If you have a late-model vehicle, you probably have an engine cover. These plastic sound-insulation devices are the perfect illusion for car manufacturers to cover up their ugly messes of hoses and wires. I mean, if you really want to sell a vehicle, why not open the hood up and let everyone drool over how clean the engine bay looks. Yes, an engine bay, so clean that you can eat off it, says something about the performance and quality of its build, one would presume. However, when it comes to owning a late-model vehicle and having to wrestle with a new obstacle every time the thing needs a closer inspection or service, the plastic covers suck!
Yes, it is now even dangerous to lift up an engine cover. This is because manufacturers such as BMW have incorporated all sorts of vacuum hoses and plumbing into the folds. So, if you plan on lifting that cover yourself, be forewarned that it is now an idiot gauge for the dealerships to determine whether some fool tinkered with your automobile. This makes it easier for them to appraise the vehicles when you come back for that trade-in. I liken it to that safety seal that we find on a bottle of medicine or even a bottle of milk.
This is the trade-off for improved performance. We need something to cover up all those hideous wires, hoses, and brackets. I mean, it gives engine engineers a wider latitude of ingenuity. They get to build turbos with more vacuum hoses and oil cooler lines than anyone knows what to do with whilst covering it all up in a branding campaign. Do we really need to know what the engine itself actually looks like under its plastic shell? I think that is kind of intrusive on the privacy of a quality automobile to get so personal by removing the covers.
Before Engine Covers
Before we had these fancy plastic covers that popped on with rubber gaskets upon plastic posts, we had engines that stood for something. The pre-plastic cover days brought us those beautiful BMW air intake manifolds that sat like something anthropomorphic and elegant on top of the engine. The symmetry, smooth contours, and brushed aluminum shine were no accident. And even though they were accented with bright blue fuel injectors, the wiring was harnessed and relatively neat and clean.
In this manner, plastic covers have cheapened the entire image of the engine bay. They make the engine look like some kind of cheap plastic toy. Having an impressive aluminum intake with the BMW logo emblazoned in the center was like owning a piece of car jewelry, a hood ornament, some quality metal hub caps. Now, what we have are these flimsy plastic pieces that break and vibrate when we try to remove them. This is just one more over-priced item for the dealership to sell you when it inevitably cracks and deteriorates.
Remember the battery covers that Volkswagen started featuring in their B5 and two-point-slow Jetta models? Almost 95 percent of those vehicles never put that battery cover back on after it was removed. And the 5 percent who tried to put it back on wound up cracking it. Plastic clips don’t hold up well under ordinary pressure when it is 10 degrees outside. But, obviously, the engineers weren’t considering this when they designed the engine covers in a warm office in Germany one afternoon.
Engine covers are the latest fad since Lexus rolled them out to wow customers with those showroom cars in malls and dealerships. The other dealers have all followed suit and marvelously reduced the costs of building those durable branded metal components that had a sense of history and permanence. Do we really need them? Until something cheaper comes out to give the manufacturers more wow-factor for their buck, we are stuck with them.