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Engine Cleaning Oopsie

Bench Racing

by Ryan King

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I had big plans for day four, primary of which was to finish cleaning the engine compartment in the Cobalt.

There wasn't much left to do. I had one quadrant left to clean and I wanted to brighten the supercharger – that's where things went horribly wrong.

The supercharger on a Cobalt SS (as well as the valve cover and much of the engine) is cast aluminum and this one was looking pretty ugly. There's this trick I use to clean up, brighten, and remove corrosion on cast aluminum parts like intake manifolds when they are off the car and I thought that with a little care, I could use the same trick on the supercharger and valve cover in the engine compartment.

The trick I use is mag wheel cleaner. Seems easy enough. The issue with doing this in an engine bay is that engine compartments are full of plastic and painted items and the acid in the mag wheel cleaner can attack them pretty aggressively. My workaround for this problem was to cover the engine components with garbage bags and spray the blower, scrub it, then carefully remove the bags without dripping on anything.

It worked.

Then I proceeded to use a Scott's Shop Towel and a toothbrush soaked in the mag wheel cleaner to carefully apply it to the valve cover, avoiding getting any of it on the aluminum coil cover that goes over the center of the valve cover, the plastic engine cover that jumps out right in your face when you open the hood and reads "ECOTEC SUPERCHARGED," and the oil filler cap.

That also went off without a hitch.

I thought I was home free.

I got out the hose with a nozzle adjusted to emit a nice shower and proceeded to rinse off the mag wheel cleaner and the GreaseMaster I had used to clean off the rest of the engine and compartment. As soon as I finished spraying and using my trusty little Shop-Vac to blow dry the engine, I was horrified to see bright white acid stains all over the engine cover, coil cover, oil filler cap, and supercharger relief valve.

I spent the rest of the day doing my damnedest to clean them off.

I tried a number of different conventional and unorthodox methods, but without much success until I stumbled upon toothpaste.

It managed to clean off the aluminum coil cover and plastic blow-off valve almost perfectly. Lots of elbow grease to be sure, but it worked. The engine cover and oil filler cap weren't so lucky.

I hunted for replacement pieces online, but didn't have any luck. I did find replacement oil caps, but not one exactly like the original, and based on what I found as factory replacement pieces, I have my doubts I will.

I'm still hopeful about the engine cover, though.

This evening while I was waiting for the sun to go down sufficiently to wash the body, wheels, and tires without water spotting, I did find some success with the oil cap – I'll know whether or not it was successful enough, tomorrow.

If I'm able to clear up the oil cap, maybe I can clean up the engine cover, as well. Otherwise, I'll be on a phone hunt to see whether or not the dealership still has them available.

On the positive side the engine bay otherwise looks fantastic. I'd never cleaned one with anything more than some degreaser and a hose, and this worked out really well – and the blower is now nearly as bright and beautiful as the day it was installed, so there's that.

It was a bit dark when I was done to be able to tell if the body, wheels, and tires turned out well, but they seemed pretty good, so hopefully the sun doesn't reveal anything requiring too much re-work.

Well, that's all I've got to report for another six hours of work. That makes fifteen hours in and I've still got quite a ways to go. Tomorrow I have to check to see how the oil filler cap turned out, run down or repair the engine cover, clean the jams, clean the windows, and polish the headlights and reverse lights.

I'm tuckered, so that's all for now, but stay tuned for more on the way.

Ryan

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