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Is It Safe To Spray Water Directly To Engine Bay?

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

Did you pop open your hood and realize it’s been a while, perhaps years, that you last cleaned the engine bay?


No worries. It’s very typical for an engine to get a bit out of hand.

Especially since most of us only look under the hood when something is wrong (or to change the oil).


There’s dust, dry dirty, oil spill, leaks, etc… So now you want to clean it but you’re a bit worried if spraying water onto the engine will damage any components, or worse, shut off your car completely.

It’s a valid reason to be worried, and as they say, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

So in this short article, I’m going to cover the do’s and don’ts when it comes to spraying your car engine with water.


It’s Safe To Spray, Depending On Your Engine


As everything in life, not everything is created equal. Especially engines. If you’re cleaning a car that’s above 2003, you can assume that most of the wires are water sealed with only a few parts that you’ll need to cover up like the alternator, intake, battery, etc…


Now if you have a more complex engine that has a supercharger, a turbocharger, or you’ve tucked the engine, then you’ll have different components to cover up depending how you modified it.


The type of car you need to be most concerned about (or at least the most cautious) are the vintage and older vehicle cars. I’m talking pre 1990 cars. These cars might not have water-sealed wiring to keep them safe from water.


For any type of engine bay, and especially older model vehicles, you want to inspect the engine bay for any damage or what can cause potential damage.


Did a critter get in there and bite some wires? Did you try to repair something on your own and forgot to attach something?


This should only take you a few minutes to inspect and check.


Other than that, you should be pretty safe to introduce water to your engine. We’ve done it on hundreds of vehicles at this point and we’ve never had a problem.


How To Cover Up Engine Components


You sure don’t need any fancy equipment or tools to keep your engine components safe.

All you need to use is a towel, shirt, or plastic bag and wrap it around the specific area. If you want to secure it even more, use electrical tape to seal it off better.


If you’re just going to use a towel or a shirt (which is what I usually do), you’re not going to keep it 100% dry. That’s okay. It’s more so to minimize the amount of water.


There’s times when I can’t reach a certain part of the engine bay to wrap it securely. When that happens, I do two things.


One, even if I can get the towel loosely on there, I’ll do that. Second, once I’m actually rinsing the engine bay, I’ll keep the water pressure away from the area that I couldn’t cover.


You’ll just have to come back later by hand and clean it up the best you can (or use a water bottle as your mini pressure washer for that area).


Use Common Sense


And the most important part of it all, use common sense. Please.


For instance, even if you’re not the most knowledgable person with car engines, you shouldn’t hold your water hose or pressure washer directly to the engine 5 inches away. That’s just asking for trouble.


You want to spray enough water to carry the dirt and grime off the engine. That’s it.

You don’t need a super high-powered pressure washer to do you engine cleaning. A simple garden hose or a small electrical pressure washer will suffice.


If you’re using a pressure washer, make sure you’re keeping it at a respectful distance away from the engine.


Because even if you do have it covered and you’re holding the hose 5 inches away at full blast, you can bet yourself water is going to enter the component.


Make sure all the reservoirs and oil tank are closed.


The last thing you would want is for the oil cap to be off and you spray water directly into your engine. It’s the simple things that sometimes get away from us and will cause the biggest damage.


So make sure you’re checking your entire engine before you start the engine cleaning process!


Once You’re Done, Check Your Engine


Okay great, you’ve cleaned your engine! Now to get the nervousness out of your system, turn on the engine and let it run.


This will dry off any last bit of water standing in the engine and it’ll give you the peace of mind that it’s still running.

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