The valve cover gasket seals the valve cover over the camshaft, cylinders, and intake manifold. It keeps dust, dirt, and unwanted air out of your fuel injectors while keeping fluid in.
If it’s starting to leak, you have a problem. A leaking valve cover gasket can cause engine performance issues or even complete engine failure if left unattended.
The average cost of replacing a valve cover gasket is $100-$400. Here, you can expect to pay about $20-$300 for a new valve cover gasket and 1-4 hours of your mechanic’s time in labor. For most mechanics, that works out to $60-$400 in labor.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of valve cover gasket replacement cost estimates from reputable suppliers:
|Supplier||Labor||Valve Cover Gasket Cost|
How Much Does Valve Cover Gasket Replacement Cost?*
In most cases, the most expensive part of replacing a valve cover gasket is the cost of labor. That’s because taking a valve gasket cover out can take anywhere from 1-5 hours of work.
Not only do you have to figure out how to take the valve cover off, but you also have to clean the old gasket off, which can be time-consuming.
Of course, the difficulty of removing the valve cover heavily depends on the make and model of your car.
The following guide covers normal replacement costs for valve cover gaskets on different vehicles.
|Vehicle||Valve Cover Gasket Cost||Labor Cost|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (March 2022). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.
Valve Cover Gasket Replacement Price Factors
There are many factors that might affect the cost of the valve cover gasket in your car. However, the time to take out and replace the old one is the most influential cost.
For example, you can often buy a valve cover gasket for under $50. Normally, the rest of the cost is labor.
Cost of Labor
The cost of labor is the most influential factor in replacing your valve cover gasket. Here, you can expect to pay between $15 and $205 for most mechanics.
With an average national rate of $60 per hour or $100 per hour for a national chain like PepBoys, you can consider that labor will almost always cost you $100 or more.
That can escalate quickly. For example, some mechanics charge well above $200 per hour.
A valve cover gasket is usually relatively easy to take off. However, if your old gasket has to be scraped off, it can add significant time to the job.
If you’re unlucky, you could be looking at 4-5 hours of work instead of just 1-2.
However, you can often choose to do the work yourself. Replacing a gasket is easy work, providing you have grease and are willing to get dirty.
Condition of the Old Gasket
The condition of the old gasket affects the total time to replace the gasket. Here, factors include whether the seal has melted cover the valve casing.
It’s also important to consider how much time it takes to get the old gasket out. Here, you can ideally quickly scrape the old gasket out. If you’re unlucky, you’ll have to soak it and scrape up small bits of the gasket.
That’s because gaskets harden and dry out on the valve cover, creating a strong seal. When they crack and dry, it can be extremely difficult to get the old bits off.
Unfortunately, they have to come off if you want a good seal with the new gasket.
The New Gasket
Gaskets come in a lot of price categories, ranging from a few dollars to well over $200. In most cases, your mechanic will use a specific brand or the Original Equipment Manufacturer brand because they trust that brand for quality.
You can use whatever you’d like, however, your mechanic might not install it. Here, the important thing is that the gasket offer quality, because replacing it costs a lot more time and money than buying a higher quality gasket.
However, a gasket is “a gasket” and there’s only so much quality difference you can get unless you have a performance engine. If you’re concerned, discuss your options with a mechanic.
4 Signs of a Bad Valve Cover Gasket
If your valve cover gasket is going out, there are usually signs like leaking oil. In fact, this is one of the most common reasons your engine might be leaking oil. In other cases, symptoms will be less noticeable.
1. An Oil Leak
If your engine is leaking oil, it’s likely because of a gasket seal. Here, the valve gasket cover is an extremely common culprit.
How can you check? If you open up the hood and there’s oil on the valve cover, it’s probably a gasket leak. If you check the spark plugs and they have oil on them, it’s also a valve cover gasket leak.
And, if you have oil dripping down from the top of the motor, you likely have a valve cover gasket leak.
2. Burning Oil
If you smell burning oil, it usually means oil is getting into the top of your engine – which is normally indicative of a valve cover gasket leak. Here, you’ll have to consider where the oil smell is coming from.
For example, even if it’s from the exhaust, it’s likely from the top of the engine. Then, you’ll want to follow up by physically inspecting for oil leaks, especially around the valve cover.
Checking your spark plugs is also a good idea because oil very commonly leaks from the gasket into the spark plugs.
That’s because checking the spark plugs normally means taking the valve cover off, which means it’s relatively easy to replace the gasket from there – providing you check somewhere convenient like an auto-parts parking lot.
3. Engine Misfiring
If your engine is misfiring, it can mean the timing is off, the fuel mix has too much oxygen in it, the spark plugs are bad, or it can mean the spark plugs are covered with oil because the valve gasket has a leak.
Here, the next best step is to inspect the spark plugs, which will give you a quick and simple answer to your question.
Of course, if your engine is misfiring it could be a much deeper problem. If you don’t have visible oil on the spark plugs or leaking inside the valve cover, it’s important to have the engine inspected.
And, if your spark plugs are covered with oil, they might have gone bad. Therefore, you might have to replace them as well.
4. Low Oil Levels
If you keep having to top up the oil, you likely have a leak. And, the valve cover gasket is one of the most common places to get an engine leak.
If you have low oil, it’s usually a good idea to do a once-over of the engine to see if there are visible leaks. If not, top it up.
But, if oil goes low again, you’ll want to thoroughly inspect everything, starting with the valve cover gasket and the oil pan gasket.
10 Step Valve Cover Gasket Replacement Process
If you want to replace a valve cover gasket yourself, you can normally do so with a minimum of effort.
Here, the largest factors will be getting the valve cover bolts off, cleaning everything to get the oil out, and ensuring you have the right replacement gasket.
In most cases, you’ll also want to take the time to replace the O-rings as well because they degrade at about the same rate as the valve cover gasket. And, they usually cost a few dollars each.
Things you’ll need:
- Ratchet and socket set
- Penetrating fluid (optional)
- Brake cleaner
- Disposable paper towels
- Disposable gloves
- Spark plug puller (optional)
- Wire brush
- Weather stripping glue
- New gasket
Replacing the Valve Cover Gasket
Start by parking your car on a clean and flat surface, chocking the wheels, and turning the engine off.
Remove the key from the ignition to prevent the doors from locking up when you cut power.
Then, unplug the battery from the negative post.
These safety measures are optional but highly recommended.
- Remove the PVC valve hose.
- Remove the air filter cleaner.
- Remove the brake booster vacuum using a wrench.
- Undo the bolts on the valve cover. You might need penetrating fluid if they are stuck. Then remove the shims. Use a hammer and wriggle the valve cover off.
- Scrape the old gasket off. Here, you’ll want to use a brake cleaner and a scraper.
- Put weather stripping glue (black) around the edges.
- Check under the gasket and clean any oil spills, including in and around the spark plugs.
- Fit the new gasket onto the cover.
- Replace the gasket cover and use the shims and bolts to recreate a seal.
- Put the PVC valve hose, air filter cleaner, and booster vacuum back and make sure they are sealed.
Then, you can check your oil levels, top up the oil, and then check if everything is running. If you don’t see any leaks or issues right away, you’re probably fine.
However, you might have to drive for some time to see if there are any real leaks.
If you still have questions about your valve cover or leaks, these answers should help.
Can you drive a car with a valve cover leak?
You can drive to the mechanic or short distances. However, a valve cover leak can result in oil getting into the spark plugs, into the firing chamber, and into the exhaust.
That can eventually ruin the spark plugs, cause misfiring, cause your engine to seize up, and cause your catalytic converter to clog.
All of these problems cost significantly more to fix than simply replacing the gasket cover. Therefore, you likely want to ensure you fix the gasket ASAP before something else goes wrong.
Do I need to drain oil to change valve cover gasket?
You don’t normally have to drain the oil to change the valve cover gasket. However, it’s generally a good idea to change the oil afterwards.
That’s especially true if you had to scrape the old gasket off the engine – because pieces can fall into the engine and cause contamination. A quick oil change will save you potential clogs and damage.
How long does it take to replace a valve cover gasket?
In most cases, you can replace a valve cover gasket in about 1-2 hours. However, that may be up to 5-6 hours if there are a lot of parts in the way or if your old valve cover gasket is stuck on and takes some time to remove.
Therefore, most mechanics will charge 1-3 hours when doing estimates – which gives them some room for things to go wrong.
If you do it yourself, you’ll usually find the first time takes a lot longer than any subsequent tries – so you’ll always have an easier time the second time you do it.
Replacing a valve cover gasket can cost anywhere from $100-$500+, depending on the car and your mechanic.
Here, the cost of labor is the most important aspect of cost, with rates averaging about $60 per hour.
However, gaskets can range from $15-$200+ as well, depending on the brand, your vehicle, and specific needs.
Otherwise, putting in a new valve cover gasket is normally fast, relatively affordable, and can save your engine a lot of damage.
Good luck doing the work.