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Symptoms & Signs Of A Valve Cover Gasket Leak

August 31, 2022
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Your valve cover gasket is a vital piece to your car’s function – and can be overlooked easily in the routine maintenance process. It’s important to understand its function and risk factors to ensure that you can continue operating your vehicle safely. 

A leaking valve cover gasket can cause an eventual imbalance with available engine oil reserves, compromising your function and causing extensive internal harm. Valve cover gasket replacement should be considered if you notice persistent symptoms of failure. 

Below, we’re exploring what a valve cover gasket is, its function, and risks associated with part malfunction. We’ll also be answering commonly asked questions around valve cover gasket leaking and driving safety in the event of a leak. 


Read on to learn more about your vehicle’s valve cover gasket. 

5 symptoms of a valve cover gasket leak

There are many possible symptoms of a valve cover gasket leak, which could point to future problems with your engine. We’ve outlined some of the most common symptoms below for your reference: 

1. Visible soiling and stains 

If you notice visible staining, leaking, or oil smells on your valve cover gasket, it may be time for an inspection or service. This could be a sign of a possible leak, which could lead to further engine damage later on. Staying vigilant and doing regular checks (approximately every other month) can help you to catch leaks early and preserve the life of your vehicle. 

2. Overheating engine 

Your engine can overheat for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it’s too hot, or there isn’t enough coolant in the engine. However, frequent engine overheating could be due to a low engine oil level, which is caused by chronic or acute leaking valve cover gasket parts. If your engine overheats in a remote or dangerous area, you could be in greater risk of physical harm –and it can cause additional and extensive damage to your engine area and related systems.

3. Irregular oil change schedules 

This is often one of the first noticeable symptoms, as you’re likely aware of the regularity and schedule you keep around your car’s oil changes. If you notice yourself going more frequently than usual, you may be a victim of a valve cover gasket leak. 

4. An unpleasant, “burning” scent from the engine bay 

If you’re dealing with a leaking valve cover gasket, oil can migrate to different areas of your car’s hot engine bay. This can result in a very strong, unpleasant odor of burning oil coming from under your hood – which will be evident each time you start and drive your car. 

5. Low engine oil levels 

 Naturally, your engine oil level will be lower with a leak. Keeping tabs on your engine oil level is vital to protecting and preserving your car’s longevity and function. 

What can cause a valve cover gasket leak?

There are plenty of reasons for leaking valve cover gaskets. For example, the casing or element itself could be worn from time and use, leading to shrunken material or microtears that can burst with overuse. 

Additionally, mechanical failure could pose additional risk for these types of leaks. Something as simple as a loose valve cover bolt (as well as breakage and/or removal) can result in this type of gasket leak – and can lead to future engine issues. 

If you’re noticing issues, consider getting an inspection or checking it yourself. Some vehicles have multiple valve cover gaskets, which can lead to ongoing issues if you’re under the assumption that you just have a single-gasket setup. 

How to identify a valve cover gasket leak

Conducting ongoing, regular vehicle assessments is the best way to find and address valve cover gasket leaks. Most commonly, you’ll notice that unpleasant burning smell mentioned above as oil burns on top of your engine’s manifold. You may also notice irregularity in your oil change schedule, along with frequent overheating in inappropriate situations (such as in the colder winter months). 

3 FAQs on valve cover gasket leaks

  1. Is a leaking valve cover gasket dangerous? 

Unfortunately, a valve cover gasket leak can be dangerous if it leads to spontaneous vehicle failure or overheating as you drive. While it doesn’t pose a serious risk of sudden harm otherwise, it can cause extensive internal damage to your engine and related systems, which can cost hundreds or thousands to repair. 

  1. Can I drive with a leaking valve cover gasket? 

It is not recommended that you drive with a leaking valve cover gasket, as this can lead to overheating and engine insufficiency, as well as extensive engine damage. 

  1. How much does it cost to fix a valve cover gasket leak? 

The price you pay to fix a valve cover gasket leak depends on several factors, such as the extent of the damage to the related systems and engine, as well as the overall costs of materials and labor in your home state. On average, you can expect to pay anywhere between $200-$500 for replacement parts and labor, excluding any damage-related costs in your vehicle’s engine bay. 

Convenient auto repair at home 

Looking for your auto repair solution? Consider the team at RepairSmith. Our experts come to your home and take care of vital service needs for your car’s function. For more information, please connect with us today.