How to Paint Your Valve Cover




Painting your valve cover is a fun and artistic way to express yourself through your vehicle and really make the engine bay pop. People do it for fun and to improve their cars, and with a little instruction in an hour or two you can do your own! If you don’t know, the valve cover is the aluminum plate on top of the motor head. The spark plug wires go into the valve cover, and it is used to keep dirt from entering the motor and oil from flying out of it. They can be plain or come with some kind of logo like “Ford Company” or “Honda Motor Co.” that you may want to keep.

Above is an engine bay with painted valve cover and other components to make it stand out.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Materials

The first step is to gather all the materials you will need to prep and paint it. Most can be found at an auto parts or hardware store. You will need:
a socket kit,
paper towels,
aerosol paint stripper,
a grill brush,
a water hose,
drying towels,
engine enamel spray paint in your chosen color,
heavy gloss spray paint,
super fine sand paper,
and a piece of 2x4.
Once you have all the materials it’s time to get started.

Step 2: Removing the Valve Cover

To start off you’re going to need to get the valve cover off the car so you can work on it. For this you need to get the socket set out and figure out what size the bolts are holding it to the motor. There are usually 6 to 8 bolts in the corners and edges of the cover, each with rubber grommets under them. Gather the bolts and grommets and put them in a safe place for when you put the cover back on, they are very important. Next unplug the spark plug lines by pulling them out one by one, carefully noting the order and which line went where and set them off to the side. It is important you know which line went to which plug hole, or your car won’t run. Now your valve cover is completely unattached; carefully lift it straight off the motor and set it to the side on the paper towels. The valve cover gasket (a piece of rubber around the base of the cover) can be placed back on the motor until it’s time to put the cover back.

Above is pictured a valve train, the internals of the motor head, after the valve cover has been removed.

Step 3: Prepping the Valve Cover

Now it is time to prep the valve cover and get off all the old paint to leave it clean for you to paint it how you want. Make sure the cover is in a safe place preferably outside as you need good ventilation when using the paint stripper and you don’t want to accidently spray it on something important. When you have picked out a good spot, shake up the can and then begin spraying down the surface of the cover, being mindful to get all the corners and crevices. Once it’s sprayed down wait a few minutes while it eats away the paint. When it’s ready, take the garden hose and spray off the paint stripper from the surface. You don’t want to get any paint stripper on your hands, it burns the skin. Once it’s all off you can take your grill brush and start scrubbing away any more paint that the stripper peeled or weakened. When you’re done, give it another rinse and if there are any spots of paint leftover repeat the process again until its paint free.

Above is pictured a valve cover that has been completely stripped of paint, leaving an unpolished aluminum surface.

Step 4: Painting the Valve Cover

Once all the paint has been removed from the cover you must dry off all the water from rinsing so that you can begin painting. When the cover is sufficiently dry, get the can of engine enamel paint in the color you selected. It is important you use engine enamel and not regular spray paint, as the cover can reach temperatures over 200 degrees Fahrenheit  Shake the can well and take off the top. To paint the cover, use even back and forth motions holding the can evenly 8-12 inches from the cover and traveling past the edge of it each time. Stand at different angles to the cover in order to get all sides and all edges. This may take 2-5 coats until you are satisfied with the coverage and look of the cover. Lighter colors cover less and take more coats. Once the cover is covered to your satisfaction, allow it to dry at least 15 minutes till it is dry to the touch.

Above is a picture of someone painting their cover with white aerosol paint.

Step 5: Curing (optional) and Gloss Coating the Valve Cover

At this point you have the option of fire curing the cover. This has the benefits of forming a strong bond between the paint and the cover, adding a glossy sheen to the paint, and making sure any water that may be remaining in the cover is cooked out, but this step is not necessary. Some people bake their painted covers in an oven, but this will ruin the oven and permanently make it unusable for food. To cure it set it near a fire but not directly on it, about 2 feet away is good. Be careful while handling the extremely hot cover and be careful not to allow ash or debris to land on it. Once the cover has been allowed to dry or after it has been fire cured, it is time to add the gloss coat. This will protect the paint as well as giving it a mirror shine. Just as when you painted before, shake the can and then paint with left and right motions holding the can 8-12 inches away. This part should take less coats than the original paint, about 2-3 should be good. Allow the gloss to dry about 15 minutes. Now your cover is completely painted and ready to be put back on the motor!

Above is a cover that has been painted red and then given a good gloss coat to give it that reflective shine.

Step 6: Putting the Valve Cover Back On

Collect all the bolts and grommets you took off before. Place the cover carefully back on the motor, being mindful to line the gasket up perfectly with the valve. This ensures that no oil can leak out of your motor. Once the valve cover is in place, replace the grommets and bolts on their screws and tighten them up with your sockets. Now plug the spark plug lines back into the proper holes in the same order you unplugged them. At this point your car is ready to go, and your new cover should look good sitting in there bright and shiny.

Above is a painted cover after it has been placed back on the motor, with all the spark plug lines and bolts replaced properly.

Step 7: Polishing the Logo

The final step is also optional, but a lot of people like to do it for an added touch. If there is any logo on the cover you wish to make stand out, you can use the sand paper and piece of 2x4 to carefully sand off the paint so that what is left is polished aluminum, which is attractive to most people. To do this, you must wrap the sand paper around the piece of 2x4 so that when you sand you have a completely flat surface to rub the letters or logo and you don’t accidently hit anything you don’t want to. This step can be very tedious, it may take a good 10-20 minutes of sanding to get the paint off and produce a nice clean polished shine, but once it’s done it looks great. Be careful while you’re sanding, use the same back and forth motion so that the grain of the polish is all in the same direction. Every minute or so pause and blow off the powder of paint and metal you’re sanding off.

Above are pictured a red valve cover before the letters were sanded, and below it a black valve cover with the letters sanded and polished for contrast.

Step 8: Enjoy!

When you’re done wipe off the logo and valve cover, step back and take a good look at your engine bay. Your valve cover is complete, and should really stand out and look great! Now you have an engine bay worth showing to people.

Above is a completed valve cover.

Be the First to Share


    • Furniture Contest

      Furniture Contest
    • Reuse Contest

      Reuse Contest
    • Hot Glue Speed Challenge

      Hot Glue Speed Challenge

    12 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Why would you put the color coat directly on the bare aluminum without using a good high temp epoxy or etching primer first? to insure the best adhesion possible, wouldn't that be a required step in the process?


    6 years ago on Step 5

    Why would baking a valve cover ruin an oven for food? Surely the solvents escape as vapor -?
    What does "To cure it set it near a fire but not directly on it, about 2 feet away is good." mean? Only way to heat it is to have it above the fire, right? You never say what temperature you're trying to hit.

    2 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    The vapors are going to deposit themselves on the interior of the oven. A cleaning cycle will not clean them off, and mixing them with other cleaning supplies might result in unwanted side affects. DO NOT PUT IN AN OVEN YOU USE FOR FOOD

    When you sit around a fire, you get warm right? That is radiant heat, and that is what you are trying to use to heat the cover. And there is no temperature as each paint/cover is going to be different.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Many automobiles do not use gaskets on valve covers, and several other locations. Instead, they just use a bead of silicone available at numerous retail outlets. As some here mention, proper torque and tightening sequence is very important on some applications.


    6 years ago on Step 6

    In addition to using the proper torque, some covers require a specific sequence of tightening to avoid warping the cover and ruining the seal. However, with 4-bolt covers, as the last one shown, simply tightening them in a diagonal manner would work.


    6 years ago on Step 2

    You should find out what torque specs those bolts need when you put them back in before you remove them. On my f22b2 they are pretty specific and easy to break by overtorquing, but of course you want to have them tight enough to keep the gasket snug. Speaking of which chances are unless it's just been done that you'll want to replace your valve cover gasket also. Find out whats needed for your specific vehicle to remove and replace the valve cover before you get in there to try and paint it!


    6 years ago on Step 6

    May as well use a new gasket, I'm thinking


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Improve your car? The weight of the paint is going to reduce 1/4 mile et's!

    Sorry, just couldn't help that comment.

    Nice project!! Really enjoyed reading this one.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Great ible! liked th warning about the oven usage. wise of you to put that in are a couple of more things to think about-

    1. try using a d/a (dual action) random orbit for this sort of thing. It works great!.
    2. for small parts you could probably use a toaster oven .
    3. ook up DURACOAT on the internet. needs a airbrush but there is a tone of colors!
    4. when painting aluminum it is typically best to use an etching primer. It will take a better "bite" and will result in a more durable finish.
    5. reds and colors that have red in them (including orange) tend to fade when exposed to heat. Have not seen a really good cure for that one yet. :( best i have come up with is to put wd40 or cooking spray on a rag and wipe it all down. it will bring back the shine for a little while at least.


    6 years ago on Step 2

    I know that should just be oil build up but it looks like rust haha. scary thought.

    Junkyard Dawg

    6 years ago on Step 6

    A very good instructable in my opinion, and a very handsome motor there.

    One criticism, however: Be mindful of the torque specs for the valve cover. While it does not happen often (and will be different with every vehicle) if the cover is under-torqued (or over-torqued) it can cause the gasket to not seal properly, which will allow oil to escape (and, possibly, allow dirt in the engine).

    Torque specs can typically be found on the internet, as well as in a repair manual for your vehicle (I prefer Haynes Techbooks personally, but any good repair manuals would have the torque specs)