Budget Engine Cleanup
To some, replacing valve covers to cure leaky gaskets is like throwing out the baby with the bath water: New gaskets will likely solve the problem. However, shoddy gaskets provide an opportunity for upgrading the valve covers, especially if bent lips are part of the problem. And while we're on a roll, new valve covers call for a complementary air cleaner and timing chain cover....
Since everyone knows that chrome don't get you home, we investigated unshiny valve-cover options. Proform makes a black-crinkle dress-up kit that's low maintenance and will blend well with any future oil leaks. Installing the air cleaner and valve covers is straightforward. Unfortunately, the 350 in this California-licensed '77 Chevy 3/4-ton still has to pass emissions, so the valve covers must be shimmied into position around the smog equipment. Also, each valve cover has one hole on the top, so we retained the PCV plumbing on the driver side and use the kit's breather as a fill cap on the passenger side.
The timing-chain cover is a little more involved, so we'll save it for later-till it or the water pump leaks. This job involves removing the water pump, pulling the harmonic balancer, and dropping the oil pan before the existing cover can be removed and replaced.
To complete our look, flat black rattle-can paint turns the faded-yellow engine compartment and its rusty accents from ratty to natty (literally-our cleanup involved removing rodent droppings). The flat black also adds some rat-rod panache, possibly making this engine the true rat of mouse motors, at least aesthetically. Investing a few hours and a few bucks cured the valve-cover leaks and gave a grimy engine bay a rugged new attitude.
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