to be safe: coil pack, open element air filter, brake fluid reserviour, avoid soaking fuse box, misc. electrical stuff.
I only ever cover the air filter.
degrease (brush if nessecary), spray off, Dry. To dress, use tire dressing (preferably a spray) then wipe down the flat surfaces, anything rounded (like hoses) the tire dressing will coat evenly if you use a good tire dressing.
also, do this *before* washing your car (including dressing) if you get any overspray (degreaser/dressing) you'll be washing it off anyways.
note: Attached picture is of my 96 mystique (130,000km).
Yup - what SpreeGuy said. I don't show my car or anything, but I do clean up the engine bay every month or so in pretty much the same fashion as mentioned by SpreeGuy. I do make sure to cover my KKM open air filter and the coil pack. Also, don't run cold water over your hot engine - as I understand it you could crack one of the manifolds from the drastic temperature change.
Yes, our cars don't have distributor's anymore, well, all newer cars don't. It's called a coil pack. Just and FYI. and it's behind the engine, up against the firewall, where the plug wires run to. Make sure it's covered.
Here's what I did for my last show:
Let the car cool for 2 hours (just make sure the engine is totally cold) I had to do this because I only had access to a cold water hose
Then, cover the coil pack, battery, alternator, and other various electronic stuff like the MAF sensor.
Spray the whole engine down with Mequire's Extra Degreaser/Cleaner very liberally
Let sit for 15 minutes
Hose the whole engine bay off, with a high pressure spray nozzle.
Wipe down varous parts.
I then let the car sit without starting it for another hour or so.
You wan't to make sure everything is dry, and you don't want to start the car with cold water on the engine still.
I know some guys that find a hot water spray and wash, and pull in, leave the engine running, spray with degreaser, and spray the engine down while running. ONLY DO THIS IF THE PLACE HAS HOT WATER!!
That's my experience anyway...
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