How to Steam Clean a Truck Engine

hood open on a Ford truck
  • 1-2 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-20
What You'll Need
Hot water steam cleaner
Cleaning cloth
Engine degreaser
Rubber bands
Plastic bags
Metal wax

Drivers should clean their truck engine every three to five years. As well as preserving engine condition, regular cleaning helps remove the build-up of mold, salt, and traffic grime. A clean engine will also help you to easily spot early signs of corrosion, leakage, or engine wear. Cleaning a truck engine is a task that can be easily completed yourself.

Step 1 - Use the Right Equipment

A hot water steam cleaner is an advanced washer that uses very little water compared to a standard pressure washer. Washing your truck engine using a conventional pressure washer is regarded as a bad idea by most mechanics as the high level of water used actually promotes rust and degradation under the bonnet. A hot water steam cleaner produces a low-pressure mist that removes dirt in a safe and effective manner.

Step 2 - Check the Engine Temperature

truck engine

Ensure the truck engine has been turned off for at least one hour before cleaning begins. Working with a steam cleaner on a hot engine may result in a cracked cylinder head and other associated damage. Additionally, serious burns may be suffered if working on a hot truck engine. In order to determine whether the engine is sufficiently cool, hold your hand six inches away from the engine. If excessive heat is still being generated, leave the truck to cool down for a while longer. Ideally, the engine itself should be warm to the touch to be at the perfect cleaning temperature.

Step 3 - Prepare the Engine Bay

Spray the main areas of the engine with your engine degreaser. This will help to free up most of the grime stuck to the surface of the engine. Use plastic bags and rubber bands to cover up some of the more sensitive areas of the engine such as the coil, air intake vents and the electrical housing. It is highly important to note that excessive exposure to the jet of a steam cleaner can result in the electronic failure on modern vehicles. This can occur when electronic sensors underneath the bonnet become corroded and this can be easily avoided by correctly sealing all electronic housings before steam cleaning your truck engine.

Step 4 - Steam and Dry

white truck in a shop with the hood up

Connect the steam cleaner to a nearby power source and allow it to heat. Once the heat setting light appears as 'ready' on the control panel of the steam cleaner, begin spraying steam onto the engine surface. Be sure to apply the jet from a safe distance to avoid backsplashing of steam onto your face. Additionally, avoid spraying the jet too close to the engine as may damage components.

Remember to bend low and work the jet underneath the engine chassis and wheel arches. Ensure the engine is thoroughly rinsed of loose debris and degreaser. The engine bay and component can be wiped clean with a dry cloth to finish.

Step 5 - Finish

Now that the truck engine is clean, you may wish to apply a metallic wax to metal components in the engine bay, especially to those showing early signs of corrosion. You can also wax coat rubber hosing components if required and these precautionary procedures will help to maintain engine longevity. Remember to remove all rubber bands and plastic bags before driving off.