The E36 M3 Sedan I recently acquired came with an existing leaky valve cover.  It was more of a weep and leak, but a problem worth fixing either way.  The cover was weeping oil from the rear, passenger side of the head, which resulted in drops of oil landing directly on the exhaust manifold.  The issue became apparent after a drive when the smell of burnt oil wafted over the car when coming to a stop.

S52 Valve Cover Removed

The previous owner was aware of the issue and had purchased a Victor Reinz gasket with plans to replace it.  It’s a relatively easy task to replace, which I did within the second day of ownership.  This isn’t my first time doing this job, and I did it just like I always have.  Unfortunately, after a few miles the weeping oil resurfaced, though not as severe as before.

A little internet research had revealed a lot of negative reviews of the Victor Reinz gaskets, which led me to believe it might be the culprit.  So I ordered up an genuine BMW (OEM) valve cover gasket in hopes it would solve my issues.  I had also noted that the original valve cover had a small piece of plastic chipped off near one of the bolt holes, though it was on the opposite side from the leak.  Unlike the S50’s magnesium cover and the S54’s aluminum cover, the S52 uses a cheaper plastic cover.  Fortunately this same cover was used on lots of BMW‘s.  I was able to easily source a used but otherwise perfect cover from a junk yard, which would at least give me the peace of mind that the cover was 100%.

I gave the new cover a thorough cleaning in the parts washer, then blasted it with compressed air to remove the caked on oil residue.  The photos show you what the underside of the cover looks like when dry.  Yes it looks filthy, but there’s really no easy method of fully removing this brown haze (harsher chemicals would damage the plastic substrate).  You can also see the new OEM gasket inserted into the channel around the perimeter, as well as the six spark plug donuts.

Replacement Cover next to Old Cover Replacement Cover with new OEM Gasket

As for the new OEM gasket, I noticed that it seemed to be more pliable that the Victor Reinz gasket.  I didn’t note any difference in fitment, but perhaps there is an actual difference in the material used.

Prior to installing the new cover, I thoroughly cleaned the mating surface of the head with a gasket scraper, wire brush, and a rag with some brake cleaner.  With the surface free of any old gasket material and oil, I put a dab of red (gearbox) Toyota FIPG at the corners of the rear half-moons and the mating points of the VANOS cover and head.  I’ve used this red Toyota FIPG on nearly everything and have always been pleased with the results.

FIPG on front of head FIPG on rear of head

Then the valve cover goes back on, trying my best to seat it straight down as to not smear the FIPG away from where it is needed.  Then install the nuts/washer/gaskets that secure the cover to the head, tightening in a spiral pattern.  The torque specs actually result in the nut bottoming out, so really a torque wrench isn’t absolutely necessary.  Back on go the coil-packs, which I marked 1-6 for future troubleshooting purposes.

Coil Packs Marked Engine Cover Installed

The engine cover goes on next, paying careful attention to the flimsy plastic bolt covers.  Plug the crank-case vent tube back in, lube the o-ring to ensure a solid seal.  Finally the oil fill cap, make sure the rubber gasket is pre-lubed with some engine oil.

The results: after several hundred miles; no leaks!  Looks like the genuine OEM gasket did the trick and the engine bay is once again bone dry!


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