Ways To Clean Aluminium Engine Corrosion

Aluminium parts have become widely used in the engine compartment of the automobile. Therefore, it can be distressing to see oxidation on the shiny aluminium surfaces under the hood. Today we will discuss some ways to clean aluminium engine corrosion. So read this article thoroughly.

how aluminium engine corrosion looks

Aluminium gained popularity owing to its greater strength to mass ratio. It’s also known for high thermal conductivity, good corrosion resistance, and outstanding machinability. Now, cleaning the aluminium parts of your vehicle is imperative. Even if you intend to sell your car soon, clean parts will have a good impact. Any visible signs of oxidation on aluminium surfaces reduce the car’s value in the eyes of a prospective buyer.

Isn’t Aluminium Not Supposed To Rust?

Indeed, aluminium has a higher resistance to oxidation than iron. Aluminium alloys don’t contain iron, so they will never actually rust. However, aluminium remains susceptible to corrosion. It is, in scientific terms, an electrochemical reaction in which one metal reforms into a chemical. The process eats through the metal.

With two metals in contact with each other along with water, the less active metal attracts electrons from the other. Hence, it becomes corroded. The effects are similar to rusting, albeit with a minuscule difference in the chemical reaction. The process is somewhat slower for aluminium than it is for iron. It occurs to a lesser extent as well.

When aluminium reacts with oxygen, the corrosion forms a smooth layer over the metal, preventing further damage. Meanwhile, in iron, rusting causes the formation of iron flakes which gradually fall off. Hence, the layer of iron beneath the rust is exposed, resulting in further oxidation.

Effects of Corrosion In Aluminium Parts

Tiny crevices in the aluminium component always exist due to machining limitations or defects. Aluminium engine corrosion starts when contaminants and moisture creep into such surface flaws. As aluminium corrodes, lesions form on its surface and slowly weaken the metal. It is similar to how a rusting piece of iron gradually turns brittle.

As with any other material, aluminium or its alloys are only as strong as their weakest links. When pitting occurs in any area, it eventually spreads outward and inward unless neutralised and removed.

Both of these cancerous phenomena, rusting and corrosion, erode the metal at a snail’s pace. That said, they are laborious to clear away. Moreover, it can be a down-right challenge to contain if allowed to fester and embed in the aluminium surface. You should know the different ways to clean aluminium engine corrosion before it becomes firmly lodged in the metal.

How To Clean Aluminium Engine Corrosion?

There has been an increased use of aluminium in engine parts and the automobile as a whole. As such, it is a necessity to know cleaning methods for corroded aluminium. Several products that are useful in cleaning cast iron engine parts cannot help with aluminium surfaces. Some cleaners would damage the aluminium further.

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Step 1: Cleaning The Dirt And Dust

The preliminary step to cleaning any surface is to remove the dust deposited on it. Use a soft cloth to make this happen. Next, we will use water and a mild cleaning agent like dishwasher cleaner to rinse the aluminium surface. Once the dirt has washed off, dry the surface with a clean rag. Make sure to get all the crud and debris from the aluminium.

Now, inspect the engine part with your eyes to check if you have dislodged all the dirt. If yes, great! You have done the job right. If not, then move on to the next step for further cleaning.

Step 2: For Denser Dirt

If the first step did not produce the desired result, further effort is necessary. You have to use an advanced cleaner to get rid of the remaining dirt. What is the best product to clean aluminium? Aluminium specific cleaners like Simple Green’s Aircraft and Precision Cleaner or Star Brite’s Ultimate Aluminium Cleaner/Restorer can easily do the job.

Does Brasso clean aluminium? Yes, Brasso works on many metals, for example, brass, copper, chrome, bronze, stainless steel, pewter, and aluminium. Brasso is capable of cleaning, polishing and protecting all in one. When you need to buff up lacklustre brass, or aluminium, merely use it on the surface. No polishing wheel is required.

brasso can clean aluminium engine corrosion

These products are safe on the gaskets, seals and rubber hoses. Unlike other abrasive solutions, they are ideal for car engine parts. Similar cleaners cost around $30 for a 24 oz bottle along with a sprayer.

Step 3: A Wire Brush for Stubborn Grime

The last option for removing the grime is to use a soft wire brush. They are usually the size of a toothbrush and cost around $5. If you buy one from a shop, remember to confirm with the dealer that you can use it on aluminium. Use it softly on the aluminium surface to displace any stuck grit. Pay attention to narrow parts, grooves and corners.

soft wire brush to remove aluminium engine corrosion

Don’t use a lot of force. Otherwise, you will end up scratching the surface and leave it vulnerable to further corrosion. Never use steel wool, sandpaper, stiff wire brushes, or similar abrasive cleaning apparatus on aluminium items. That goes for both engine components and utensils.

Step 4: Cleansing The Surface for Corrosion Removal

Before moving on to removing the oxidation, the surface must be clean. If you have not used the aluminium cleaner, make sure to rinse the surface with hot water now. Use a damp cloth to wipe down the aluminium segment. You can also use a strong water jet to hose it down. If you haven’t washed the part before, then do use soap and water thoroughly.

clean aluminium surface using water jet

Step 5: Natural Cleaners for Mild Oxidation

How is oxidised aluminium treated? How do you remove white corrosion from aluminium? If you have only mild corrosion on the aluminium, natural cleaning solutions will likely solve your problem. One could comfortably carry out these methods at home.

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Does vinegar remove oxidation from aluminium?

Yes, indeed. Vinegar contains acetic acid, which provides effective oxidation removal. To clean aluminium using vinegar:

  1. Use a tablespoon of white vinegar in 2 cups of warm water. Prepare the necessary amount of cleaning solution in this ratio.
  2. Next, soak a cloth or a non-abrasive cleaning pad in the vinegar solution. Use it to clean the aluminium surface gently.
    non abrasive pad for cleaning aluminium engine corrosion
  3. You use the soft wire brush to supplement the cloth; use gentle strokes only.
  4. Once done, wipe away the excess vinegar residue from the surface using a clean wet cloth.
  5. Leave the aluminium to dry on its own.

Does white vinegar harm aluminium?

White vinegar contains acetic acid, which does react with aluminium. However, the acid in vinegar is mild. With quick application and wipe down, no harm should come to the aluminium surface. To be on the safe side, you should not leave any vinegar on the surface for longer than 10 minutes. As soon as the cleaning is over, wipe the aluminium item with a clean rag.

Other similar substances that find good usage when you need to clean aluminium engine corrosion are:

  • cream of tartar,
  • lemon or lime juice,
  • chopped rhubarb or tomato,
  • chopped apples

Step 6: How Do You Clean Heavily Oxidized Aluminium?

Have you applied all the previous steps without getting complete satisfaction? Your last option is to use an oxidation removal product.

When you require a powerful scouring alternative, a lot of chemical aluminium cleaners are available. Designed for oxidation removal, they react with the oxidation and dissolve it.

How do you clean and shine aluminium?

Before proceeding with an oxidation remover, you should put on safety equipment. It includes gloves, eye protection glasses, a protective apron, and a face mask.

protective equipment needed when you clean aluminium engine corrosion

This kind of work should occur in a well-ventilated area and away from children. The cleaning solution may be flammable. It is dangerous to touch or go near open flames with it. As for the steps to follow:

  1. Put on your gloves and other safety equipment.
  2. Apply the oxidation removal product on the aluminium surface.
  3. You wait for a few minutes and then rub it away with a clean cloth.

Safety should always come first. Prepare beforehand the safety gear that will keep you safe while you clean. Aluminium cleaner and high concentration oxidation removers are harmful to your health. They can cause eye and skin irritation.

How Do You Keep Aluminium Shiny?

Having cleaned and deoxidised the aluminium components, you should also prevent further oxidation damage. The straightforward step is to keep your car away from high moisture environments as far as possible. Of course, that is not always possible.

Another step is to use aluminium wax or polish to provide a clear coating upon the aluminium surfaces. It will preserve the aluminium, prevent corrosion as well as improve the look of your car. Remember, this coating is not everlasting and requires reapplication a few times a year.


Once you clean aluminium engine corrosion, the components under the hood should be shiny and clean. All the steps in this article are easy to perform. The tools you will need are probably available at home. If not, you can buy them at hardware stores or online. Ensure that the cleaners you buy are certified for use on aluminium surfaces.

If you need any help, you can consult a mechanic from a local garage. You may also contact any friend of yours who knows about automobiles.

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