When it comes to the shade tree car washer, the type of guys who use the two-bucket method to bathe their pride and joy in the driveway, the engine bay, more often than not, can find itself neglected. Of the various BMWs that have passed through my ownership, there are at least a handful that never received an engine bay cleaning during my tenure. Perhaps it was the slathered-on grease from the dealer lot that kept me happy, or maybe it was because I never remembered to pop the hood before I spent the better part of a day obsessing over the exterior and interior.
Nevertheless, enough driving, general use, and maintenance will result in an engine bay that needs a cleaning. Making sure your BMWs under cladding and splashguards are intact and properly secured goes a long way, but eventually, dirt, grime, dust, and potentially minor fluid spills will necessitate a good cleaning, especially in any BMW engine bay from the last 25 years or so, where wide swathes of plastic serve to shield the underlying components and systems.
The BMW in question here is my 2012 135i. Shoe-horned into an engine bay that, for the most part, housed four-cylinder engines in Europe, my car has an N55 six-cylinder, which takes up much of the real estate. I’ve owned the car for a number of years now, and have never washed the engine bay. I believe it may have been washed when the car went through the CPO process prior to me buying it, but it may just be the dealer’s quick spray and pray process that’s had me fooled all this time. Either way, it was time for a good cleansing.
For much of my automotive journey, I’ve used the cheap foaming and/or shining engine cleaners available at auto parts chains. The foaming action was always fun and satisfying to watch even though it was really the high-pressure water rinse removing much of the dust and dirt, and the slick shine left behind was especially nice on a car like my Techno Violet E36 M3, which had an engine bay full of plastic including various covers, the valve cover itself, and the intake manifold.
For the 1 Series, I knew it was time to step my game up. I’d like to thank Club sponsor Griot’s Garage for generously supplying their Engine Cleaner, which comes in a spray-on formula in either a 22-ounce bottle or a gallon jug for long term refilling.
Unlike other products out there, which tend to leave a greasy residue behind, Griot’s Engine Cleaner seems to work itself into the plastic of the various covers, fluid reservoirs and other components within the bay. The production description mentions agitation with a brush when dealing with grease and grime, while the formula can also simply be sprayed on and wiped off. In my case, I started with a cool, dry engine bay, and did my best to cover everything in sight with the cleaner, paying extra attention to some of the dirtier areas, such as around the oil cap, where there had once been a spill, among a few other locations.
After letting the cleaner sit for a few minutes, as the instructions dictate, I followed up with a low pressure rinse using deionized water and a precision wand. Once the rinse was complete, I began an initial drying of certain wide areas, before breaking out the electric leaf blower and compressed air gun to clear out the myriad of places where water had pooled.
It didn’t take more than an hour to complete the entire process, including setup and breakdown of equipment. Once the job is done, Griot’s suggests using their Engine Bay Dressing, but I opted to skip this step in the short term, so that I could take the time to appreciate how the bay looked using exclusively the Engine Cleaner over a few days or weeks. The car in question isn’t driven much, so following up with the Engine Bay Dressing would be as easy as popping the hood and spraying the aerosol.
In summary, Griot’s Garage Engine Cleaner has proven itself to be an excellent first choice for those interested in a cleaner that won’t leave their bay looking greasy, and ready to attract dust, or with dried-out, dehydrated plastic.
Remember, BMW CCA members save 15% on all liquid car care products from Griot’s Garage. Visit the Club website to find key codes and discount links.—Alex Tock
[Photos by Alex Tock.]