Despite their importance in keeping your automobile functioning, valve seals do not always last for a car’s lifetime. Many car owners will need to replace their valve seal at some point due to the deterioration of the seal materials. Due to the invasive nature of a valve seal replacement, most car owners will need to hire a mechanic to perform the service.
The cost of a valve seal replacement will vary depending on your car’s model. The typical range you can expect is between $900 and $2000. While the part usually costs less than $100, paying for a mechanic’s labor constitutes most of the cost. The more complicated your engine, the longer it will take to replace.
What is a Valve Seal?
A valve seal is one of the essential parts of your engine. They are fitted around the valve stem to keep lubricant out of the combustion changer. Each cylinder needs to have a valve seal.
Valve seals come in various materials, including rubber, nylon, and steel. Engine lubrication allows the valve to move properly as it slides in the valve guide. It protects engine components against wear and tear. However, the lubrication cannot enter the combustion chamber, leading to carbon settling in the chamber and wearing down the plugs.
Essentially, the valve seal keeps the lubricant where it needs to be and keeps it from going where it would cause damage.
Six Signs that Your Valves Need Replacement
When you need a valve replacement, your engine will give you a couple of signs. Look out for these symptoms signifying worn-down valve seals:
Your Car Uses Too Much Oil
Because a worn-down valve seal causes oil to leak into the combustion chamber, your engine will burn it off along with your fuel. This means that your oil levels will lower for seemingly no reason. You can check your oil using your engine’s dipstick. Your oil level should rest within the indicated lines on your dipstick.
When you notice low oil levels in your engine, it typically either indicates a leak or you are burning oil, potentially due to a worn-down valve seal. Check the spot where you park your car for an oil stain. You are likely to burn the oil off if you do not see one.
Check your oil levels with your dipstick at least once weekly to stay on top of healthy and routine car maintenance. The sooner you notice a problem, the sooner you can solve it before it causes any significant issues.
Emitting Blue Smoke
Burning oil typically comes with a few more noticeable symptoms. As oil burns, it leaves through your exhaust pipe with the rest of your used fuel. Check your exhaust for the telltale blue smoke that indicates burning oil. You can turn on your car and let it run for a few minutes. If your car uses too much oil but you do not see blue smoke, you might leak and not have a worn-down valve.
Sometimes you might see smoke directly coming from your engine and the tailpipe. Smoke from your engine almost always indicates a problem unless you know that an external liquid source caused steam and not smoke. Burning oil will usually have a blue color. Other liquids, such as coolant, might leak into your engine, resulting in smoke. So check where the smoke comes from to help diagnose the problem.
Keep on the lookout for some more of the following symptoms to confirm the issue before you take it to a mechanic. Knowing your exact problem usually means lower repair costs since a mechanic will not have to diagnose it themselves. And if you feel so inclined, you can even try to repair the issue yourself and save some money.
You can get the best idea of your valve seal status while your car idles. During idling, oil builds up around your valve stem due to higher vacuum pressure. Then, once you accelerate, this oil gets sucked into your combustion chamber. When performing this idling test, you will often get more of a visual of the blue smoke.
Oil Spurting from Tailpipe
Not all the oil gets combusted when entering your engine’s chamber. When your valve seal is significantly worn and a good amount of oil leaks into the combustion chamber, you might see total oil drops spurting from your car’s exhaust. You can test for this by putting a blank sheet of paper in front of your tailpipe. If you have a worn-down valve seal, you will see drops of black or brown liquid on the paper.
Be careful when looking for leaking oil. It tends to stain clothes and is not healthy to ingest accidentally. Keep away from the exhaust pipe as much as possible and wear clothes you will not mind getting a little dirty.
Limited Acceleration Power
A decrease in your engine’s power shows that something needs fixing and replacement, potentially indicating a worn-out valve seal. Most manufacturers build their valves to fit in their seats perfectly. When a leak occurs, oil accumulates on top of the valve, which causes it to lose its perfect fitting. In most cases, this leads to compression problems, impacting performance.
Valve problems might also cause a leak from the combustion chamber. You might start losing out on fuel so that your power strokes produce less power. You will notice poor power performance when you try to accelerate. When your acceleration speed falters, you could have a valve seal problem.
Last on our list but often first on your symptoms list, you might hear a strange sound coming from your engine block. Listen for popping or ticking noise for a problem with your valves. The noise tends to get louder whenever you accelerate. During every drive, take some time to drive in silence and listen to the sound of your engine. Problems will often be heard before they can be seen.
Valve Seal Replacement Cost Guide
As stated before, the exact cost of your valve seal replacement varies depending on the kind of car you have. You can almost always fix your car for cheaper by doing it yourself rather than going to a mechanic. However, many repairs, especially a valve seal replacement, take a lot of time and require immense training and experience to solve.
Here we will cover expected costs when tackling the issue versus taking it to a mechanic.
Doing it Yourself
Valve seals typically do not cost a lot of money. They often range between $35 and $100. You can find the part from various automotive parts suppliers and retailers. However, the valve will be the cheapest part of performing the replacement yourself.
It would help if you often disable the engine block to solve the problem. To do this, you will need the appropriate tools, including a crane to lift the engine and all the hand tools required for disassembly. Tools alone will cost you upwards of $500, depending on your purchase.
Replacement oil will cost you $20 to $40, depending on the quality and type of oil you use. The whole process will take you several hours to complete, depending on your experience level and the kind of car.
Many mechanics recommend replacing your timing belt with your valve seals, which you can do with the disassembled engine blocks. This part typically costs less than $50, and replacing it with your valve seals saves you from dissembling your engine in the near future.
Taking it to a Professional
We recommend taking it to a mechanic for any job requiring the disassembly of your engine block. Try to take it to a mechanic you trust. Otherwise, you could end up with a higher bill and additional services you did not need.
Mechanics can change anywhere from $50 for the absolute cheapest to $500 or more per hour. Allow for around four hours of labor time and the cost of parts. Therefore, you could end up paying anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand.
A mechanic might also spot another issue with your car, costing even more than initially anticipated.
Car repairs are never easy and rarely cheap. However, you need to pay for these necessary repairs to keep your car moving. Also, solve a valve seal problem as soon as you can. A worn-out valve will cause additional problems for your vehicle down the road. So the sooner you fix it, the less it will cost you.
Check out the rest of our blog for additional information.