Engine Bay Cosmetics

10/15/00 -- I've decided to do what I can to make the engine compartment a bit more presentable. I've had a nasty oil leak from my valve cover, making a real mess of things since I last adjusted the valves. Though I installed a new gasket at the time, it just didn't quite fit quite exactly right. I bought a cork gasket, but it had shrunk slightly and I had already applied silicone sealer to the valve cover and had already gotten gunk on the gasket, so it was too late to do much about it. I was told after the fact that I could have soaked the cork/rubber gasket in water for awhile, but it was too late. Well, today I did something about it. I also decided to clean and repaint the valve cover. The PO painted the cover red to match the body work. He also applied red sheathing to most of the rubber hoses in the engine compartment and painted the engine and radiator valances and the generator... red.

Too much red for my tastes.

The original, factory color of the valve cover was a rather lovely metallic copper, but I decided I didn't want to try and recreate that look, either. Instead, I opted for a bright, metallic silver. Eventually, I want to get a polished alloy valve cover, but I reasoned that I shouldn't have to wait to acquire that "look".

I pried off the leaking valve cover gasket and also removed the remaining Permatex black silicone with a flat-bladed screwdriver. Then, I wiped down the valve cover with lacquer thinner and let it dry. I used two types of spray paint. One of those very bright "chrome" types that never quite look like chrome, and a pretty metallic silver. I used the bright silver as the basecoat because it covers much better, then applied the metallic as a light finish coat. It turned out beautifully, I think.

I applied a semi-thick bead of silicone to the gasket track on the underside of the cover, then smoothed with a plastic scraper. I carefully lowered the new gasket in place, starting at one end, and once satisfied with the fit, lightly set the valve cover on a flat table to let the weight of the cover itself press the cork gasket into the silicone just a little. Then, wearing latex gloves, I ran my fingertip along the inner seam of the gasket, spreading the excess silicone to create a positive seal between the inside of the valve cover and the gasket.

The last time I attempted to seal the valve cover, I used no sort of dressing on the engine side of the cork. I recall seeing a post on the Spitfire list from an English gent who said that he applied a thin layer of grease against the cork and never had a leaking problem, so I decided that this might be a good idea and followed suit. It sure made sense to me. I simply ran a very thin layer of grease along the surface of gasket with my fingertip, carefully re-installed the valve cover after wiping down the cylinder head. Resisting the temptation to torque down the nuts with the socket wrench, I tightened the valve cover by hand.

I also wanted to clean up the filler cap. It was suffering from neglect and the ravages of time. A thin layer of paint was covering part of it and it was just generally ugly. I could see no point in cleaning up the valve cover just to adorn it with an oily, ugly cap.

Using a dab of Simichrome and a toothbrush, I scrubbed the cap for a few minutes, then spent another five minutes or so buffing it with a clean terrycloth rag. I was surprised to see that the light colored paint or grease that filled the lettering on the cap still remained and the "new" cap shone like it was brand new. This is one of those little "detail jobs" that really makes a nice difference. Best of all, when I fired up the engine and ran it for awhile, for the first time since I've owned this car -- there were no leaks from the valve cover.

12/12/00 -- Despite all the care I took, the new valve gasket developed a small leak regardless. I decided to try a new neoprene rubber gasket that a fellow Spitfire owner manufactured and sent me to try. I decided that if I was going to go through all that trouble, I might as well include the new chromed valve cover that I purchased from another Triumph owner since I installed the repainted cover, above.

So far, after about 50 miles, the new valve cover and neoprene gasket are working out great. My favorite comment was from a fellow Spitfire owner on the Totally Triumph Garage. "I'm Blinded by the shiny Chrome object on your car. It facinates me as a crow looking at a shiney foil of a gum wrapper." That made me laugh out loud...


Please. Always wear your seatbelt while driving -- and that goes double for your children if you hav any.

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