Wayne Estrada's Engine Detailing Procedure

This section covers engine detailing on the XJ-S, although it's applicable to every Jag. Originally a post to the XJ-S Lovers list, Wayne has graciously allowed JAGBITS to post it here for everyone's benefit.

This discussion is generic to all cars, but there are some specific tricks that are applicable to our beloved V-12 engines.  If interested read on.  Otherwise Delete.  No flames please.  You have to be a true car nut to go through this much trouble on any engine.

As you know, the under-hood of any V-12 XJ-S prior to 1995 is a mess .  Hoses, fuel rails, throttle linkage, wire harnesses, etc. (the last 6.0 liter have those lovely covers and better plumbing and are much nicer looking, but they don't fit onto the earlier cars). IMHO, in its natural state, the V-12 is not a very attractive looking engine.  Impressive yes, attractive no.  But, with a little help, the engine can be cleaned up and detailed to an impressive degree.  At car shows, people often say "what a beautiful engine" (brag, brag, brag).  Now the S3 XKE V12 was beautiful and simple and clean.  We need to give the XJ-S engine some serious help.

Step 1: Washing the engine, hood, and bay. An engine should ALWAYS (sorry to use caps) be cleaned either cold or very luke warm.  NEVER hot.  You will need two or more car-wash brushes you can buy at any auto care store.  They should be the "square type" (about 4" x 4" or so) therefore not too big so you can get it down into all those crevices.  Some of the brushes (in the first stage of a really dirty engine) are going to get complete mucked-up, so you'll probably wind up using them once and then throwing them away.

Start from the top down, using my all time favorite, Dawn dishwashing detergent (again, I do not work for these guys). This stuff is *superb* at degreasing chicken fat or 10/40W baked-on oil. The inside of your hood is most likely dirty, so use a bucket of *hot* water with generous Dawn. pray down the inside of the hood and start brushing on the suds. Rinse, and if still dirty, repeat.  We'll get to polishing it later. [A particular problem area on the inside of the bonnet (hood for us Yanks) is right above the fan shroud. On mine, it is painted metal (no insulation). You might want to first scrape the oil off of here with a piece of cardboard and lots of paper towels as it may be built up with over 1" of crud. If you don't, the crud will get all over the front of the rad, top of engine, etc. Then go to the engine.  You should cover your distributor and fuel system electricals with a plastic bag first.  Use a strong "mist" spray and get everything wet. Start with your brush around where the bonnet closes to the body, the firewall, and  move to the top of the radiator, and the inside painted wheel wells.  The area in front of the radiator behind the grill and the radiator itself is also dirty, don't forget those too.

Next start on the fuel rails area, letting plenty of suds go into the vee of the engine.  Vigorously scrub the cam covers as best you can.  Move to the air cleaners too.  They get oily all over, especially on the inside and bottom.

Keep in mind that if you have a lot of dirt and grease, your water will be getting dirty fast. The trick is don't wash parts with greasy water...you'll only spread the dirt around. Dump the water when its starts to get dirty and refill with hot water and Dawn.  The more frequent you use clean soap and water, the better the results. It may not all come off the first time, so this is still stage 1.

The last part is the fan area and the front of the engine. This will be the dirtiest part, and the Dawn will make a dent in it but not do the job (hey, its not perfect). That takes us to the next step.

Step 2: Degreasing the engine. Steam cleaning is an alternative, but I have found from experience it can damage pipes, seals, etc. This is only for the really neglected engine that is coated with muck as only a first step. What it needs is a good cleaning. There are a lot of engine degreasers on the market. In the USA, "Gunk" is the traditional favorite, but not mine.  There are also lots of "foamy" cleaners.  IMHO, these don't do the job, and actually manage to leave an even film of dirt and grease over everything, so avoid them. The best stuff is a brand called Gumout (brand) "Steam Premium Xtra Duty Cleaner Degreaser". Its in a black can and is a spray on liquid. Spray it generously on all of the greasy parts and let sit for 15-20 minutes, then hose it off. The first time, it won't get everything, but it's a start. At this point, try attacking what's left with a fresh bucket of hot Dawn suds and a brush that isn't too dirty. Remember, you may have to sacrifice a few of these brushes to the car gods to pay homage to your first attempt at baptizing this baby.

Be sure to spray in between the vee, on the cam covers and down below the heat shields too.  There is certainly some sediment on the chassis rails on the sides of the engine too.  If you can get underneath the car, get the oil pan, lower block, and spray up towards the timing chain and front of the engine. You can NOT get it all from the top.  I've tried and failed.

Repeat this process of Gumout Degreaser spray and Dawn.  A few small sponges (also to be sacrificed) will get in where the brush won't.  Did I tell you to wear old clothes? If you did this right, you should be pretty dirty by now.  The good news, is that the cleaner it gets, the easier it gets.  Keep changing water, grasshopper. The Gumout works great on cleaning the fan blades (for those of us who haven't done the Full Monty cooling system overhaul, a-la "The Book"). By this point, you can spray on the degreaser and wash off with Dawn and a sponge.  Hard to get places like the cam covers and front of the engine can ultimately be reached painstakingly by hand.  By Jove, there is a lot of plumbing underneath this hood!

The vee in the engine and back of the block will have oil deposits in them. Same routine as before, and do not be afraid to use the hose aggressively to wash all this stuff away. However, avoid spraying directly on the cam cover edges.  My block came up a pretty silvery color underneath all that dirt.

There are also numerous electrical connector plugs that are coated with varying degrees of oil.  Spray the degreaser on them too repeatedly and rinse until they come clean. I have never had a problem getting them wet (yet...again, flame mode off, results may vary, etc.). Wipe the wires down with the sponge and Dawn suds and dry with a clean rag. Now we know what people talk about when they refer to the "Brown-Green Wire, etc." Yes!  All the wires are not really black...aids in maintenance and debugging too. Most of the connectors on my car are an off yellow color.

Don't forget all those hoses. They hide dirt really well. Scrub each with Dawn until there is no more black stuff on the sponge and wipe them off with a towel. Clean all around the hose--the bottom and backsides of hoses get dirty too, so don't ignore them. Later, will hit them with another trick to make them look good, but not yet.

At this point, you may have spent 3 or more hours (I have...I'm a perfectionist) and might be pretty pooped. Rome was not built in a day, so you may have to repeat this again some other time.  My car was a very clean one owner car, and it took quite a while to get it to its present state, so be patient.

Step 3. Waxing the Paint Work. Once the big gunk is cleaned up, you can start on polishing all of the painted surfaces. This includes the inside of the hood (bonnet for you Brits--equal time here ;-), inside of the wheel wells, top of the radiator and the air cleaners. Don't forget the trough by the windshield. No its not dull--there really is shiny paint underneath the dirt.

In a previous post I mentioned a cleaner-wax from Maguires in a burgundy bottle. This is an excellent way to get a nice luster on all this paint-work. Same routine from before, but I'd recommend a clean old rag (not a sponge) when applying it. There will still be a surprising amount of oily stuff left--even after the Dawn attack. Clean a little at a time and keep using clean old rags...your rags will get dirty fast. Don't use dirty rags, it just spreads the dirt around. Wipe off the wax with an old clean terry cloth towel or old diaper. You'll be amazed at how good the paint-work actually looks under this hood.

Although it is a back ache waiting to happen, the painted surfaces on the underside of the front of the hood, the metal tray in front of the rad, and the support bars in front of the rad respond beautifully to all this TLC. Yeah, I know, some of this is not easily viewable to the casual looker, but its pride of ownership, time with the Jag, etc. If you really get into it, you'll notice the struts, hinges and inside of the grill are funky too. The Maguires cleaner and spray (see next), arthritic fingers and scraped knuckles will make it look better that you could ever believe. Maguires also makes a spray product called "Final Inspection #34". After going over all this stuff, give all the surfaces I've just mentioned a squirt of this.  It's great for getting the white wax residue off and actually adds a little more shine and extra protection.

Just when you thought we were done, the fun is just really beginning.

Step 4. Polishing. There are a lot of metal parts that can be shined up nicely, if you want to take the time and trouble.  Notice all those dull gold-colored pipes, including the fuel rails, throttle linkage, intake manifold and crossover pipes and miscellaneous water and emission pipes?  They are actually "fine sterling silver", waiting to be discovered, and can look like chrome if you are VERY PATIENT and have the right equipment!

You will need at minimum the following polishes:  Mother's Mag and Aluminium Polish, Eagle One Never Dull Wadding Polish (a cotton type material in a round black can--good for shining hard to get to parts with your fingers), Brasso, and the greatest metal polish on the planet "Chrome Magic" and "Aluminum Magic". This last stuff is available from Car USA (New Hampshire) in the USA.  See "Jaguar World" for their ads and the British distributor.  At best, you will also need a bench polisher, various buffing wheels and the appropriate metal polishing compounds. In the USA, contact The Eastwood Company 1-800-345-1178 (or http://www.eastwoodco.com/). They sell all kinds of car restoration equipment.

There are many easily removable pipes on the V12. The most obvious is the large diameter A-B bank crossover at the back of the engine. The polishes will improve the appearance to a great degree (with a LOT of elbow grease), but these and all other pipes beg removal and using the bench polisher. I can't describe all the steps to polish bare metal here (this is too long already, no??) but with the appropriate cutter cleaner, mid-polisher, and finishing polisher, the finish will come out looking like they are chromed. Same for the thin pipes over the top of the engine, the pipes on the top of the radiator, and some other pipes buried at the front of the engine etc.  Be forewarned, we are talking about *hours* of work on the buffing wheel here.

In addition, all the of the bolts, brackets, clamps, and screws under the hood that shine up nicely too. They are a real pain to remove, polish, replace, but its that little eye for detail that makes it all look good. I'd recommend buying a clear lacquer and spraying all the small parts (dry thoroughly) before replacing, otherwise they will get dull next time you wash the engine.

Now remove the air cleaners. This will let you polish the heat shields and get to the aluminum pieces that run from down from the firewall to the frame rails on the side of the engine. Believe it or not, those pieces shine up beautifully--if you can get your over 40, arthritic fingers scrubbing in between all those brake lines, etc. There is also a pipe that runs behind the air cleaners next to the block. Use the Mother's cleaner on that and goop it on (Lint free towels are best, otherwise you'll have lint all over the engine). You can spend a lot of time on all these hidden pieces. This also gives a good angle to spray more engine degreaser on the lower block. Use the Wadding Polish on the fuel rails and throttle linkage. These shine up nicely too. If you take them off the car and do the buffer thing on them, they could be equally beautiful (careful on the adjustments for the throttle linkage). And for the truly dedicated, the air pipe emissions tubing can get beautiful, but this is a lot of work and takes patience. The intake manifold will benefit with a rub down with the Wadding Polish. Its a very porous piece of cast metal, so unless you were to take them off the engine and sand and polish smooth the surface, it won't get too much better than original. Painting heat resistant black paint inbetween the ribbing of the intake manifold makes a dramatic statement.

Use the Maguires Cleaner/Wax to clean the air filter cases. This painted metal likes the wax.

Step 5.  Finishing Off Luster. At this point, everything should be clean and neat, and a lot of the metal work shiny. The finishing touches are easy.

The same silicon spray I use on the tires (Snap [brand] Silicone Tire Spray) works great everywhere on the engine.  Use it on the hoses and use it to put a little extra luster on some of the black metal painted surfaces like the plumbing at the front of the engine, the radiator plate, the cam covers. etc.  Wipe the metal pieces off with a lint free rag and buff the surfaces by hand.  Put it on the electrical wires and hydraulic lines to shine them up too--also wipe those down for best results.   For extra luster on rubber hoses, I like to dress them with STP Tire shine--that puts a nice sheen on the hoses, but it does tend to collect dust and grime.

Wayne Estrada
President, Richmond NET
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Copyright 1999,  Wayne Estrada

Also See:
Engine and Engine Bay Detailing Procedures

Interior Detailing Procedures and Leather and Wood Care

Exterior Detailing Procedures for the Immaculate Jaguar

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