4 Symptoms of a Valve Cover Gasket Leak (and Replacement Cost)

(Updated on May 29, 2020)

An internal combustion engine contains a cylinder block with a specific number of cylinders on top of it. The cylinder head is positioned over the cylinders and assists with the entire combustion process. The flow of fuel and air into the cylinders is made possible because of the passages which exist within the cylinder head.

Above the cylinder head, there is something called a valve cover which is usually made from either metal or plastic material. In between the cylinder head and valve cover, there is another component called the valve cover gasket. The gasket serves as a surface sealant between these two components.

Meanwhile, the gasket traps the oil inside the engine so that it will keep circulating in there and lubricating the various engine components. Valve cover gaskets are commonly made from molded rubber to securely fit over the valve cover. Since rubber is not the most durable material in the world, it tends to wear out and form cracks over time. Once that happens, it will cause oil to leak out of the engine and limit the lubrication of the components in there.

Top 4 Symptoms of Bad Valve Cover Gasket

When you first notice that you have a bad valve cover gasket, you still have time to do something about it before it gets worse. There are plenty of symptoms that you will recognize as this is happening. Below are the top 4 symptoms of a bad valve cover gasket.

Burning Smell – The valve cover is shielding so much compressed oil that is just aching to get out. One little crack in the valve cover gasket will cause oil to leak through and fall onto other components of the engine. There could be oil falling onto the exhaust pipes or cylinder head, causing the oil to burn excessively.

Low Engine Oil – When you have an oil leak in your valve cover gasket, it means there will be less oil in your engine. This will cause more friction from the moving components of your engine, which generates more heat in there. When there is too much heat generated, it will cause the engine to overheat. This could possibly damage your engine components severely to the point where they cannot be repaired.

Check Engine Light – When you have a low amount of oil in your engine, the Check Engine warning light will illuminate on your dashboard. You may also have a separate oil warning light on your dashboard that will turn on as well. This should be one of the first symptoms that you notice. Take the warning seriously and fix the leak before it is too late.

Dirty Valve Cover – When you go to give your vehicle an oil change, pay attention to the condition of the valve cover. If it is dirty, then it means oil is leaking out of the valve cover gasket. Replace the gasket first and then change the oil. Either that or have a professional auto serviceperson do the oil change and gasket replacement job for you.

Read also: 5 Symptoms of a Bad Serpentine Belt and Replacement Cost

Valve Cover Gasket Replacement Cost

Looking for Replacement Parts?
We recommend Parts Geek or Advance Auto Parts for the best prices and selection.

The replacement cost of a valve cover gasket will be between $90 and $350. The parts cost will be anywhere from $40 to $50 while the labor costs will be anywhere from $50 to $300. As you can see, this is not a very expensive part to replace in your vehicle. The extent of the expense will be based on the hourly rate of your mechanic. If you can choose a professional mechanic with a lower hourly rate that works quickly, then you can pay a smaller rate for your labor costs. Added taxes and fees will be included.

14 thoughts on “4 Symptoms of a Valve Cover Gasket Leak (and Replacement Cost)”

  1. What would be a fair parts and labor price for a nechanic to replace valve cover gaskets on a 1986 corvette. Vehicle has only 40 thousand miles. Thank you.

    • It’s pretty easy if you’re comfortable changing your own brakes. Just make sure to follow a repair manual so you get the tightening sequence and torque specs right.

  2. How much to replace the valve gasket cover on a 2018 Range Rover Sport. I was quoted $3800 at dealership. They say leak is minor. Can this wait or best to do right away? Thank you

    • That’s a lot. Was the $3800 for just the valve cover gasket? I am not familiar with Range Rovers so I don’t know if their maintenance is typically that much more expensive than standard makes like Honda and Toyota.

      In general, a valve cover gasket can wait. You’ll leak oil which could make a mess, so you might want to put some cardboard down when you park it. Keep an eye on your oil to make sure the level doesn’t drop too low. If it starts to stink like burning oil, you might be leaking onto the exhaust manifold. This is dangerous as the oil could ignite and start a fire.

      You might want to try getting a quote from an independent shop. A valve cover gasket should only be a couple hundred dollars or so to replace.

    • Hi Karen, that seems extremely high. I live in an expensive city, and I took my car into a mechanic that is not known for being low-cost — and the estimate was $242.00, including labor. I think it’s best to replace your gasket cover, don’t wait (but find someone else to do it!). You don’t want to drive a car with a burning smell. Also a worn valve gasket cover will reduce the oil running through your engine….and could
      ultimately cause engine failure.


Leave a Comment