Cleaning Your Imperial's Undercarriage


Imperial Home Page -> Repair -> General Maintenance -> Undercarriage Cleaning

Tip from David:

I recently cleaned the undercarriage of my 54 Imperial. I thought I would have to get underneath with a brush and rags to do the job...but, instead someone suggested I try Easy-Off, the oven cleaner. And, I am hear to tell you, it does indeed work. (Beware, it takes off the paint, too! Plus, your skin!)

Several months ago I was in San Jose California, when I visited a shop that does "engine cleaning." Wow, was I impressed. They actually put the car onto a rack and use very hot (steam) cleaning guns to take off all the goop. I have always wanted to clean the undercarriage of my car to help find a very minor oil leak. But, after 47 years of build up--and no such service in Southern California, I was left with the prospect of doing the job myself.

Then someone suggested I use Easy-Off. So, I went to the self-serve car wash. I took my floor jack with me. Away from the other customers, I jacked up one side of the car and got underneath with 2 large cans of Easy-Off Heavy Duty cleaner (at your grocery store.) I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed. Remember, Easy-Off is lye and will burn you if it gets on your skin. So, use head to toe protection, particularly your eyes and skin. And, yes you can apply Easy-Off when the engine is hot. You don't need to wait until it cools down. I made sure I started on the far side away from the jack...and worked my way back over to the side where the jack was. That way, no Easy-Off would be dripping down on my body parts. I brought several old towels for laying down on as I did the spraying. (Be prepared to throw these away, too.)

I let the car sit for about 30 minutes. Then into the car bay it went. I jacked-up one side of the car (both wheels off the ground) put the wash gun on "soap/spray" and let it rip. Remember, safety first. Keep your eye and skin protection gear on. The grease and junk just blew off. Then I added some more time to the wash timer and used the "rinse" cycle to remove the extra suds.

What about the engine compartment? Well, from the underside, you are reaching all the way up to the exhaust manifolds. Yes, you can use it on the all of the above engine areas, but you must take great care not to "wet" your ignition area which will preclude you from starting the car until it dries-out.

Finally, Easy-Off will remove your paint. My undercarriage paint was long gone when I did this job. The paint was well past it suitable state. In fact, the cleaning, speeded up the next step which is undercarriage painting. (BTW, use POR 15 for this).

And, after you are done, a cleaned undercarriage is a thing to behold! Jack up the car on four jack stands, get on your creeper--take a light---and enjoy the wonderment of your car's undercarriage---its just like the Sistine Chapel!

Addition from Bob:

I was lucky to find a detail shop in Glendale (CA) a few years ago that offered to clean my whole undercarriage for $10 more than the regular $35 for engine alone. They did a pretty good, but not perfect job, still some goo down there. And some has been added since this job was done...

Another addition from Bob:

An easier method is to go to a self-service car wash. If you can take a couple of ramps to pull the front end up on (have a helper with you to keep them from "skidding" away while you are pulling up), it's an easy matter. I take along an old plastic sheet to lay on alongside the car. Put (or have your helper) a bunch of quarters in the machine, set to "soap" and spray away. Then go to the other side and do the same. You can cover engine, transmission, driveshaft, etc. Although you might not be able to get into every crevice in the underside, you can do a respectable job without using any oven cleaner or anything else that might remove paint and it's relatively easy.

I use the same system to clean my engines (and firewalls, etc.) and have done so for over 30 years without any problem.

This page last updated October 21, 2002.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club