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Blog Car Care Advice What Is A Valve Cover Gasket? Plus Symptoms, How To Replace & Costs

What Is A Valve Cover Gasket? Plus Symptoms, How To Replace & Costs

August 10, 2022

When your engine starts burning oil along with gas, the signs are hard to miss. 
You may see smoke clouds when you start your vehicle, or your cabin could fill up with a weird burnt oil smell. 

Are you experiencing these signs too? 
Chances are that your engine might have a leaking valve cover gasket. 

But what’s a valve cover gasket? 
And how to spot one that’s failing? 

In this article, we’ll cover everything about valve cover gaskets, including what’s a valve cover gasket, signs of a failing cover gasket, replacement steps, and cost. 

This Article Contains: 

Let’s begin. 

What Is A Valve Cover Gasket?

The valve cover gasket, typically made of rubber, plastic, or cork, forms a tight seal between the valve cover (engine cover) and the engine body. It’s one of the critical engine components that prevents oil from escaping the engine body. 

But why does engine oil escape? 

The intake and exhaust valves of an engine open and close rapidly while your vehicle runs. This creates considerable mechanical action, requiring a hot oil shower for lubricating critical combustion parts. 

The valve cover gasket is positioned between the engine and the valve cover to seal the oil inside. However, like other engine parts, the cover gasket dries out or cracks, losing its ability to contain the engine oil. 

A leaky valve cover gasket can allow debris and small particles between the pistons and cylinder, causing wear and tear. Low oil in the engine could also cause metal components to grind against each other, shortening your engine life. 

So, let’s go over how damaged valve cover gaskets are replaced.  

How To Replace A Valve Cover Gasket? (A General Know-How)

Here’s a general guideline on valve cover gasket replacement. Always let a professional mechanic handle the task if you’re unfamiliar with engine parts:

1. Try to tighten the gasket first: Sometimes, engine vibrations can wriggle out or loosen the gasket over time, allowing the oil to escape. Before getting a new valve cover gasket set, use a torque wrench to tighten the cover gasket to the manufacturer’s specifications. 

2. Allow the engine to cool off: If tightening the gasket doesn’t stop the oil leakage, allow the engine to cool off before accessing the valve cover. Some vehicles may require you to remove the plumbing first. You may also need to remove the PCV hoses, spark plug tubes, brackets, and throttle cables. 

3. Lift off the valve cover: Remove the valve cover bolts and lift the cover. If it doesn’t budge, gently tap it with a rubber mallet. Cover your engine with a rag to prevent dropping off any bolt into the internal compartment. 

4. Replace the old gasket and fit the new one: Pry off the old gasket with your hands or use a plastic or silicone scraper. Avoid using metal to remove the gasket material as it could damage the unit. 

5: Apply silicone (only if recommended by the manufacturer): If your service manual asks you to apply silicone, first clear the surface of the valve cover with a brake cleaner. Apply the silicone and leave it to cure before firing up your engine. 

6: Re-install the valve cover: Once the new valve cover gasket is in place, replace the valve cover and tighten the mounting bolts. 

Wondering how much it’ll cost to get the cover gasket replaced by a mechanic?
Let’s find out.  

How Much Does A Valve Cover Gasket Replacement Cost? 

On average, valve cover gasket replacement costs between $110 – $340, depending on the make and model of your vehicle. 

Valve cover gaskets are generally inexpensive, costing $10 to $40.
But the labor charges could set you back by $100 to $300. 

Even though replacing valve cover gaskets is a fairly straightforward job, some vehicles may require removing other engine components, which means additional labor. 

For example, a V6 engine may require removing the intake manifold to access the rear valve cover. In that case, the replacement cost could escalate to $250-$330 as labor charges plus $25-$85 for a valve cover gasket set. 

You may want to know how safe it is to drive with a faulty valve cover gasket before getting a replacement.

Is It Safe To Drive With A Leaking Valve Cover Gasket? 

A valve cover leak isn’t a fault that’ll leave you stranded on the road. 
Yet, it’s not an auto repair that you should neglect for long.

The urgency of a valve cover gasket replacement depends on how bad the leak is

Certain high-mileage cars may have some “sweating” around the valve cover. If the oil leak isn’t too much or if there’s no burnt oil smell, it isn’t a big issue. But, if you can smell burnt oil from under the hood, oil vapors have likely entered the air you’re breathing, which is a health hazard. 

Hot leaking oil could also damage other car parts, like a spark plug or the drive belt, and even cause engine misfires. So if you suspect a gasket leak, don’t delay a valve cover gasket replacement. 

Let’s get a cleared picture on how to spot a bad valve cover gasket. 

3 Revealing Signs Of A Valve Cover Gasket Leak

Engine oil (or motor oil) is a caustic lubricant that can slowly eat away at the rubber gasket. When that happens, a leaky valve cover gasket will allow the motor oil to move freely to other engine parts, damaging them over time. 

To prevent expensive repairs, here are some of the leaking valve cover signs that you should watch out for: 

A. Low Engine Oil

If you notice the “Low Oil” light illuminated on your dashboard, you should look for a leaking valve cover gasket before checking out other possible causes. 

A bad valve cover gasket will allow engine oil to escape. Having low engine oil could create friction between the engine components. This, in turn, will cause the engine block temperature to rise quickly, leading to motor failure and possibly, even fires. 

B. Burning Smell

The oil leak can drip onto other extremely hot engine parts, such as the fuel intake or cylinder head. This burning oil will give off a strong odor or lead to excessive smoke in the exhaust when the engine is running. 

C. Rough-Running Engine

Sometimes an oil leak can make its way up to a spark plug, leading to a misfire, or the engine may fail to run smoothly. You may also hear strange sounds when you hit the throttle. 

In worst cases, a spark plug may ignite the engine oil, causing your vehicle to catch fire. 

Wrapping Up 

Valve cover gaskets are vital for protecting cylinder head hardware and preventing the engine oil from escaping the engine. 

So when it comes to replacing the valve cover gasket and accessing critical engine parts, it’s best to have an experienced mechanic perform the replacement for you. 

That’s where RepairSmith steps in. 

With RepairSmith, you get:

Contact us, and our mechanics will drop by to quickly perform a valve cover gasket replacement or other services like an oil change right in your driveway!