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Tackling Your Valve Cover
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Tackling Your Valve Cover

Nick Czerula

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$200

Talent:

**

Tools:

Set of sockets, wrenches, screwdrivers

Applicable Models:

BMW 323Ci Coupe/Conv (1999-00)
BMW 323i Sedan/Wagon (1999-00)
BMW 325Ci Coupe/Conv (2001-06)
BMW 325i/xi Sedan/Wagon (2001-06)
BMW 328Ci Coupe (1999-00)
BMW 328i Sedan (1999-00)
BMW 330Ci Coupe/Conv (2001-06)
BMW 330i/xi Sedan (2001-06)

Parts Required:

Valve cover gasket, valve cover fastener sealing grommets, RTV (silicone sealant)

Hot Tip:

Work with a cool engine.

Performance Gain:

Repair oil leaks.

Complementary Modification:

Change engine oil and filter. Change spark plugs.

The BMW E60 6-cylinder M54 engine cylinder head is covered with an aluminum or plastic cylinder head cover, also known as the valve cover. The ignition coils are bolted to the top surface of the valve cover and the spark plugs are installed in deep wells in the valve cover, one spark plug beneath each ignition coil. The electrical harness to the ignition coils is routed along the top of the valve cover as well. The crankcase breather hose is clipped to the front left of the valve cover. 

The BMW E46 valve cover gasket is one of the most common places to leak oil. If you have an oil leak down the exhaust side or front of your engine, start at the top and replace the valve cover gasket. When the valve cover gasket leaks, it can create quite a mess and seem much worse than it is. Engine oil can also leak into spark plug holes in the cylinder head, contaminating the ignition coil boot. You will have to repair the oil leak and replace the ignition coil boot (or ignition coil). Inspect your valve cover once the gasket has been removed. They can crack from heat or impacts. I found cracks around the grommet sealing holes.  Cracks can also appear at the front near your VANOS actuator. If you find a crack, you will have to replace the valve cover as well. 

Keep in mind that when your car was serviced before, parts may have been replaced with different size fasteners used in the replacement. The sizes of the nuts and bolts we give may be different from what you have, so be prepared with different size sockets and wrenches. 

Protect your eyes, hands and body from fluids, dust and debris while working on your vehicle. If you are working with the electrical system, disconnect the battery before beginning. Always catch fluids in appropriate containers and properly dispose of any fluid waste. Recycle parts, packaging and fluids when possible. Do not work on your vehicle if you feel the task is beyond your ability. 

Vehicle models change and evolve, as they grow older, so the vehicle shown in our illustrations may vary slightly from yours. If something seems different, let us know and share your info to help other users. Do you have questions or want to add to the article? Leave a comment below. When leaving a comment, please leave your vehicle information.

Begin by removing the engine cover. See our Pelican Parts Technical Article on Removing the Engine Cover.

Using a small flathead screwdriver, release the ignition coil electrical connector retainer by prying it up and pulling it out of the ignition coil (green arrow).
Figure 1

Using a small flathead screwdriver, release the ignition coil electrical connector retainer by prying it up and pulling it out of the ignition coil (green arrow). Do this for all six ignition coils.

Next, remove the two the 10mm ignition coil fasteners (green arrows).
Figure 2

Next, remove the two the 10mm ignition coil fasteners (green arrows). Do this for all six ignition coils.

Remove the ignition coil from cylinder head by pulling it straight up.
Figure 3

Remove the ignition coil from cylinder head by pulling it straight up. If coil resists, twist when pulling up to break it free from the spark plug. The ignition coil rubber boot can become stuck to a spark plug over time. Do this for all six ignition coils.

Working at the center of valve cover, remove the 8mm nut and ground strap from the valve cover fastener (green arrow).
Figure 4

Working at the center of valve cover, remove the 8mm nut and ground strap from the valve cover fastener (green arrow).

Unclip the ignition coil wiring harness from the valve cover by pulling it up and remove it from the engine (green arrow).
Figure 5

Unclip the ignition coil wiring harness from the valve cover by pulling it up and remove it from the engine (green arrow). Once unclipped, lay it on the left side of engine, out of your way.

Next, pull oxygen sensor electrical connectors out of the holder and lay aside (green arrows).
Figure 6

Next, pull oxygen sensor electrical connectors out of the holder and lay aside (green arrows). Then remove the secondary air vacuum hose from the holder and lay aside.

Remove the fifteen 10mm valve cover fasteners (green arrows).
Figure 7

Remove the fifteen 10mm valve cover fasteners (green arrows).

Lift the valve cover off of the cylinder head.
Figure 8

Lift the valve cover off of the cylinder head. It should not be stuck to cylinder head, if it is stuck, check that you didnÂ't miss a fastener.

Once the valve cover has been removed, pull valve cover gasket out of valve cover.
Figure 9

Once the valve cover has been removed, pull valve cover gasket out of valve cover. Then thoroughly clean valve cover sealing groove. Remove the sealing grommets from valve cover fasteners and replace them. Install the new valve cover gasket into sealing groove in the valve cover.

Then apply a small amount of RTV to seams at the BMW E46 VANOS actuator (green arrows) and the cylinder head.
Figure 10

Then apply a small amount of RTV to seams at the BMW E46 VANOS actuator (green arrows) and the cylinder head.

Place the valve cover on cylinder head and install all fasteners finger tight. Then tighten the fasteners in a cross pattern. Reinstall the ignition coils and install and route the wiring harness opposite of how it was removed. Start the car and allow the engine to idle, inspect the valve cover and surrounding areas for oil leaks. Once complete, reinstall the engine cover.
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Comments and Suggestions:
aridaen Comments: "Followup from the Pelican Staff: A warped or cracked valve cover. - Nick at Pelican Parts"
I could see this if the valve cover weren't brand new and if the leak were coming from the plastic, but it is coming from under the cap nut, above the metal washer. Anyways, a little white Teflon tape around the cap nut solved the issue.
October 31, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: New parts can be defective.

You should not need teflon tape. The sealing washer is likely faulty.

Thanks for the follow up. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
aridaen Comments: I have recently changed my valve cover, gasket, and rubber washers with OEM parts with everything torqued to spec. Now I have an oil leak coming from the top edge of the valve cover through the cap nuts and rubber washers. What could be causing this?
October 26, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: A warped or cracked valve cover. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Keyser Söze Comments: My 325ci 2000 model already clocked above 200 000 km, radiator water bottle was leaking and resulted in engine overheat for about 5KM whole driving home. When I pour water it takes close to 10 liters before its full amd the water finishes within 2 km of driving. I drained engine oil and it is water free. Where is this water going to and whats the possible further damage risks?
May 15, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: COuld be an internal leak. I would pressure test the cooling system. If the system will not hold pressure and there are no external leaks the head gasket may be faulty. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
michael bogucke Comments: I received my valve cover gasket from u thanks. I am installing it on my 2000 328i. I can not find the exact amount of torque bolts need so I have no issues with leaks. I did find something on YouTube saying that 89 inch pounds were needed. Is that true. My conversions put me at 7.41 ft lbs. Is that right if not what is the correct ft lbs that they need. Thanks in advance.
March 5, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff:
I don’t have that info.

I would grab a repair manual. It will have the torque specs.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
skip Comments: when you say "apply RTV", what is it? RTV gasket maker, or RTV adhesive/sealant? I looked in your site, and it has many different colors. does it matter what color, etc?
March 3, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: RTV Silicone (room temperature vulcanization silicone) is a type of silicone rubber sealant. You will want to choose one that works with the temperature and fluid you are sealing.

The black silicone here will work:
http://www.pelicanparts.com/cgi-bin/ksearch/PEL_search_2014.cgi ?command=show_part_page&please_wait=N&make=BMW&model=BE46§ion=bdysel&page=4&bookmark=11&part_number=37460-M258 - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
grapedog Comments: Just some comments to others who do this project. My 2001 325ci has 145k miles and was dripping oil onto the lower radiator hose so time to replace the gasket. These instructions are good except for a few things: 1 The comment "It should not be stuck to cylinder head, if it is stuck, check that you didn’t miss a fastener." needs to be edited to include the situation where an original gasket has turned to brittle hard plastic and will not let go. Tugging solved the issue but left shards of hard gasket bits in the valve area. Need to clear carefully. 2 A car this old will likely need a valve cover. Removing the hardened old gasket likely results in a chipped or cracked gasket channel. Plan on it.
May 18, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for sharing your installation process and experience. These type of comments add so much to the Pelican tech community.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
STEVE Comments: My Apologies,
I have an 02' 325i e46 146,000 miles on her...
Previous post;
I replaced the oem valve cover gasket to exact instructions and it is still leaking around the gasket and bolt seals. I tightened down to spec...is it possible the cover is warped? if so is there a better performance cover to purchase in replacement.
March 17, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You have a plastic cover on that model, it can warp. Also check for cracks around the bolt holes. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Steve Comments: replaced the oem valve cover gasket to exact instructions and it is still leaking around the gasket and bolt seals. I tightened down to spec...is it possible the cover is warped? if so is there a better performance cover to purchase in replacement.
March 10, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You didn't mention what vehicle you are working on.

If it is a plastic valve cover, yes, they do warp and can leak even with a new gasket. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Fozi Comments: As further to description it appears only when you accelerate from constant velocity point.
- Constant Velocity = 60km/h drive one hour no problem
- Accelerate to 80 km/h misfire
- Clear check engine and drive 80 km/h for one hour. No problem.
- Accelerate to 100 km/h and misfire....

This process continues.
December 27, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Follow my suggestion and you will find the cause. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Fozi Comments: Dear Nick,
I have e46 325i and a misfire in cylinder 1 "spa too small", ignition failed in cylinder 1. Swapped spark plugs to see if it moves to other cylinders, changed spark plugs, changed coils,fuel injectors, CVV, intake boot etc. Did smoke test using cigar method and found no leak.Set on cruise 100 and no misfire, but the moment I accelerate misfire returns back.Only and Only with changing acceleration misfire comes.I know it is a vacuum leak. Do you think this kind of acceleration related misfire is associated anyway with this valve cover gasket. Thanks
December 27, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would not think it is due to a vacuum leak, they way you describe it. I would check spark, fuel and compression on all cylinders. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
BUBBADAWG Comments: I have a 2004 325i can you help me with the valve cover torque specs thanks
October 1, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't have then handy. I would grab a repair manual. It will have the procedure, special tools and torque specs.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
CMAR Comments: Nick will a leaking valve cover gasket allow sufficient vacuum leak to give me a odb code 102 low mass air flow out put. Numerous parts replaced chasing this demon. Not ready to commit to a wiring harness replacement. Thank you cmar
August 20, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I have seen cracked valve covers cause fuel trim or airflow faults. It would have to be a large air leak for this to happen. COmpared to a gasket leak, which is small. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
horafide Comments: Chuck, I discovered leaks when I replaced this gasket during a head rebuild. I determined the new rubber grommets didn't put quite enough compression on the gasket and allowed it to leak. I replaced the cover fastener's metal washers with slightly thicker washers and the problem went away.
January 2, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the input on this one. We appreciate the help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Chuck Comments: I have had the valve cover gasket replaced twice but we keep getting a service engine light. Per my mechanic the code is for a vacuum leak.
Any suggestions?
2002 333xi
January 2, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The fault code would help me answer your questions. You could have a bad crankcase valve or a cracked valve cover. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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