I've had this idea for a while, and I figured I might as well get started. I'm going to show you how to paint your valve cover. I'm doing this on a 1989 Honda Prelude 4WS Si and on a 1995 Honda Accord EX VTEC. *NOTE* Please let me know if I missed anything. I'll add it in as soon as I know about it.
Step 1: Collect Your Materials!
First off, this isn't going to be a really simple job. If you can't use a spray paint can, a screw driver, or a socket wrench, have someone else do this. If you mess up, it's not going to look good, and will be quite hard to fix.
Here's what all you should need:
Hi-Temp spray paint ( I used Dupli-Color Engine Enamel)
Aircraft Remover (Yes, that's what it's called. It's paint remover.)
Windex! (Regular Windex)
Old Towel (Clean is best!)
Hi-Temp primer (I used Dupli-Color flat gray primer)
A Wire Brush
Two portable clean hard surfaces ( I used an old tub lid, and a water damaged bit of fiberboard)
Daylight! Don't do this at night!
Lots of paper towels.
Step 2: Let's Begin!
Alright. First thing you're going to want to do is remove the valve cover. If you're doing this on a car like mine, you're going to need a 10mm Metric socket. I had to disconnect my alternator cables, as they ran over my valve cover. If you have to do the same, I STRONGLY suggest disconnecting your battery. Once you've got the obstructions removed, you can begin work on the valve cover.
Step 3: Removing the Valve Cover
Alright. All obstructions have been removed. Now you can remove the valve cover. Make sure there are no objects or particles that could readily fall into the valve train when the cover is removed. What I mean by this, is make sure there's not sand, large amounts of dust, or dirt that could easily fall into the valve train. The last thing you need is an awesomely painted valve cover - on a dead engine. Remove the nuts with the socket wrench, and place them in a safe area.
Now you'll need to pry the valve cover up a little. For my car, I had to use a flat head screwdriver to pry the valve cover up, and break the gasket seal. Now, my car has a rubber gasket, so I do not have to worry much about ripping it. You might have a non-rubber gasket, and if you do, you will want to get another to replace the one you're probably about to rip. Now, using the flat head screwdriver, pry the valve cover up on the driver side. Then the passenger side. It does not matter which side you start on. You may need to pry up on the rear of it, but I did not.
You will probably have to wiggle the valve cover a lot to get it off. Once you've removed the valve cover, place it on a clean hard surface, I used a tub lid for cleaning, and a chunk of fiberboard for painting. Cover the valve cover with the towel, so no passing dust gets into it, or paint particles. It is crucial that you have a towel for this job.
Step 4: Removal of Old Paint and Paint Prepping
I mentioned that you would need a can of Aircraft remover. Now you'll use it. Once you've got the valve cover on the hard surface, spray the valve cover to the point that the ENTIRE THING is SOAKED. But don't use the entire can, you might need to do this step once or twice to get it all off.
Give the Aircraft Remover at least ten minutes to soak in and do what it's best at. Use a wire brush to remove stuff that wont come off with the Aircraft Remover with the remover still on.. Once you're removed all the paint, hose it off. Yes, you do run the risk of getting a LITTLE water in your engine. Don't stress it much. A drop wont kill your car. For all those out there who beg to differ, bring me lab studies, and I'll change this. Use another towel to dry off the excess water. Use the Windex to clean it off. Now we'll move on to painting.
Step 5: Primer and Paint
Once the valve cover has been cleaned, it's ready for the primer. I was unable to get pictures of MY valve cover for this step, but I did get pictures of a friend's valve cover through this step, and he did the same procedure I did. Minus the primer, because I'm an idiot. The primer we used was Dupli-color gray. This will dry rapidly, but you should wait five minutes before you do another coat. Spray very lightly all over the valve cover. If you miss a spot, don't stress it. You can get it with the second coat of primer. All in all, my friend did five coats of primer. Be sure to cover all the excess holes that you don't want primer in, such as the oil fill cap hole, and any screw holes.
For painting, wait until the primer has had multiple coats, and has had a chance to dry for at least ten minutes. Begin application of the first coat of paint. I did four total. Spray lightly, and cover everything. Wait ten minutes minimum per coat of paint. Once you've covered everything in a nice even coat, you must let it dry. I have heard that you can bake it in the oven for an incredibly shiny look, but I wouldn't do something like that. Paint fumes in an enclosed and heated space seems like a bad idea to me. To get the glaze, once you're done painting it, you can either apply a spray on clear coat of some kind, or place it back on your car, and drive around for a bit. The engine's heat will help it cure, and give it that nice shiny look.
Now mind you, you'll only get a paint job as good as you can do yourself. It might take a few times, but you can do it yourself. I'm not a perfectionist like my friend is, so I don't freak if there's a chip in the paint, since I did it myself. If I had it professionally done however, I would freak. It costs me less than a dollar to small area. I have a few cans of engine enamel lying around though, that's why.
Anyways, once you're done painting, it's time for the final step, Reassembly.
Step 6: Reinstalling the Valve Cover, Final Overview
Once you've put on the last coat of paint, let it dry for a few hours, just to make sure you can touch it. This is what I had to do because I have a rubber gasket. Once the paint had dried, I got some oil on a rag and wiped it all over the gasket, and put it back in the valve cover, to help seal it. I then repeated the removal process, just backwards. Valve cover, nuts and bolts, obstructions.
Once the valve cover has been put back on, and everything is tight and secure, start up your vehicle. Drive into town, and buy yourself a soda or a slushy or something for a job well done award. Once you drive back home, or drive around a few miles, park the car for a day or so. Come back out, and take a look at your valve cover! It's shiny, and well painted, and in the color you've wanted. You're done! Now go show your friends.