One of the many materials used in the automotive industry is Aluminum. The first engine by Carl Benz was built with aluminum.
For some reason, this material is often used in automotive – one is that it reduces the overall weight of a car. Another is its unique properties such as useful strength, high thermal conductivity, low density, and corrosion resistance.
Thus, today, there are aluminum engine parts, intake manifolds, radiators, and even transmission parts.
The question now is: how do you clean aluminum engine parts?
What Are all the ways to clean an aluminum block?
Before getting into details on the various ways to clean an aluminum block, it is important to know what this metallic element is and why it needs to be clean at all times.
First, Aluminum’s use started in Rome and Egypt. Then, it became a useful conductor of heat and electricity. However, years later, car manufacturers started using aluminum for various components.
Previously, people only cleaned cast iron and steel components of a vehicle when rebuilding and selling; however, the introduction of aluminum parts extends this cleaning.
And like every metal, aluminum components require a different kind of handling and cleaning. That means you cannot use the same product for steel or iron for an aluminum surface.
Using the right equipment is important so you don’t ruin the quality of the various aluminum parts of a vehicle. And while doing this, you should prioritize safety by wearing safety gear.
Can Chemical Be Used to Clean Aluminum?
Yes, it can be used but it depends on the chemicals.
The only permissible chemical to use to clean an aluminum part is a high concentration oxidation removal product or an approved aluminum cleaner made of tartaric acid, citric acid, and acetic acid.
What Is the Best Cleaner for Aluminum?
The best cleaner for aluminum surfaces is Vinegar.
It is one of the best natural cleaners even for other metals and it has a simple cleaning process. All you need to do is add an equal amount of water and vinegar and apply it to the aluminum parts of your vehicle.
Other options are mild detergent and Borax.
So, if there is one thing to know, it is: that you should never clean an aluminum part with abrasives because it is a soft metal.
Can You Use Degreaser on Aluminum?
No, you shouldn’t.
Most degreasers are formulated with compounds that will stain aluminum and stainless steel. And for an aluminum part that always stays dry, it will be almost impossible to clean off.
However, you might need a glass bead or metal polish to do the job but it takes time and effort.
Most glass beads strip an aluminum surface to get a polished look.
Prep work needed to get started
Before you start working on aluminum engine parts, you need to prepare yourself first.
The reason is that an oxidation removal product poses health risks. They are harmful, so you need safety gear consisting of eye protection glasses, a face mask, and a protective dress.
Also, you need a workspace. If you have to work on a large aluminum surface, then ensure to set up in a well-ventilated area – somewhere away from kids.
And more importantly, ensure not to apply heat to the aluminum parts.
Tools needed to neutralize aluminum corrosion
The tools needed to clean cast aluminum include:
- a piece of clean cloth or rag
- a soft wire brush
- a spray bottle or water jet
- an advanced cleaner or cleaning solvents
How to clean aluminum engine parts: Step By Step Guide
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to clean aluminum engine parts of a vehicle.
Step 1: The Primary Methods
Before doing anything, you should inspect cast aluminum parts first. The reason is so that you can determine how dirty the parts are and the method you have to use in cleaning.
You can determine this in two ways;
You can rinse with water and clean with a neat rag or apply a dishwasher cleaner to the surface.
Sometimes, this may be all you need to do.
Step 2: Observe Dirt Density and Clean
From the primary methods, you can tell the dirt density.
If there is a considerable amount of dirt on the aluminum surface, the next step is to clean using an advanced cleaner. A good choice is an aircraft-grade cleaner. It often gets through dirt, grease, and even oil, without sacrificing the surface.
Now, you know you have the best aluminum cleaner if it works perfectly on other surfaces like fabric and carbon fibers.
If it is also safe to use on gaskets, rubber hoses, and seals; it doesn’t harm other engine parts made of rubber-like other solvents, then you have the best product.
Step 3: Stroke with a Wire Brush
The final part is stroking the aluminum parts with a soft wire brush.
This brush is almost similar in size to your regular toothbrushes. However, you should apply the parts gently so you don’t scratch the surface.
Also, with this wire brush, you can get into various blindspots, i.e., the narrow areas where you cannot clean with the rag.
It may not be the most ideal way to clean aluminum engine parts but it delivers the lush (or shine), making it look as good as new.
How do you clean an oxidized aluminum engine block?
When aluminum encounters oxygen in the air, it undergoes a chemical process called oxidation and the result is a chalky, gray cast layer.
The engine block is vulnerable to this oxidation process and oftentimes, it needs to be removed.
And before you neutralize aluminum corrosion in the block, you should wear gloves to protect yourself.
Follow the steps below.
Step 1: Clean the Aluminum Surface
If you are dealing with corrosion, the first thing you need to do is observe how intense it is and figure out a way to clean it.
The intensity is always obvious. That leaves you with cleaning the aluminum surface next.
You can do this by rinsing the area in a hot tank filled with water for a couple of minutes.
Alternatively, you can expose the affected part to a strong water jet to reduce the intensity of the corrosion.
After doing any of the two, you should use a damp cloth to clean the area and spray it with water.
Next, wash the area with dish soap and water and brush the parts gently with a soft brush.
Step 2: Apply Natural Cleaners – Baking Soda, Vinegar
Once you’ve completed the first cleaning process, the next is to apply natural cleaners to the aluminum parts.
There are different natural cleaners to use and their applications are different.
For instance, you can use Vinegar which is the most effective. You can start by adding two teaspoons of Vinegar to a quart of water. Then, boil the mixture for a few minutes. Next, dip the aluminum parts in the mixture and leave for some minutes.
Finally, get a clean cloth, soak it in the boiled mixture and clean the aluminum surface until you get rid of the oxidation. You can finish up by wiping vinegar off with a dry cloth.
Others you can use are baking soda and lemon juice. However, they only show effectiveness when you aren’t cleaning a large part. And besides, you might need to add salt to the lemon juice to improve abrasiveness for tough spots.
Step 3: Apply an Oxidation Removal Product
For a more effective result, cleaning aluminum parts with oxidation removal products is recommended.
These products contain chemicals that fight oxidation (i.e., anti-oxidation). Therefore, you should wear gloves during this procedure.
And when you are done cleaning and deoxidizing, you should apply a transparent layer and automotive wax to neutralize aluminum parts corrosion completely.
Cast Iron Vs. Aluminum
- Cast Iron has low thermal conductivity and high heat capacity, while Aluminum has high thermal conductivity and low heat capacity.
- Also, the former’s engines are heavier and affect fuel efficiency while Aluminum engine parts are lightweight and enhance fuel economy.
- Lastly, the former has fast production but is easier to repair or rebuild, while the latter has faster production with long service life.
If you’ve always wanted to know how cleaning aluminum engine parts can be done to achieve a clear coat, this article has successfully provided the information you need.
All you need is to set yourself in the right workstation and get the right tools.
More importantly, you need the best aluminum cleaners – Vinegar is always the best to use. Start cleaning today and improve the service life of your engine.