Carbon Buildup Cleaning Cost

Last Updated on December 17, 2021
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

Over time, carbon deposits from burning fuel affect engine power, reduce engine performance, increase pollutant emissions, and reduce fuel efficiency. By cleaning the engine, the stored carbon will be removed and the engine will run back to normal with no mechanical failures.

This practice is nothing more than a chemical or mechanical cleaning of the engine, with the help of which all the accumulated residues on the internal parts are removed, so as to restore the performance of the machine.

How much does a carbon buildup cleaning cost?

The cost of carbon buildup cleaning depends on several factors including the cleaning method, the make and model of the vehicle, and the amount of build-up that has to be removed. However, you should expect to pay anywhere between $360 and $1,750 for this job, with an average cost of almost $1,000.

The type of the vehicle and the size of its engine will affect the carbon buildup cleaning costs. For instance, there are cars that require more hours of work and leading to an increase in cost for this service. In the bale below you will find the average carbon cleaning costs for different types of vehicles.

Vehicle Estimated Cost
BMW $450-$700
Audi $500-$600
Ford $600-$900
Volkswagen Golf GTI $850-$950

The place you choose to carbon clean your car engine will influence the cost. For example, it will cost you less if you choose to go to a smaller shop compared to a dealership that charges higher fees. According to some car owners that we talked to, a carbon cleaning at a dealership costs more than $950, while at a small shop you may be able to get this job done for around $620.

Also, the method used to carbon clean an engine will influence the cost. For example, depending on the make and model of the car and the size of the engine you will have to pay anywhere between $260 and $1,100 for a walnut blasting cleaning.

You might also like our articles about the cost of a valve job, fuel injector cleaning, or engine steam cleaning.

On the other hand, for manual cleaning, you will have to pay anywhere between $360 and $810. However, depending on the amount of buildup, the geographical location, and the type of car it may cost more. For example, a manual carbon cleaning at a dealership for a Volkswagen will cost around $1,550.

There is another option, which is much cheaper, used to carbon clean the engine and this refers to the chemical cleaning solution. Expect to pay anywhere between $25 and $280 for these chemicals.

Carbon cleaning details

When it comes to mechanical cleaning of carbon deposits, we need to know that this process involves removing the cylinder head cover and then removing the carbon deposits from various components, such as the top of the pistons, valves, or the combustion chamber. The reason why two-stroke engines require decarbonization at short intervals is that the lubricating oil acts by burning in the combustion chamber, so the deposited carbon residues are consistent.

In addition to being time-consuming, this carbon cleaning method can lead to serious damage or even total engine compromise if the operation is not performed by an experienced mechanic.

If in the case of two-stroke engines the opening of the cylinder head is a quick procedure, when we talk about modern, four-stroke engines, things are different due to the fact that they consist of sensors, electrical elements, cams, and injectors, so the risks are quite large if the process is done by inexperienced individuals. For this reason, chemical carbon cleaning is required.

This is the most popular decarbonization method and the most affordable, being preferred by car owners, as it does not involve disassembling the engine. Chemical decarbonization is performed by inserting a special device into the intake, which will inject liquid hydrogen while the engine is running. Once in the hot engine, the hydrogen will change its state of aggregation and gradually remove all deposits from the engine, which will be removed through the exhaust pipe. The whole process takes between 30 and 45 minutes, but for cars with a higher engine capacity, it can take a few minutes.

Although steam cleaning is an affordable method, doing it improperly carries a high risk of engine damage. This procedure involves spraying a quantity of water into the air intake during engine operation. In this way, the steam produced removes carbon deposits, evacuating them through the exhaust system.

Which are the benefits of carbon cleaning the engine?

Regardless of the type of engine, it removes carbon deposits.

Improves both engine performance and fuel consumption.

Prevents wear and extends the life of engine components (turbine, spark plugs, valves, EGR, DPF, injectors, etc.)

Decreases engine noise level.

Prevents black smoke from escaping and reduces pollution levels.

Which are the disadvantages of carbon cleaning the engine?

First of all, you need to know how to set your expectations, this being a maintenance operation, such as a car air conditioning, oil or filters change, etc., which will not solve other more serious problems such as mechanical or electrical.

Some drivers, after doing engine decarbonization, said that they did not feel any differences, or that the car became noisier, etc.

Thus, there are no visible disadvantages, but you must be very careful where you go. You should make sure you choose a controlled environment, an authorized service that deals with such procedures because if it is not performed correctly, major engine failures can occur.

What are the extra costs?

You can check the level of the carbon buildup by taking your car to an auto shop to diagnose this problem. Expect to pay anywhere between $110 and $220 to have your vehicle diagnosed.

Important things to consider

Carbon Cleaning Before AfterDepending on the cylinder capacity of the engine, a carbon cleaning process takes 30 minutes for petrol-powered engines, while the same job performed on diesel engines will take about an hour.
In general, the carbon cleaning of the engine should be done every 32,000 miles, but this depends on the car, the type of fuel used, or the style of driving. You can see the first signs that something like this may be needed on the exhaust pipe when the deposits start to become consistent.

If you already feel that your car is consuming more than it used to or is “pulling” a little slower when you accelerate, you should contact an engine carbon cleaning service and ask for an opinion or an evaluation of the engine. Carbon cleaning the engine is a process that can “restore” the car to the one you drove the first time.

However, there are car manufacturers that do not recommend carbon cleaning for certain car models. For reasons of reducing emissions, modern engines are specially designed to have complete combustion so as to minimize carbon emissions. For these engines, carbon cleaning no longer serves its purpose, as deposits are almost non-existent and do not affect car performance or fuel consumption.

How can I save money?

It is recommended to ask for price offers from multiple carbon cleaning professionals and compare the costs in order to save some money.

In some cases, discounts may be offered to the seniors, military, first responders, or AAA members. So, if you are in one of these categories you may be able to save money on the carbon cleaning job.

Also, you can save money by preventing the carbon buildup by taking some measures such as changing the oil, replacing the spark plugs, and cleaning the fuel injectors.

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