Most places will charge you well over $300 in labor alone to get this job done, while the gaskets can be purchased for less than $20, so we’re going to go through how to replace valve cover gaskets yourself. Since we are already removing the valve cover, we will go over how to replace the spark plug o-rings as well.
The first thing you will want to do is disconnect the battery.
Disconnected one of the terminals should do the trick, just be sure to place it somewhere safe and secure. This is so you don’t get any unwanted electricity flowing through the vehicle while you work.
Remove the air intake manifold.
Next, remove the air intake manifold (pictured) You will have to remove one smaller hose (left side of picture) one larger hose (top of picture), the air flow sensor (in my hand), and two clips attaching it to the air filter housing (bottom right). After doing all this, just pull it out (it should come fairly easily, if not, make sure you didn’t miss something). Go ahead and set it to the side in a safe spot.
Remove the throttle body.
Where the larger hose was connected is your throttle body. Go ahead and remove any cables attached to it. There will be 4 8mm screws holding it in place (be careful not to drop these when you pull it out!). Once the screws are out, set it some place safe and out of the way. This is a good opportunity to clean the throttle body, as these can get covered in gunk over time. You can either use throttle body cleaner or some brake cleaner will do the trick. Do not move the circular plate inside the throttle body, this is controlled by plastic gears that have a tendency to break if played with. Throttle bodies aren’t cheap!
Remove the rest of the air intake.
Next you will remove the rear portion of the air intake manifold. There is one hose clamped to the rear that is difficult to reach, but must be removed. Then you will have a series of 8mm screws surrounding the manifold, and one on top to remove. Be gentle with these screws, as in my experience they have a tendency to break along their stems, while fairly easily replaced, if you don’t have replacements on hand that’s a trip to the hardware store you can avoid. There is one final screw beneath the manifold, under and behind where you removed the throttle body. You may need a flashlight and an extension for your tool to reach it, but this must come out as well. Once all the screws are removed, go ahead and remove the rest of the manifold (pictured) and set it with the other items you’ve removed.
Remove the ignition coils.
Next, unscrew the 8mm screws from the ignition coils and unplug them. Depending on how long it has been since the ignition coils have been removed, you may need to tug fairly hard to get them out- they will come out with a little finagling. Remove and inspect all six ignition coils, check for any damage, gunk build up, or anything out of the ordinary. If everything checks out, you are at a convenient spot to remove and inspect your spark plugs as well. You will need a spark plug socket to get these out, however. Be careful, as spark plugs should not take much force to remove, and are subject to breaking. I recommend checking your spark plugs because me checking mine is the reason I undertook this project to begin with- I found my spark plugs to be covered in oil do to failing gaskets and spark plug o-rings.
If you have trouble reaching your spark plugs after unscrewing them to get them out, a neat trick I use is using an ignition coil to grab it. Just reach down and push the coil over the spark plug, and pull out.
Next, we will remove the front valve cover gasket.
To do this, you will need to disconnect all hoses and cables (including fuel injector cables) from the valve cover. This time the screws you will need to remove are 10mm, and a few are a little trickier to get to if you don’t have a long socket. Also remember to remove the dip stick and set it aside for now. Much of the wiring, especially if you haven’t had work done to the vehicle in the past, is most likely held in place by various plastic ties and zip-ties. Take out some cutters and snip these away. The majority of the time they are being held in place for aesthetic reasons, but be sure the wires don’t find themselves pinched or near something that will get very hot. It may go without saying, but be sure you don’t accidentally cut a wire, always make sure what you’re cutting into is plastic, and only plastic.
Now remove the valve cover and inspect underneath.
Now you’re ready to remove the valve cover. These tend to be a pain to get off, so getting a screwdriver underneath the valve cover and prying up is one method to make it slightly easier. Once you’ve managed to get it off, be sure not to drop anything into the engine, and keep it covered if you have to leave it unattended. Hopefully you are performing this job in a garage to minimize the risk of something unexpected falling in your engine. Go ahead and inspect underneath the valve cover (pictured). This is an easier task than it may seem, just look for anything out of the ordinary, cracks, gunk build up, or debris. Chances are if there was something amiss you would have symptoms and know about it before getting this far, but it’s always good to check while we’re here.
Remove the valve cover gasket.
This is a fairly simple step, just pull the gasket out from the edge of the valve cover. You may need to use a screwdriver to get it started, but should then just pull out. While you remove it, check for any chips, cracks, or other damage to the ridge of the valve cover. If the cover itself is damaged, replacing the gasket may not fix the issue.
Install the new valve cover gasket.
Clean the area from which you removed the old gasket, just to be sure nothing got in there during the removal process. Line up the new gasket with the ridge of the valve cover (pictured) and install it. Be sure it is fully installed and in line with the cover. You may want to use a small amount of bonding agent or adhesive to keep it in place. Make sure you don’t use too much adhesive if you do, as it may keep the valve cover from becoming flush once you re-install it.
Remove the spark plug o-rings.
If you are also replacing the spark plug o-rings while you have the valve cover off, simply locate the three on the valve cover (pictured). Being careful not to damage the plastic surrounding the o-ring, take a screwdriver and remove the o-rings. These can also be fairly difficult to remove, as they have a metal ring inside helping keep their shape, but with a little patience will come out. Be sure to make note of how the previous o-rings were installed. Now take your new o-rings and install them. I wound up setting them by hand as much as I could, then taking a punch and rubber mallet to lightly tap them into place. Emphasis on lightly, you do not want to damage the valve cover itself.
Now the hard part is over, right?
Well, while the hard part may not be over, you now know the process we are going to do next. The next step is to repeat what we’ve done to the front valve cover to the rear valve cover. If you are a shorter person you may want to grab a stool; you’re going to be spending a lot of time bent over your engine to reach the rear. Removing the rear valve cover is extremely similar to the front, but a lot of the screws and cables are much harder to find. My advice is to triple-check that everything is disconnected before you start prying the valve cover off, you don’t want to have missed something, pull too hard, and break your valve cover. So be sure to triple-check nothing you may have missed is holding it down.
Now the hard part is over.
Yes, once you’ve removed and re-installed the rear gasket and spark plug o-rings, the worst of it is over. Now all that remains is to put everything back together in the reverse order you removed it. Be careful not to over-torque your spark plugs, I recommend using a torque wrench for those, and as I mentioned earlier if you over-tighten some of the 8mm screws they tend to snap. If you’re unsure where something may go, you can always google images of you vehicle’s engine bay to be sure it is in the proper location. Once you have no leftover parts, screws, or cables left unplugged, go ahead and start your vehicle. Let it run for a few minutes to get up to operating temperature. Check for any oil leaks and plug in an OBD II scanner to check for any fault codes or strange readings. If everything checks out alright, congratulations! You’ve just saved yourself at least $300 in labor costs.
Hope you found this guide helpful and best of luck!