How to Use a Borescope in an Engine

A borescope is a handy remote viewing tool that allows working professionals and DIY enthusiasts alike to get a detailed, up-close, look at a small, enclosed, or otherwise hard-to-reach area. Essentially a “tiny camera on a (usually very flexible) stick”, a borescope can be used to view countless different areas. These tools are incredibly popular with plumbers, HVAC technicians, and home inspectors, for instance — and it is no surprise that auto mechanics everywhere heavily rely on borescopes, too.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to fix things yourself, and you like to tinker with your car, a borescope should certainly feature heavily on your wish list. Inspecting a car engine, including the valves, cylinder heads, and piston crowns, becomes much easier with a borescope. You can get a good look of your entire engine without ever having to take the engine block apart if you have access to a borescope.

If you were to take your vehicle into your local auto body repair shop, the mechanics there would certainly do the same thing. How do you use a borescope in an engine when you haven’t had the training or experience they do, though?

What Kind of Borescope Do You Need to Inspect an Engine?

How to Use a Borescope in an Engine

Because borescopes are so popular in the automotive industry now, it is no surprise that many borescopes are specifically designed and marketed as “car borescopes” or “automotive borescopes”. These models are primarily manufactured with auto body repair shops in mind — they are workhorses that have high resolutions and a long battery life to make it possible to use them all day. These professional car borescopes also, of course, come with a corresponding price tag.

DIY enthusiasts who simply have to have all the latest and greatest tools can buy one of these high-end borescopes, of course — but before you do, it’s important to know that even many professionals get by just fine with cheaper and more basic borescopes.

Not sure where to get started? These borescopes will allow you to carry out your own car engine inspections, but at the same time, they will also come in handy the next time your bathroom sink is clogged or you need to get a good look at your crawl space:

  • The DEPSTECH 5.0MP HD Inspection Camera is a wireless borescope with a water-resistant cable that has a length of 16.5 feet. It connects to your iPhone, Android phone, or laptop, has multiple light settings, and costs $70.
  • The NIDAGE 5.5mm Wireless Endoscope, which is very popular among mechanics, has a cable with a working length of 11.5 feet. It connects to your Android device or iPhone through WiFi and works especially well in dark conditions like engine inspections. The best part? This borescope costs only $36.
  • Teslong’s Dual Lens Borescope is ideal for people who are looking for a borescope with a built-in LCD screen. This durable waterproof borescope is available for just $66.

If you dig around a bit, however, it will not take you long to discover that many professional and hobbyist mechanics are able to get a lot of use out of even cheaper borescopes. People who only want to use a borescope occasionally do not have to invest much to get a basic borescope that does the job just fine.

Keep in mind that some USB borescopes are only compatible with Android or iPhone, but not both, as you shop. Depending on the other things you may want to use the borescope for, it is also important to consider the diameter of the probe and the working length of the cable as you decide what borescope is right for you.

How Do You Use a Borescope in an Engine?

How to Use a Borescope in an Engine

Once you have chosen a borescope to use in your car, it’s a good idea to read the instruction manual — or at least to skim it — after you unbox it. Doing so will let you know where all the controls are, and what settings the borescope may have.

In some cases, especially with wireless borescopes, you will need to install an app to allow the borescope to transmit images and footage to your device. If that’s true for your borescope, do that first. Now connect the borescope and check that everything is in good working order.

Once you are ready to inspect your engine, here are the required steps:

  • If you are using a laptop to connect to the borescope, you can simply place it on top of the engine.
  • Take the spark plug out of your engine and place it somewhere safe.
  • Gently guide the borescope’s probe into the engine through the spark plug opening.
  • To inspect the top of the engine, it is helpful if your borescope has a mirror attachment. Many models come with one.
  • Guide the borescope to the area you want to inspect, keeping a close eye on the monitor the entire time. You might discover carbon buildup inside your vehicle’s engine, or you may be checking for a leak. In this case, examine the fuel injectors.

Once you have completed your borescopic engine inspection, remove the probe in a slow and controlled manner, making sure not to hit any obstacles on the way out. You can now clean the borescope and return it to its case.

After you have successfully inspected your car’s engine, you may be able to work on fixing the problem yourself — or you may decide to call in the professionals. In either case, you will definitely discover how nifty your new borescope is. Before long, you will probably set out in search of new ways to use your borescope.

Inspecting your car engine is far from the only automotive application of a borescope. You can also check the water pump, radiators, and brakes, and if you are able to do this by yourself, that cheap borescope can end up saving you a lot of money that you might otherwise have to spend on professional vehicle maintenance!