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Old 11-20-2008, 06:32 PM   #1
DJboozeAlot
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1996 SC2
Default Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

my 96 sc2 developed a valve cover gasket leak, in the spark plugs holes a few months ago. i changed the gasket myself, and it then started leaking only at the part where the cams are housed at first, then in other spots as well.

so i then decided to pay my mechanic to do it, which he did and it was still leaking when i got the car back, worse than before, much worse actually. i took it back and they tried every brand of gasket they could get including OEM and determined that even with the bolts tightened down to spec, they could still stick a feeler gauge (can't remember what size he told me was the largest they could fit in there off the top of my head) in between the gasket and valve cover or head, which was why it was still leaking.

the next they tried putting washers above the valve cover holes so that they could tighten down the valve cover a bit more, and guess what, they cracked the plastic valve cover! and it was still leaking a drop here and there anyways.

now we are at the point where they have no idea what to do. the weird thing about it is, that it was leaking out of the spark plug holes before i changed it the first time, now it's good there but leaks everywhere along the outside edges of the valve cover it seems. i was wondering if anyone else has run into a similar problem such as this, and how you fixed the problem.

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Old 11-20-2008, 06:42 PM   #2
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Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

Uh... haven't tried a newish valve cover yet have you? Yours sounds warped, and if nothing else now it's broken (and should be replaced anyway).

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Old 11-20-2008, 07:27 PM   #3
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

First get a new plastic cover from a pick and pull. Then put it on right. Use the FelPro preformed gasket. Clean the cover gasket area with acetone and clan the head and timing cover with acetone. Take an acid brush and coat the gasket grove with sensor safe RTV and install the gasket in the groove. Place a thin finger smear of RTV on the head and timing cover surface. Place a slightly larger coat of RTV on both head/timing cover joints. Place cam cover on engine. Tighten bolts with a nut driver in the proper sequence a little bit at a time until they bottom out. Torque to 75-80in-lb. Allow 24 hours to cure before running engine. Tighten in the following pattern. Use a nut driver.

INTAKE SIDE
9 - 5 - 6 -10
3 - 1 - 2
8 - 4 - 7 - 11
EXHAUST SIDE

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Old 11-20-2008, 10:22 PM   #4
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1996 SC2
Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

Quote:
Originally Posted by fetchitfido View Post
Uh... haven't tried a newish valve cover yet have you? Yours sounds warped, and if nothing else now it's broken (and should be replaced anyway).
well obviously i need a new one now. i got one from the junkyard from a 2000 sl2, but my mechanic said the spark plug holes didn't line up correctly if i remember right. he called the dealer and they told him for a 96(my car), only 94-96 valve covers are interchangeable, which is wrong already because saturn didn't even make the plastic valve cover until 96, right??? every 95 i have ever seen was the aluminum one.

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Old 11-20-2008, 10:27 PM   #5
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1996 SC2
Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

Quote:
Originally Posted by OldNuc View Post
First get a new plastic cover from a pick and pull. Then put it on right. Use the FelPro preformed gasket. Clean the cover gasket area with acetone and clan the head and timing cover with acetone. Take an acid brush and coat the gasket grove with sensor safe RTV and install the gasket in the groove. Place a thin finger smear of RTV on the head and timing cover surface. Place a slightly larger coat of RTV on both head/timing cover joints. Place cam cover on engine. Tighten bolts with a nut driver in the proper sequence a little bit at a time until they bottom out. Torque to 75-80in-lb. Allow 24 hours to cure before running engine. Tighten in the following pattern. Use a nut driver.

INTAKE SIDE
9 - 5 - 6 -10
3 - 1 - 2
8 - 4 - 7 - 11
EXHAUST SIDE

these instructions look just like what wolfman wrote up, which i followed EXACTLY TO A T the FIRST time i changed the valve cover gasket. i used my torgue wrench and tightened all the bolts to spec. there is no way my original valve cover was warped, because it was fine before i changed the gasket and i was very careful with it during the gasket change. i am pretty sure the gasket i got was fel pro too. i allowed more like 48 hours for the rtv to cure as well.

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Old 11-20-2008, 11:44 PM   #6
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

You have to tighten the bolts in sequence a little bit at a time as you go around. That is one of the big secrets and both the cover and head surface have to be clean, thats why the acetone. Nothing else you can readily buy will work as well if at all. The cracked cover will have to be replaced as it will always leak. Be sure to wipe off the gasket face with acetone and let it evaporate right before putting it on the engine.

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Old 11-21-2008, 11:00 AM   #7
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1996 SC2
Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

what year valve covers are interchangeable with my 96? i checked the s-series swap guide and didn't see anything on valve covers.

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Old 11-21-2008, 11:35 AM   #8
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Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

Don't even bother with the factory valve cover gaskets. Use the Right Stuff (comes in a can like cheese whiz). Clean very well and let sit for 12-24 hours. I had the same problem and I did this and haven't had a leak in 45000 miles.

Let the flaming begin

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Old 11-21-2008, 12:10 PM   #9
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

Quote:
Originally Posted by johnny95sl2 View Post
Don't even bother with the factory valve cover gaskets. Use the Right Stuff (comes in a can like cheese whiz). Clean very well and let sit for 12-24 hours. I had the same problem and I did this and haven't had a leak in 45000 miles.

Let the flaming begin
As long as you can get a good even bead out of a cheeze whizz can when impaired that will work.

Squirting RTV on a cam cover can be a bit challenging for the untrained. It does work though.

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Old 11-21-2008, 12:17 PM   #10
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Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

I've always used the Felpro gaskets and never had a problem. Follow the torque sequence and do it gradually.

I've even reused a couple of them as they were is really good shape. I know, not recommended but hey they are $35 and money is just as good as cash

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Old 11-21-2008, 01:43 PM   #11
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Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

I'll second "The Right Stuff" in a can by Loctite. Works, and stays tight. I no longer bother with the gasket, in fact a new one is hanging on my garage wall, thinking the right stuff would fail in a year or two. It's been over three years now.

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Old 11-21-2008, 01:46 PM   #12
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1996 SW2
Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

Quote:
Originally Posted by DJboozeAlot View Post
what year valve covers are interchangeable with my 96? i checked the s-series swap guide and didn't see anything on valve covers.
'96-'98, and early '99. That 2000 cover didn't just mismatch wrt. the spark plug holes. The two cams are actually closer together; I'm surprised it even came close to fitting. Clue: your existing cover has little clippies for the spark plug wires molded into the left end of the cover. The covers for the newer, narrower heads (late-'99 and up) don't have those. That's your visual cue for the right cover.

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Old 11-21-2008, 01:48 PM   #13
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Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

Quote:
Originally Posted by DJboozeAlot View Post
what year valve covers are interchangeable with my 96? i checked the s-series swap guide and didn't see anything on valve covers.

1993-1998. Yes, the aluminum ones will fit and work on your car.

Quote:
Originally Posted by johnny95sl2 View Post
Don't even bother with the factory valve cover gaskets. Use the Right Stuff (comes in a can like cheese whiz). Clean very well and let sit for 12-24 hours. I had the same problem and I did this and haven't had a leak in 45000 miles.

Let the flaming begin
I would highly recommend against this. Especially on the plastic valve covers. Some people have had good luck doing it this way, but more, way more have failed miserably. Then they had one heck of a mess to clean up when they had to do it the correct way.

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Old 11-21-2008, 03:37 PM   #14
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1996 SC2
Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

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Originally Posted by Low Saturn View Post
1993-1998. Yes, the aluminum ones will fit and work on your car.
well that's cool, i did not know the aluminum and plastic covers were interchangeable. i always thought the bolt pattern was different for some reason. anyways, i read through wolfman's how-to again on changing valve cover gaskets and he says the aluminum covers don't require gaskets...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wolfman View Post
Two types of camcovers are used on these cars, the silver ALUMINUM covers used on ALL SOHC engines and DOHC engines until 1995, and the BLACK composite (plastic) covers used on DOHC engines after 1995.

The aluminum covers require NO GASKET
The black composite covers require a gasket from Saturn or your local parts house
so the obvious question now is, can't i just switch to an older aluminum valve cover and just be done with it? if i doesn't use a gasket then how does it prevent oil from leaking out between the cover and head? will i need to change or modify anything in order to make the switch?

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Old 11-21-2008, 03:42 PM   #15
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Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

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Originally Posted by DJboozeAlot View Post
so the obvious question now is, can't i just switch to an older aluminum valve cover and just be done with it? if i doesn't use a gasket then how does it prevent oil from leaking out between the cover and head? will i need to change or modify anything in order to make the switch?
It does use a preformed gasket. Its possible to lather on RTV instead. Then pray to the gods above you didnt use too much and have it get all over the inside of the engine. Use too little and have it leak.

I always use the preformed gaskets on the aluminum covers. Properly installed, they dont leak and they're reusable.

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Old 11-21-2008, 04:12 PM   #16
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Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

I am having the same problem with my 1996 SL2. Carefully, followed the directions and used a Fel-Pro gasket. It is now leaking on the driver's side (where there are no bolts) - worse than before the repair.

Question: Has anyone ever tried a washer on the bolts to allow higher pressure on the gasket before the shoulder bolt seats against the head? The gasket seems "loose" even with the proper torque.

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Old 11-21-2008, 04:17 PM   #17
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1996 SC2
Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

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Question: Has anyone ever tried a washer on the bolts to allow higher pressure on the gasket before the shoulder bolt seats against the head? The gasket seems "loose" even with the proper torque.
that's EXACTLY what my mechanic just tried, and cracked the valve cover.

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Old 02-16-2009, 04:40 PM   #18
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1997 SW2
Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

Have the same problem with daughter's 97 SW2. Had cam cover gasket replaced and leaks more than before. Took to a different mechanic and he says the plastic cover must be warped. neither mechanic is a Saturn mechanic.

Question is :what are the chances that the cover is warped as opposed to the gasket not being replaced correctly? I do know it only took maybe 30 minutes to change and that I drove the car 50 miles as soon as the work was completed.

Advice appreciated, thanks

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Old 02-16-2009, 06:24 PM   #19
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

There are several things to look at here.

Are any of the threaded holes in the head helicoiled? If so are any of the inserts standing proud of the surface? Note that the surface I am referring to is very slightly recessed.

If you remove the cover and set it on a table you can tell if its warped.

When you placed the gasket in the cover where did the extra gasket end up?

Did you put the 2 dabs of RTV on the timing cover/head joints?

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Old 02-16-2009, 06:57 PM   #20
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Default Re: Valve cover keeps leaking, tried several gaskets, myself and mechanic stumped

Quote:
Originally Posted by OldNuc View Post
There are several things to look at here.

Are any of the threaded holes in the head helicoiled? If so are any of the inserts standing proud of the surface? Note that the surface I am referring to is very slightly recessed.

If you remove the cover and set it on a table you can tell if its warped.

When you placed the gasket in the cover where did the extra gasket end up?

Did you put the 2 dabs of RTV on the timing cover/head joints?

Welcome to the Forums!
Wow!, Thanks for the prompt reply,

I didn't do the work. I had a friend (retired mechanic) do it for me.

I don't think there are any heilicoils in the head.

He threw away the old gasket, but did note there appeared to be a 3" section missing from it.

I am pretty sure he did not put any RTV anywhere.

Car now has 150,000 on it. At 85,000 we replaced the Valve cover because it was cracked. As I recall we paid $300 for a used one. I am trying to avoid that if possible, and am concerned that if warping is common I may get another warped one.

I am 65 and don't "wrench" anymore BUT I may tackle this at least to the point of taking it off and checking to see if it is warped. Pretty sure I can handle it either way.

I enjoy reading your forum. Nice passionate family you have here. I have an 04 Chevy SSR and I thought the SSR family was the most responsive and knowledgeable----you folks are VERY close.

Thanks again

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