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What would happen if you took all the plastic covers away from your engine? What damage can you expect?

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Posted January 15, 2019

If you pop the bonnet and look into the engine compartment of a modern car, what do you see? Nothing. Well, not quite nothing, but pretty close – just a sea of plastic. Engine compartments became nests of various lines and wires that are nowadays hidden under hundreds of plastic covers. But what is unsightly view for some, for others is a nice mechanicalness of the automobile. So what if we remove all those covers and throw them away?

Engine compartments of modern cars are filled with plastic. Image credit: Daimler

Other than gaining a better look at the engine, there really is no reason to remove those plastic covers. They do not add much weight, since they are made from plastic. So throwing them away doesn’t really help saving weight. On the other hand, you have to remove them in order to repair anything so one day you may decide that you’re too lazy to put them back in their intended places. You’re not losing anything just leaving them in the garage, right?

Well, not quite. These plastic covers do actually serve a function. First of all, they are there to reduce noise. Plastic is a decent sound insulator, which means that covering engine with several sheets of plastics makes it a bit quieter. Secondly, it protects various components from dust and, sometimes, water. There are so many electronic components in modern cars it is difficult to know what’s what. But these covers do provide some protection. Thirdly, sometimes they hold these wires and other lines in their places preventing rattling. Finally, in some cars these plastic covers have heat shields incorporated in them. There may be some metallic coatings on these plastic pieces or even some very thin sheets of gold. All in all, you should not drive too far with these covers taken off – manufacturer will totally not be happy about you doing that. But what are the risks, really?

In older cars (10-20 years old), these covers were purely cosmetic and served no actual function. It means that taking them off and throwing them away did no damage. However, story goes differently nowadays. By driving without plastic covers you are risking damaging electronics with dust or even water. Various wires can rattle out of places and that wouldn’t be great. Bonnet itself can get some heat damage from the engine. And, of course, you would be driving in a bit more noisy environment.

However, probably the biggest risk is that if any of these bad things happen, you’re on your own. Manufacturers don’t want customers messing with their cars. This means that removing plastic covers pretty much removes the warranty as well. Although the chances of actually experiencing some damage are pretty slim, you don’t want to risk it. So if seeing a nice engine under your bonnet is your thing, just buy a nice older car.

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