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Help, I need to clean oily valve covers


Well-known member
Apr 4, 2002
Clever, MO
1998 Two Tone Torch Red& Black Coupe
From a nearly new CACC guy:

I've had my sweet '88 one year now (owner #3), and the previous owner seemed to take immaculate care of this car. I do too, but, I'm alittle hesitant about what to use to clean the aluminum cast parts ie. valve covers, plenum, etc. They're not really too dirty, but starting to get alittle oily haze on them. I try to wipe them off with a clean cloth from time to time, but now I need to go alittle further in the cleaning process. I like a clean and shiny Vette, inside and out!!

I'd appreciate any unhood cleaning tips from all of you gearheads out there, including what to do about cleaning and repainting the inside of the hood itself. It's in about the same condition as the valve covers. Not too bad, but needs something done also.

Thanks for your help
You can really mess up here if you are not careful. Any harsh/degreasing chemical can cause permanent damage to the painted and aluminum surfaces under the hood.

The valve covers actually are fake. That is, they have a coating that makes them look like some kind of cast aluminum part. You need to just use high concentrate soap and water on these parts.

Under the hood you can really do some nice work. First, cover up the engine, then get a good heavy duty (grease lighting, etc) degreaser. Spray and scrub it down on the bottom side. Then, take all the little things off you can like the lights, wires, etc. Finally, take a bucket of soapy water and a good scotch brite pad and scrub it one more time. Let it dry.

Now, go to the local automotive paint supply store. They sell a variety of different "Semi Gloss" black aerosol cans. There is one by SEM and 3M. Both give a fantasic factory finish. Cover and tape up the headlight buckets, engine, edges of the hood, etc. and you can rattle can this on nice and easy. You will also want to remove the inner fender buckets from the hood.

Between this, and soft gentle scrubbing with soap, you can get it as clean as possible. There are tons of TPI motors running around that have been the victim of "Simple Green, Grease Lighting, Purple Stuff, etc that will never look the same. Plus, if you can't get the valve covers perfect, they can be cleaned, sanded, and repainted. Mid America and others sell a spray paint kit to bring back that fresh factory luster. You can also get out a model paint set and hand paint the emblem back in on the driver side. Spary some 500 degree clear over the covers and emblem when you are done for a show finish.
Heres a Idea I robbed from being a Drummer. With Drums we treat our paint jobs like guys with Show Cars. However We do get grease build up from pedals and joints. SO what I use is my trusty squirt bottle filled with..

1 part liquid landery detergent
3 parts water

I spray that on and wipe with a wet rag then wash it off with pure water and a chamois. This works exceptionally well...

However (This is a bonus in some cases) this procedure WILL remove Wax (Car wax or whatever) If you want to get rid of wax in unwanted places this works great!! But if it gets on an area (Say the Hood) You going to rewax your car guaranteed.

But for Engines its great just try not to leave any behind to get baked on (This is REALLY hard to remove after this point) Make sure you wash the engine with pure water after doing this...The car will look new.
Thanks for the tips, guys. I'll be doing some experimenting under the hood this weekend.
I use the orange cleaner on most things and it works really good. If it is real greasy you can use Castrol super clean but don't get it on paint, alum. or your hands.

The orange cleaner ( I use Zep products from Home Depot) is pretty safe and does a good job. That is what I would use under the hood. Follow up with a little armourall or 2001 protectent
Just be careful what you use. Some of the solvent/cleaners can destroy your fiberglass front spring. Remember it's right under the motor thingie.

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