The purpose of the valve cover gasket is to seal the valve cover to the top of the engine cylinder head to prevent the leakage of oil, protect the cylinder head, and prevent air leaks for proper PCV functionality. The valve cover gasket also seals spark plug ports, which are integral to the proper functioning of your vehicle’s engine.
A valve cover gasket will typically fail due to heat exposure and general wear and tear over time. This can result in oil leaking from your engine, accumulation of oil inside the spark plug ports, and even complete failure of the engine.
Depending on the configuration of your vehicle, you may have one or two valve covers. 4 or 6-cylinder engines are typically fitted with one valve cover, while V6 or V8 engines will have two. One is not more prone to failure than the other, and the reasons for failure are identical and straight forward. Here are a few things to look for if you suspect your valve cover gasket has failed.
Normally, a valve cover gasket failure can be attributed simply to time. These parts are made of rubber. With a constant cycle of heating and cooling (when your vehicle is turned on and off), and exposure to abrasive dirt and debris, this material is expected to harden and become brittle after about 20,000 to 50,000 miles.
If you notice any of the following symptoms of a valve cover gasket failure, contact your mechanic right away, as this issue left unresolved could result in the loss of engine functionality.
Before you notice any odors or leaks, you can identify a compromised valve cover gasket by inspecting your vehicle under the hood. Search for:
● Loose/missing bolts or screws
● Cracks in the valve cover or other deformities in the gasket which cause it to stick out from the valve cover
● Oil residue around the valve cover and/or spark plug ports.
● Caked dirt and debris around the valve cover
You can find the valve cover gasket at the very top of the engine head, it will typically sit above most other components of the engine. If none of the following help you in confirming a valve cover gasket failure, here are a few more symptoms to pay attention to.
A telltale sign to look out for is the leakage of oil. It is easy to spot a puddle of oil underneath your vehicle in parking spot or your driveway. However, oil can leak inside the engine without much warning to you. Leaking oil can soak engine components, such as the motor, and seep into the spark plug port where the ignition wire and coil connect. This can cause serious problems for your engine in addition to the acidic nature of the oil presenting other structural damage risks to engine components.
Another direct result of oil leakage, this can happen because of oil getting into the spark plug port where the ignition wire and coil meet the spark plug. Not only can this disrupt proper engine functionality, but it is also especially dangerous in that it can result in a fire under the hood of your vehicle.
This is a direct result of the oil leaking onto engine components and being heated when the vehicle is powered on. As the engine is running, each component is heating up, and any oil which has dripped onto the surface is essentially being burned.
Of course, because the oil is no longer sealed in the oil pan due to the failure of the valve cover gasket, it is now subject to being wasted by dripping onto engine components. This will result in your oil levels decreasing, and eventually, your engine oil light will power on. This is another instance that can cause significant damage to your engine. Because there is no longer enough oil to properly lubricate the engine, engine components can become overheated and begin to malfunction.
At St. Matthews Import, our mechanics care not only about the excellent performance of your vehicle but also your safety when driving it. If you notice any of the symptoms described here, call us right away. With over 50 years of specialized experience with German vehicles, you can be sure that the maintenance of your vehicle is in expert care. We will work with you even after maintenance, ensuring long-lasting vehicle longevity and dependability, as St. Matthews Import is highly involved in the Louisville community. We have several locations and you can find us at our Hubbards Lane location for automotive service and repair.