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Old 03-20-2006, 12:48 PM   #1
440sixPack
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Wrench Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

Usually done with engines >100k miles on them.

I saw some questions about this, so here's how you do it. As always, be careful and don't hold me responsible if you mess up your car.

First, this is easier with someone helping you. Go buy a bottle of spring water (20 oz is what I use) or if you don't want to spend any money, get water from a tap that has little or no additives (chlorine, salt, etc...).

1. Start your car and let it warm up.

2. Remove the air ducts from throttle body (air cleaner off carburated cars).

3. Increase idle of engine slowly till ~3500 rpms. You can use your free hand or have someone help you.

4. Keep the engine idle high and slowly poor water in the throttle body. If you hear the engine bogging down, slow down or stop pooring the water. It should take 40 seconds to empty the bottle.

5. Make sure you keep the engine idle high the entire time!!!

6. After the bottle is empty, keep engine idle high for another minute or so.

7. Drive car around for 10 minutes preferable at speeds > 45 mph (so engine heats up to burn any remaining water from oil).

Yes it works and will clean your cylinders very well. It's safe as long as you pay attention to how your engine is behaving and keep the idle up. If you do stall your car, don't bother trying to start it again. Just pull the plugs, allow the car to turn over a couple of times, dry plugs (or get new ones) and put them back in. Don't use ether or other combustibles to try to start it. Start it normal. I've cleaned 7 engines like this without any problems. Because you are adding water to the engine, this is best done a couple of days before you plan to change the oil.

If you have any questions, I'll try my best to answer them.

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Old 03-22-2006, 10:15 PM   #2
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

Spring water contains minerals still. Distilled water is all I know of for "pure" water.

combustion creates water as a bi-product anyway, why is this any better?

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Old 03-23-2006, 12:05 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

I've done this but I used GM Top Engine Cleaner instead of water. after emptying the can and the 15 minute soak and restart, it fogged the mosquitoes

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Old 03-26-2006, 12:18 PM   #4
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

Quote:
Originally Posted by eRic 02sc2
I've done this but I used GM Top Engine Cleaner instead of water. after emptying the can and the 15 minute soak and restart, it fogged the mosquitoes

I do the same, but use SeaFoam, which is a mixture of pale oil, a light solvent, and isopropyl alcohol. I suck it in through the brake booster line, or whatever is sucked into all cylinders.

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Old 09-16-2006, 12:06 AM   #5
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

Quote:
Originally Posted by djcommie
I do the same, but use SeaFoam, which is a mixture of pale oil, a light solvent, and isopropyl alcohol. I suck it in through the brake booster line, or whatever is sucked into all cylinders.

You guys are correct that Seafoam and GM Top engine cleaner probably will work better, however, in California, those two products are banned for environmental reasons and so all we are left with is the steam cleaning approach.

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Old 11-28-2006, 04:31 AM   #6
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

I can still purchase Seafoam in California and have done so recently. I do not understand why it is supposedly "banned"?

Russ

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Old 11-28-2006, 12:26 PM   #7
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

Quote:
Originally Posted by RangerRuss
I can still purchase Seafoam in California and have done so recently. I do not understand why it is supposedly "banned"?

Russ
Ditto, here. It was on the shelf when I went to Autozone yesterday. I used Seafoam when I did the OP's engine cleaning. Didn't harm the engine, but don't think it really had any effect either way. But eRic is right, no more mosquitos!

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Old 12-02-2006, 07:03 PM   #8
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobbyrae View Post
You guys are correct that Seafoam and GM Top engine cleaner probably will work better, however, in California, those two products are banned for environmental reasons and so all we are left with is the steam cleaning approach.
I can't imagine it being banned. Are you certain? It's just a mixture of naptha, isopropyl alcohol and a wee bit of light base oil. None of those items are banned individually, so I find it difficult to believe that the mixture is banned.

I also can't imagine that helping your engine ingest water will do anything positive. Water is a very poor solvent for the crap that's adhered to your runners/valves/combustion chamber.

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Old 12-03-2006, 12:03 AM   #9
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

True about water being a lousy solvent, but there's also the physical action. Whatever you pour in (unless it's something combustible), it boils on the combustion stroke, and it's the force of the steam that does some of the work of knocking the stuff loose.

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Old 12-03-2006, 11:18 AM   #10
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

Quote:
Originally Posted by madpogue View Post
True about water being a lousy solvent, but there's also the physical action. Whatever you pour in (unless it's something combustible), it boils on the combustion stroke, and it's the force of the steam that does some of the work of knocking the stuff loose.
Even steam is a pretty poor solvent for hydrocarbon deposits. This "steam cleaning" thing is most likely a myth. The chemistry just doesn't work.

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Old 12-03-2006, 08:54 PM   #11
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

Water, misted / poured in a SMALL stream into an induction system WILL remove carbon from the cylinder heads. The physics / chemistry of it I can't explain, but it DOES work. The thing that can cause an issue with this is if a large carbon deposit / flake gets hung in a valve. Rare but it does (rarely) happen. Back when they 1st started using water injection in the old piston engine fighter planes, the mechanics noticed how much less carbon deposits there were in the water injected engines VS the non-injected ones.

Some of the old mechanics used to pour ATF or Marvel Mystery Oil down the carb to remove carbon build-up.

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Old 12-04-2006, 08:00 PM   #12
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ritz View Post
The chemistry just doesn't work.
Ever seen a side of a building being steam-blasted clean? There's no "chemistry" involved; it's all physical action. Yeah, something with solvent properties is better, but the physical action of the steam will remove something (albeit not much).

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Old 12-04-2006, 10:23 PM   #13
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

Quote:
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Ever seen a side of a building being steam-blasted clean? There's no "chemistry" involved; it's all physical action. Yeah, something with solvent properties is better, but the physical action of the steam will remove something (albeit not much).
Sure, steam under very high pressure directed at a surface can clean it. That's not what you're getting when you dribble water into your intake while the motor is running.

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Old 02-13-2007, 12:09 AM   #14
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

If you've ever seen the top of a piston after a blown head gasket, you'll agree that this process works. Steam cleaning makes combustion chambers squeaky clean.

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Old 02-13-2007, 11:08 AM   #15
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ritz View Post
Even steam is a pretty poor solvent for hydrocarbon deposits. This "steam cleaning" thing is most likely a myth. The chemistry just doesn't work.

Cheers,
Worked great in WWII bombers. And it works great in boosted vehicles.

Generally, folks will be running water injection and upon teardown find pretty damn clean combustion chambers.

I don't know if such a small period of time will do the trick, but I do know continous use does the trick.

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Old 02-14-2007, 12:17 PM   #16
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

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Worked great in WWII bombers. And it works great in boosted vehicles.
'cept water injection wasn't used for cleaning in the bombers or the turbo vehicles. It was used to keep combustion chamber temperatures down and prevent detonation. You're talking about a completely different thing.

But if you want to try the "steam cleaning" trick and then tear off the head(s) and let us know how well it works, I look forward to hearing about your progress. In the absence of any facts to the contrary, I'm going to consider this pure myth.

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Old 02-14-2007, 05:48 PM   #17
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

The whole point is: water injected in the intake of a running engine WILL remove carbon deposits from the combustion chambers.

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Old 04-06-2007, 05:47 AM   #18
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

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I can't imagine it being banned. Are you certain? It's just a mixture of naptha, isopropyl alcohol and a wee bit of light base oil. None of those items are banned individually, so I find it difficult to believe that the mixture is banned.

I also can't imagine that helping your engine ingest water will do anything positive. Water is a very poor solvent for the crap that's adhered to your runners/valves/combustion chamber.

Cheers,
I have this confirmed through a GM parts guy as well as a Local auto parts guy. I really don't know why, I suppose it would be because of the smoke, which is a pollutant. I haven't been able to find the Seafoam in CA either. It may be that certain parts of the state have it, I don't know.

As far as the water goes, it turns into steam on combustion, creating more pressure and turbulence in there. I've talked to auto mechanics who use this approach. Have you ever heard someone saying that they open their car up once a week to burn out the carbon? Adding the water gives a similar effect without the high RPM's. Of course, the chemicals work even better.

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Old 04-06-2007, 07:51 AM   #19
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

Water in the combustion chamber does work very well. First learned of this in the early 70s, when combustion chamber deposits were a much bigger issue than they are today. One of the simple diagnostics for coolant intrusion into the combustion chamber is to pull a plug. The clean plug is the one that's getting coolant. Though, I would go with the GM Top cleaner as a more effective treatement since water does nothing for deposits on the back-side of the intake valve.

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Old 04-11-2007, 10:33 PM   #20
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Default Re: Steam Cleaning Your Engine Cylinders

I have to side with Ritz on this.(did I just say that ) Putting water down the cylinders is a bad idea, as it would also remove lubricant from the cylinder walls. Water would have little effect on carbon deposits. The carbon is cooked on to the combustion chamber, water would have little effect on it.

Try it and then pull the head off the car and tell me it worked.... It won't.

I have rebuilt enough engines to know this.

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