Here’s the Best Way to Paint Your Valve Cover (Video)
First impressions are everything. The first thing you see when you open the hood of an older car is usually the valve cover. Most newer cars have a boring, plastic cover hiding the engine, the most notable feature being the manufacturer’s logo. But for cars and trucks of a slightly older vintage, a prominent valve cover can be a blank canvas for easy customization!
For the busier (or lazier) among us, the least we should do is degrease the layers of crud and oil that adorn the top and sides of most of our engine valve covers.
Car owners with a little more time (or motivation), should check out this video, and step by step accounting of the under-appreciated “art” of engine bay customization. This automotive improvement project is pretty easy to accomplish, even if you are a novice.
All credit for the video goes to Chris Fix, who regularly produces great DIY car repair videos. If you are considering undertaking a similar project, we wholeheartedly encourage you to watch the entire video.
Every car has a different valve cover setup, so no two valve cover painting jobs will be exactly the same. In Chris Fix’s example video below, the vehicle he’s demonstrating is a 4-cylinder Honda.
Valve covers on some cars won’t be quite as easy to get to. If you have a V-6 or V-8, you’ll have two valve covers to remove, clean, and paint.
Definitely, definitely, definitely look up how to remove your specific vehicle’s valve cover before you start this project. The video below is just a guide, and removal procedures will vary depending on your exact car.
Once your valve cover is removed, the cleaning and painting part is the same for pretty much any vehicle.
To do this project, you’ll need:
- Spray paint – MUST BE “High Temperature” -or- “Heat Resistant”
- Can of automotive primer spray paint
- Can of “Hi Temperature” Gloss coat spray paint
- Spray on paint stripper
- 180 grit sand paper
- A scrub sponge from your kitchen
- Masking tape
- Isopropyl “rubbing” alcohol
- Metal wire brush
- Spray bottle of soapy water
- Plastic container large enough to protect the valve cover during drying
- Tools for removal of the valve cover
For those who are too busy (or too lazy!) to watch the video, the steps are basically as follows:
If your valve cover has holes for spark plugs, label your spark plug wires! It will be much easier to put them back in the right order.
Remove your valve cover and any plastic. If your valve cover has ANY plastic components at all, they must be removed before moving to the next step. Paint stripper will DESTROY plastic parts.
Use paint stripper to completely remove any old paint.
Clean, clean, clean. Really. Clean the CRAP outta your valve cover. As any paint guys or gals will tell you, the prep work will determine how well the paint looks and how long it will last. Any speck of oil or grease will reduce the perfection of your new look.
Use masking tape to cover any areas or parts that you don’t want to paint. Additionally, apply any decal you want to the valve cover before you paint. When you’re done, remove the decal to show off the unpainted artwork underneath.
When spray painting, use even, overlapping strokes. Keep the spray distance from your valve cover consistent for even coating, and don’t make your passes too fast or too slowly.
Apply three coats of primer to your clean valve cover. Cover with the plastic container to allow a few minutes drying time between coats. Use different spray angles to get good coverage of your 3 dimensional part!
While the primer is still lightly tacky, spray your base coats, allowing them to dry a few minutes under the plastic container in between each coat. Spray your coats lightly, until you have good coverage after about 3 coats.
If your selected color/design involves more than one color, or more than one “stage”, repeat the above step until you have sprayed on all the colors or “stages” you wanted.
If you applied a decal, wait ten minutes after the last coat to remove it. If you let the paint dry completely, you’ll never get the decal off perfectly.
If you’re applying a separate clear coat, spray it on lightly in three coats, with ten minutes of covered drying time in between each coat.
Let the valve cover dry for at least an hour. Try not to touch the pretty surfaces too much, as the paint is still “soft” even though it is dry.
When you are ready to re-install the valve cover, you might as well replace the old valve cover gasket. They are so cheap, you might as well!
Re-install everything and admire your work!
Watch Chris Fix walk you through it below:
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