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The best engine degreaser for your car (or truck, or SUV, or motorcycle, etc) is the one that helps get it into the pristine, showroom quality condition that you always wanted it to be in, right? Well, duh. That much should be obvious.
However, it’s not always the case that the best cleaner will be the most expensive one out there, or the one(s) that you can find in the detailing aisle at retail stores like AutoZone or Advance Auto Parts.
And what’s more, engine cleaners aren’t strictly for the showroomers or the aesthetically-aware; they also serve an important functional role in things like helping to detect leaks and hairline cracks.
Garage Chief will dish out top 6 picks for the best engine degreasers currently on the market, in addition to pointing out a few things worth keeping in mind when you’re shopping around – because heaven knows all degreasers aren’t created equally.
The bottom line is, you need your cleaner to be productive and cut through the gunk when it matters most, and these six products are the ones that we’ve found get results when virtually nothing else will.
Best Engine Degreaser & Cleaner – Our Top Picks Compared
|editors-choice||Best Product||Best Value|
|item-title||Meguiar's D10801 Super Degreaser||Gunk FEB1 Foamy Engine Brite Engine Degreaser||Purple Power (4320P) Industrial Strength Cleaner and Degreaser||Chemical Guys CLD_201 Signature Series Orange Degreaser||Griot's Garage 10959 Engine Cleaner||Spray Nine 22701 Grez-Off Heavy Duty Degreaser|
|• Strong and fast acting for the toughest jobs|
• Residue-free performance prevents unsightly white residue stains
• Pleasant herbal fragrance
|• The world's number 1 selling Engine Degreaser|
• No scrubbing
• Safe on all engine components
|• Concentrated formula penetrates grease, oil and dirt on contact|
• Creates barrier between stain and surface
• Biodegradable, non-abrasive, non-flammable and phosphate-free
|• Professional strength citrus-based formula|
• Removes tough grease, grime, dirt and debris
• Works great on engines, machinery, tools, tires, rims and undercarriages
|• Mild degreaser perfect for cleaning engines |
• Spray-On, agitate, and rinse-off
• Leaves surfaces clean and ready to be dressed or waxed
|• Powerful formula quickly removes heavy-duty automotive soils, grease and dirt|
• Safe to use, non-flammable, biodegradable and VOC compliant
• No fumes or unpleasant odors
|editors-choice||Best Product||Best Value|
Best Engine Cleaner Reviews
So first things first – you really need to take into consideration the present condition of your car before picking out the best engine cleaner for your needs. If this is going to be your first cleaning job and you know you’ll be having to power through years and years of grime buildup, you’ll want to go with a heavy-duty solvent based cleaner like Purple Power or Meguiar’s D108 Super Degreaser.
On the flip side, if you’ve got a relatively new car or you already maintain your engine bay and know your job isn’t going to be a super nasty one, a milder, “eco-friendly” cleaner that comes in a spray bottle will be sufficient.
In any manner, a couple key things to keep in mind is never to use solvent-based cleaners on aluminum, and also be sure to cover up your air intake and any electrical wiring prior to any cleaning that requires a hose spray down.
Again, though, we’ll talk more about all of these finer details later on after the product reviews.
Best Engine Degreaser: Meguiar’s D10801 Super Degreaser
Meguiar’s D108 Super Degreaser gets our Best Product pick simply because of the results that it gets time after time even on the toughest, nastiest, most stubborn of grime buildup.
This is the stuff you’re going to want to use if, like we said, you’ll be dealing with your first engine degreasing and plan on encountering a full-on nasty mess. It’s a solvent-based cleaner, though, so bear in mind not to use it on any rubber, seals, or aluminum parts you may have hiding out in your engine bay.
Another thing we really like about the D108 is the value you get from the 1-gallon jug. Granted, it is one of the more expensive options on our list, but once you power through that first cleanup, you can dilute the solvent at up to a 50:1 ratio for future cleanings.
Additionally, a lot of people also are keen on the “pleasant smell” that it has, although we’re admittedly not too concerned with stuff like that. We will say that it does make for a pleasant work environment, though.
Another nice thing about the D108 is that it doesn’t require a hose spray down. Washing down with a hose requires a lot of extra prep work, which is fine if the conditions call for it, but if at all possible we prefer to avoid all that. Our favorite technique is to pour the degreaser into a spray bottle, spray onto desired areas, let it work its magic for several minutes, and then wipe it off with a rag.
Like we said, the best results we’ve ever gotten with a heavy-duty degreaser, and with the least amount of white residue leftover, which means less fine detailing work afterwards.
Purple Power 4320P Industrial Strength Cleaner and Degreaser
The Purple Power gets our top pick for the Best Value Degreaser because, well, it represents even a better value than the Meguiar’s gallon jug. It’s a solvent based cleaner that comes in a 1-gallon jug like the Meguiar’s, but this stuff is so harsh and powerful you can dilute it down in some instances up to 100:1 and still get results.
The only thing we like better about the Meguiar’s is we’ve had better results with it as far as “ease of use”. It can be rather tricky with the Purple Power, to try and figure out how much to use, or how much to dilute it down for any one specific job. If you use it full-strength it is prone to leaving an ugly white residue on steel parts, yet if you dilute it down too much you may end up creating more work for yourself by having to do the job more than once. In our experience, the Meguiar’s D108 is simply an easier, more user-friendly solvent that produces a finer end result.
One other thing about the Purple Power though that makes it such a great value is that you can use it for a wider variety of applications – it’s more of an all-purpose cleaner than it is a specific automotive degreaser, and it’s really popular for cleaning nasty stains off of decks and concrete driveways, and a lot of people even like to use it on their BBQ grills.
Whatever you do, though, make sure never to use it on painted surfaces, aluminum, or any kind of fabrics, and ALWAYS make sure to wear heavy-duty rubber gloves when handling it.
Gunk Foamy Engine Cleaner Brite Engine Degreaser FEB1
The Gunk brand has been in the industry for quite some time, and a lot of people in many circles will claim they’re the go-to brand when it comes to the best automotive degreaser.
While that might’ve been true a decade or so ago, in reality it seems that they’re products have kind of gone downhill recently, and you’ll find a lot of people in auto forums and what not that share a similar opinion.
That being said, the FEB1 Foamy degreaser is still a good product that’s much cheaper than something like the Meguiar’s Super Degreaser. If you’re doing something like a quick, one time degreasing to try and sell your car, or if you’re trying to clean off one specific area of grime to locate a crack or leak, these spray bottles are a good option that’ll set you back less than 10 bucks.
Also, we like the fact that all Gunk degreasers are “no-scrub”, meaning you won’t have to do any showering down with the hose – simply spray it on, let it foam up, then wipe it away with a rag. If you’ve got a really nasty job, though, don’t expect it to produce the same results as either the Meguiar’s or the Purple Power.
Chemical Guys CLD201 Signature Series Orange Car Engine Degreaser
The Chemical Guys Orange Degreaser is another solvent-based cleaner like the Meguiar’s and the Purple Power, though it’s far less volatile; don’t expect it to cut through the nastiest of grime buildup like either of those will.
That being said, it’s a fantastically versatile product, and unlike the other two options, it’s safe to use on wheels, tires, and vinyls – pretty much an all-around, all-purpose cleaner that works on just about everything. A lot of folks will even dilute it down to about 50:1 and use it to mop kitchens, bathrooms, and shop floors. Also really popular for getting rock-hard mud cakes off of pickup trucks and other off-roading vehicles after a weekend out on the trails.
The only downside is it’s slightly more expensive than the Meguiar’s, and like we said you shouldn’t expect it to have perfect results on ultra-heavy buildup. A fantastic, user-friendly all-purpose degreaser though if you’re wanting to find more uses for it other than your engine bay.
Griot’s Garage 10959 Spray Engine Cleaner
The Griot’s Garage 22oz Spray Engine Cleaner is another “friendlier”, less-toxic degreaser like the Gunk FEB1, that’s good for lighter jobs.
It’s far cheaper than something like the Meguiar’s or the Chemical Guys, but don’t expect it to work on the toughest of grime and carbon buildup. Instead, this is a great option for fine detailing work wherein you’re really trying to get your engine bay to showroom quality, and is even frequently used after harsh solvents wherein most of the grime is already taken away.
Also a great option for people who may be, how can we put it nicely, perhaps a bit “nit-picky” about their car and likes to clean even when it’s not all that dirty.
Another thing that makes the Griot’s really popular is it’s by far the most environmentally friendly of our top-6 picks. It’s supposed to be fully biodegradable, so if you’re into the whole ‘green scene’, this is definitely the pick for you.
Overall, not the most powerful degreaser by any means, but an excellent, easy-to-use degreaser spray that produces slick finishes ready for wax and other ultra-fine detailing work.
Spray Nine 22701 Grez-Off Best Heavy Duty Degreaser
And lastly, the Spray Nine Heavy Duty Degreaser gets a spot on our Top-6 list simply because of its price; it’s directly comparable to both the Meguiar’s and the Purple Power, but it’s almost 40% less expensive.
We haven’t used it enough to really say how it might compare directly performance-wise with the Meguiar’s, but we will say just from word of mouth and glazing over user-reviews, the results can be kind of hit or miss in terms of taking care of super foul buildup.
That being said, it has plenty of excellent reviews for general purpose tasks, and like the Purple Power it seems to be especially versatile and good for uses outside the engine bay – great on driveways, decks, and shop floors when diluted.
Overall, the best pick if you’re looking to save some money and don’t need to blast through ultra-heavy buildup.
Finding the Best Engine Degreaser – A Buyer’s Guide
This is the section where you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about engine degreasers and cleaners: how they work, how to use them, how NOT to use them, and most importantly, what to look out for when choosing the right one for your particular needs.
What is an Engine Degreaser and How Does it Work?
Short of going into full-on chemistry talk a la Walt from Breaking Bad, most of the best engine degreasers will be solvent-based products with a hydrocarbon as the active ingredient – something like kerosene or xylene.
The hydrocarbons in these active chemicals work to literally loosen up heavy-duty carbon buildup at a molecular level, getting them to the point where they can simply be wiped or washed away.
Heat does some pretty crazy things to carbon molecules as far as bonding them to substrates – particularly metals. Throw a cast-iron frying pan with a bunch of bacon juice into a fire or on top of a hot stove, and what happens? The carbon molecules will stick to that pan to the point where it’s virtually impossible to get it clean.
On a similarly functional level, the same exact thing happens with your car and engine: carbon molecules from oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid, exhaust fumes, whatever, will heat up to insanely high temperatures and virtually get “bonded” to all the components under your hood – particularly the steel parts. And just like the nasty bacon grime in the frying pan, it takes a special kind of cleaner (degreaser) in order to bust through the rock-solid carbon grime and dissolve the buildup.
General Considerations when Scouting out the Best Engine Cleaner
Of course, all engine degreasers are not created equally. This is why some of them are able to plow through grime and carbon buildup like a knife through butter, and others are about as functional as a butter knife on hog hide.
The type of engine degreaser and the kinds of materials they can be used on will naturally depend on the active ingredients that they’re made up with. Harsh hydrocarbon solvents like we were just talking about – things like xylene – are entirely incompatible with materials like aluminum, acrylic (paint), vinyl, and rubber; the solvent will literally eat right through them. (Stuff like aircraft stripper is made of extremely volatile hydrocarbon solvents and will strip the paint off your car faster than you can say “oh crap..”.
Also, this is why some people go so far as to use straight-up gasoline or other common things like oven cleaner as engine degreasers – they work in the same way in that they’re hydrocarbon solvents which functionally break down heavy duty buildup at the molecular level.
However, we highly recommend not to use stuff like this, unless you don’t care about your end product looking like garbage – stuff like gasoline and general oven cleaner are renowned for leaving a horrendously ugly residue that really is near impossible to remove.
Another big difference among engine degreasers is in how they’re used. Some come in spray bottles, while others come in gallon jugs. Some require multiple steps and hose or pressure washer rinses, while others are a simple one-step apply-and-wipe-away process.
Again, this has to do with the specific ingredients that the degreaser is made of.
Water-based solvents are the cleaners in which you’ll have to use a hose or pressure washer with, and are generally used in a rinse-apply-rinse process, often two or three times over.
Avoid water-based degreasers as that they don’t work nearly as well on ultra-heavy buildup.
We typically like to avoid water-based degreasers as we’ve found that they don’t work nearly as well on ultra-heavy buildup. Also, the prep work that’s involved can often times be a huge pain, if we’re being honest.
Moreover, while your engine and your engine bay is built to be able to get a little bit wet, it’s certainly not built to get blasted in the face with a hose or pressure washer. We had a buddy a while back that ran an automotive detailing shop that refused to do engine bay cleanings because of an experience with a water-based degreaser. He used the product exactly like it said to on the bottle – rinse, apply, rinse – and the customer ended up having all sorts of electrical issues go wrong with his car, of which he understandably blamed the detailing shop for.
This is why with water-based solvents you’re supposed to cover up your air intake and any kind of electrical componentry (especially things like distributor caps and exposed wires) prior to washing down, but like we said this can be a tedious, unnecessary process to undertake – especially when there are great solvent-based degreasers out there wherein prep work is virtually non-existent.
Solvent-based degreasers are the ones that work to penetrate into heavy duty carbon buildup: simple spray on, wait for penetration, then wipe away.
The solvent-based degreasers are the ones we were just talking about that work to penetrate into heavy duty carbon buildup, and most of them are super user-friendly that are about as straightforward as it gets in terms of application: simple spray on, wait for penetration, then wipe away. Every one of our Top-6 recommendations except for the Griot’s is a solvent-based degreaser, meaning you won’t have to do any washing, scrubbing, or rinsing down. And even the Griot’s involves just a little bit of rinsing or wiping away with a damp cloth.
Keep in mind, though, that not all solvent-based degreasers are meant to be ultra heavy-duty; products like Griot’s Garage 22oz Spray Engine Cleaner are intended for much milder use.
Generally, milder products like these are used after a heavy-duty solvent like Meguiar’s , and before a final wax top coat to produce a showroom quality finish. Like the successive steps of buffing, compounding, and waxing, fine-detailing an engine bay to a jaw-dropping finish is not a one-step process.
And lastly, things like odor generation and versatility are important things to keep in mind when shopping around for the right engine degreaser.
A lot of the heavy-duty solvents out there can produce some pretty aggressive fumes and unpleasant smells, so if you’re working in tight quarters or if you’re especially unappreciative of bad odors, you might want to look for a scented degreaser like the Meguiar’s (which has a nice herbal fragrance) or the Chemical Guys Orange Degreaser Series.
And of course, if you’re wanting your degreaser to be functional for more than under-the-hood uses, keep an eye out for especially versatile solvents like Purple Power or the Spray Nine Heavy Duty Degreaser, that can also take a care of your wheels or tires (find out what the best wheel cleaners are here).
How to Use Engine Degreaser
While we’ve pretty much gone over all the basic details of how to use engine degreasers and cleaners, it certainly can’t do any harm to elaborate on some of the finer steps of the process – after all, the last thing in the world you want to run into is electrical or mechanical problems that stem from a simple under the hood cleaning.
We’ll go ahead and say right now that out of our Top-6 picks, you need to be specially careful about the application process with the Meguiar’s, Purple Power, and Spray Nine Grez-Off. While they probably wouldn’t really ruin anything under the hood, it’s good practice to avoid getting them over rubber hoses and seals – the solvents can tend to dry them out over time and lead to premature cracking or aging.
We like to just get some plastic wrap and go over all the main rubber components like radiator hoses, the main air intake channel, and a/c hoses. Naturally, you will get a little bit here and there on belts, but just be mindful to not directly douse them with solvent and you’ll be fine.
Another really important thing to be mindful of when using degreaser of any kind is to make sure that you’re car isn’t hot. Trying to wipe down a hot engine with degreaser is a sure-fire way to earn an afternoon trip to the ER. Trust us, we’ve seen people who’ve gotten the worse end of a standoff with a hot exhaust manifold, and you want absolutely no part of that.
If you’ve driven your car prior to wanting to degrease it, your best bet is to wait at least a half an hour before tooling around under the hood – preferably more.
And lastly, if you do end up deciding on a water-based solvent that requires a full spray down and rinse-off, make sure and cover up your air intake and your main electrical componentry like the distributor beforehand, like we’ve already gone over.
In the past we’ve simply taped a plastic grocery bag over the air intake and distributor, and wrapped bits of plastic around any small, exposed wired or connections, including the battery terminals.
Water-based solvents are kind of nice in a way because you can really give the engine an all-around blasting and try and get every nook and cranny, but in our opinion, the hassle of the prep work and the concerning about damaging some electrical componentry far outweighs any advantages over apply-and-wipe solvent-based degreasers.
And of course, once you are ready to reach in and get your hands dirty, microfiber rags are far superior to any kind of shop towels you might think about using. Spend the few extra bucks and get yourself a four or eight-pack of microfibers, and you won’t be disappointed. Also, unless you just like the look of grimy mechanic’s hands, we definitely recommend wearing rubber gloves and an old, ratty long-sleeve work shirt – this is not a job for your little sister, and you will get dirty.
Engine Cleaner and Degreasers: Prices and Where to Buy
Of course, the best engine degreasers and cleaners in our opinion are the Top-6 which we’ve already reviewed in this article.
In terms of personal experience and overall consumer feedback, these are the products that we feel represent the best combination of price, performance, and user-friendliness.
And while you might find some of them at your local auto retail shops, by far your best bet if you’re looking to buy is to pick them up at Amazon.
One of our day to day jobs is keeping an eye on the prices of any and all things automotive, and trust us, we can say that Amazon most times has the lowest prices available out of any supplier on the market.
Engine Cleaners: The #1 Thing to Keep in Mind
All things considered, if there’s one thing that you ought to take away from this article, or want to learn about degreasing your engine, it’s this:
No matter the car, truck, motorcycle, or SUV that you drive, engine degreasing is an important part of general maintenance, and one that goes far beyond the benefits of simply looking good.
Some areas on the engine will always collect more grime and buildup than others, and these stubborn areas of extra-heavy deposits have the potential to create heat spots that can hurt the overall lifespan of the engine.
Even if it’s only once or twice a year, make sure and clean your engine from time to time with the best automotive degreaser you can get.
Best Engine Degreaser & Cleaner: The Bottom Line
Naturally, our #1 pick for the best engine degreaser goes to Meguiar’s D108 Super Degreaser.
This was an easy choice for our Best Product selection, and is far and away the cleaner that’ll get you the best results if you’re dealing with extra heavy-duty buildup or a first-time degreasing. Not only will it get the results that you’re looking for, but it’s super easy to use and will leave far less residue than virtually any other product out there.
Lastly, we’d love to hear from you! Do you have some experience with any of our selections? Is so please let us know about it in the comment section below.
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