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  • Writer's pictureRamiro at CarHavn

BMW Oil Leaks: Valve Cover Gasket Repair by CarHavn

Updated: Jun 11, 2023

Oil leaks are part of life with a BMW. Explore what they are, the implications, and cost to repair.

1. What is a Valve Cover Gasket?

Definitions first, please. In the diagram above, you see that a typical internal combustion engine has many gaskets in between the major metal and plastic parts. At the very top, you'll see the cylinder head cover, that sits on top of the cylinder head. In between those lives the valve cover gasket.

2. Symptoms

They generally go bad with time - being a piece of molded rubber in between a hot piece of metal and plastic can't be easy. And when they go bad, the typical symptoms are:

  • Visual traces of oil in the engine bay

  • Burnt oil smell in the cabin if the recirculation is off

  • 'Low oil' message in Audis and BMWs, red oil lamp in MINIs.

3. Consequences

Why should you fix it? After all, you can keep adding a quart of oil every now and then, right? Not really. Some of the downsides are:

  • Environmentally impact of dripping oil

  • Oil dripping from the valve cover generally goes straight to the catalytic converter, damaging it over time

  • Risk of engine operating with less oil than usual - never a good thing

3. Cost to Repair

A typical VCG repair in an BMW engine depends on the size and generation of the engine:

  • M54: 2/3 hours of work and $100-$150 in parts

  • N51/N52: 5/6 hours of work and $100-$150 in parts

  • N20/N26: 4/5 hours of work and $100-$200 in parts

  • N55: 4/5 hours of work and $100-$200 in parts

  • B38, B48: 8-10 hours of work, $100-$200 in parts

We use BMW original gaskets in our repairs - with most of the cost being labor this just makes sense.

4. Alternatives

Upon examining the leak, we may advise you change the entire valve cover. This may be due to cracks in the plastic, blockages in the oil or air passages, or excessive wear in the valve cover.

5. Results

With the proper repair and a good cleaning, your BMW's cabin will feel fresh and clean again, your catalytic converter won't have a constant oil bath, and your engine will run with the right level of oil again.

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