If you need your valve cover gaskets replaced, you're looking at a repair cost of around $225 to $325. That's an average price and of course your mechanic may end up charging you more or less depending on where you live. The other big factor to consider is the make, model, and year of your vehicle which always has quite an impact on any repair cost.
It's worth noting also that repairing the valve cover gasket is oftentimes just a part of a larger repair job. That means your total bill will likely be much more than what we've listed here depending on what's going on with your vehicle. As with any repair job though, your best bet is to thoroughly look into what local mechanics are going to charge you for the job and find out who's going to give you the best price for the most reliable service.
You no doubt have noticed already that repair services are very inconsistent even among mechanics within the same town. The price of the same job can vary by a few dollars to a few hundred dollars depending on how much any given mechanic charges for labour, and the kind of material to use.
If you head to AutoZone right now you'll see that valve cover gaskets can range in price from as low as about $7 to as high as $60 or more. There are also many different kinds so you need to make sure you're getting the proper one for the make, model, and year of your vehicle if you plan on getting the part yourself and try this job on your own.
Before you worry about repairing the valve cover gasket in your car's engine, it's probably a good idea to have some clue as to what this part even does and why you need it in the first place. As well, it's good to know when something's going wrong that's going to require you to replace this part.
What is a Valve Cover Gasket?
On the top of the engine cylinder head is where you find the valve cover. The valve cover gasket seals the valve cover and prevents motor oil from leaking out. Below the valve cover is where the camshaft, valves, rockers and cylinders are located. Motor oil circulates through this part of your engine to keep it lubricated and running properly. It's also possible that the spark plug ports are sealed by your valve cover gasket as well.
If the valve cover gasket is damaged in some way, you risk oil leakage which could lead to a fire or your engine overheating. That's definitely something that you want to avoid.
Types of Valve Cover Gaskets
Depending on the type of car you have you could he be using one of two different kinds of valve cover gaskets. There is a liquid gasket and a form rubber gasket.
Liquid Valve Cover Gaskets
The liquid valve cover gaskets work a bit like rubber cement and are basically squeezed on and allowed to seal the whole area. These provide solid and secure seals as long as it is applied correctly according to the instructions. The surface you apply it should be clean, and you need to have a thorough coating for it to work properly.
These are the old school type of gaskets, so they don't really look like much when you see them. Just a very thin rectangle of rubber with some holes punched in certain places depending on the make and model of vehicle that they are designed for. Some engine valve covers absolutely have to use these rubber gaskets and you can't use the liquid gasket at all. It's best to check your owner's manual if you're not entirely sure what kind of gasket fits the vehicle that you have.
Even though most people describe these as rubber gaskets, a number of them are also made from either plastic or cork. The oldest ones are cork as it's not a super reliable material to use and will degrade much faster than either rubber or plastic will.
Signs of a Bad Valve Cover Gasket
Even though a valve cover gasket is a very simple piece of technology, it's also essential to the proper functioning of your vehicle. If it goes wrong, things can go wrong very badly in a short period of time. It's best to be on the lookout for any symptoms to let you know that something has gone wrong so you can get it addressed as soon as possible before a minor problem blows up into a very big and very costly one.
Valve cover gaskets are well protected above and below, but the signs are exposed to the elements and that's usually where the damage happens if something goes wrong. Because it's such a thin piece of material, it doesn't take a lot of effort to damage one of these. Also, over years of exposure to the heat of your engine they do begin to wear down and fall apart naturally. They can crack or fall apart as a result of dirt and debris that get into your engine on top of the heat.
These are the signs that you can be on the lookout for to let you know that you may have a problem with your valve cover gasket.
Low Oil: If your valve cover gasket has failed, it won't be able to keep oil where it belongs in your engine. That means there's an oil leak somewhere and even if you can't see it, it will end up running out of the engine and causing the engine oil light to appear on your dashboard. If this happens over a long enough period of time, you could end up having some serious engine damage from valves or cylinders warping in the heat. If you're noticing oil leaking repeatedly from your engine somehow, this is a good place to look.
Burning Oil Smell: This goes hand-in-hand with our first point. If the oil is leaking out of your valve cover gasket, there's a good chance it's going to burn if it hits the cylinder head or the exhaust pipes. It could also get exposed to the fuel intake and burn as well. The smell of burning oil is pretty unmistakable and is a clear indication that you have an oil leak somewhere in your vehicle. You will need to go get it checked out by a mechanic right away if you're not 100% sure where the leak is coming from and how to fix it.
Dirty Valve Cover: The easiest way to detect an oil leak is to actually see the oil. If the valve cover is dirty and covered in oil, then clearly you have an oil leak. If the cylinder head or the valve cover has an obvious leak, then it will have cake topped with dirt and dust to create a kind of thick money substance. It's very easy to detect, and it's a good indication that the gasket has been damaged in some way it is now leaking.
Engine Misfires: A misfiring engine can be caused by numerous different issues in your car. Though it can have plenty of causes, a bad valve cover gasket is certainly one of them. When the oil leaks from there it can get down to your spark plug and get into the spark plug tubes. That can cause the plugs to not spark when they're supposed to and that causes a misfire in your engine. That's going to affect the overall performance of your engine, reduce fuel efficiency, and if it happens long enough it can cause serious damage to your engine. On top of that, if the oil is leaking down to the spark plug tubes there's a chance of a fire starting as well.
Rough Idling: Like engine misfires, rough idling can potentially have all kinds of different causes in your vehicle. Still, a problem with the valve cover gasket is also potentially responsible for a rough idle. This happens when you're sitting with the engine running but not actually driving. It seems like the car will struggle, lurch and vibrate even though you're not doing anything. You'll also potentially notice some rumbling sounds.
Check Engine Light: This is one of the harder ones to diagnose because, as you no doubt know, the check engine light on your dash can mean potentially dozens if not hundreds of different things. It's very hard to put your finger on what it is without using an OBD2 scanner to figure out precisely what the light is meant to indicate. Still, if this pops up and you notice any of these other symptoms that we've mentioned at the same time, then that's just further Evidence perhaps you should get your valve cover gaskets checked out to make sure that the problem isn't stemming from that area.
Smoke: If there's one thing you never want to see coming from under the hood of your car it's smoke. But, with the potential for oil leaks when your valve cover gasket goes bad, it's also one of the most prominent indications that something has gone wrong. If the oil leak is bad enough and it's hit the cylinder head, or the exhaust manifold, or some other extremely hot portion of your engine, then you may start a fire under the hood. The first indication of this is going to be that thick, black or blue smoke that is caused by burning oil. If you see this coming from under the hood of your car you definitely need to stop as soon as safely as you can and get help immediately. The potential for smoke to become fire, and consume the entire car, is very real and very dangerous.
Can I Replace My Own Valve Cover Gasket?
When it comes to do it yourself car repairs, replacing the valve cover gasket is not all that difficult a task. Considering the cost of labor for this job could be upwards of $200 or more, you may want to give this a try on your own if you're comfortable doing repairs under the hood of your car.
This isn't the easiest do-it-yourself job but it's by no means a complicated one either. If you're comfortable enough doing any kind of vehicle repairs, you should be able to handle this one as well so long as you're sure you have the right parts. There are so many different valve cover gaskets on the market you want to make sure you 100% have someone that will fit your vehicle before you commit to buying one. Fortunately, AutoZone can let you know precisely the kind that you need.
If you are interested in trying this job on your own there are a number of guides that you can find online that can walk you through it step by step. Even better, you can go check out a video like this one to show you what you need to do. The best part about videos like this is that you have a trained, skilled mechanic to walk you through the process of changing your valve cover gasket from the beginning to the end of the job. Everything is laid out clearly, and if there's something you miss you can always just rewind it a bit and check that part out to make sure you've got it right.
YouTube and the internet in general have made do it yourself car repairs so much easier than they were 20 years ago. Unless you had invested in a series of books that could show you auto repairs, most of us had no ability to handle these kinds of jobs on our own. Now, with so many mechanics showing you step by step how to do it on your own, it's really opened up what the average driver can do to maintain their car and save themselves a few dollars over the life of the vehicle as well.
The Bottom Line
Even though the valve cover gasket is a super simple piece of technology, it's also integral to the overall functioning of your car. This little gasket does a big job and it needs to be maintained properly or replaced as soon as something goes wrong. Don't let a small problem turn into a big one.