How to Customize your engine bay

How to Customize your engine bay


Attend any car show and one of the biggest head turners is the engine bay. There are literally thousands of different types of engine bay dress up that you can use to set your car apart from the crowd. Because of this wide range of choices, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about your engine bay modifications.

This guide is intended to help you customize your engine bay with the best of them. Before you go about dressing up your engine compartment, however it’s a good idea to go about detailing it properly. Detailing your engine bay is easy to do, but there’s a few things to avoid so you don’t damage anything.

Here’s a in depth look at customizing your engine compartment, and how you can do it the right way.

Engine Bay Dress Up – Devil in the Details

Over time, road grime, brake fluid, engine oil and transmission fluid leaks can really dirty up your engine compartment. As you drive your vehicle, dirt and grime can slowly take over until you can’t see what’s what in your engine bay anymore.

engine bay cleaningMany of these leaking fluids can also cause damage to your paint and electrical connections. What’s more dirt and grime can also lead to excessive heat, which can lead to your car breaking down.

Dirty alternators can result in your battery becoming overcharged or draining prematurely. Overcharged batteries can leak highly corrosive battery acid all over your engine bay. Clogged air filters can ruin vehicle performance. You get the idea.

So before you start customizing your engine, you’ll have to clean it. Here’s a few engine cleaning tips to get a head start.

Engine Washing – Before you begin washing your engine, you need to ensure that the air filter is covered. If your engine is equipped with any sort of ram scoop, avoid spraying water into it. Water in your intake can cause hydrolock and total engine failure.

When washing your engine, there’s several over the counter products that you can use. The most common is Simple Green. It’s an eco-friendly, bio-degradable solution that can break down the oily deposits and grime. Simply mix with water and spray onto your engine bay, and allow it to sit. You can use any scrubber or brush to clean your engine carefully.

In a pinch you can also use oven cleaners. They are designed to cut through grease and attack tough stains. You’ll want to read the label carefully to ensure that the cleaner you use won’t damage your clear coat or the paint in your engine bay however. Other over-the-counter cleaners may include foaming types. Much Like simple green, allow the foam to sit before scrubbing.

Always follow the manufacturers recommendations when using this product.  Observe all cautions on the container, and make sure to wear eye protection and rubber gloves. With just a little bit of elbow grease you can have your engine bay looking just like it did off the factory floor.

Pressure Washing – Pressure washers can really knock out the  heavy grease deposits in any engine bay.  You can rent or purchase a pressure washer, and many times you won’t even need chemicals. Many professional engine bay detailers prefer soaking the engine compartment with a cleaner first.

Either way you’ll want to make sure that your intake is covered and is no chance of water seeping into your engine.

Steam Washing – One of the newer methods of cleaning your engine compartment, there are many professional steam cleaners that can help eliminate that messy and dirty look. Steam cleaning includes a pressure spray of very hot water combined with a specialized solvent. It’s one of the most efficient ways to clean your engine compartment, and it’s commonly used by tuners and show car owners.

Engine Bay Cleaning Precautions

Whenever water and your engine is concerned, there’s always a few precautions that you must take. Before you begin cleaning your engine make sure to take note of these precautions below.

Start with big chunks first – When cleaning your engine bay make sure to start with the big clumps of dirt and grease first. Never use a screwdriver or similar device to scrape away the dirt. Instead use a soft brush or even toothbrush to gently scrub away  the grime from your engine.

Watch the temperature – Before you take your vehicle in for a steam cleaning or pressure washing, it may be a good idea to inspect your vacuum hoses. When the water is too hot it can cause vacuum hoses to crack and leak. In some worst case scenarios it can also damage your intake snorkel, leading to inconsistent engine performance.

Soak with cleaner – Because the grime and dirt in your engine bay is most likely set in and caked on over time, you’ll want to soak and use plenty of solvent or cleaner.

Engine Bay Dress Up – Braided Hose Covers

Engine Bay Dress Up - Braided Hose CoversOne of the cheapest and easiest ways to customize any engine bay. Braided hose covers are sold in most automotive hardware stores, and can give your engine compartment that special flair.

Most manufacturers provide a stainless steel looking braided cover kit, that may also include anodized looking hose clamps.

Although many of the over-the-counter kits can provide excellent value,  it’s best to typically make your own for a truly customized look. You can do this by heading to a specialty store, but make sure to measure the distance of stainless steel hose cover you need.

Installing braided hose covers on radiator hoses – Due to the nature of radiator hoses, coolant can be steaming hot. Before you install there’s a few easy tips and steps to follow.

  1. Allow your vehicle to cool down.
  2. Unpack your stainless steel braided hose kit.
  3. Loosen the clamp at the thermostat housing.
  4. Loosen your radiator hose clamp.
  5. Remove radiator hose completely.

You may need to trim or cut away excess braided hose cover.  When shopping for a braided hose cover kit, try to look for a manufacturer that actually uses stainless steel. There are many cheap kits out there that use cheap aluminum or polished steel, which can fade or rust over time.

Installing PCV breather hoses

PCV stands for positive crankcase ventilation. In most emissions controlled vehicles, the PCV valve is located on top of the valve cover. The excess gases created by engine combustion and ring blow by are usually routed back into the intake. This allows manufacturers to remain emissions compliant and reduces harmful emissions.

However it doesn’t do a thing for your engine performance. This hot, greasy, oily air isn’t doing your engine any favors. It increases exhaust gas temperatures and can foul spark plugs. Not only that but it elevates the intake charge temperature which means your engine is ingesting less air.

This is why many people install a PCV breather. These breathers can range from simple air filters or a complex catch can. Many of these aftermarket catch cans are also called air to oil separators.

When installing PCV filters, understand that you’re most likely violating emissions laws in your state. Also by installing a simple filter over PCV valve, that hot oily air may not be entering your engine, but it’s now spewing all over your engine bay. Still PCV filters are extremely popular for most enthusiasts and for good reason.

Engine Bay Dress Up – Oil Filler Caps and Dipsticks

Usually made out of plastic  these two engine bit components can take a beating over time. That’s because they’re usually in contact with hot engine oil or the hot valve cover. This leads to discoloration, embrittlement, and an overall ugly engine compartment.

To give your engine bay that extra special look, many people upgrade the oil filler cap and  / or dipstick. Metal or anodized versions can really set your engine apart from the rest. If you own a popular engine type, chances are there’s a ton of different oil filler options with your size and pitch thread.

Aftermarket oil dip sticks can be cheap alternatives, but usually need to be cut or measured properly. You don’t want to install too long of a dipstick, nor do you want it to be too short.


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