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BMW Technical Article

Painting The Valve Cover On The BMW
Jared Fenton

Difficulty Level: 2
Difficulty scale: Adding air to your tires is level one
Rebuilding a BMW Motor is level ten

     If you are like me, then it is important that your engine be detailed as well as the rest of your car. That in mind, I decided to go over the steps involved in painting the valve cover on the E30 3 Series BMW. The valve cover on these cars looks to be just a piece of unfinished cast aluminum. In my opinion, this can look better. In this article I will go over the steps involved in painting the valve cover. Keep in mind that this article is written using my 325is as the example, however the procedures here can be used for nearly every car on the road.

     After looking at the motors on the later E36 3 series M50 engines with the black valve covers, I instantly began to plan out how to get my valve cover looking like that. With the engine cool, the first step is to remove the valve cover. This is done by first removing the intake manifold support bracket. Two 10mm bolts into the intake manifold and two 10mm bolts into the valve cover hold the bracket on. Once you remove the bracket, remove the eight 10mm nuts around the perimeter of the valve cover. Take off the oil filler cap and remove the valve cover from the engine.

     Before we start painting, we need to prep the valve cover. Start out by first wiping up all the excess oil on the outside and inside of the cover. Next, use a good degreaser on the cover and let it sit for 15 minutes. I usually use Gunk (keep in mind to do this is a well-ventilated area as Gunk is terrible smelling) after letting it sit for a while, use a brush to remove any caked on grease or oil. Just try to get it as clean as possible. Rinse off the degreaser and dry it with either compressed air or paper towels. Now let the cover air-dry.

     Next, use some acetone on a rag and wipe the outside of the valve cover. Most acetone brands contain xylene, which is a great cleaning agent. The xylene will also take off all the cosmoline on the cover. Cosmoline is that yellowish film that you most likely will see in other arrears of the engine as well. This stuff was originally a protective sealant that BMW sprayed all over the cars when they were being shipped to the US. Most dealers never took the time to remove it from the engine components. Donít worry, cosmoline wonít hurt anything, but after years of being on there without removal, it has most likely baked itself onto the valve cover. An acetone with xylene will eat right through it.

     Next, clean the valve cover good, we want to get this as clean as possible, so the paint will adhere. If you think itís clean, clean it one more time to be sure. Now let the valve cover sit for 15 minuets to let all the acetone evaporate.

     Now we are ready to paint. I used Wurth High Temp Black Paint. This is the best spray paint I have ever used, period. This stuff flows smoothly, adheres great, does not run and dries quickly. Plus, it leaves a textured finished that is almost the same as on the M50 motors. Now, lay down some newspapers or a tarp to protect from overspray. I then put the valve cover on top of a baking tray. (In reality you could use just about anything, however the reason I used the baking tray will become apparent in a moment)

     Place the valve cover and baking tray on the newspapers. The reason we donít place the valve cover directly on the newspaper is to prevent the papers from sticking to the cover once paint is applied. Now, grab the can of Wurth and shake it for two minutes. (The label says shake for one minute, but hey, it canít hurt.) Next, hold the can about 6 to 10 inches away from the cover and begin spraying light even strokes across the cover. Once you have painted one stroke across, move the can slightly upward and slightly overlap the first stroke. Do this until you have covered the valve cover.

     Go to the kitchen now and pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F. and open ALL the windows in the kitchen. Carefully pick up the baking tray and place it in the oven. Keep it in there for about 10 minutes. This will cure the first coat. Keep in mind that curing this in the oven will give off a bad smell that will linger around for an hour or two.

     Now use some oven mitts (Use old one, the wife or girlfriend will appreciate it) and take the baking tray out and let it cool for 5 minutes. Now re-apply the second and third coats using the same procedure as above. Then throw it back in the oven for 10 minutes and let it cure.

     After 10 minutes, take the valve cover out and let the paint dry fully overnight. In the next step, we will remove the paint from the raised ribs and letters on the valve cover. Get some razor blades, and very carefully start to scrape the paint off the raised sections of the valve cover. This will take some time as the Wurth dries very thick. Donít worry if it looks bad with the paint removed, we are going to polish the aluminum and get it really shiny like chrome.

     Once the paint is all removed, get some 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper and a bowl of water. Now dip the sandpaper in the water and using light pressure, lightly sand the raised portions. Sand until you get a uniform surface and shine. Next, use progressively finer and finer grits of sandpaper, dip them in the water and polish until you get it nice and shiny. The last step is to get a good metal polish like Wenol or Blue Magic (some people even swear by toothpaste!) and polish the raised sections. Be prepared to spend a lot of time doing this. But keep in mind that a quality job is directly proportional to the amount of time put into it. Keep polishing til it shines like chrome.

Once finished, clean up the residual polish and re-install the valve cover.  

     Well, there you have it - it's really not too difficult at all.  If you would like to see more technical articles like this one, please continue to support Pelican Parts with all your parts needs.  If you like what you see here, then please visit our online BMW catalog and help support the collection and creating of new and informative technical articles like this one.  Your continued support directly affects the expansion and existence of this site and technical articles like this one.  As always, if you have any questions or comments about this helpful article, please drop us a line.

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