Tested: Can You Use Tire Shine to Clean Your Car’s Engine Bay?

Cleaning your car’s engine bay is a daunting task, especially if you have no idea what to do. Fortunately, a quick search on YouTube will yield different methods to get a squeaky clean engine bay that you can eat off of, which we don’t suggest. One such method is a super simple one that involves spraying tire shine or foam all over the car’s engine bay and letting it do its cleaning magic. But does it really work?

I tried cleaning my car’s engine bay with Jay Leno’s Tire Shine

My S2000's dirty engine bay with a bottle of Jay Leno's tire shine.
My S2000’s dirty engine bay with a bottle of Jay Leno’s tire shine. | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

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I came across this method when a video popped up on my YouTube feed that showed someone cleaning their car’s engine bay with Armor All Tire Foam. The results in the video were impressive, but I still found it hard to believe. So I watch a few more videos of other YouTubers doing the same thing with good results. Somewhat convinced, I knew I had to try this simple cleaning experiment myself.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a can of Armor All Tire Foam, but I did have a bottle of Jay Leno’s Ceramic Tire Dressing. It should be the same type of stuff, right? Kind of. I realized quickly that this stuff doesn’t coat on as easily as tire foam does.

Instead, it just splatters on like a Jackson Pollock painting, so my S2000’s dirty engine bay didn’t get an even coat of dressing like the cars in the YouTube videos did. But after spraying some of the tire dressing all over the engine bay – mainly the dirty plastic and rubber parts – I did notice that the engine bay looked cleaner after about 10 minutes.

After all, this stuff is meant to clean and shine dirty tires, why not an engine bay? Ultimately, I ended up wiping all of the parts that I sprayed down with a rag to finish the job. However, I can’t say that the tire shine worked miraculously. But my car’s engine bay does look cleaner.

Use tire foam on your car’s engine at your own risk

I sprayed down the engine bay with the tire shine. Although, not in even coats.
I sprayed down the engine bay with the tire shine. Although, not in even coats. | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

While it’s clear that using a tire foam or shine on your engine bay does work, I will have to say to use it at your own risk. When researching the topic, I found many YouTube videos stating that this method is “completely safe” or even “the safest way to clean your engine bay without using water.” That may or may not be so, however, it’s important to use your best judgment when doing these types of experiments.

For example, when I used the tire shine on my car, I sprayed the intake box, valve cover, radiator hoses, and a few of the surrounding areas. But for safety’s sake, I stayed away from the electrical parts, fuse box, and battery, just in case. My apprehension partly stemmed from the fact that tire shine is not an actual engine degreaser like you would normally use to clean an engine bay.

Sure, it works well on tires, but those are just rubber and you have to wipe them down after spraying them. An engine bay, on the other hand, is filled with electrical parts that can easily get damaged by stuff that not supposed to be in it, like a thick coating of tire shine. Additionally, when you spray tire shine onto a dirty engine bay, the liquid emulsifies and collects the dirt and grime and then lets gravity do the work. Over time, that stuff could possibly do damage to parts like an alternator or even the battery if it’s not properly wiped down. And if you use it over and over again, then you run the risk of it building up over time.

What should you use to clean an engine bay?

My S2000’s “cleaner” engine bay after using the tire shine. | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

An engine degreaser diluted with water should work better on a dirty engine bay. After all, that’s basically what it’s meant to do – cut grease and dirt. After using a degreaser on an engine bay, make sure to wash it off with a light spray of water (not a pressure washer) and then dry it as best as possible.

If you don’t have access to a degreaser or a hose, then you can always use tire shine or even bathroom cleaner (like Scrubbing Bubbles). But keep in mind that these are just temporary hacks and you should properly clean your car’s engine bay from time to time to really cut through the dirt and clean it up. Just remember not to eat off it afterward.

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