Is it OK To Water my Engine?

I brought my Forester to burningman this year. Being left in the desert for a week the engine accumulated a layer of dust/silt. Im wondering if its safe to use a high pressure washer on the engine to clean it.

You could easily drive water into electronic components and drive wet silt and sand into places you don’t want it. Do you have access to a vacuum?

Some people spray wash their engines and get away with it. Others cause major issues when they wash the motor. Either you have to know what you are doing, or you get lucky. Success depends on protecting certain sensitive areas of the motor.

I’d advise you don’t do this yourself. There are “detail” shops that will clean the motor for a reasonable fee.

i do have a vacuum. Maybe using it with a brush attachment could work.

I do this all the time to my engines using a spray can of engine degreaser and my garden hose. Cover the battery with a plastic bag. Avoid hosing the area near your computer and the air intake. This should be quick and easy.

I suspect that using a high pressure washer might be asking for trouble, but a garden hose with a moderate nozzle should probably be fine. Some DIY car washes used to have an engine cleaning setting and there are products e.g. Gunk designed for cleaning engines.

I’d avoid squirting water under pressure into the air intake. That’s unlikely to be a good idea.

If you have ignition components that that aren’t in pristine shape, they may tell you about it by not allowing the vehicle to start until they dry out. If you wash the engine down, you might want to do it in a location where the vehicle can sit for a few hours if it opts not to start after its bath.

I’ve only heard of issues with some 80’s GM’s with the relays that they used back in the day. Just don’t use HIGH PRESSURE at the car wash. You get a fan spray out of the wand without pulling the trigger. You can also stand off a couple of feet from the engine. Pressure washers (even those at car washes) are of relatively lower volume and high velocity. Stand off a bit and they lose most of their power. It will be more or less like rain. Engine bays are inherently tolerant of water. Using high pressure you may find the chink in it’s armor, though

I think that’s a much better solution. Pull the sand and silt off of the engine and surrounding hardware rather than wetting it and driving it under high pressure into the engine and surrounding hardware.

For an extra $2 at the hardware store you can buy one of those flat pointy vacuum attachments too. That’ll help with the inside corners.

People come here, from time to time, and tell us, "I washed my engine, with a garden hose, whatever, and I’ve had all these problems with the electronics and electrics days, weeks, months later! I never thought…!"
It’s your gamble. A blow-off with pressurized air would remove most of the dust. Air gun adapters are sold at Walmart (etc.) which you can attach to an air hose to blow the dust off.

i like a vacuum with brush. This isnt simple dust though. This is caked on second skin silt.

Another good arguement against adding water.

After I wash the truck, I use the last of the soapy water to clean the engine compartment. I rinse the soap off with a garden hose and a nozzle set to a fan pattern. Never had any problems.

To clean up the engine compartment after off-roading, I use an old sponge and a brush to clean the hard to get areas and again a garden hose to rinse off the soap and dirt. A high pressure washer will force water into places that it shouldn’t go and cause problems down the line.

Ed B.

Don’t be surprised if you get a red battery light or check engine light after spraying it down. If you cover the alternator in a bag, connection junctions/terminations with bag then maybe do it.

Change the air filter and motor on.

My first job in the auto industry was at age 14 . . . I “went over” and spruced-up the used cars. Every car had an engine bay cleaning and I (almost) never had a problem. You’ve got to cover the things which don’t like high pressure water, but if you know what you’re doing, its OK to do it. HOWEVER . . . there are tins more electronics on todays engines and in the engine bay, so watch what you’re doing. One week in the desert shouldn’t make the engine all that bad, but that’s up to you. Be careful and have a go. Rocketman

DON’T DO IT! Todays engines with all the electrics are to delicate for this. I have seen computers get fried for this. And it’s not just the liquid water, steam does just as much damage. Instead, use an air hose to remove dust and then a damp rag to get the rest.

I gave my '98 Crown Vic an engine wash with a pressure washer. It cost me 3 COPS (coils) at $80 each…With today’s cars, it’s like taking a pressure washer to your TV set…

on my experience i do after winter engine wash but with garden hose,cover all electrical connections,alternator,distributor cap if any and air dry it with compressor plus drive it around for 30 minitues.use engine degreaser and follow
the instructions in the can.

I don’t think it would be wise to use a pressure washer on an engine. Best thing, if you really NEED to clean it is, as some others have suggested, to use a can of Gunk foaming engine cleaner and a garden hose to rinse it off. Just try to keep it contained to the engine itself. I’ve known electrical problems to be caused by getting water in connectors and assemblies. Also, be very careful not to get any water in the air intake-unless you want to hydrolock your engine! You really do have to be careful. Get water in the wrong places and you’ve got major problems.

(tongue in cheek - or BIG SMILE on my face)

I demand everyone state their age when they make a “You’ll shoot your eye out kid!” post. LOL!!

I’m 54 and I refuse to post with every fear of everything I encountered over my lifetime. It’s not like ONLY bad things happen to you as you aged.

It’s a plot by the pagans at burningman to ruin your car.