If you own a newer vehicle, it’s easy to walk past the engine degreaser and think that it’s just for people with old cars. Dust, dirt, and mud can get on any engine, and when it leaks you get a nasty caked-on mess in a hurry. The first things you’ll often see are smaller leaks. If you’ve ever discovered an oil leak many miles later, you’ll know the frustration of trying to scrape, wipe, and wash that baked-on gunk from the engine.
That’s where engine degreaser comes in. These products promise to remove all that sludge from the engine without requiring mechanical input on your part. I set out to round up the best products available. Some products are downright caustic on the wrong materials, and some are bad for plastic parts. Although I’ve done my best to detail these pitfalls, read the label and instructions and make sure you know what the cleaner is supposed to stay away from and test on a small part before you go spraying away.
To round up the best engine degreasers I employed The Drive’s comprehensive research methodology. I evaluated a whole range of options before settling on the top contenders. Although I haven’t tested all of these, my choices are informed by consumer reviews, expert reviews, discussions on forums, and my institutional knowledge of the industry. One of the biggest challenges was finding products that were actually in stock. Start with the places I found but check around your favorite retailers when looking, as stock levels often vary. You’ll see some of the biggest names in the chemical cleaning and car care world and a few you may not have heard of, but all are focused on doing the job of degreasing your engine.
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Best Engine Degreaser Reviews & Recommendations
Aero Cosmetics Wash All Degreaser can be bought in many sizes, including 16-ounce bottles. If you don’t need much degreaser, this can prevent you from overspending. This cleaning degreaser works great and is surprisingly easy to use. It is much safer than other industrial-strength degreasers and can be used as both a wet and waterless cleaner. All you have to do is spray it on and wipe dry; no diluting necessary. My favorite feature is the handy spray bottle, which helps tremendously when you just want to clean a small spot on your car.Because of its high safety level, this product does not work as well as some others. It can handle normal cleaning jobs fine, but is not suitable for heavy, set-in grease. It can also damage tires, so we recommend not using it on rims or wheels.
Safe for all surfaces
Ideal for engines with a lot of plastic
Can damage tires
While it didn’t nab the top spot, the Chemical Guys Signature Series Orange Degreaser is a wonderful product. It is an industrial-strength, citrus-based formula that is tough on grease and grime. It does have to be diluted, so make sure to get some spray bottles as well if you’re purchasing the larger gallon size.Our favorite thing about this product is its efficiency. It works very quickly and very well in terms of overall results. Whenever you have to dilute something, however, take that as a word of warning for whatever you’re applying it to. Test on small areas, especially with aluminum. Things like alternator housings or anything else made of aluminum could be etched by this product.
Can be mixed stronger if needed
Pleasant orange scent
Must be diluted
Might etch aluminum
Meguiar's D10801 Super Degreaser
Meguiar’s is a well-known company that specializes in car cleaning and detailing. Their Super Degreaser is designed to be fast-acting and work on even the toughest grease, while also not leaving behind those pesky white residue stains. This industrial-strength cleaner can instantly dissolve tough soot and grease. It works wonderfully on engine bays, wheel wells, and even leather seats. Unlike some other cleaners, it has a mild, pleasant smell that won’t make you want to drive with the windows down for months. The only complaint I have is that it has to be diluted. It does not come ready to use and requires a little bit of prep. You can also damage your skin if you get it on you, so it is important to wear protection.
Doesn’t leave residue
Can even be used on leather seats
Must be diluted
Best Multiple Use
The Purple Power Degreaser is another biodegradable cleaner that’s quite effective. As with all of the solutions in concentrated form, this stuff must be diluted, depending on what you are cleaning. Doing a deeper dive into this cleaner, I found out that this stuff isn’t recommended for chrome, polished aluminum, or painted surfaces. Basically, keep it on the greasy parts. This is a hallmark of the more aggressive degreasers, so avoid alternator housings and be careful on intake runners. It also says not to use it on wheels. Some reviewers have reported cleaning wheels with good results, so tread cautiously if you decide to clean your wheels with it.
Must be diluted
Can etch surfaces
Gunk Engine Degreaser
Gunk’s line of engine degreasers is pretty versatile, formulated for people who like to pull half-dead vehicles out of backyards and fields and bring them back to life. This one you’ll spray on, wait, and then rinse off to get the caked on nastiness off. Spray on, wait 10-15 minutes, then rinse off with water. The wait time directly relates to how much grime you’re dealing with and likely how long it’s been on there. Gunk is a flammable aerosol product, so it’s definitely going to have that hallmark chemical smell of a heavy-duty degreaser. There is a California version as well, so make sure you get the right stuff for your location.
Effective on heavy buildup
Available in multiple versions
Great for cleanup
Best Versatile Degreaser
CRC Heavy-Duty Pro-Strength All-Purpose Degreaser
Unlike the distinct eye-watering experience of Brakleen back in the day, CRC’s Heavy-Duty Pro-Strength All-Purpose Degreaser is water based and still effective. CRC has a number of engine degreaser products, one of which is restricted from use in 18 states. Make sure to choose carefully or you might get something much stronger than intended. The Pro-Strength Degreaser is a water-based formula that foams up when applied and can be rinsed off but doesn’t need to be. I chose this one out of all CRC’s lineup because it strikes a nice balance between effective, versatile, and simple. Sometimes you don’t need a gallon jug that you have to dilute, or something as aggressive as the Gunk above. The Pro Strength Degreaser is safe on plastic, chrome, stainless, and painted surfaces. This one is ideal for engine bays with lots of plastic and shiny stuff, especially when suffering from oil leaks.
For greasy engines
Gentle enough for paint and plastic
Simplicity of a spray can
The Aero Cosmetics Wash All Degreaser is the best overall engine degreaser. The degreaser is effective and doesn’t have the downside of some harsh chemicals, making it ideal for a lot of different scenarios. If you’re looking for something effective that’s a good value, then the Chemical Guys Signature Series Orange Degreaser is a great choice.
What to Consider When Buying Engine Degreaser
There are many degreasers out there, and choosing between them often depends on how much you have to degrease and how serious the buildup is.
Types of Engine Degreaser
Liquid engine degreasers are the kind that come in a spray bottle and can often be applied more precisely than aerosol degreasers. These ones run the gamut of being products that you have to scrub, while others are some foam. While most have to be rinsed off with water, some don’t even have to be rinsed. These are often versatile, and can be sampled in smaller, cheaper, package sizes than committing to a gallon of something you might not ever use. Liquid engine degreasers, especially in the smaller sizes, are a great way to find out if a product is going to work without dedicating a lot of money — and garage cabinet space — to it.
If you’ve found a brand you like, then a concentrated engine degreaser is an excellent way to buy it. Concentrated degreasers of all varieties must be diluted, but the advantage over other products is they can be mixed in a variety of strengths.
If you want to just grab a can and go, aerosols are the pinnacle of simplicity. Choose one based on the level of grease and grime you’re dealing with. Get a heavy-duty product for those old neglected engine bays, and get something more versatile for your newer cars. Aerosols are simple and versatile, but don’t leave them in the sun, as the can is under pressure and could rupture.
When purchasing engine degreaser, how much you spend relates directly to how dirty the engine is you’re hoping to clean. Aerosol degreasers regularly run between $5 to $15 per can, but often more than one can is needed to get bigger jobs done. Buying the liquid stuff by the gallon can be more expensive but last longer because most of them are concentrated and must be diluted.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Can engine degreaser hurt belts?
Most of the products I listed come with cautions about rubber, which is what most belts are made of. When degreasing your engine, be careful not to soak the belts in degreaser, though water shouldn’t hurt them.
How do I rinse my engine after degreasing?
If you have a carburetor, you want to avoid spraying water into it. You should cover your alternator with a bag and avoid getting water in it, too. Aside from that, direct your water stream at the hard parts and generally avoid electrical boxes.
What do I do with the gunk that drips off?
Don’t just degrease your engine and rinse all that oil and gunk into the street. That’s irresponsible and could get you fined. Put down a sheet of heavy plastic to catch the big globs under the car, then roll it up and dispose of the debris properly once done.