When I bought my car the one of the valve cover gaskets was leaking, and the other one was replaced about 6 month earlier. Then within the next year or so, one, then the other one, started leaking oil. I procrastinated for about 2 years, cleaning a couple of drops below the car every day or so, but today I finished the job - hopefully it will last a while ...

These are the "before" photos:











There is a good guide with pictures/notes here which I used for assembly and disassembly:
http://home.comcast.net/~snyderwc/vcgaskete38.html

So using that guide I proceeded to get my car ready:




and sure enough, I had oil in the spark plug holes, in both sides!



Getting the passenger side valve cover was easier than the driver's side. Here is how things look like:






I though the valve covers looked bad on the outside, but look how the inside looked like!. That stuff/paint is flaking on the freaking inside of the engine!




I cleaned/scraped/removed all of the loose paint inside and out:



And then used engine primer and engine enamel to re-coat the valve covers inside and out:




After I did several coats with the required drying time in between, I got a much nicer finish:










I then looked at the gaskets that I took out. They look in great shape, but there was oil leaking!. If you look at them you will see that the "top" surface of the gasket that goes in the matching groove in the valve cover was not smooth - there were LOTs of debris, which of course explains how the oil seeps out!. So basically, each time there is an oil leak, the gasket is replaced, but eventually the leak has to come back since the "real problem" is never fixed!









Although I cleaned the groove in the valve cover as best as I could, I still went ahead and added a small bead of RTV silicone to that groove, which helps keep the gasket in place during installation, and makes a better oil seal than the gasket alone:




Of course, per the TIS, I added RTV to the "key" places:





I also cleaned the mounting hardware in my tumbler:




The old rubber bushings were not only hard, but also impregnated with the peeling paint as well, so they would not do much to seal oil either:




Putting the valve cover back was not so bad on the passenger side. I used a small mirror to check alignment of the gasket at those "semi-circles" in the back:







This part broke - it was so old, it was completely brittle:



On the driver side, I had to re-tap the screws for the Pos Bat terminal (prior mechanics must have used too much force!). The red wire powers my electric fan, part of my Zionsville radiator package:



So I finished the driver's side. Did I mention it was harder? Man, that is a tight fit, specially to get the read semi-circle gasket part to line up!.




On the driver side I broke this tube!. I put on my McGiver hat and used RTV and heat shrink tubing to create a seal - lets see how long it holds!:




OK, so these are the "after" pictures:




I then of course did a full oil/filter change, and in a few days I will change the filter again, just to be on the safe side. I have been using dino oil since it seeps less than the synthetic, but now I can use it - in fact, since it flows so much better, it will be a good test to see if/when I get a leak again:



I started the car, and it came right up. Nothing strange. No fluids gushing out anywhere. Then tonight I went out with the family for dinner and when I got back, it was all still dry. At least for now. I will check tomorrow morning to see if I can see any leaks. If I don't, I will just keep checking now and then, but I hope it will be a LONG time before I have to do this again :-)

Will

William
Richardson, Texas
2010 Honda Accord EX, 4-cyl, auto-tranny (her car)
2000 BMW 540i Auto, TiSilver, Sport/Prem Package (my car)

Retired/sold:
2006 Dodge Charger Daytona - Top Banana
2005 BMW 330i Auto, Premium Package
2002 M3 Coupe with SMG
1995 525i auto
1991 535i 5-speed manual