The gasket plays a very important role in sealing an engine. So important is its role that it can handle a huge amount of abuse, and may not be recognized at all. One of the considered as most important of all the gaskets is the valve cover gasket. Its role is to keep the hardware of the cylinder head well-protected against the elements while keeping oil from leaking out of the motor. Most of these gaskets are made out of cork or plastic and serve as a seal that locks between the cylinder head and the valve cover. Even though this gasket is protected by design, it is still very prone to damage coming from its sides. This could result in a bad valve cover, which could affect the performance of your engine. To avoid these problems, let us take a look at some bad valve cover gasket symptoms.
Valve Cover Gasket Leak Symptoms
The following signs of a bad valve cover gasket will serve as a warning that there could be a possible problem that needs to be addressed right away. If you notice them, it is best to contact a technician right away so that a replacement can be done.
1. Dirty Valve Cover and Oil Leaks
One of the common valve cover gasket leak symptoms is a dirty valve cover and oil leaks. With most oil changes, the mechanic will check the valve cover to see whether the oil leak comes from the gasket. One of the easiest to spot indicator is when the cylinder head or the valve cover is very dirty. This happens as oil collects both debris and dirt under the hood, giving that "caked" appearance. If you notice this, the problem may be caused by valve cover gasket problems.
2. Burned Oil Smell
The moment that the cover gasket is worn out, pinched or cracked, oil that comes from beneath the valve cover will leak and try to escape. When the engine is running and this happens, the oil will go to the cylinder head, exhaust pipes, or the fuel intake. This will then create a smell of burning oil, which is easy to detect. When this happens, make sure that you contact your technician so a proper diagnosis of the possible oil leak can be done.
If you are starting to notice that you are losing on oil, but cannot seem to locate where the leak comes from, your nose may smell burnt oil. Note that the leak may be happening. However, a challenge is that by the time you finally check the engine, it has already burned the engine off. This means that the moment that you smell burnt oil, it is best to bring your car to a mechanic for a repair and a check if there is a need for any replacement, especially if it is proven that the problem has something to do with the valve cover gasket.
3. Running Rough Engine and Misfires
At times when the oil leaks, it does not just leak in the valve cover gasket. It goes down to the other components of the engine, including its spark plug, going even deeper into the tubes of the spark plug. This will result in a misfire or a reduction of the overall engine performance. If could even go more seriously. If it goes unrepaired, this may cause a fire in the engine.
At the same time, you will notice some problems with your car not running smoothly, especially when idling. You may even hear rumbling, proving to be dangerous for the health of the engine pistons. Note that if this problem stays unnoticed and unrepaired, it may even lead to dangerous and uncontrolled fire within the engine. This could result in more problems.
4. Low Engine Oil Levels
If oil leaks are a result of a bad valve cover gasket, you will notice that the engine oil level in the oil pan will also drop. If it becomes too low, you will notice the ECU illuminating the dashboard’s oil light. This could mean that your engine may not be receiving the right amount of lubrication that is needed to optimize performance. This may result in a frictional energy increase, even causing the car engine to possibly overheat.
The Valve Cover Gasket Replacement cost
If you have noticed any of the above mentioned valve cover gasket problems, then there is a possibility of a failure of the valve cover gasket. This should not be taken lightly since a small thing such as a gasket can already make a huge difference in the health and performance of your engine. Since it is prone to easy damage, a permanent solution is not available.
This means the need for a replacement each time it breaks. The good news is that the valve cover gasket replacement cost is not that expensive. You can get a valve cover gasket price below $100. If you are looking at quality and longevity, however, you may want to consider ones that are above $100.
On top of that actual price involved, you can also expect to pay for the labor cost for the process to change the valve cover gasket. Usually, it goes over $100 since the moment that the car mechanic opens the cover, he will most likely inspect all of the other problems inside the valves, cylinder heads, and other components of the engine.
If you have asked the question “How do I know if my valve cover gasket is bad”, no doubt that the bad valve cover gasket symptoms will lead to you to the problem, and thus make some steps to address it right away. Indeed, a bad valve cover gasket may cause more problems with your engine. Whether you notice an obvious oil leakage, smell burnt oil, or deal with a misfiring and rough-running engine, problems related to a fail valve cover gasket need to be fixed immediately, which may require a replacement.
Simon graduated with a Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Degree. He has over 20 years of servicing experience in both Japanese and German car dealerships. He now acts as a freelance mechanic’s instructor for local schools.