When I purchased my Z3 back in May of 2022 I had a state inspection done, they found the car to be in immaculate condition apart for the valve cover gasket. If you’re in the BMW community, you know these particular engines leak oil. As the car is used repeatedly and time is a constant enemy, the gasket slowly hardens from rubber to plastic causing the seal to degrade. Changing these gaskets is considered a maintenance item by some, in particular myself, while others or non-enthusiast will merely call this a flaw with the engineering of the automobile.

What tools do I need to perform the replacement?

You need very few tools to change the gasket, it’s a surprisingly simple job assuming you’re comfortable working on your own vehicles; if you can change your oil, you can change this gasket. Interestingly I found a number of forums discussing this topic, but I never really found a concrete “How-To” on this one. I eventually found a video of the process that did a fairly decent job showing what to do, though it was an already torn apart car causing me to remain concerned with my ability to complete the task on a limited schedule. The following tools are all you need, note there is no need for a torque wrench.

  • A socket wrench of your desired size, I used a 3/8
  • 10mm socket
  • 8mm socket
  • A flat-head screwdriver, better known as a “common screwdriver”
  • A tube of RTV
  • Optional: I also used a Milwaukee M12 3/8 ratchet to speed up the process, just don’t use this to snug things up.

Removing the old gasket

Now that you have your tools lined up, let’s look at the diagram below. To begin start by removing the oil-fill cap (5). Next you need to pop off the caps on top of the engine cover; these are circled below as items 1 through 4, then using your 10mm socket remove the screws securing both engine covers and set them aside in a safe place.

Now that you can see the coil packs and access the valve cover bolts, we can begin the process of removing the valve cover. Using your 8mm and 10mm sockets, disconnect the grounding wires circled as items 1, 2, and 3 in the image below. Then, using your 10mm socket remove two screws securing each coil pack to the head of the engine, these are circled as items 4 through 9 below (NOTE: two of the ground wires are connected to coil back bolts which are 10mm). I suggest placing these in order of removal and numbering them, so they may be placed in the slot they were removed from during reassembly.

With the coil packs and ground wires removed, let’s remove the 11 bolts securing the valve cover to the head of the engine. Using your 10mm socket remove the bolts circled below as items 1 through 11. These bolts have rubber grommets; you should throw these grommets away and use the new ones included with your new gasket. Once the bolts are removed you will need to carefully pull the valve cover upward off the engine, while ensuring as best as possible to lift evenly. The valve cover is made of plastic, and they’re known to break if too much pressure is applied upon removal. You may need to work your way around the valve cover a few times, lifting upward, before the cover will give-way and pop off.

With the valve cover off, you will probably find the gasket is now a hard plastic in most areas. Remove it and throw it away, I snapped mine into small pieces so it would cleanly fit in my trash can. Next you should inspect your valve train for signs of overheating and camshaft damage, or any other items for which you feel need attention. I recommend inspecting the coil packs for any signs of degraded performance or wear, replacing as needed.

Installing the new gasket

The reassembly process is nearly the reverse of these steps but let’s chew through these to make sure you’re all set. Begin by placing your new gasket in the valve cover, it only fits one way so do not worry about getting it wrong. Next you will take the RTV and place a dab of it on the seams of the VANOS cover, top side, where the valve cover gasket would sit. Finally, place the valve cover on the engine head, ensuring proper and even fitment across the span of the engine.

With the valve cover back on the engine, place your new grommets onto the sleeves of the valve cover engine bolts. Using your fingers, insert and start threading the 13 bolts back to the engine, securing the cover. Using your 13mm socket you will tighten these bolts until they bottom out, but you need to ensure you tighten each one a little while moving consistently around the valve cover. There is no specific pattern to use here, just being consistent and snugging the bolts up as you continue to work around the valve cover until they’re all tight. Finally, after each bolt is bottomed out give each a 1/8 turn on the ratchet. I have circled these below in the pattern I used when I changed my valve cover gasket back in November of 2023.

The next step is to reinstall the coil packs, in the order you removed them. Be sure to also reconnect the grounding wires as they were, this is incredibly important. Refer to my image early on for where these items were located. With the coil packs reinstalled, place the engine cover back on the engine, and secure using the two 10mm nuts you removed at the beginning, and place the oil-fil cap back on.

Congratulations! You completed the repair, and you may begin enjoying a safe and oil-free smell as you cruise around in your Zed!