How to Clean Cylinder Heads

The engine cylinder head has many passages for coolant and oil and can build up dirt over the life of the engine. Once the cylinder head is removed from the vehicle, it becomes a simple matter to clean up the deposits of sludge and dirt on it.

Cylinder head operation is complex and to learn more about its operation.

There a multiple ways to perform this cleaning service. This article will cover the home cleaning process for cleaning of cylinder heads that have already been removed from the vehicle.

  • Tip: If the engine is being rebuilt and the engine is having machine work done, get the cylinder head cleaned at the machine shop using a blasting machine.

Part 1 of 1: Clean the cylinder head at home

Materials Needed

dirty cylinder head

Step 1: Preparing to clean. Cleaning the cylinder heads can be a dirty process and can be quite time consuming.

Put your gloves on to protect your hands from the chemicals used to clean the cylinder heads. Put the cylinder head in a large tub or container so that you can work on it.

cylinder head with gasket material being removed

Step 2: Remove old head gasket material from bottom of head. Chances are some of the old head gasket will be stuck to the head and it will need to be removed first. Use a plastic scraper to carefully remove the old head gasket material without scratching the surface of the cylinder head. This may take a few minutes to complete and will leave a smoother surface when complete.

  • Warning: Do not use any tool that can scratch the cylinder head mating surface. As this is a machined surface, any scratches could cause leaks and head gasket failure later.

Step 3: Cleaning the cylinder head. A parts cleaner or brake cleaner will work well for cleaning the cylinder head. With the cylinder head in the tub, begin to clean the head using a shop rag sprayed with the cleaner to remove the oil and grime.

Clean the cylinder head as best as possible, including any passages and parts that can be reached easily by hand. You can leave out any areas with nooks and crannies that may be hard to reach.

cylinder head in tub to collect cleaner

Step 4: Soak the cylinder head. Soak the cylinder head in warm water to soften up any remaining dirt and particles. This is done to clean the various oil and coolant passages and galleries that cannot be reached by hand. The warm water will help remove any remaining oil and dirt left behind from the first round of cleaning.

Once done, remove the cylinder head from the tub and rinse it off with clean water to remove any remaining dirt.

blowing air into passage ways to clean

Step 5: Use compressed air on the passages. Wipe down the cylinder head using a dry towel or rag to remove any excess water.

Blow compressed air into all the passages until no more water comes out. This is done to clear all the water from the passages that may otherwise take days to dry completely.

Set the cylinder head somewhere safe to dry the rest of the water before adding a new head gasket and completing the reassembly and installation process.

It can be a lot of work to clean cylinder heads properly but it is needed to remove all the dirt and engine buildup that accumulates over the years. This dirt can affect engine performance if not removed entirely.

If you are not comfortable with cleaning the cylinder head on your own, ask for help from a certified mechanic.


Next Step

Schedule Oil Change

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Oil Change. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Oil Change reviews

Excellent Rating

(21,699)

Rating Summary
20,382
845
179
87
206
20,382
845
179
87
206

Matthew

33 years of experience
991 reviews
Matthew
33 years of experience
Volkswagen Passat - Oil Change - Hampton, Virginia
Matt always does a great job. Very professional. I look forward to my next appointment.... A++++++
Ford Expedition - Oil Change - Hampton, Virginia
I am so please to have Matt work on my vehicle, he is very friendly and personable, and always does a great job.

Greg

22 years of experience
37 reviews
Greg
22 years of experience
Audi A3 - Oil Change - Queen Creek, Arizona
Job well done! Greg was on time and professional. He treated my vehicle with care. He completed the job smoothly and so far so good. First time using Your mechanic and it was a pleasant experience. I will be looking into them again. Thanks Greg!
Ford Explorer - Oil Change - Scottsdale, Arizona
Greg was very friendly and professional. Communication was great, he let me know what he was doing. He went above and beyond to make sure everything was running smoothly. I would 100% recommend Greg!

LAVELL

27 years of experience
93 reviews
LAVELL
27 years of experience
Buick Encore - Oil Change - Oakland, California
Another home run! Really appreciate the flexibility regarding my service appointment. Due to my work schedule I desperately needed a late appointment. So grateful my car is receiving top shelf professional service. Replaced a oil pan drain plug that was seriously damaged and stripped by a competitor that will NEVER get my business again! All services were quickly completed. Thank you so much for another great experience with my.... Your Mechanic Lavell 5 ⭐️ Service consistently.

Brian

23 years of experience
483 reviews
Brian
23 years of experience
Porsche 911 - Oil Change - Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Brian is extremely knowledgeable and very personable and has taken very good care on my 911. I would recommend Brian to any one who has mechanical car challenges. I would recommend Brian to all My friends and family

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

How to Care For Tinted Windows
Getting Getting your windows tinted is an excellent way to enhance your vehicle. Window tint provides: Privacy because passersby can’t easily see into your car Protection from the sun’s UV rays that heat or fade your car’s interior Sleek,...
The Top 10 Car Cleaning Products (Interior & Exterior)
If you are as proud of your car as most people are, then its care and upkeep is...
How to Remove the Smell of Mold From Your Car
Chances Chances are, from the commute to work to leisurely weekend drives, you spend a good deal of time inside your automobile. Until offensive odors creep in, you may even take for granted that those driving times are generally odor-free....

Related questions

Cylinder 4 misfire

It sounds like you may need an ignition control module. It's a small device mounted around the right front of the engine compartment. It has a plug with about a dozen wires connected. The module has a separate channel for...

It was recommended that I was to get a fuel injector cleaning. Would getting the product from the auto store and putting in it my gas tank do the trick.

Hi there. Any solution will help clean out the fuel system. I recommend getting Sea Foam and putting the whole bottle in the fuel tank and fueling up the tank. This solution will remove all water in the fuel, debris...

How do I use the rear window washer in a 2012 Chevrolet Equinox?

The rear window washer is responsible for cleaning your rear window. When you use the washer, soapy water is sprayed onto your rear window, and then wiped away. This cleans of dirt and debris from your rear window, which increases...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com