Valve Cover Gasket (Everything To Know)

Nothing should make an engine leak in a perfect world, and it should remain clean for a longer time. However, it is just an imagination and simply impossible because the older an engine gets, the more susceptible it is to leakages, as it has served the owner for a long time and even travelled many distances.

These leaks can cause a wide range of intensifying problems. These leakages can originate from various sources, and their severity can always change.

The most significant leak occurs when warm engine oil seeps out of the engine block and cylinder heads, coating the engine’s outer surfaces.

There are many possibilities for oil leaks, but the most common one is a valve cover leak. The valve cover is the most common source of oil leakage in modern engines, causing many drivers to think about the same issues year after year.

Continue reading to know more about the valve cover gasket of an engine, its duties, valve cover gasket leak symptoms, and also how you can go about a valve cover gasket replacement. We also provide you with several ways you can save on a valve cover gasket replacement.

There are two kinds of gaskets used in different modern engines, namely, liquid gasket and formed rubber gasket. These two types of gaskets can be differentiated based on the materials used to make the valve covers and the force exerted on the seal.

Valve Cover Gasket Leak Symptoms

When a valve cover gasket goes bad and no longer functions, the signs are always there to show you that it has gone bad and requires change. Here is a compiled list of some of the valve cover gasket leak symptoms.

1. Burning Oil Smell

This is one of the common symptoms of a valve cover gasket. Whenever your valve cover gasket gets bad or becomes punctured, compressed oil will start leaking beneath it.

When this happens as the engine is radiating or moving, the spilt oil will drop on top of either the cylinder heads, exhaust pipes, or fuel intakes.

Also, if these parts are very hot, they will burn oil, thus producing a burning oil smell. If you’re a driver, it can easily be identified.

2. Low Oil Levels In The Engine

Here, if oil is leaking from the valve cover gasket, you will notice oil dripping from the oil plate, thereby making the check engine light on the dash turn on.

An insufficient oil level can result in the inner engine parts being less lubricated and might lead to the engine overheating.

You should get your car checked by a mechanic if your check engine light comes on.

3. Valve Cover Is Dirty And Visible Oil Leaks

 During oil changing activities, some mechanics often check the valve cover to find any leaks, as it is the quickest sign to know when a valve cover is very dirty.

This activity is most common among auto mechanics. Oil can easily grab dirt and debris underneath the hood and builds up to the point that it becomes cloaked on the valve cover or the cylinder head.

The dirt and debris are signs of gasket leaks, therefore requiring change.

4. A Rough-Running Engine And Misfiring

A misfiring & rough-running engine is another symptom of a valve cover gasket leak. As the oil leaks from the valve cover gasket, it runs down into the spark plug galley and then into the spark plug tubes, causing misfiring and a reduction in engine performance.

Oil seepage can also lead to a fire under the hood. this is one of the valve cover gasket leak symptoms. Improperly applied covers can also cause these issues. These symptoms should be noted immediately and your vehicle taken to a mechanic.

Also Read: How Much Oil Does My Car Need?

What Can Cause a Valve Cover Gasket Leak?

Valve Cover Gasket Leak

To every effect, there is a cause, and therefore, for a valve cover gasket to have leakage, there should be some explanations of what resulted in it. This can help an auto mechanic towards solving the problem easily.

Below are some of the most common causes of a valve cover gasket leak:

1. Infrequent Oil Changes

This is the most common explanation for why there is a leak in the valve cover gasket. When you frequently change your engine oil, you stand little or no chance of experiencing wear or ageing of valve cover gaskets, as the engine oils have additives that prevent gasket wear or damage.

But failure to change your oil as often as required will lead to disastrous effects.

2. Overheating

This can be a significant explanation of valve cover gasket leaks. Whenever an engine exceeds its specific temperature rate, it makes the engine gaskets overheat, thus increasing the danger of crack or blowout.

Overheating can cause damage to the engine’s valve cover gasket(s) and compromise other seals, such as the head gasket. It is not uncommon to find multiple failed gaskets on a single engine in the case of severe engine overheating.

3. Over/Under Tightened Valve Cover Bolts

On the other hand, over-tightening the gasket is also inappropriate, as it will result in a flattened gasket surface and an improper gasket seat. So, just tighten the gasket moderately.

Valve cover gasket replacement costs can vary significantly from one vehicle to another. This is often due to differences in labor costs across different engine models.

How to Save Money on a Valve Cover Gasket Replacement

Valve Cover Gasket

You may be able to do a valve cover gasket replacement yourself, depending on what kind of vehicle you have. You can save some money by eliminating all labor costs.

Replacing a valve cover gasket is easy as long as you are properly guided and follow the replacement guide for your car. It is also important to note that If you do not remove parts properly, it can cause oil leaks and other disastrous effects.

Another way to reduce valve cover gasket replacement costs is to solicit quotes from various mechanics and compare their prices (if you intend to hire one).

You should always ask questions about a particular mechanic before allowing them to fix the valve cover gasket leak, especially if it is a cheaper option.

Valve Cover Gasket Replacement: How To Do It Yourself

Follow these steps to know how to replace a valve cover gasket

  1. First, position your car by parking it on a flat surface.
  2. Give your vehicle engine time to cool off.
  3. Find the valve cover and pull it out.
  4. Get rid of the previous valve cover gasket and fix the new one.
  5. Apply silicone to enable it to stick (only the area required).
  6. After working on it, you can now re-position the valve cover again and tighten bolts appropriately as required.

Here is a video guide to help you with a valve cover gasket replacement

Things To Remember During A Valve Cover gasket Replacement

Here are some things to remember when you replace a leaking valve gasket.

  1. The mechanical parts of engines always tend to be more durable than the valve cover itself. In other words, replacing gaskets is not by any means difficult, and that includes the valve cover gasket.
  2. It is not advisable to use any ‘stop leak’ brands for your engine, as they are not usually recommended by car manufacturers and tend to cause extra problems to a vehicle, thereby increasing the cost of repairs.
  3. Make sure you frequently get your mechanic to check every leak, as some old vehicles will develop valve cover gasket leaks as well as other leakages.
  4. There is a Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) valve, which can be put inside a rubber grommet found in one of the valve covers. If this grommet is worn out or punctured, it could create a medium for leakage. Therefore, you need your mechanic to inspect it and replace it if required.

Also Read: What is a Serpentine Belt & When Should You Replace It

Frequently Asked Question

What Is A Valve Cover Gasket?

The valve cover gasket is a seal that sits between the valve covers and the engine and seals oil inside. the valve cover gasket stops motor oil from leaking as it travels around the valves, camshafts, and rockers. The valve cover gasket also seals many spark plug ports.

Is a Valve Cover Gasket Leak Serious?

Yes, a valve cover gasket leak is serious. It is important not to ignore the problem, or you will end up paying for more repairs that could have been avoided. You run the risk of engine failure if you don’t act quickly.

How much does it cost to replace a valve cover gasket?

Valve cover gasket replacement costs average between $215 to $255. Parts are $55, and labor costs range between $160 to $200. Taxes and fees are not included in these prices and may not reflect your vehicle’s unique situation. Other repairs might also be required.

What are Valve Cover Gasket Leak Symptoms?

Symptoms of a valve cover gasket leak include:
1. Burning oil smell. 
2. The valve cover is dirty and leaks Oil.
3. The engine is low on Oil.
4. Engine running rough and causing misfires.

Can you drive a car with a valve cover leak?

Yes, As long as there isn’t any oil leaking onto hot engine parts, such as the exhaust manifold or the crankcase, you can drive your car safely until you can fix it.

How long does it take to replace valve cover gaskets?

It can take anywhere from 1-3 hours to replace a valve cover gasket depending on the extent of the damage.

How long should a valve cover gasket last?

The average car’s gaskets last between 20,000 and 50,000 miles. The valve cover is essential for keeping the Oil from leaking when you are driving your vehicle. Choosing the right Gasket to cover your valve cover can be challenging due to the many options available.

When replacing the valve cover gasket, What else should I replace?

If you were recommended a valve cover gasket replacement due to leaking, ensure the fastener seals are also replaced. They will go bad next if they are not replaced. If any other components are connected to the valve cover somehow, it is worth replacing them.

Do I need to drain the Oil to change the valve cover gasket?

No, You don’t need to drain the Oil to change the Valve cover gaskets. This can lead to gasket failure and leakage, which could cause cosmetic problems, drivability issues, and decreased engine performance.

Can a valve cover gasket leak cause overheating?

Valve cover gaskets Leaks do not cause the engine to overheat; they only leak Oil.

Scott Greene is a seasoned automotive technician for over 5 years and has been deep into advanced automotive diagnostics for a couple of years. He Loves writing about Automotive Diagnostics and Repair, Trouble codes, Buyer guides for various car parts and accessories, and lots more. 

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