Valve cover gasket leak?? - Nissan Xterra Forum
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#1 Old 11-14-2012, 06:04 PM
beezl80
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Valve cover gasket leak??

Got a 2003 Xterra with what I think is a passenger side valve cover gasket leak. The engine smells funky once parked after driving and theres traces of oil on engine parts underneath. Its very slow so I cant tell exactly where its coming from.

Check out these images.

This is what the starter looks like. Somewhat oily from the leak above.


With the starter out, this is the only place I can see any oil collecting from a leak. (The highest point from where I think it trickles down.)
Could it be coming from those bolts? Or somewhere above, like the underside of the valve cover gasket?



Oil collects here at the lowest point on the X. It starts above the starter, drips down, and ends up here. Again, not much but enough to leave very small oil stains after driving for a bit and the engine smells nasty once parked. Im sure the rest is burning off on the exhaust or engine parts.


Is this the valve cover gasket leaking or something else I could be overlooking? I cant see the underside of the valve cover to know for sure, and the screws on top are filthy but i cant see any oil leakage from above. Want to make sure I dont rip it apart for the wrong reasons.

Thanks to everyone in advance who can send helpful information.

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#2 Old 11-14-2012, 07:49 PM
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Probably. The passenger side is pretty easy to do, so you can pull it off and see how hard it is. It should be pliable, but after 9 years it's probably toast. My passenger side came out in 10 pieces when I did mine a couple of weeks ago.
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#3 Old 11-14-2012, 07:51 PM
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It's hard to say for certain from down here unfortunately. My hope would be that it's not the head gasket.

Opening up the valve covers to check would be a good idea when you have the chance. If oil is getting through the gasket it should be pretty obvious once you look at it, plus you'll be able to see from the top where the oil leak is starting from. Sorry that's a bit of a pain to get to still.

Good luck getting that leak fixed soon!
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#4 Old 11-15-2012, 07:40 AM
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at the age of the first gens, the odds of the valve cover gaskets not being in pieces are little to none. The other problem with them is the valve cover screws tend to come loose over time and will let them leak even worse. you can trying tightening the screws up until you get around to the gasket. I would bet money they are loose.

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#5 Old 11-15-2012, 01:48 PM
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Seems to be fairly common. I just had to replace that same one and the driver's side is leaky too.
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#6 Old 11-18-2012, 07:18 PM
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Valve cover gasket

I changed my passenger side gasket last year. It took about 45mnts to change out. The old gaskets crack, and when they do you can't tighten the cover tight enough to seal the leak. I tried. Doesn't work. The driver side now leaks. But I'm not about to try and do it myself. It's about a six hours worth of labor at my garage.
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#7 Old 11-19-2012, 12:19 PM
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have the same thing. need to get around to replacing both sides. in the meantime while reading into it, i heard over and over people saying "check the screws". and let me tell ya - mine were SUPER loose! i'm sure it's not gonna solve the problem but it'll for sure slow it down. i could only get to two of the screws on the drivers side though.

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#8 Old 11-19-2012, 03:04 PM
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Thanks for the info everyone.

After doing a bit more inspecting, I was able to tighten 3 of the 4 screws on the passenger side that were very very loose and that seems to have helped slow the leak a little more. The engine still smells terrible tho after driving, so Im assuming the slow leak is still burning up oil that drips. No new oil spots on the ground since tightening the loose screws.

With any luck, tightening those screws will hold me over until i can get in there and change out the gasket.
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#9 Old 11-19-2012, 03:53 PM
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In all honesty if it wasnt for the vacuum hoses on the back, I think the job could be done easily in a couple of hours for both sides. taking the plenum off was easy, but I ended up having to cut all the vacuum hoses in the back since they just wouldnt come loose. While i had mine apart I polished the intake plenum a little, cut the egr down flat and did a complete throttle body coolant bypass. Doing the bypass will make my life a lot easier if I ever need to take the thing back off again, but I dont want to do it if I dont have to. other than all the hoses it was just a matter of getting all the electrical connectors loose and marking them so i could get them all back right without having to think about it.

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#10 Old 12-07-2012, 04:55 PM
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Those pix on the initial post look just like mine except my starter is really rusty. Anyone ever have success with a stop leak product? I have no garage, and it's minus 30 outside with a minus 50 windchill, so i may have wait until spring to change the gasket unless I can use someone's garage.

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