Valve Cover Gasket

On an October Tuesday, I took my shiny 2 year old car to the mechanic for some routine maintenance. Everything was fine. I re-jiggered my transportation and convinced my coworkers to try a new Thai place for lunch. It was delicious.

The next Tuesday, I took my modestly wrinkly 12 year car to the mechanic for some overdue routine maintenance. Everything went fine, but the mechanic said I had a substantial oil leak and needed a new valve cover gasket. Also, they didn't have enough time to do it today, but I could leave it with them for another day and get it done. Also, only one coworker was willing to get lunch with me (down from two) and now neither of us had a car.

At the time, I didn't know what a valve cover gasket was, but I did know that the lunch situation was a problem. Confronted with the prospect of a solitary and unsatisfying sandwich experience at my desk and emboldened by some youtube videos, I decided to become a valve cover gasket repair enthusiast.


Against the backdrop of the NYC marathon, I started my project. Greg came out for some visits, but I think he and Julie spent most of the morning absorbed in the race and a variety of jumping calisthenics. Her success in keeping him distracted meant that my worst fears - Greg macing himself with brake cleaner and bolts being somehow thrown into the depths of the engine - were totally avoided.

And success.

Left: valves fully covered, right: gone wild.

I may have just a little bit cracked the valve cover itself because I forgot to take a bolt out and started prying, but it didn't seem all that important. I mean it's a cover. I'm sure it'll be fine.

The old gasket was intact, but instead of being all soft and rubbery, it was super brittle and I had to chisel it out of the valve cover. The spark plug "tube" gaskets were already breaking apart.

All cleaned up.

In the photo, the bits of the old gasket are in the lower right. There should be four donuts and one giant rectangle thing. Instead, broken pieces.

The whole job took about 4 hours with some visits inside and some marathon watching. I also got a minor prying injury on a finger. Parts cost me about $50. The mechanic had estimated about $175. Then I suppose you have to count an hour or so for watching youtube. And probably a couple hours for parts shopping. And we should probably also consider that I may have broken something or caused an even bigger oil leak...

It's fun is what I'm saying. Feels powerful and the contraptions look cool when they are naked.


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