How To Clean Valve Cover: A Complete Guide In Steps

Whether you are about to install a new sealant/gasket or make the valve cover like new again, knowing how to clean valve cover is crucial. However, many people associate this task as frustration and daunting challenge. In fact, cleaning the valve cover, when done in steps, is not a tough task at all.


​With a little of observation, patience, and meticulosity, you can accomplish the task in no more than half an hour. And if you are looking for a walkthrough on this, you are at the right place.

What Is The Valve Cover For?

The valve cover normally locates on the top of the engine. Some others are on the side or in the V configuration. Despite its position, all valve cover serves the same purpose of covering the cylinder head. It consists of the valves, valve springs, and camshafts. All together they help to reduce friction and cover the valve train.​

With the oil lubrication, the valve cover also acts as an access point to deploy valve adjustments. A series of bolts and a rubber gasket/ silicone sealant mounts the valve cover and the cylinder bead together.​

Why Does The Leak Occur?​

​The leak is a sign of wear and tear. Almost every car going more than 30,000 miles can experience some oil seepage. The leak can, in fact, happen before you notice it. It commonly starts with a small portion that still does not drip the oil out of the engine. Over time, the leak will increase until you see the drip on the ground and service your vehicle.

Besides, the valve cover gasket may be suffering from cracking, rotting, and shrinking. Or else, the leak may result from the absence of one or some of the bolts. However, an important note is that even a slow leak can still deplete and cause the premature wear to your engine. Thus, inspecting and cleaning the valve cover or a regular basis is highly advisable.​

How To Clean Valve Cover

Phase 1: Remove The Valve Cover


Photo credit: phoenixar via / CC BY-NC

What You Need

  • Ratchet
  • Socket set
  • Torque wrench/ rubber mallet
  • Flat head screwdriver

Rest Your Vehicle

Before tearing everything apart, make sure your vehicle is ready for that. Park your vehicle on a flat and hard ground before applying the parking brake. Then, open the hood for the engine to cool off.

Disconnect The Engine

​Start the job by pressing the locking tabs and pulling the connector out of the coil. Then, remove the ignition coil mounting bolts with a ratchet and an appropriate socket. Now you can twist the coil to release it from the valve cover. Do it gently to avoid any damage to the coil.

Some vehicles come with a decorative plastic cover, which needs removing before taking out the hoses, cables, and connectors attaching to the valve cover. You then need to remove the spark plugs to proceed.​

Take Off The Valve Cover

This step could be the last step if you don’t do it correctly. To take off the valve cover, you first need to remove the bolt using the screwdriver/socket. Then, tap around gently the valve cover with a torque wrench or a rubber mallet to make it loose. “Gently” is the keyword, if not, you may gouge the aluminum cylinder head, which results to permanent leaks.​

Remember that over tightening the bolts is not a good idea, it does not help to stop the gasket from leaking. Also, the valve cover may crack or wrap depending on its material. When taking off the valve cover, you can use a flat head screwdriver to pry it off, which makes thing easier to do.​


  • When lifting off the valve cover, be aware of not dropping anything into the engine. A bolt or a nut falling into the engine will stop it from working.​

Phase 2: Inspect The Leak


Photo credit: vasekvi via / CC BY-NC-ND

What You Need

  • Razor blade

Look Inside The Valve Cover

If you see oil splashing around, it’s right time to clean the valve cover and install a new gasket. Otherwise, the valve cover will probably keep catching the oil and send it back to the engine. And over time, the gaskets will shrink, harden and the oil leaking will occur.​

On the four-cylinder engine, the oil is likely to cause misfire because of the leak into the spark plug tubes. However, on the V engine, the oil normally leaks to the side of it, which then turns into a black and dirty mess.​

Determine What Need Removing

More than often you will feel the need to replace the gasket because of its impartment in preventing the leak. If you want to clean the gasket mating surfaces on the engine, use the razor blade to remove the old RTV from the timing valve cover.​

Slip the blade in between and wiggle it as you push it along the way. This move will help you take off the gasket in large section and leave just a little residue on the aluminum.​

If necessary, you can replace the spark plug before cleaning the valve cover. As the new spark plugs are in place, take off the valve cover bolts then tap the valve cover with your tool. Again, it is to make it loose enough to lift off the engine.​


  • When peeling off the traces of the old RTV, it’s crucial to avoid making them fall into the engine. Thus, you should use a rag to catch them while doing the task.​

Phase 3: Clean The Valve Cover And Install New Gasket


Photo credit: lumachrome via / CC BY-SA

What You Need

  • Scrapper/ rag
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Torque wrench
  • RTV sealant

Clean The Valve Cover

To remove the gasket material on the grooves of the valve cover, use the gasket scrapper. Also, if you see any oil in the spark plug tubes, wrap a rag around the screwdriver and move it gently it to clean the oil.

Clean The Cylinder Head

To remove the sealant and gasket material on the surface of the cylinder head, you can also use the scrapers and clean rags. Then, apply brake cleaner and rub it thoroughly to remove the oil residue from the surface.​

Install New Valve Cover Gasket

An important task while installing new valve cover gasket is to apply a thin layer of RVT sealant to the cylinder head where it mounts to the valve cover. In other words, apply the silicone sealant on the same locations of the old ones that you have removed with the razor blade.​

Put The Valve Cover Back On

It’s important to place the valve cover back on the head without hitting any other component. Clean any wet RTV sealant if you smear it and then reapply. This step requires you to be as gentle and precise as possible to avoid any harm to the engine.​

When the valve cover is in place, use the torque wrench to install the bolts until they are snug. As already stated, you should only torque down the bolts to the manufacturer’s instruction.​

Final Steps

As the valve cover is back on, put back the ignition coil into the spark plug tubes, tighten its mounting bolts and reinstall the connectors. Finally, double check the engine oil level and valve cover to ensure their proper performance on the engine.​


  • When using the scrappers, don’t use the metal on aluminum. Instead, use the plastic to avoid leak and nick.
  • Don’t use silicon or sealer unless the manual suggests you to do it.


Monitoring the oil and inspecting the leak are always the top-priority tasks in car maintenance. Thus, knowing how to clean valve cover is crucial to ensure the safety and stability of your vehicle’s performance. Time and distance are the most significant factors leading to the oil leak, remember to have a frequent check on the valve cover to have proper correcting action on time.​

Anthony Ebden

He's an auto blogger. He worked as an auto mechanic for more than 5 years and his mission is to provide our readers with the best car maintenance tips, DIY guides and the most updated trends in the automotive industry.

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