6 Reasons Your Engine Gets Dirty

Many people who are serious about car maintenance have engine cleaning on their occasional to-do list. Engine cleaning can offer many benefits in terms of your car’s performance. Whether you clean your engine and how often you do so depends partly on how old your car is and its make and model. Nevertheless, there are some things about engine cleaning that every driver should know. 

The benefits of cleaning your engine

A person looking under the hood where a potentially dirty engine is.
A person looking under the hood | Getty Images

Cleaning your engine can potentially offer many benefits for both you and your vehicle, and Access Auto Insurance has broken down some of the most important. At the top of the list is that a cleaner engine will make it easier to spot leaks or cracks and get them addressed before they create even more significant issues. 

In addition, if you live in a snowy climate, road salt buildup in your engine can lead to corrosion. Cleaning your engine is an essential means of preventing this from occurring. Then there are the safety considerations. Cleaning your engine can reduce the risk of fire hazards. 

Finally, there are a few more mundane reasons to keep your engine looking its best, including making it easier to work on the engine yourself and potentially giving your car a higher resale value. 

Why your engine gets dirty

These days, new car engines tend to get less dirty than their ancestors from previous decades, thanks to improvements in design. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean we get to stop thinking about engine cleanliness altogether. Engines can still get dirty for a variety of reasons. 

If you drive on dirt or gravel roads, for example, it’s possible for small particles to get ingested into your vehicle’s engine. In addition, if you drive a lot of short distances and don’t give your oil a chance to warm up properly, you could end up with unwanted debris or residue. Fuel dilution and low-quality oil can also contribute to problems with an engine’s cleanliness.

Then there are the bad habits exhibited by some car owners. For example, if you don’t get your oil changed frequently enough, you could end up with a less-than-clean engine. 

Finally, high heat can also contribute to oil breakdown, leading to sludge getting trapped. 

What is engine cleaner?

One key to keeping your engine clean can be the occasional use of an engine cleaner. An engine cleaner, sometimes known as an engine flush or engine degreaser, is a chemical additive that removes the buildup of sludge and other types of deposits. It can be useful, for example, if you notice oil splatter around your engine bay. 

Most cleaners are used by pouring them into the car’s oil-filler port and then allowing the car to idle for around 15 minutes. As Access Auto Insurance explains, the additive mixes with the oil and then circulates throughout the engine. 

While some mechanics suggest using an engine cleaner every 3,000 to 8,000 miles, the truth is that doing so often isn’t necessary for most modern cars. Instead, you can keep sludge in check by doing a full engine flush every 35,000 miles or so. If your car is more than eight years old or has more than 150,000 miles on it, an engine cleaner may not even be necessary. In those cases, the buildup might actually do the engine some good. 

While there are certainly benefits to using an engine cleaner in most cases, it’s always important to keep in mind your specific car’s actual needs before subjecting it to an engine flush. As we’ve seen, there are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to keeping our engines clean. 

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