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Best Engine Degreasers for Car Detailing that Actually Work

That ordinary all-purpose cleaner is no match for a nasty undercarriage or an oily engine bay.  No, for tough jobs like this, those in the know reach for a quality engine degreaser to cut the grim and grease. 

The number of engine degreasers on the market attest to their value in the detailing world.  But with all the products to choose from, you may ask which degreaser is best for you?  What are the differences between products?  We asked these questions, and more, and provide the information uncovered below.

Oil Eater Cleaner Degreaser

Oil Eater Original 1 Gallon Cleaner and...
  • Powerful Cleaning: Dissolves Grease, Oil And Dirt From Any...
  • Usda Approved: For Use At Food Service Facilities (A1, A4,...
  • Biodegradable Formula: No Harsh Solvents And Is Noncorrosive
  • Ultra Concentrated: Use For Cleaning Floors, Walls,...

What I like:

  • Strong oil and grease cutting ability.  
  • Water based and biodegradable, easy on septic systems and the environment.  
  • Concentrate that can be diluted for various jobs. 
  • Product is recommended for other uses around the shop and home. 
  • Inexpensive. 

What I don’t like:

  • Undiluted product has a strong odor, particularly when spraying. 
  • Eye irritant. 
  • Can “dry” out hands on contact with concentrate. 
  • Not for use on hot/warm aluminum, glass, soft leather, silk and suede. 

Shipped Cost

  • $0.133 per ounce Undiluted
  • $0.01 per ounce Diluted

With a name like Oil Eater, you would expect it to cut oil and grease, which it does.  But you might also be leery of what it might do to your health.  Well, Oil Eater Cleaner Degreaser is a water-based, biodegradable product.  An eco-friendly product that cuts oil and grease is a welcome alternative to strong solvents or acids found in many other detailing products. 

Add to that, Oil Eater is sold in a concentrated form.  You dilute the product to the strength you need for various jobs.  Tough engine oil and grease, mix it one to one with water.  For a milder degreaser, mix it one to four with water.  For, other uses, it can be diluted as high as one to twenty with water.  Only one product to buy, but multiple strengths of cleaner for different tasks. 

Plus, you can use this product elsewhere around the house or shop.  Driveways, pavers, laundry, floors, the grill, and even in a pressure washer are some examples of recommended uses.  Plus, there is a detailed dilution chart right on the label to help you mix the concentrate for all the different applications. 

So, an eco-friendly product that works well and can be used in numerous ways must be expensive, right?  Nope.  Of the products included here, it is the most cost-effective.

Meguiar’s Super Degreaser

Meguiar's D10801 Super Degreaser - 1...
  • Strong and fast acting for the toughest jobs
  • Residue-free performance prevents unsightly white residue...
  • Pleasant herbal fragrance
  • Quickly breaks down even the toughest grease
  • Easy to use, spray on and wipe off

What I like:

  • Good degreaser.  
  • Safe to use on most automotive surfaces when diluted, making it the most versatile degreaser on list.  
  • Concentrate that can be mixed to different strengths.  
  • Smells good.  
  • Used by professional detailers. 

What I don’t like:

  • Doesn’t work as well as Oil Eater. 
  • Recommended dilution rates are not as variable as Oil Eater. 
  • Costs a little more.  
  • Not as readily available. 

Shipped Cost

  • $0.28 per ounce Undiluted
  • $0.02 per ounce Diluted

Brand recognition can be important for some, and Meguiar’s has built a solid reputation in the detailing market.  Meguiar’ Super Degreaser is a concentrate that can be diluted for various jobs, and comes from a well-known manufacturer.   

Where the Super Degreaser shines is in the engine bay and wheel wells, as well as on tires and exhaust tips.  Many detailers have used this product on a regular basis and swear by it for those applications.   

Some have even used it beyond degreasing for general cleaning tasks on surfaces like plastic.  Users appreciated that it did not leave a white residue like some other degreasers.  That said, it should be noted that Meguiars states Super Degreaser is only to be used on the exterior.   

Because the product is supplied in a concentrated product, you dilute it with water and one gallon lasts awhile, even for busy professional detailers. (Dilution recommendations are one to four with water for heavy cleaning and one to ten with water for medium duty cleaning.) 

The product has a pleasant smell, but the label does caution against “eye, skin, digestive, and respiratory tract burns,” so you should handle this product with care.  Protect your skin and eyes, and avoid breathing the vapors.

GUNK Original Engine Degreaser

Gunk EB1CA 'Original Engine Brite'...
  • GUNK is a local family owned company based out of Charlotte,...
  • Best selling engine degreaser
  • Quickly and easily removes the toughest grease, dirt and...
  • Heavy duty cleaning formula packed with powerful degreasing...

What I like:

  • Effective at cleaning engines with a simple spray on, hose off procedure.  
  • Available over the counter.  
  • Aerosol propelled stream helps blast off oil and grease. 

What I don’t like:

  • Not a concentrate, not versatile.  
  • A can is consumed FAST, and you need to buy several to clean an entire greasy engine.  
  • With no ability to dilute and the high consumption rate, it is more expensive to use than otherdegreasers. 
  • Does not cling well.  
  • Gunk HD Gel version does not always empty all its contents before running out of propellant. 

Shipped Cost

$0.23 per ounce

Based in the home of NASCAR, Charlotte, NC, Gunk is a family owned business in operation for over seventy-five years.  Gunk Original Engine Degreaser comes in aerosol spray cans and is simple to use.  Spray it on the engine, hose it off. 

Gunk takes a slightly different tact from the other products on our list and focuses on cleaning and protecting the engine.  After cleaning with the Gunk Original Engine Degreaser, they also recommend another product be sprayed to protect the cleaned engine.  

Also, a product supplied in an aerosol can means the Gunk products cannot be diluted for various strengths (you need to buy different products to meet various needs) and these products will not likely be useable outside of the engine bay as much as the concentrates on our list.  Original Engine Degreaser is intended for “hardworking, leaky engines,” but for newer, cleaner engines with lots of plastic, you may want to look at Gunk Engine Cleaner Foamy. 

This product is flammable and you should keep it away from ignition sources like flame or sparks when using it. Also, this is an eye and skin irritant, so avoid eye and skin contact.

Engine Degreaser Buyer’s Guide & Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of degreasing engine?

To state the most obvious, the engine looks better.  Nothing makes the statement “I care for my care” like a meticulously clean engine.   

But there are performance benefits. A clean engine is easier to work on and it is a more enjoyable experience.  Plus, leaks are easier to spot, your belts run quieter, and electrical parts last longer.   

In a nut shell, clean engines look good and are something you can take pride in.  But the biggest benefit, the engine runs better and lasts longer. 

What makes a good “engine degreaser?”

Many cleaners remove the dirt and dust, but leave the oil and grease in place.  A degreaser should cut oil and grease and makes it easy to remove all of the grime.  It also should not harm any of the engine parts. 

A good degreaser is one that is easy to use and versatile.  Concentrates that can be diluted to match the cleaning power to the intended job are useful.  An aerosol propels the degreaser and may help blast the grime away. 

The odor should not be offensive and a product should be safe to handle.  Also, products that are flammable require more care than water-based products. 

Will an engine degreaser hurt my paint, aluminum, or plastic?

Degreasers should not come in contact with your paint, so protect areas that may catch some overspray.   If you do get some degreaser on the paint, remember the rule of thumb is the longer you leave on the paint the worse the damage will be, so rinse it off immediately.   

Extended exposure to a degreaser will also tarnish aluminum. Polished aluminum is more sensitive than rough cast, and warm or hot surfaces are more susceptible to damage from a degreaser.  Exercise care around aluminum. 

Plastics are a little more tolerant of degreasers, but some “sensitive” plastics can be affected.  The best strategy is to minimize the contact time or keep the degreaser off the plastic.  Also, if using a concentrate, use the proper dilution. 

It’s important to never let a degreaser dry on a surface.  Degreasers left behind may damage the surface with prolonged contact and it may become a grimy mess that attracts dirt. 

Properly dilute concentrates for the intended use.  Strong mixtures will damage some surfaces and you must use the correct dilution for the surface you are cleaning. It is also a good idea to do a test spot if you have not used a cleaner, or a particular dilution, on a surface before to confirm it is safe for use. 

Are there any tricks to get the best results with engine degreaser?

First, the engine should not be hot.  Warm oil and grease are easier to remove so use degreaser when it’s warm out or warm the engine slightly, but do not let it get hot.  

Engine degreasers are designed to do most of the work for you.  But they need a little time act on that nasty grime, so most products recommend a wait time.  It is good advice, let it soak as instructed, but not too long.  

 You can also use a brush on the tough stuff.  Special brushes are available from Amazon to scrub those hard to reach places.  

 Another measure you might employ is steam cleaning.  Not everyone owns a steam cleaner, but if you do, it may help with those stubborn areas. 

What should you protect in the engine bay when using a degreaser?

On a modern car, not much.  The alternator should be covered, and most products note this in their instructions.  Also, air intakes and filters should be shrouded.  If you have an engine that is leak prone, you may want to take some care around the seals as degreasers may harm them. 

 Beyond that, most electrical connectors are water resistant. But avoid the use of high pressure water when rinsing, like from a pressure washer or aggressive water nozzle.  Many detailers just use the hose end and put a thumb over the end if they need a little pressure. 

 Is it safe to breath the fumes from a degreaser?

With degreasers, the best bet is to assume the answer is no.  These products are designed to be aggressive with grease and oil, and many are toxic so it is not recommended. Use in a well-ventilated area and wear a respirator if possible (when using any cleaning chemicals). 

 Also, read the label.  There is often information there about the toxicity profile to help you determine how to best protect yourself. 

Bill Stout

Tuesday 10th of December 2019

What ever happened to the Knights dark purple viscous degreaser? THAT was the best!

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