In this update we tackle the valve covers and the seals for them. Our Avant resto project has come a long way from its origins as a beat down, slow autotragic heap. For those of you joining in now, the wagon was restored from the ground up, and driven until we broke the tiptronic transmission. It was at that point we decided to swap in a manual. Why we were in there, we figured we should add some more power as well. Fast forward several months, and our donor 2.7tt motor is starting to take shape. While the motor ran well, its outward appearance wasn’t as good. 15 years of dirt had taken a toll on the motor and it was extremely dirty. The valve covers were no exception, and since we would absolutely be replacing the seal for the valve covers, we figured now would be as good a time as any to refinish them. The process of painting them was simple enough, however there are a few things that make the job different from your average resto. To remove the covers, you will need to unplug the coil packs and remove them as well as undo the several small nuts holding the valve covers to the heads. Take care when doing this, the nuts are secured to the heads using studs, snap one and it’s a world of pain. We recommend using a penetrating fluid if they are particularly corroded. Once you have removed all the nuts, the valve covers will be free, but still held on by the gasket maker. Very carefully tap the valve covers and pry them away from the heads. Be sure to avoid damaging the soft aluminum heads or valve covers. Once free, remove the rubber gaskets in the center section and around the perimeter. Using a razor blade, carefully scrape the remaining gasket maker off the heads and valve covers. A clean surface is essential for the new rtv sealant to work well. Once you have cleaned the heads cover them with plastic to prevent debris from falling into them. We chose to tape up the heads as well, given that the valve covers would be off for a while so the paint could set fully. (If you are just replacing the seals there is no need to do this, as you will be resealing them immediately.)
With the valve covers free of the motor, we started the cleaning and prep process. First we soaked them in a degreaser and blasted off the dirt with a high pressure hose. We then took to the valve covers with a wire brush to further knock off as much corrosion as we could. The final step was a wire wheel finish on the valve covers. We worked our way around each side methodically and slowly took the covers down to bare metal. In our case, the surface was good enough to avoid a heavy coat of primer. We chose a ceramic based enamel formulated specifically for valve covers and other engine components. The paint came with a metal etcher already mixed in, meaning we could shoot directly onto the cleaned up and lightly coated valve covers. We started with several very light dustings to create a tack surface for the main coats to stick to. Once we had a few light coats on, we came back through with a couple thicker coats, making sure they didn’t build up too much to avoid sagging. Once the coats had flashed over, we put down one final even coat and left the covers to dry for several days. While the paint will technically be dry in a few hours, it remain soft for a few days. Once the paint a hardened enough to install, we began the reinstallation.
Installation is relatively easy, using the correct rtv sealant, set a bead around the edges of the head and valve cover. Press the new rubber gasket into place and make sure the rtv doesn’t build up inside the heads. Place the valve cover firmly and evenly back into place and tighten down the nuts in a star pattern to the correct torque spec. They do not need much, but it is important to make sure they are evenly tight. The valve cover must lay flat to insure the best seal. Let the sealant cure and harden per the time suggested by the manufacture. Until next time, happy wrenching!