Your gasoline-powered vehicle is going to have a valve cover gasket, which has a very important job in keeping your engine clean. It prevents dirt from getting into the engine and prevents oil from dripping out. In addition, some valve cover gaskets have seals designed to go around the spark plug tubes, which prevents engine oil from getting inside the tubes. Since all parts can break down over time, it's a good idea to know how to tell if your valve cover gasket needs repair or replacement. 

Service Engine Light

Even though this part may appear to just be a cover, it can actually trip several error codes that are identified with a service engine light. However, the error message that comes up is not going to directly state that something is wrong with the valve cover gasket. You'll see error codes related to the problem that the part is causing.

For example, if you get error code P0312, you could have a problem with the engine misfiring. This can be caused by oil getting into the spark plug tubes, which causes a problem where the spark plug doesn't fire. That's why it's important to know what the part does and what problems it can create when the part breaks.

Dirty Valve Cover

Sometimes you can tell the part is damaged just by taking a look at it underneath the hood. A torn gasket is going to cause engine oil to seep through while the vehicle is running, which is going to leak all along the side of the valve cover. This oil can then become covered in dirt and cause the part to look filthy. You'll usually see the oil come from the seals and leak downward, but the leak can come from anywhere if the part has a crack in it. 

Smoke or Burning Smell

If that oil leaks from the valve cover and reaches another hot surface, it is going to cause that oil to turn to smoke. This can cause the appearance that your engine is overheating or smoking, but it is really the oil that escaped and dripped onto another part of your vehicle while it is running. It's also possible for the oil to not generate a noticeable amount of smoke, but you'll notice a burning smell inside your vehicle. 

Reach out to a local auto repair mechanic for more information about repairing the valve cover gasket if you suspect it is damaged.