Three valve cover gaskets in three years. What's going on?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 1992

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have replaced three valve cover gaskets on my 1988 Plymouth Caravelle in the last three years. After 5,000 miles or so, oil starts to leak onto the motor and onto the ground. Is there a fire hazard I should be worrying about?

RAY: Yes, Philip, there is a small fire hazard. Oil leaking onto a hot manifold could possibly ignite, although we've never seen it happen. I wouldn?ot worry about it, though. In fact, I?od look forward to it. It might be a blessing in disguise!

TOM: The more important question is why are your valve cover gaskets leaking every 5,000 miles? The fault probably lies with your mechanic and with Chrysler.

RAY: Your mechanic probably did a lousy job replacing your valve cover gasket the first time. Perhaps he didn?ot tighten it well enough. After five thousand miles, it started to leak and you came back and complained. Since it?os not a pleasant job, rather than do it again, the mechanic probably just decided to tighten the heck out of the valve cover to stop the leaking.

TOM: That may have worked for a while, but it also bent the valve cover, which means it?oll continue to leak from now on...even with a new gasket. And the only way you?ore ever going to fix it is to straighten out the valve cover--if that?os possible--or replace it.

RAY: And that?os where Chrysler comes into it. The valve covers they use are, let?os say, not extremely sturdy....what some people might even call cheap junk (although WE would never use language like that).

TOM: Cheap junk? Heavens no. WE would never use words like cheap junk.

RAY: The valve covers they use are made of stamped steel, and if they?ore not treated with tender, loving care, they tend to bend and leak when they?ore over-tightened. By contrast, many foreign manufacturers use cast aluminum valve covers, which almost never leak, no matter how much you tighten them.

TOM: You can check this for yourself, Phil. When your mechanic takes the valve cover off your Caravelle, wipe off all the oil and take a good, close look at it. If you look carefully, you should be able to see the words "Mrs. Smith?os" stamped on the inside.

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