How to Determine if an Oil Leak From a Car is From the Valve Cover Gasket

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Valve cover gasket oil leaks in car engines occur where the valve cover meets the head. Determine if a valve cover gasket is leaking oil in a car engine with tips from an automotive service excellence (ASE)-certified master auto technician in this free video on automotive maintenance.

Part of the Video Series: Car Maintenance Tips
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Video Transcript

I'm Dave Erb from Dave's Ultimate Automotive and we're going to be talking about how to tell if a car has a valve cover gasket leak. What we've got here is we happen to have an engine out of a Honda. This one would be real simple to tell if it had a valve cover gasket leak but this applies to most any car. Most cars will look like this as far as it is a V 6 which may look like this only two valve covers, this is a single valve cover engine. Most valve covers will have a definite line between the valve cover itself and the head. You see here this one is black and then the aluminum head starts here. If it had a valve cover gasket leak it would be leaking along this seam right here and this would be true of any car with valve cover gaskets. It would be where the valve cover meets the head and usually there is a pretty distinct differential between that valve cover and that head. There is a gasket inside here that gets hard and dry over time. When you are checking for a valve cover gasket leak, if you clean this area and see a lot of oil in this area and you clean it, it is not going to be a pressure leak or a fast leak. This is not under a tremendous amount of pressure here. It is simply the flow and spray inside the valve cover so it may take some time for it to come back so let it run for a while, clean it up, let it run and check and see if it is starting to flow from the valve cover. On this particular type you can see that these are actually spark plug boots, they come down inside the valve cover to the head where the spark plug is. If it has a leak without doing any of that you can tell the size of the leak if you were to pull the spark plugs out and find this to be saturated with oil then the valve cover is leaking down inside this hole. That would basically you say immediately replace the valve cover and clean the holes out and replace whatever contaminated boots there would be. Not all set ups are like that but it does hold true that once again there would be a differential between this valve cover and this head and this line and that is where the leak would be.

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