Rod's Automobile Pages...

528e Engine Bay

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This page last revised  December 2012

Engine bay May 2000 after spring tune-up.

About the BMW M20 Engine
Engine bay as it has been since it was purchased and I cleaned all the cosmoline off of it. This is the first digital picture I took of the engine, with my new Canon PowerShot S10 $700 digital camera, May 12, 2000. Only a 2 megapixel camera, but a truly great camera at the start of this very new digital camera technology.
Since I created this web site in 2004, over 60% of the E-mail I receive, asks about how to get the engine and engine bay as clean as mine... using an easy method. There is no "easy" method. The removal of cosmoline is fairly easy on engine components that are fairly new, such as mine was. On older engines, where the cosmoline has been baking for the last 20 years, the removal process is no different, but is a lot more difficult and requires a lot of elbow grease and time. As shown below, It is not a weekend project!
A copy of a recent message to a fellow member of is posted below, giving further details.

1985 528e engine bay in need of some serious cleaning.

Not hidden under big black ugly plastic covers!
If you are interested in the mechanicals under the hood, you will not be impressed with the use of big plastic covers to hide most of the hardware on current vehicles, like the 2012 BMW 1-series engine bay shown below, compared to my E28 engine bay, which has lots to look at.
Engine bays are best photographed in bright sun light and using a flash to prevent harsh shadows and inability to see what is in the lower part of the engine bay, otherwise hidden in the darkness and shadows. Also, include at least one close up, to show in detail how clean the engine actually is... such as I show with a close up of the thermostat housing and surrounding area, below.

2012 BMW 1-series engine bay

My 528e engine bay view A. Fill flash used to light all components.

Engine bay view B. Again, fill flash used.

Engine bay view C.

Engine bay view D.

Close up component view to show level of cleaning performed.

Not just my BMW engine bay is maintained!
Here are two examples of my earlier vehicles showing the condition of their engine bays. All my vehicles were maintained at the same level. I practice what I preach!

My 1972 Chevy Pickup Truck engine bay in 1988 when I sold it.

My 1981 Renault 18i engine bay in 1990 when it was scraped due to rust damage.

Cleaning the engine compartment -
BudFox at wrote 6/5/07:
Hi Rod -
Aside from the time spent, what do you use to clean the engine bay (i.e. cleaners, detergents, chemicals, etc?). Hope you don't mind the question. Looks just fantastic.
Hi Lou,
When purchased with all sorts of cramoline on it, I used cheap paint thinner and small stainless steel brushes on all the aluminum parts, rags on the painted surfaces. The paint thinner won't hurt the paint, if you're careful and don't apply too much with repeated rubbing.
Had to use rubbing compound (#7) on some painted engine compartment surfaces to get a shine on them. Once complete, I use the same stuff I use on the car's paint, Zymol HD Cleanse and their Concours carnuba wax. Expensive, yes, but my car is proof that it can make a big difference in longevity of the painted surfaces. The car will be 25 years old this October and its original paint.
I use other stuff like Simichrome Polish for polished metal and brass, like the temp sensors, then I coat them with "Hard as Nails", which I also use on all hardware to keep its surface coating from deteriorating. It's why the nuts and bolts under my car are still brite and shiny. All rubber has been treated since day one with Gummi Pflege. I never use the stuff that makes rubber look wet!
Once you get all this done, you won't have to wash it unless it gets in a bad rain storm. Even then just spray it off with a hose and wipe it dry with a "shammy", reserved for use only on the engine compartment, door sills, etc. It just takes time, which most folks, except Concours competitors, are hard pressed to invest, or can afford the cost to pay for detailing to such levels. When I can run a Q-Tip over the engine compartment, anywhere, and not have it pick up any dirt, it is ready for show.
Lastly, since it is so clean, you'll spot leak problems quickly. Fix them quickly, too.
Hope this helps,

Additional Detailing Comments
Answers for a few of the better detailing questions received...
- Where did you get the "exact" length hose clamps? BMW?
No, some of them are original BMW labeled, the others are WURTH ZEBRA, which are identical, but without the BMW logo. I cut all of the clamps to length and grind the cut ends to restore the original profile.
- What are you using on the hoses so they don't look wet?
I use a very light coating of MOTHERS Protectant for rubber-vinyl-plastic and buff it off immediately. If you've got "wet" looking hoses, you can wipe them off with laquer thinner on a rag, to get rid of the shine. Yes, I've used Gummi Pflege, but it tends to be too shiny.
- Zymol Concours is major over kill! What's wrong with simple Turtle Wax?
A high content carnuba wax lasts a lot longer and looks a lot better than any drug store wax you can apply. Try it, you'll like it!
- You're showing the car, how are you dealing with the head gasket that's still leaking oil?
Paint thinner on a rag, once the engine has cooled down. If I keep after it once a week, it's a two-minute effort until I replace the head gasket... if I ever do. It's "seeping", not leaking, which is a big difference in how much oil is involved.
- The Castrol Super Clean you recommended at the 2005 concours show was great stuff, but is no longer available. What else can I use that is as good?
Castrol sold the product to a company named "Super Clean Acquisitions, LLC", several years ago. They now market it and it's still great stuff! Call them at 1-800-394-4240 to get the name of a supplier near you.
- How do you keep your wheel wells so clean? Pressure wash them?
NO! Keep a pressure washer away from them, it will remove the paint and make the situation worse, in terms of keeping them clean. Use a good quality dish washing soap and old wash clothes to get the dirt and road splatter off the surfaces. Use paint thinner on problem spots. Then apply a good quality wax (Yes, I use Zymol!) which will protect the surface and also make it easier to keep clean with a simple hosing when you wash the car.
- What special cleaning aids do you use in the engine bay to get around the parts like the fuse box and other things?
I don't use anything special, except hundreds of Q-Tips to get into really tight places. The bulk of my engine compartment cleaning is done with most items removed, such as the windshield fluid container, ignition coil, fuse box, battery, powering steering fluid reservoir, radiator fan and fan shroud, air clearner housing and AFM, anything I can remove to ease my ability to get at all the painted surfaces. Trying to get in between so much stuff really doesn't work well, especially when the results are viewed in brite sunlight at a concours meet!

- Were the motors in your earlier cars that clean when you bought them, such as your '58 Vette, or did you detail them too?
All my pictures of my engine compartments were taken after they had been detailed, as they didn't come new in their pictured condition. My '58 Corvette engine pictures were taken about a month or so after I bought it and really cleaned it up, along with a mild polish of all aluminum components, such as the valve covers, fuel injection, fuel lines, linkage, attachment hardware, etc. It came from the factory with the aluminum having a dull finish. A lot of polishing of painted surfaces was also done, as you can see by looking at anything that was painted.
You'll also note that the coolant hoses ARE NOT coated with something that makes them look wet! That is a stupid thing to do in my opinion, as the factory never did this! This is strictly a detailer thing, which is totally incorrect, to say nothing about the dirt and dust that is attracted to the hose surfaces, treated in this way.
While some people visiting my webpages have called my efforts 'extreme' or 'anal', you have to remember that I lived in the Los Angeles area from 1958 to 1973 and was heavily involved in the hot rod and drag racing circles. You did not show up at any event with a machine that was not correct and spotless and pronounced 'sanitary' by your peers. period! A vehicle that was otherwise, was totally unacceptable by the people involved in the automobile scene in southern California, which I was very much a part of. Thankfully!