any degreaser pooled on any parts.
  9. If need be, have a nylon brush (the kind people use for wheel cleaning are usually ok) to scrub any stubborn spots. Re-rinse.
  10. Leave the hood open a bit and let it air dry. You can speed this up with a towel and I usually go after anything electric with one of those first.
  11. Roll up on the ramps, put the shroud back on.
  12. Take a pic and post to "What did you do to your car today?"
  13. Profit.

I'm sure others do it slightly or totally different, but this has always worked well for me and I do it maybe twice a year tops (fall/spring.) At least once.
 

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I can wash, wax, and clean the exterior of the car, but how do I keep the literal engine and everything else under the hood clean? I've only ever had super old cars until the Focus, so by the time I get the car, it's already pretty dirty in there.

Do I just spray it with water for 10 minutes? Do I need to soap things down? Is it safe to hose down the engine area after driving it to a wash place or do I have to do it when the engine is cold (if so, then this would not be possible due to HOA restrictions)?
Before you leave to go to the car wash, remove the felt aeroshield from under the engine bay. (If you don't, it will catch all the gunk from the spray. It will also sag under the weight of all that water)

It is best not to spray down a really hot engine so when you arrive at the car wash, let the engine cool down while you wash the exterior etc.

Cover all electrical components under the hood with plastic wrap.

When you are through spraying down the engine, always take an extended drive and let the engine attain full operating temperature to thoroughly dry it.

Replace felt aeroshield.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks! So after reading both your guys' comments, I'm just going to pay someone to do this for me maybe a couples times a year.

If I can't hose it down at home, and I have to wait an extended period of time at the car wash place, it just seems reasonable that perhaps the dealer might be willing to take a look/clean it.
 

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^^^Seriously...this is an easy task and shouldn't take a lot of time or be complicated. I never take the felt cover off...I just make sure the motor isn't hot and hose it off using the gentle setting on my hose. You could spray on some cleaner like Simple Green before you hose it off. Again...just make sure its not hot. I don't cover anything up. I do it frequently enough that I haven't had a lot of grimy build up and my motor/engine bay looks fairly new with over 50K miles.
 

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I've been wondering this same thing and everyone seemed to hit the points I was concerned about. Shroud underneath and electrical.
 

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^^^Seriously...this is an easy task and shouldn't take a lot of time or be complicated. I never take the felt cover off...I just make sure the motor isn't hot and hose it off using the gentle setting on my house. You could spray on some cleaner like Simple Green before you hose it off. Again...just make sure its not hot. I don't cover anything up. I do it frequently enough that I haven't had a lot of grimy build up and my motor/engine bay looks fairly new with over 50K miles.
Willy nilly is no way to responsibly spray pressurized water at an engine with all it's bits! But correct it's not complicated. 10 minutes.
 

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As I said....the gentle shower setting on my hose.....
 

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Jumping in here; is there anything that would need covered under the hood?
Any electrical connectors/plugs would be a good start. And probably avoid spraying around the air filter box. If you are careful, you don't really have to cover anything I'd say.
 
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