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Is Your Timing Cover Gasket Failing? Here’s How to Tell

The timing cover gasket is located at the front of this engine.

Your timing cover gasket might be hiding a secret — and that secret is that it’s leaking. Tucked away at the front of your engine, the timing cover is often buried under fans, belts, pulleys and other components that make it difficult to inspect, which means you might not automatically connect it to the puddle you’ve found under your vehicle. Here’s a look at what’s underneath that cover and the signs that the gasket might need replacing.

What Does a Timing Cover Gasket Do?

Your car’s timing cover protects the timing belt or chain that connects the camshaft to the crankshaft and allows the valves in your engine to open and close at exactly the right time during the internal combustion process. The cover ensures that dirt and grime from the outside world don’t enter into the engine itself, and the timing cover gasket is there to complete the air-tight seal.

Why Does It Fail?

As with so many other seals in an engine, time and heat are the biggest enemies to a timing cover gasket. Eventually, the gasket begins to dry out and shrink, which causes it to pull away from the surfaces it’s bonded to and slowly opens up the seal that it’s supposed to make.

Common Signs of FailureTiming belt

Given that the timing cover gasket sits over an open window into your engine, one of the most common signs of failure is oil leaking from the timing cover onto the ground or down the front of the engine. It’s not always easy to determine where, exactly, an oil leak is coming from, so using a degreasing product to clean the area around the timing cover is helpful for spotting leaks.

Other indications that the gasket or cover itself might be failing include: a knocking sound from the front of the motor while it’s running (as the loose cover moves against the engine), a rough-running motor (due to dirt interfering with the timing belt or chain) and a check engine light (caused by the loss of vacuum inside the motor from a leaking gasket).

Replacement timing cover gaskets are easy to find, but the labor to actually remove and replace them can be substantial, depending on where on the motor they’re located. It’s always a good idea to get the opinion of a qualified mechanic at your local NAPA AutoCare before tackling this as a DIY repair.

Check out all the engine parts & gaskets available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on your timing cover gasket, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Benjamin Hunting View All

Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time.  I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

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