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  1. #1
    Oneheadlite's Avatar
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    Is this totally hack? Under hood cleaning...

    I guess this is a bit of a visit to the Autopian Confessional.

    I wrote and re-wrote this a few times, but for fear of including more than people would care about, decided to wipe it clean and try to keep it brief.

    Short version - I work in auto repair, not detailing. The cars I see are typically far from Autopian. When doing bigger dollar repairs, I like to try and tidy up the under hood when Iím done. Theyíre not paying for underhood details, itís just I hate leaving the cars as dirty as they were. My goal is so when the customer goes to add washer fluid, theyíll see their car was cleaned/worked on with intention, not just knocked out as quick as possible.

    The Hack question:
    What Iíve found can be a pretty streamlined way to tidy up general dirt and grime: After degreasing the engine after repairs, Iíll simply mist the area/plastics with windshield washer fluid and blow it off with compressed air. This works well to clean things like corrugated boots and such. Then after that, Iíll wipe everything down with ONR. The end result is everything just looking refreshed, but not overly detailed (not used-car lot slimed).

    I wouldnít do this on a car where itís clear the owner takes care of things, as Iíd let them choose what theyíre treating underhood with. This is part of why I use ONR - itís cheap, and I feel like Iím not leaving a coating of some super durable film someone else would struggle to clean off.



    Not as brief as I hoped, but curious what otherís thoughts are on this approach.
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  2. #2
    wannafbody
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    Re: Is this totally hack? Under hood cleaning...

    I use the Black Magic spray foam engine detailer to detail the engine compartment. I just don`t know that windshield washer is good for painted surfaces or has good cleaning abilities.

  3. #3
    Dan's Avatar
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    Re: Is this totally hack? Under hood cleaning...

    I do similar wipedowns on my own cars as I don`t like to blast water in that area. One difference is unless I have ONR leftovers, I use Mr. Clean, it does a bit better job on grease.

  4. #4
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    Re: Is this totally hack? Under hood cleaning...

    The original post rekindled memories of long, long ago. My late father was a mechanic in the 50`s and 60`s, before he went into management. Prior to electronic ignitions, cars needed a tuneup every 10,000 miles, including points, condenser, spark plugs, air & fuel filter. Before closing the hood, he`d wipe down the air cleaner & valve covers. His thinking was "It should look like somebody who cares worked on it". As a youngster who could barely see over the fender, it stuck forever.
    Thanks for the memories.

    Bill
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  5. #5
    A Miracle Detailing Merlin's Avatar
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    Re: Is this totally hack? Under hood cleaning...

    I`ve been a big fan of Sonus Trim & Motor Kote



    A quick spray and the engine bay looks "showroom clean".
    It`s not a shiny, slimy product and it leaves a clean satin finish.

  6. #6

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    Re: Is this totally hack? Under hood cleaning...

    Oneheadlite- Hey, that`s going above-and-beyond all right!

    (Just keep *not* doing anything to the ones that`re already OK, never know you might run into a picky SOB like me!)

    I always feel for you Techs who have to work on dirty vehicles..IMO it`s simply disrespectful for people to bring that [crap] to you, like going to the dentist without brushing your teeth or using mouthwash. How can you even see what`s what when everything`s filthy?!?

  7. #7
    Oneheadlite's Avatar
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    Re: Is this totally hack? Under hood cleaning...

    Accumulator - Yeah, we have a very small handful of people that keep their car what I would consider Autopian clean, while I’d have to think long and hard if I’ve seen cars come through that are actually Autopian Detailed. Cars in either category get the extra level of attention they deserve. (Base level rules still apply even for the jalopies - no leaning on painted surfaces, no hand prints, etc. My standard operating mode: When I’m done, the car shouldn’t look fixed, it should look like it was never broken. Many times I’m putting stuff back the way the factory had it after previous repair folk got it... um... their “good enough”).

    Merlin - Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll keep that in the memory bank for personal stuff. Unfortunately for customer stuff I’m paying for whatever detailing style endeavors my OCD leads me on. I’ve got a surplus of ONR, and I’m pretty happy with the results for the few things I’m using it for now (Ironically no longer rinseless washes).

    Wannafbody - Solid thought about if it’s paint safe. Full disclosure, I’ve only used it a few times. Previously I’d just do ONR wipedowns of plastics. There are just too many times it’s left looking unfinished as you can’t quickly clean all the nooks and crannies of plastic boots and such. When using the washer fluid, it’s almost like a liquid duster - I’m applying via a fine mist sprayer, then immediately blowing it clean with a blow gun.

    Same concept as when you’re cleaning parts with brake clean - if you just sit and empty half a can of brake clean on a dirty part, it’ll only get so clean. Clean that same part by: Saturate with brake clean, blast with compressed air. Saturate, blast. You’ll get faster results and use less cleaner since the air is doing so much of the heavy lifting.

    The alcohol content of the washer fluid is at the front of my mind for this process - that’s why I’d only do it if I’m following it with the ONR to put at least some minor protection back in place. I should try this same thing with just distilled water...


    I’ll have to take pictures of an underhood next time I have a car eligible for extra clean up. Like puppies at a rescue - I’d love to save them all, but you can only do so much...
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  8. #8
    dansautodetailing.com Stokdgs's Avatar
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    Re: Is this totally hack? Under hood cleaning...

    Oneheadlite --
    Thanks for your post.
    I think it`s great that you care enough about your work and the work area, that you will take - your - time to try to improve the area/s when possible..

    It goes along with what my dear Father always said to me - "leave wherever you are, better, when you leave it."
    This always stuck with me and became what I just do..

    And yes, perhaps many will not even notice what you did, but there IS someone who always notices...

    Thank you, for this !
    Dan F
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  9. #9

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    Re: Is this totally hack? Under hood cleaning...

    Quote Originally Posted by Stokdgs View Post
    Oneheadlite --
    Thanks for your post.
    I think it`s great that you care enough...Thank you, for this !
    My thoughts exactly!

    I`m a bit paranoid about the Washer Fluid just because it (hey, all Washer Fluids aren`t the same, but I`m still paranoid) utterly trashed the paint on my `93 Audi (before I got it). I`d sure hate for that to bite somebody who was trying to do the Right Thing.

    And yeah...my ONR is used for Household Dusting/etc. these days. It doesn`t always play nice with other things the way IUDJ always does.

    Quote Originally Posted by Oneheadlite
    Like puppies at a rescue - I’d love to save them all, but you can only do so much...
    Oh man, you sound like me! Trying to Save the World one beater at a time..BTDT when we had the dealership, when I had Loaners, even with Rentals. Kicked that habit a while back and life is easier now (and the world kept turning after all).
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  10. #10

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    Re: Is this totally hack? Under hood cleaning...

    The timing of this thread was good because I just wiped down my dusty engine bay with ONR over the weekend.

    Quote Originally Posted by Oneheadlite View Post
    Accumulator - Yeah, we have a very small handful of people that keep their car what I would consider Autopian clean, while Iíd have to think long and hard if Iíve seen cars come through that are actually Autopian Detailed. Cars in either category get the extra level of attention they deserve.
    Good to know that I haven`t wasted my time making sure my car was clean before bringing it in for service. However, I almost always do my own work because...
    Quote Originally Posted by Oneheadlite View Post
    Many times Iím putting stuff back the way the factory had it after previous repair folk got it... um... their ďgood enoughĒ).
    Back in the 70`s my father had a GM A-Body. I used to borrow it on weekend nights, and you know, boys will be boys, I blew the (THM350) trans. So of course, fearing he would have my head, I asked a motorhead friend what to do and he pointed me to a cheap trans shop.

    Anyway..."the way the factory had it". So eventually my father gave the car to me, and at some point I noticed the exhaust was flopping around--I think there was a welded mounting tab on the pipe that was connected to...nothing. I had the factory manual, and there was supposed to be a bracket bolted to the trans, which I guess went goodbye with the original trans. So I go to the dealer to order the part, I`m a punk kid and the older parts guy says "how would you break something like that?" to which I replied that the trans shop didn`t transfer it from the old trans to the new and my exhaust is flapping around...so he grumbles under his breath and orders the part.

    Some years later I was having an intermittent problem on the highway that I tracked down to oil foaming because there was a loose PCV vacuum fitting on the back of the intake manifold, I would tighten the fitting but it would come loose again...it was a pipe thread--so I decided I wanted a new fitting. Went to the dealer, same smart-alecky parts guy "why would you need to replace a part like that?"

    Then there was the time the little cardboard gasket between the bottom of the air cleaner and the carb fell apart. So I went to an auto parts store (I may have been tired of the parts guy at the dealer, or maybe just thought this should be something an auto parts store would have). The counter guy told me "you don`t need that gasket". I guess I was old enough to be smart-alecky back, so I said "why would GM put it in if you didn`t need it?". I don`t think he had an answer for that, but he didn`t have the part. Later I rebuilt the carb and what was in the rebuilt kit? That gasket!

    Anyway, it`s always nice to come here where I don`t feel like a mutant. Thanks for starting this thread, and for listening.
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  11. #11

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    Re: Is this totally hack? Under hood cleaning...

    It`s not hack, but is it a waste of time? If a customer wanted their engine bay clean, they`d clean it or get it cleaned. I`m not saying don`t wipe up after yourself, keep doing that. If you spill a little oil, clean it up. If there are leaves everywhere and you need to clean them up to do your job, clean them up. Your time is money. If working flat rate or by the quoted job time, you are not getting paid to clean a customers engine bay, you are getting paid to fix the car and clean up after any mess YOU make, or if the repair calls for a cleaning of some sort. I would certainly add washer fluid vs wiping every thing off. I appreciate your work ethic and desire to leave things better than when you found them, but in the automotive industry especially, your time is money. Let`s take that 10min you spend cleaning up, we`ll call it ten minutes. Let`s say you clean three engine bays a week for a total time of 30 min, multiply 30 min by 48 weeks a year, divided by 60 min for an hour and we have 24 billable hours. You could potentially spend 24 billable hours a year doing free labor, that`s time you could be using to tend to your needs as a human, like going to the doctor, dentist, that`s money incase of an emergency, etc.

    Please do not take this the wrong way, as we all (AF) like to leave things in better condition than when we found them, and I appreciate your desire. But with time being your most precious commodity and the fact that if a customer wanted to keep their engine bay clean, they would, is cleaning the engine bay really worth it?
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  12. #12
    bob m's Avatar
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    Re: Is this totally hack? Under hood cleaning...

    Quote Originally Posted by TheMeanGreen View Post
    It`s not hack, but is it a waste of time? If a customer wanted their engine bay clean, they`d clean it or get it cleaned. I`m not saying don`t wipe up after yourself, keep doing that. If you spill a little oil, clean it up. If there are leaves everywhere and you need to clean them up to do your job, clean them up. Your time is money. If working flat rate or by the quoted job time, you are not getting paid to clean a customers engine bay, you are getting paid to fix the car and clean up after any mess YOU make, or if the repair calls for a cleaning of some sort. I would certainly add washer fluid vs wiping every thing off. I appreciate your work ethic and desire to leave things better than when you found them, but in the automotive industry especially, your time is money. Let`s take that 10min you spend cleaning up, we`ll call it ten minutes. Let`s say you clean three engine bays a week for a total time of 30 min, multiply 30 min by 48 weeks a year, divided by 60 min for an hour and we have 24 billable hours. You could potentially spend 24 billable hours a year doing free labor, that`s time you could be using to tend to your needs as a human, like going to the doctor, dentist, that`s money incase of an emergency, etc.

    Please do not take this the wrong way, as we all (AF) like to leave things in better condition than when we found them, and I appreciate your desire. But with time being your most precious commodity and the fact that if a customer wanted to keep their engine bay clean, they would, is cleaning the engine bay really worth it?
    I`m not going to argue with you, but there are some customers who appreciate doing the little extra, offering excellent customer service and may reward the OP with continued business, positive reviews (if so inclined) and word of mouth advertising and referrals. I would say that besides that personal feeling of "leaving something better the when you found it" it`s time well invested (hopefully) in your bottom line.
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  13. #13

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    Re: Is this totally hack? Under hood cleaning...

    Quote Originally Posted by bob m View Post
    I`m not going to argue with you, but there are some customers who appreciate doing the little extra, offering excellent customer service and may reward the OP with continued business, positive reviews (if so inclined) and word of mouth advertising and referrals. I would say that besides that personal feeling of "leaving something better the when you found it" it`s time well invested (hopefully) in your bottom line.
    I`m not going to argue with you (either), but at some point in our lives we do some things for our own mental health, and maybe this is one of them for the OP. Like my supermarket has those plastic produce bags on rolls, that have a little tab on the metal holder that engages a perf in between bags so you can tear them off. Frequently the roll is on upside down so it doesn`t work. I usually take the roll out and fix it. Not because I want to join the supermarket worker`s union, and I have never sought out any management to tell them they have an employee who doesn`t know how to put the bag rolls in (who knows, maybe a customer pulled it loose by accident or it was the new guy or the guy who works at the market as a second job and is half asleep), or ask for a discount at the cash register. I just do it because it bothers me, and I feel better afterward.

    Don`t take that the wrong way, Bob M, I just don`t think any of the OP`s customers have ever noticed he cleaned the engine bay, I was speaking more to the tone of the previous post...time may be my most precious commodity...but if I`m in a bad mood all the time then doing something that makes me feel better is worth my time.

    PS Next week`s group therapy session will be cancelled due to the 4th of July. Thank you.
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  14. #14

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    Re: Is this totally hack? Under hood cleaning...

    Quote Originally Posted by Setec Astronomy View Post
    . at some point in our lives we do some things for our own mental health..I just do it because it bothers me, and I feel better afterward...
    Same here.

    ...time may be my most precious commodity...but if I`m in a bad mood all the time then doing something that makes me feel better is worth my time..
    Spending time advancing one`s values strikes me as a good way to spend it. I just don`t care about other people`s vehicles any more, but when I *did*, doing a little freebie Detailing was rewarding to me.

    EDIT: I get the feeling that a lot of people, even some Autopians, don`t know the people working on their vehicles, at least not very well. My "don`t disrespect the Tech with a dirty car" seems like common courtesy since I know everybody who touches them.
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  15. #15
    Oneheadlite's Avatar
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    Re: Is this totally hack? Under hood cleaning...

    Quote Originally Posted by bob m View Post
    I`m not going to argue with you, but there are some customers who appreciate doing the little extra, offering excellent customer service and may reward the OP with continued business, positive reviews (if so inclined) and word of mouth advertising and referrals. I would say that besides that personal feeling of "leaving something better the when you found it" it`s time well invested (hopefully) in your bottom line.
    Being an independent shop, I always feel the need to add anything I can to the experience that makes them want to come back (or tell their friends). Our shop does virtually no advertising (small ad in the local club newsletter; more a gesture of support to the club than expecting returns from a largely DIY bunch), but continues to grow.

    After doing a $xxxx job on one car, I did my traditional tidy-up and wipe down. The customer called back later just ecstatic how great the car was running (truth be told, nothing I did should have affected that), and how nice the engine looked.

    Another time, while doing an oil change on an enthusiast’s car, I noticed their tow hook mounted front license plate had been knocked and was crooked. Even though I knew he was a DIY’r, I still took 2 minutes to zip his plate off and reindex it back to level (and tight). He ended up leaving a great review for us on one of the sites (can’t remember which). It was his girlfriend’s car, and he’d been meaning to fix that plate but hadn’t been able to get to it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Setec Astronomy View Post
    I`m not going to argue with you (either), but at some point in our lives we do some things for our own mental health, and maybe this is one of them for the OP. Like my supermarket has those plastic produce bags on rolls, that have a little tab on the metal holder that engages a perf in between bags so you can tear them off. Frequently the roll is on upside down so it doesn`t work. I usually take the roll out and fix it. Not because I want to join the supermarket worker`s union, and I have never sought out any management to tell them they have an employee who doesn`t know how to put the bag rolls in (who knows, maybe a customer pulled it loose by accident or it was the new guy or the guy who works at the market as a second job and is half asleep), or ask for a discount at the cash register. I just do it because it bothers me, and I feel better afterward.

    Don`t take that the wrong way, Bob M, I just don`t think any of the OP`s customers have ever noticed he cleaned the engine bay, I was speaking more to the tone of the previous post...time may be my most precious commodity...but if I`m in a bad mood all the time then doing something that makes me feel better is worth my time.
    I think this is a lot of it for me. Detailing is a thing I love, and has long been my hobby. Yet, I’m at a point in life where my free time at home is focused on being the best dad/husband I can be. Because of this, I’m not spending as much time on detailing my own car as I’d like (the Mrs’ always takes priority, my choice not hers).

    I’m in a unique situation where taking those extra minutes (not even 10, to be honest) to spruce up a customer car doesn’t have a negative effect on my bottom line, nor how my boss feels about how long it adds when I do a job. They don’t want me going after it with a toothbrush, but I’ve talked to them about when I’ll go a little further and they’re cool with it.


    Quote Originally Posted by Setec Astronomy View Post
    PS Next week`s group therapy session will be cancelled due to the 4th of July. Thank you.
    Thanks for this, made me laugh out loud.

    Last little clarification for the washer fluid technique that prompted the post - my cleaning efforts are generally limited to the engine, covers, cowl trims, air box and intake stuff, and valve covers. I don’t generally go after cleaning up strut towers, inner fender areas, headlight intricacies, etc.
    Speaking of washer fluid, might experiment on our shop car and try the same approach with my ONR mix instead.

    To Meangreen’s point - if a customer’s car is a total dust bomb underhood, I’m not going to spend a day getting it clean enough to eat from. I will, however clean out leaves and debris (even if it drives me nuts they don’t care and let them build up) because this can lead to water damage down the road, and I’ll try and get ahead of that scenario any chance I can.

    Also - please don’t take any of my posts as me crying out “LOOK HOW GREAT I FIX STUFF!”, it’s all just pieces of the puzzle for why I’m doing the little tidy ups in the first place.
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