This is Jr. my 1951 Willys Cj-3a with a 1976 Buick 231 engine. I’ve wanted a Willys since I first rode in a Jeep some 15 years ago. Last summer we found Jr. He was listed for a decent price and, better than most Willys for sale, he ran! He’s not in perfect shape but, for a 64-year-old vehicle, he’s magnificent 😉
The majority of Jr’s issues have to do with leaks. He has a leaky rear differential, a leaky gas tank, and a couple of leaky engine gaskets. I probably won’t be able to fix the leaky differential myself but, I will be able to do the engine gaskets. So today I’ll tell you how I changed the valve cover gasket. You’ll be surprised, it’s super simple!
First thing first, go buy your parts. For ours, we had the option of a rubber gasket or an old-style cork gasket. I’ve heard different reasoning supporting both. The gasket we are replacing was cork but the friendly O’Reilly’s guy talked us into rubber. His reasoning was that the cork breaks down quicker. Others will tell you the rubber is too easy to over tighten. Our old cork one was over tightened and that’s why it leaked. In the end, you decide….
On to the job!
First, remove your new gasket from the package and check to make sure it is about the right size. Second, you’ll have to get some hoses and plug wires out of the way. I had to remove the three plug wires but, before I did, and this is VERY IMPORTANT, mark your wires! You don’t want to get this mixed up because, if you do, your vehicle will not run right! I marked the first wire and its corresponding plug on the distributor cap with one piece of tape. I marked the second wire with two pieces of tape. I did not mark the third wire. (You could also mark this with a bit of nail polish. I say that because one of the pieces of tape on the distributor came off before I was done).
Once your wires are marked, it is safe to remove them. Next we’re going to undo the bolts that hold the valve cover on however, if there is any debris near your cover, you may want to blow off the area with air first. So, as you can see, mine has these T-handle stud things but, yours may be regular bolts. (if it’s still bolts, this may also be a good time to change over to these T-handles but, that’s up to you) Careful as you remove these bolts because there are also some washer clips on there that may accidentally come off when you remove the bolts. Set your bolts and washers aside then carefully remove the cover.
Once the cover is off, pay special attention as to how the gasket was seated. They only fit one way! You’ll notice the gasket has 5 tabs. Four of the tabs have bolt holes in them and one doesn’t. That one that doesn’t is your guide. Make sure you put the new gasket on the same way the old one came off.
Once you’ve cleaned up the valve cover and the engine where your new gasket will set, it’s time to start getting it put back together. So, when you purchase your new gasket, the sales man also probably told you to get some type of gasket sealer stuff (i know, very technical 🙂 I don’t know what it’s called but the parts guy will help you). You’re going to put a very thin film of this gasket sealer stuff onto your valve cover. This sealer isn’t really a sealer by the way, it really is only used to help keep the gasket in place long enough to put it back together so be sure not to use a ton. If you use too much, it could squeeze out into the valve area and cause you all sorts of grief.
Let the goo sit for a few minutes while it gets tacky then put your new gasket into the lip on the valve cover. Again, let it sit just a few minutes. Time to put it back on.
Be careful when you put your cover on. You don’t’ want it to move around too much because you’ll risk putting nicks in your new gasket. Once the valve cover is seated you can put your bolts back in but don’t forget to replace your washer clips too. The clips are important because it helps distribute the pressure of the bolts over a larger area and therefore helps to prevent over-tightening. Tighten your bolts down but don’t crank them! They should be just tight.
Now that your cover is tight and secure, you should replace your plug wires. Pay close attention to where they were, remember, if they aren’t right, you’ll have troubles 🙂
That’s it! Easy, huh! Now, go take her for a spin and make sure she doesn’t leak 🙂
P.S. This engine is very similar to most V engines (v6 or v8 Chevy, Ford, or Buick) so the process should translate fairly well.