How to do a Cosmetic Engine Detail in 5-easy Steps

How to do a Cosmetic Engine Detail in 5-easy Steps



Cosmetic Engine Detailing

When it comes to most modern cars, when you open the hood you don’t see an engine but instead, see lots of plastic covers and cladding that cover the engine.  For the most part, due to better technology, the engines don’t become covered in oily sludge like they did in the old days, thus there’s nothing to clean or degrease.

The plastic covers and plastic cladding inside the engine compartment does become dirty and neglected looking over time but the good news is - it’s fast and easy to clean and then restore that factory new appearance. 

Wet Wash Engine Detailing

In the old days, cleaning the engine and engine compartment was called Wet Wash Engine Detailing.  The reason for this is because the normal procedure would be to spray the engine and engine compartment with a heavy duty degreaser, which would break-up and dissolve years of accumulated oil sludge that builds up on the sides of the engine and surrounding surfaces.  This is because old engine manufacturing and assembling technology inevitably led to motor oil leaking out of valve covers, inspection plates, oil pan gaskets, timing chain gaskets, etc.  The results was a thick, black gooey sludge that covered everything below the tops of the valve covers.   

For most of us, these days are in the past and nowadays, anyone can safely clean and detail their engine bay with just a few products.  If you do have an older vehicle that needs a thorough cleaning using the Wet Wash Engine Detailing Technique, see my article here.

Wet Wash Engine Detailing - How to Clean and Detail your Engine in 9 Easy Steps

Quick and easy engine detailing

If you’ve never done a cosmetic engine detail before no worries, it’s really simple and the before and after difference is stunning.

Supplies needed:

  1. Compressed air - garage vacuum
  2. Soft bristle brush
  3. Spray detailer, Waterless Wash or Vinyl & Plastic Dressing
  4. Wheel and tire microfiber towels

2018 Lincoln Continental - Demo Vehicle

Our demonstration vehicle is a 2018 Lincoln Continental.  Here you can see the plastic cladding has faded and there’s beach sand accumulating inside the engine compartment.  (Owner lives near the beach in Southern Florida).

Step 1: Using forced air, blow out the entire engine compartment.

For this step you need something that will blow air  to remove any large debris like sticks, leaves, dead bugs and in this example, beach sand.  (When it’s windy, beach sand gets blown onto your vehicle and some even accumulates inside your vehicle's engine compartment).  You can use a leaf blower, or a shop-vac that lets you reverse the suction hose and use the vacuum to blow instead of extract, or as you see in the pictures a small hand-held blower.

Step 2: Agitate any stubborn dirt and debris with a brush and then reblow.

Some dirt, like the beach sand in this example, was more or less stuck to the plastic surfaces.  After blowing out all the loose debris the next thing I did was simply dry brush the engine compartment to loosen any remaining sand, dirt and debris and then blew the engine out a second time.

After agitation with a brush, blow out the engine compartment a second time.

Step 3:  Mist a spray detailer or vinyl dressing onto all plastic surfaces.

Most detailers will use a combination of a spray detailer or waterless wash to first clean the engine compartment and then spray a vinyl and rubber protectant onto the plastic surfaces.  This approach works great but if the engine compartment is only lightly neglected like the engine compartment on this vehicle, I use a product called 3D Bead It Up.   

3D Bead It Up is an all-purpose polymer-based surface sealer.  It’s water based so it works great to clean light dirt and dust while leaving behind a durable coating of polymer protection that dries to the touch.    

Because this layer of polymer protection dries to the touch, it will make future cleaning faster and easier.  Any dressing that does not dry to the touch becomes a dirt magnet moving forward because the dressing will leave behind an oily, slimy film that attracts and holds dirt and dust.  Besides cleaning and protecting, 3D Bead It Up will restore and maintain a  rich, satin sheen like these plastic surfaces looked when the vehicle was brand new.  Even better, you can use 3D Bead It Up on the outside of your car and the inside of your car - it’s truly a multi-functional product that everyone loves.

Step 4:  Use a brush to work the 3D Bead It Up over the plastic.

Most of the plastic in the engine compartment will have some form of design to it with irregular shapes, tight areas and/or intricate patterns.  A soft bristle brush works great to work the Bead It Up into all these areas for complete and uniform coverage.

Step 5:  Wipe the engine compartment clean and dry.

After working the 3D Bead It Up all over the plastic engine cover and any other smooth hard plastic or painted surfaces, next use a 3D black wheel and tire microfiber towel to remove any excess product and wipe the engine compartment clean and dry.


In about 15 to 20 minutes you can take neglected to respected!




Doing a cosmetic engine detail is fast and easy.  The real key is to use quality products like 3D Bead It Up and stay on top of it by cleaning the engine compartment on you vehicles at least twice a year.  When you clean and protect the engine compartment a couple of times a year it will always look brand new.  This will maintain the factory-new appearance and also maintain the re-sell or trade-in value.  

Plus, anytime your vehicle goes in for service at a dealership or mechanics garage, when professional mechanics see you take care of your car, they are a lot more likely to give your vehicle the same professional treatment.  Take my word for it, professional mechanics would much rather work on a car that’s clean and detailed versus dirty and neglected.  It’s a win/win deal for everyone.

If you have any questions about doing a cosmetic engine detail your any of your vehicles or any detailing questions in general, please fee free to contact me and I promise I’ll do my best to help see you through to success in your garage.

For more information to to check out the wide range of quality 3D products, visit


Mike Philips

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