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Project Rolla, Rocker Cover Gasket and Paint

Once again, a previous owners lack of maintenance is something I end up having to fix. This time it was the torrent of oil being poured out of the rocker cover.

When I got the car I could tell immediately that the rocker cover was leaking; there was oil down all sides of the engine, and it had that leaky oil smell when you popped the bonnet. It covered everything.

I grabbed a Permaseal gasket kit (get the kit, it has everything you need including a new seal for the oil cap), but although its an easy job, I wanted to make it more complex by painting the rocker cover to give the engine bay a tidy up. The easiest way to do this was to grab a donor from Pick A Part and paint that so I didn’t have to wait for it to dry before I could use the car again.

So that’s what I did.

The donor cover got a thorough scrub in the parts washer to get any old oil off it, and once dry-ish the spark plug tube seals were removed using a hammer and punch. These are pressed into the cover from the underside. The tabs all need to be bent back to both allow the seals to be removed, and to fit the replacements.

With that sorted, the cover was masked off. I didn’t want paint on any surface that a bolt tightens against, down the spark plug tube holes, or where the oil cap seals.

Next was a few coats of the black wrinkle paint. The trick is to heat the can up in hot water, and heat the cover with a heat gun as you go. After a few good coats as per the instructions, a heat gun is used to gently dry the paint and start the wrinkle process. The rest of the baking happens on the car.

I gave the painted cover a day or two to dry and prepped the car for replacement. First I had to degrease and get rid of as much of the old oil as I could. I didn’t want to dirty or stain the new cover by cleaning afterwards.

Then it was a matter of moving the wiring harness (disconnect the main feed from the alternator and it slips over the end of the cover), undo the four retaining bolts, remove the leads, and then carefully lever the cover off

I was disappointed to find that instead of replacing the rubber seals under the retaining nuts, someone had just slathered them in sealant, despite them being as hard as a rock and brittle.

The condition of the head pleasantly surprised me though. For over 262000km, this is very clean. Just a nice golden colour, and no sludge. Note the narrow angle “FE” twin cam 16v head. The cambelt drives the exhaust cam, and the intake cam is driven via a gear from the exhaust cam. It’s quite a neat little setup.

All the mating surfaces got a thorough clean, and the multiple layers of old sealant removed. There is a little metal cap on the head at the LH end of the intake cam in the above photo, this was also leaking so I removed, cleaned and resealed this.

The new spark plug tube seals were fitted to the painted cover (using a 36mm socket to gently hammer them in flush), and the new perimeter gasket was placed into the groove. Sealant was applied at the sharp points on each end where the cover goes over the exhaust cam, and a small amount of sealant was applied over the top of the end cap mentioned above. The cover was fitted next. The four retaining nuts are torqued to 9NM.

Annoyingly at the time, I had misplaced the replacement plastic cover that I got with the replacement rocker cover. This cover is meant to go over the wiring loom and tidy it up.

I did a few KM in the car after fitting the new rocker cover, which both baked the paint on nicely (and boy does it stink), but also shows the oil leaks are gone. Everything is nice and clean.

The missing cover did turn up, but not before I bought a second one from Pick A Part for a couple of dollars. It turns out I left it in the parts washer when I cleaned the rocker cover. Oh well, this gave me two to play with.

One, in silver

And the other I painted in wrinkle black

I think the black one suits it best, so that will be staying.

A nice easy job with good results. There is no excuse to either reuse an old gasket and slather it in sealant, or just go along ignoring the leaks. Painting the rocker cover is just an added bonus of freshening up the bay a bit.

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