How to detail an electric engine bay
Written by: Vinnie van Rooij
Detailing an electric engine bay is slightly different to a normal engine bay because the lack of a combustible engine. Electric engine require attention to different aspects then combustion engines. Seeing as electric cars are getting more popular, these will become a common sight in the future.
Why the cleaning is different
Both combustion engines and electric engines work in a different way. The combustion engine uses a form of petrol to power its motion, motion that also requires lubrication and several different external systems to make it perform properly. Examples would be: timing belt, accessories belt, motor oil, cooling liquid and different form of protection against the generated heat or moving parts. Electric engine have much less of these parts, and operate in a different way to the petrol powered engines. Many electric cars have very little coolant systems, some even don’t have any coolant systems. They often don’t require engine oil, timing belts or even accessories belts. The end result is a much more different area to work in. The lack of certain components also means that you probably won’t need to remove any oil residue or carbon build up. Detailers have reported that simple cleaning products where enough to clean the dirt on the components in the engine bay. At most they required metal polishes to make the metal parts shine.
Things to pay attention to when detailing an electric engine bay
In general the electric vehicles on the road are very well protected. Wires have extra thick insulation, the electric engine and moving parts are sealed from the outside, even the batteries are well protected against liquids to prevent short circuiting, but just as any other case, it is best to use caution when working on these components and to respect the danger they could pose. Wear and tear on certain components can still pose a threat to your health. Some of the things to keep in mind are:
- With most vehicles, the wires carrying the highest voltage from the battery to secundaire systems are color coded orange. Pay extra care when working in close proximity of orange wires
- The voltage coming from the batteries themselves is much higher then the on-board systems, so batteries should always be treated with care
- If not needed, try to minimize the amount of liquids and use insulating gloves when working close to electric systems
- Don’t use pressure washers or an open hose when cleaning areas that might be powered by electricity, such as the batteries or the engine
- Aggressive chemicals are rarely needed to remove the build-up of contaminants in the engine bay or the underbody of electric vehicles
- Avoid using tools are materials with sharp edges
- Inspect the area always before you start any work
- Seeing as you probably won’t run into oil-based liquids, it won’t be needed to use degreasers
- Be careful around areas with rust formation, liquids might pass through the rusted out hole and contact electrical systems behind it
- When polishing metalwork, be careful because many sensors in electric vehicles can be sensitive
- Most electric vehicles don’t offer the possibility to “disconnect” the battery completely
- If the vehicles hasn’t been powered down as much as possible, there is still a present danger of moving parts due to input to the sensors
Things you should always pay attention to
Apart from the differences between combustion engines and electric engines, there are some practices that are recommended in both situations. Please take care when working in dangerous environments and take your health and well-being regard when carrying out work in risky areas.
- Petrol is very flammable, be very careful with pressure, heat or open fire
- Although less liquid might be used with modern engines, the few liquids used can contain harsh chemicals that should be avoided at all times
- Never work on components that are hot
- Never work on components that are still moving
- Try to refrain from removing screws and/or bolts unless you have been trained to work
- Do not disconnect connectors or plugs, unless you have been trained to know what it does
- Be careful with sharp edges or areas with rust
- Try not to use a more strong chemical then is really needed, you might cause long-term damage to certain insulation or hoses
- If in doubt, skip certain areas
Risks you can run
It is well known that petrol-powered engines make use of liquids that are either very flammable or highly chemical, meaning you should be very careful around them. Fires from gasoline is very difficult to extinguish, and can be deadly. The only advantage is that gasoline can be seen and most liquids used in a vehicle can be seen and/or smelled. Electricity is invisible, you won’t know it’s there till its too late. Touching a surface that is electric can electrocute you and kill you instantly. The voltage used in batteries such aas the one from the Tesla vehicles is very high and is capable of killing a grown man without problems. Although these have been well sealed, wear and tear can still cause dangerous situations. There is also the present danger of components moving because a sensor is giving input that triggers a mechanism.
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