Before working on a part of the car, you may need to clean off heavy greasy dirt. This task is easier if you use a proprietary degreaser, which dissolves oil and grease.
Some are sold in aerosol spray cans, but are relatively expensive and can be unpleasant if used in a confined space for any length of time.
Buy degreaser in 5 litre drums and pour it into a smaller container - ideally a wide, shallow one - as you need it.
Apply with an old paintbrush, and make sure electrical parts such as the distributor are protected by plastic bags or sheeting.
Degreaser can be washed off with water, but quite often leaves a thin, milky film that can be removed with petrol or paraffin.
For washing dismantled parts, use paraffin or petrol in a shallow pan. An old toothbrush is ideal for cleaning small parts. Beware of the fire hazard - do not smoke or use a naked flame.
On a fairly new car, covering the underbody with sealing compound will discourage corrosion. It c...