Gaskets are made to keep fluids in place and parts working properly; one of the most important is the valve cover gasket. The valve cover gasket helps seal the valve cover and protect the engine.
When this part fails, there is a risk of major engine damage due to oil leaks and poor performance. Let’s start with a quick overview of the signs to look for:
The most common symptom of a bad valve cover gasket is external oil leaks and low engine oil when you check the dipstick. You may also notice a burning smell after accelerating. In some cars, this can also cause the engine to misfire or light up.
Here is a more detailed list of the most common symptoms of a bad valve cover gasket:
Symptoms of a Bad or Leaking Valve Cover Gasket
1. oil leaks
Every time you see an oil leak under your vehicle, it becomes alarming. However, oil leaks are caused by many problems, so it’s not just a telltale sign of a bad valve cover gasket.
Still, if you notice oil leaking from the valve cover area, you can assume that the gasket has deteriorated. Inspect the area around the seal for oil leaks.
Initially, the oil leak will be minimal and will worsen over time. After a while, it might even cover the surface of the valve cover, causing a thick layer of dirt to build up on the valve cover.
If you let the oil continue to drip, you risk major engine repairs in the future. Additionally, this symptom causes additional wear on the belts and hoses as the oil softens the rubber on the belts and hoses, eventually causing premature failure.
2. Low oil level
Regularly checking your engine oil levels is essential. When the oil level is too low, it is often a sign of a problem, especially when it happens frequently.
The engine operates as a sealed system, so the oil should not disappear unless something is wrong. Start by checking the valve cover for signs of leaks.
While you wait for the valve cover gasket to be repaired, be sure to continue topping up the oil. Running the engine without the proper amount of lubrication can cause the engine to stall and fail.
3. burning smell
The smell of burning oil should always be a cause for concern. When oil leaks from the valve cover, it can easily flow into your car’s hot engine and exhaust. What you are left with is the unmistakable smell of burning oil.
This smell becomes unbearable when you open the hood, although you don’t see the oil burning. Any time you smell burning oil, you should assume there is a risk of your car catching fire and stop driving immediately.
RELATED: 7 Reasons Why Your Car Smells Like Burnt Rubber After Driving
4. The engine failed
When a car engine fails, many causes contribute to poor performance. One of the most common reasons for misfires is a faulty spark plug or a problem in the fuel system. However, you should not overlook the possibility of a faulty valve cover gasket.
The valve cover is located above the spark plugs. When the gasket fails and allows oil to leak into the car’s spark plugs, fluid can enter through the openings. As oil builds up, the spark plugs cannot function properly and become clogged.
This causes the spark plug to fail, reducing the ignition of the air-fuel mixture. What you’re left with is an engine that fails and creates a rough ride. It can also cause an engine fire if not treated immediately.
RELATED: 6 Causes of Engine Oil on Spark Plugs
5. Board lights
Some people rely on dashboard warnings to tell them when something is wrong. If you haven’t checked the oil, this could be your first indication of a problem.
The oil warning light can alert you to low pressure or a lack of lubrication in the engine. You may also see Check Engine Light if the valve cover gasket fails. Any of these indicators tell you that there is a critical issue that needs to be addressed immediately.
The valve cover gasket function
The engine valve cover is designed to protect your car’s engine components. Not only does it keep the elements out of the engine, but it also prevents damage to expensive machinery.
The valve cover is sealed with the valve cover gasket. Although it is just a thin strip of rubber placed between the valve cover and the engine, the gasket plays an important role. Without it, oil can leak out of the system and cause engine damage.
Over time, this seal becomes brittle and cracks. This may be due to old age or simply excessive engine heat.
RELATED: 5 Symptoms of a Bad Valve Cover
Valve cover gasket location
The valve cover gasket is located between the engine and the valve cover. You will find the valve cover sitting on top of the engine. It is the hard cover that protects the valves and engine components.
The gasket is used to create a tight seal between the engine and the valve cover. Often this part fails due to old age and needs to be replaced. To replace the valve cover gasket, you must also remove the valve cover.
Valve Cover Gasket Replacement Cost
Expect the cost to replace the valve cover gasket to be between $90 and $400, depending on the type of vehicle you drive. You’ll find new valve cover gaskets for $40 to $50, with most of the cost going to labor. To replace the valve cover gasket, labor can cost between $50 and $350.
Fortunately, it is often the gasket that needs replacing, not the valve cover. However, if this part also needs to be replaced, this can be done with minimal effort at the same time as changing the gasket, as both parts are removed at the same time. The only extra would be the valve cover itself.