Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

How to Clean Cylinder Heads

clean cylinder valves

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.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

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

More related articles

P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the P0052 code means This code is seen when the Engine Control Module (ECM) tries to control the...
How to Avoid Back Pain in a Car
If you have back problems, sitting in a car for an extended period of time can be excruciating. Even without back problems, you could experience discomfort and soreness from...
P2422 OBD-II Trouble Code: Evaporative Emissions Control System (EVAP) Vent Valve Stuck Closed
Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC): P2422 P2422 code definition Evaporative Emissions Control System (EVAP) Vent Valve Stuck Closed Related Trouble Codes: P2441: EVAP Vent Valve Stuck Open EVAP trouble...


Related questions

Q: Brakes still bad after master cylinder replacement

It is possible that there may still be some air in the system. Also the brakes may need to be adjusted. Drum brakes that are out of adjustment can cause a soft feeling pedal because the fluid has to move...

Q: Trouble Starting, and sometimes doesn't start at all - Dies at idle from time to time.

Hello. Cleaning the throttle body and idle valve may have been needed, but the intermittent starting and dying symptom can be the camshaft and crankshaft sensors. These are the codes P0335 and P0340. The code P0446 can be from the...

Q: Key hard to turn; car starts and turns off

It sounds like the ignition lock assembly may be damaged. This is the part that the lock cylinder goes inside and may need replacing. There seems to be a recall on the ignition switch for this car. I would take...