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The Benefits of Keeping Your Overland Engine Clean

The Benefits of Keeping Your Overland Engine Clean

There are many benefits of keeping your overland engine clean some of which include:

  • Higher re-sale value
  • Easier to work on
  • Easier to spot trouble/leaks
  • Corrosion prevention
  • Protects plastic parts
  • Enhances appearance

Overlanding, especially in wet or particularly dusty countries can be a messy business when it comes to the engine bay. When we lived in Spain it was the dust that was the main problem and when those dusty trails got wet you could end up with a cement like substance that stuck all over your vehicle – including whatever got thrown up into the engine bay.

There is the possibility that a clean engine could prevent something that leads to a breakdown which, when you’re overlanding is the last thing you need. Anything at all that may help prevent that eventuality has to be worth doing.

We clean our Shogun regularly, the air filter tends to get the most attention [dust] and we clean the engine bay every couple of months just to get rid of any build up, leaves, mud etc that may have settled in there somewhere.

Mechanical benefits?

None. Despite what you may have come across online there are no mechanical benefits to having a clean engine externally. A clean engine is however easier to work on and may prevent potential damage as a result of you [or your mechanic] being able to spot a leak for example earlier than you would if the engine was covered in debris, oil and gunk.

Keeping Your Overland Engine Clean

The plastic parts of the engine will fair better with regular cleaning compared to being left dirty which, with a combination of heat and fluids can weaken the plastic and also discolour it.

Rust can be an issue on older vehicles and is something where prevention is far better than the cure. A regularly cleaned engine will help with this, I’ve seen plenty of cars with half a garden’s worth of leaves rotting away nice and wet in and around the battery tray or bulkhead.

Aesthetics of a clean engine

We spend a lot of money on our overland vehicles and regular maintenance is key to a trouble free trip long or short, for us this extends to the engine bay, a stop off at the car wash on the way home or the next day is our usual practice then the interior and engine get a good old clean too.

aesthetics of a clean engine
aesthetics of a clean engine

A clean engine bay simply looks better and completes [in my opinion] a full interior and exterior valet.

How to clean your engine

This is where it gets complicated as there are a myriad of engine cleaning products out there. Vehicles over the years have changed too as well as the engines in them. In the early 90’s I spent a year valeting cars at an independent car dealership in northern England, when a dirty car came in from auction the engine was sprayed with an industrial strength de-greaser before being power hosed off leaving the engine looking like new.

clean 4×4 engine

That was the 90’s on older engines with less electronics etc… Solvent based cleaning products cut through grease far better that water based but to be honest it is the frequency of cleaning that matters most. Like a lot of things ‘little and often’ works so an initial deep clean may be all that is needed.

All this depends on your overlanding style, where you are in the world and the weather you typicaly go out in.

We’ve found that the blower on the hoover does a great job of shifting dust – we have to use it on the air filter anyway so the engine bay gets the once over too, it is always suprising how much dust gets thrown up using this method.

shogun sport k90 service manual

After any mud splashes are removed from the inner wings or bulkhead we simply go over the plastics and rubber with a standard back to black or vinyl enhancer [usually for car interiors] which brings the engine up nicely – not really any need or expense for specific cleaners as many are very much the same product anyway [for finishing off]

Tools to clean a 4×4 engine

  • Vacuum cleaner – for hoovering up debris and blowing out dust
  • Compressor – if you have one even better than a vacuum cleaner
  • Old rags – removing oil and gunk
  • Small brush or toothbrush – think cleaning the cylinder head bolts and similar areas
  • Drip tray – if you’re really going to town with the cleaning products
  • Screwdrivers/sockets/spanners – battery removal, filters etc if required
  • Camera – to capture before and after images


Keeping your overland engine clean is a good idea for sure and there are many reasons to do so. Our local Spanish mechanics eyes nearly popped out of his head when he lifted the bonnet of the Shogun for the first time, old 4×4’s in Spain are always pretty neglected and hardly ever cleaned [if ever]

There is the possibility that a clean engine could prevent something that leads to a breakdown which, when you’re overlanding is the last thing you need. Anything at all that may help prevent that eventuality has to be worth doing.


k90 overland
1600 900 Mac


K90overland is Mac and Gayle, they lived in Andalucia for 19 years before moving back to the UK. Overlanding since 2019 the pair have built up a 'budget rig' and now enjoy a relaxed approach to discovering Scotland and the north of England.


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