How to Paint Engine Bay Without Removing Engine

When giving your engine bay a cosmetic makeover, the obvious thing to do would be to pull everything out and do some proper prep work before getting down to business. But, what if you want to paint your engine bay without removing the engine? Is it possible? 

The short answer is yes. And in this post, you’ll learn what to do if you want to upgrade the look of your engine without removing it. Unlike what some experts claim, you can still do a good job if you pay close attention and follow the right procedure. Here’s how to make your engine look awesome step by step. 

Tools you’ll need

  1. Biodegradable car degreaser/parts cleaner
  2. Adjustable wrench 
  3. Painter’s tape
  4. Plastic sheets or bags (optional)
  5. Hose 
  6. Sandpaper (100-grit and 2,000-grit)
  7. Power sander
  8. Rags
  9. Foam brushes (optional)
  10. Engine paint by POR-15 (Optional)
  11. Automotive Primer
  12. Engine bay spray paint
  13. Paint gun
  14. Filtration mask
  15. Eye protection
  16. Aluminum foil (optional)

Part 1: Cleaning and Prepping your engine bay 

Step 1: Let the engine cool

Park the car where you intend to work from and let the engine cool. Wait at least a few hours for the temperatures to drop completely. Working on a hot engine can cause serious injury and reduce the effectiveness of some of the chemicals you’ll use. 

Step 2: Remove parts that you wish to protect from paint

The next step is to uninstall hoses, cables, and parts that you’re comfortable removing. These should be parts that you’ll be able to reconnect and reinstall later. Based on your comfort and skill level, you may be able to remove just one item or more. Have a container for storing bolts and a safe area you can put your parts. 

Removing multiple items increases the chances of achieving a high-quality paint finish. It provides more room for you to work. Some of the parts that you can remove include the intake, power steering pump, radiator, serpentine belt, fluid reservoirs, air conditioner, alternator, and airbox. Don’t feel pressured if you can’t remove as many. 

Step 3: Mask off parts with painter’s tape

Get some high-quality painter’s tape and mask all the areas you don’t want the paint to reach. This includes the engine, air filter, and airbox. Consult your user manual if you experience difficulty locating any of the important parts. Remember to also mask any connectors and wires that you don’t want painted. You can also cover the engine with a plastic sheet or bag. 

Step 4: Cleaning your engine bay

This is where you start to clean the engine compartment. Start by shaking the degreaser and spray it over all the exposed areas that you want to paint. If you don’t know how to use it, be sure to read the instructions put on the can. You can spray it on the engine even though you won’t be painting it. 

The best degreaser is one that’s biodegradable and VOC-free. It isn’t harmful for your lungs, doesn’t ruin your lawn, and is great for the environment. While it soaks in, you can scrub the tougher stains with a brush. This highly depends on the condition of your engine bay. 

Step 5: Rinse and let everything dry

Once you’re done removing the toughest stains in the nooks and crannies, rinse the car degreaser off from the engine by spraying some water using a hose. No grease, grime, dirt, or degreaser should be left as it can prevent paint from adhering. Let everything dry for a couple of minutes. This is the last step in car engine bay cleaning.

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Part 2: Prepare the surface for painting 

Step 1: Scrub out rust using sandpaper

It’s important to scrub off all the rust to prevent it from spreading over time. You can use 100-grit sandpaper while wearing a filtration mask and some eye protection. Ensure that you go past the rust and reach the bare metal. If the entire piece is completely corroded, you’ll need to take your car to a professional for the metal to be replaced. 

Step 2: Remove the old paint

This is the part you’ll need a power sander. It helps you to strip away all the old paint for a perfect final finish. You can still do this by hand. However, it can be a hard job that’s very time-consuming. Use the sander while still wearing your filtration mask and eye protection. 

Step 3: Sand the metal you want to paint

The surface to be painted needs to be smooth and flat. You’ll need to sand all the metal using a 2,000-grit sandpaper in a circular motion. Do this until you’re comfortable with the results. You can run your fingers on the metal to check if you’ve achieved the required smoothness. 

Step 4: Wipe off the dust

At this point, you probably have a lot of debris and dust from the sanding and paint all over your engine bay. Use a damp rag to wipe it all off. You can spray some water inside the engine compartment if the debris is too much. The water shouldn’t get to any crucial electronics as you’ll have already covered them. Leave everything to dry. 

Step 5: Confirm that everything is well covered

The work that you’ve done in the above steps may have tampered with the masking you had done previously. Confirm that everything is well-masked and that the pipes, hoses, and all the electronics are protected from paint overspray. You can wrap them with aluminum foil or plastic. Doing some more taping will also provide extra protection. 

Part 3: Painting engine compartment

Step 1: Apply primer/undercoat to the engine bay

The first step to the painting process is to apply a preparatory primer coating or undercoat where you intend to paint. A high-quality automotive primer ensures the paint adheres well to the surface. It also enhances paint durability and provides protection for the metal being painted. 

Ensure that you go for a primer that can withstand the high temperatures inside the engine bay. When applying it, hold the spray can about 12 inches (30 cm) away from the engine. Sweep it across the surface to prevent it from dripping at any one point then leave it to dry completely. 

Step 2: How to paint engine bay with spray can

You’ll need some automotive engine paint for this step. Use a high-temperature engine compartment paint or brake caliper paint. The best spray paint for enigine bay is high-gloss, wear-resistant, and provides great physical and chemical protection. The idea here is to fill a paint gun with the paint or a clean spray can. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the workings of your paint gun if you have one. 

Start by applying two light coats of paint on the primed surfaces. Let the first coat dry before applying the second one. Sweep the paint gun or spray can back and forth while holding it about 12 inches (30 cm) away. Apply two additional heavy coats, allowing each to dry before applying the other. 

The last two coats will give your engine compartment a rich and deeper color. You can go over areas that you’re not satisfied with again to give them a thicker coat. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to learn how long it takes for the paint to dry. Before the last coat dries completely, move to step 3. 

There are those that prefer black engine bay paint over other colors. However, this is often a subjective choice. It is not necessarily the best color to paint engine bay. Other colors work too. Some of the engine bay paint ideas available include:

There are people that prefer black engine bay paint over other colors. However, this is often a subjective choice. It is not necessarily the best color to paint engine bay. Other colors work too. Some of the other engine bay paint ideas that you can try include:

  • Red
  • Orange
  • Blue
  • White
  • Purple
  • Pink
  • Green
  • Gold
  • Lime green

Step 3: Painting engine bay with brush

If you prefer to paint your engine bay using a brush, the best type for this job are foam brushes. They are designed to cover the surface evenly with fewer strokes. You’ll also need high-temperature Engine Enamel paint made by POR-15.

Start by stirring the paint to mix it evenly. Apply three coats of the paint on bare metal in a well-ventilated area. Each coat should be left to dry completely before applying the next one. Make sure all the coats have cured properly to prevent corrosion, rust, chipping, or heat damage.

Step 4: Remove the painter’s tape, foil, and plastic sheets

While the paint is still damp and yet to dry completely, remove the tape and plastic covers that you put on different parts of the engine compartment apart from the tape and covers put on the engine. Peel everything slowly. Doing this when the paint is still wet prevents it from cracking.  

Step 5: Let the paint dry

Sit back and allow the paint to dry completely. The time required for curing may differ from paint to paint. Again, be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions for this information. It could also vary depending on how thick the paint coats are. To stay on the safe side, the rule of thumb is to let the paint cure for at least 8 hours. You can leave it overnight. Don’t try washing it before a week has passed. 

Step 6: Reinstall all the parts you removed 

The last step in this guide on how to paint the engine bay without removing the engine is to put everything back where it belongs. This includes the hoses, pipes, intake, power steering pump, radiator, serpentine belts, fluid reservoirs, air conditioner, alternator, and airbox. Be careful not to scrape the paint off as you do the work. 

Read more: How to Tighten Emergency Brake Cable

On That Note

Car engine bay cleaning and painting is a simple job that requires some patience and commitment. We hope this article provided all the information you need on how to paint engine bay without removing engine. If you need to learn about other engine jobs that you can do by yourself, stay tuned for more informational guides.


Can you paint an engine bay without removing the engine? 

Yes, you can. All you need to do is remove a few parts that you do not want to get paint on and tape the rest. This prevents overspray and ensures that you get a good finish at the end. 

Does engine bay need high temp paint? 

It’s safe to use high heat engine compartment paint when painting your engine bay because it can get really hot in there. Some parts may not need high temperature paint but it’s always good to use it just to be on the safe side. 

How do I prepare my engine for painting? 

Clean any oil, debris, and dirt using a biodegradable car degreaser. Scrape off rusty parts until you reach the bare metal and remove the old paint. Clean out all the dust. You can rinse the stubborn stains with clean water.