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387 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I've been seeing quite a few threads lately about how people have smoking N/A's. This may be of some use to those of you that want to know what's involved with replacing your own valve stem seals.

Worn Valve Stem Seal Symptoms:

- Bluish smoke upon startup - When the vehicle sits after being run, any residual oil which has had time to drip down past the worn seals enters the combustion chamber or coats the valves which will then burn off next time the vehicle is started.
- Bluish smoke upon deceleration - When you release the throttle and there is no longer a positive input of air into the engine, vacuum is created. The vacuum will draw oil in past the worn seals and into the combustion chamber resulting in a trail of smoke behind you. This will be heavier after hard acceleration, or lighter between shifts momentarily, or at slow speeds.

Tools you will need:

- 100psi (at least) capable air compressor
- fitting to fill cylinders with air, (I used the hose / fitting from my compression tester and removed the valve so air could pass straight through)
- 3/8 drive ratchet with 10 & 12 mm & short extension
- Spark plug socket & long extension
- 10, 12 & 14, mm metric wrenches, I used gear ratchet wrenches which speed things up.
- 30mm axle nut socket, or channel lock pliers (to remove the valve cover nuts)
- Valve keeper removal, and installation tool. I used the Lisle tool shown in this video: (not my video just showing you how it works)
- Valve seal pliers
- Automotive extension type magnet
- Paint marker or white out.. NECESSARY for timing belt.

Useful things to have:

- Microfiber clothes / towel
- Top end gasket set to replace old rubber gaskets as you work
- A drink... you will get thirsty.

Step by step:

Your techniques or order may vary.

Pre-1) Disconnect your negative battery terminal to avoid any potential risks.
1.) Put the car in first gear, and block the front and back of 2 wheels for safety. If you skip this step, and put compressed air into a cylinder the car WILL move forward. Don't take this lightly.
2.) Open the engine lid and prop it up (I hope this part wasn't necessary to mention, otherwise stop reading. haha
3.) Cover your trunk lid with a towell or something else soft to avoid scratching it up since we all know you're going to set tools and oil parts down on it.
4.) remove the spark plug wires from the plugs, and the distributor. Also unplug the power to the distributor.
5.) with your 10mm wrench unbolt the 5'th injector if you have it and set it to the side, put the bolts back into the manifold so you don't lose them.
6.) Using your rather large socket (30mm I believe it was) or channel lock pliers, remove the 4 retaining nuts on the valve cover. With them should be 4 seals, keep these all together and set aside.
7.) Remove the spark plugs using your long extension on the 3/8 ratchet and plug socket, set aside.
8.) Lift the valve cover off, if it's not been on in a while it may require some gentle persuasion. you might pry between the gasket with a flat head screw driver, or tap the side of the cover with a rubber hammer to break the seal. Old aluminum is brittle, take caution not to crack your valve cover.
9.) Unplug the harness which is crossing over the head next to the timing belt from your A/c compressor, and pull it back out of the way.
10.) Using your 10mm wrench or socket either one you find easier, remove the 5 bolts which fasten the upper timing belt cover to the engine.
11.) The cover is hard to remove, you will probably break it but at least I warned you. It does come out, just not without a fight. Remove the cover and set it aside. To remove it with no fight, you must remove the engine mount and I'm not going into detail about that.

by this point you're looking at something like this:

(minus the missing exhaust and a/c compressor as I had already removed them for other reasons)

12.) This is important to note, at this point you SHOULD take a picture of the orientation of the cams, and use your paint market to mark where they are sitting in the engine right now, because without doing this putting them back in properly is going to be a much more involved process. Mark a few teeth and take a good photo to see exactly how the cams are sitting. This may be unorthodox, but if you don't want to do this, you are going to have to re-do the entire timing belt and that's not what my thread is about.
13.) Using your paint marker, mark at least 3 different grooves on the timing belt, and mark the cam gear as well on the side AND in the groove to make sure you know where it's going to go back on.
14.) Now slide the timing belt off of the cam gear, don't force it or use anything sharp you will cut it. I simply used a small blunt prybar and slid it off the cam gear. Once off, you can hold it up and set it towards the firewall in front of the engine, it should stay just fine and not come off the water pump because the lower cover holds it in place.
15.) Using your 14mm wrench, (you may back to back the wrench, putting the closed end of a larger wrench onto the open end of the 14mm to leverage) Put your 14mm closed end onto the cam gear bolt, and loosen it. Left is loose.
16.) The gear may be on there pretty good, but it just slides off - note there is a guide pin on the end of the camshaft so you don't install it incorrectly for later. Set the gear and bolt aside together.
17.) As for dealing with the timing cover metal backing, you cold get crazy and remove the entire timing set and aggravate yourself, or just remove the 3 10mm bolts which hold it to the head at the top, and gently "bend" it towards the strut tower enough to get the end cap off the camshaft. This may be unorthodox also, but I was doing this while trying to avoid unnecessary work. You may be able to finesse the end cap out of it's location without moving the metal back plate at all. I didn't try.
18.) Using your 3/8 ratchet and perhaps a short / or long extension and your 10mm socket, loosen all of the bolts which secure the cam retainers and leave them as they sit.
19a.) using your paint marker, put a mark on the distributor bolt so you know how to reinstall it if you don't know how to ignition time the vehicle.
19.) Use a 12mm socket or wrench, and unbolt the bolt which resides to the left of the distributor. Gently remove the distributor and set it aside.
20.) find a nice clean location to place them as you see them on the engine, they are all marked for ease of installation but lay them down aside from the car some place as you remove them, with the same bolts in them etc this will avoid headaches later.
21.) The camshafts now can be lifted right now, they will drip oil all over, so watch your precious paint. Set them aside on a clean dry surface.
22.) Once you remove the cams you are almost to the prize.. keep going. Using your magnet, remove the shims/buckets from the engine and line them up on a clean dry surface EXACTLY as they are oriented in the engine, write down what they are if you must They must be installed as they came out.


387 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
23.) Now the fun begins, fill your compressor up, and prepare to find out how bad your valves actually seal. haha.. oh yes.
24.) Screw in your fitting to which ever cylinder you'd like first, I chose the far right #1. Once the compressor is full to at least 100psi (shouldnt need more, try to maintain that pressure.)
25.) Connect the air supply to the cylinder, and listen to the wonderful sound of valve leakage.. because you're are most likely going to have some.

Very important note: The whole idea of using the air compressor is to keep pressure on the face of the valve to prevent them from dropping into the cylinder. All cylinders are going to have some kind of leakage, before you attempt to change the seals, watch your air pressure gauge to see if you can maintain at least 50 psi. You can remove the keepers and springs with virtually no pressure, but you will drop a valve if you try to reinstall them with no pressure in that cylinder, so WATCH YOUR AIR GAUGE ITS IMPORTANT.

26.) Using the lisle valve keeper tool, or tool of your choice remove the retainer / keepers / springs 1 at a time. Do not remove the next until you complete the previous.
I always did the exhaust valves, then the intake valves on each cylinder then moved to the next.
27.) After removing the spring components, set them upright as they were in the engine for proper reinstallation. Using your stem seal pliers, get a firm grip on the old seal, and twist a little, then pull straight out to remove the old seal. Be sure if the inside falls out of the seal as you see in the first photo some of mine were that bad.. that you clean it out of the engine before installing the new seal.
28.) place a new seal into the pliers, and gently push it to the bottom. You will feel a small "click" they snap into place. Sometimes you won't feel it much, but they don't require much pressure to seat fully.. don't try to force them down, if you don't feel it seat simply pull it up again and press down gently. Some people like to use a deep socket for this part and press byt hand to feel them seat. I just used the seal pliers, they work fine.
29.) Once the new seal is in place, set your spring back into the head, and the retainer with keeps sitting in it on top of the spring. If you are using the lisle tool, it's as simple as pressing down by hand to reinstall the keepers and that valve is complete. Move onto the next.
30.) Repeat this process 4 times per cylinder, until you are ready for the next cylinder. Repeat on 4 cylinders, all 16 valves, and hopefully all goes well. The intake valve stem seals are going to be harder to remove than the exhaust ones by nature, just give the pliers a firm grip and don't get frustrated. Some of them will take 2 hands to remove, but you can do it. Wearing gloves may reduce the amount of cuts on your hands when you are finished.. haha.

If you got this far, you have just replaced your valve stem seals, and are wondering, well now what.. my engines in pieces and the timing belt is off. OK.. so read on.

Putting it back together:
Reverse the directions for the most part, but I'll sum it up for you anyway. You may also want to install some new rubber anywhere you see it gaskets / seals / o-rings as you reinstall everything.

1.) Gently slide the valve shims back into their exact locations as you have laid them out previously as I told you to.
2.) Orient the intake camshaft in the engine as you have it marked, refer to your photo for reference on which way the lobes are facing. Secure it, and repeat on the exhaust camshaft next. Line up the marks you made, and install it starting from the center out. You want to torque your bolts to spec which I don't have on hand.
2a.) Place your distributor back into it's location, and the 12mm bolt which secures it is marked for you to get it approximately close to where it was before.
3.) If you were like me and you had to bend the backing plate out of the way to get that end cap off earlier, bend it back now and replace the 3 10mm bolts you took out of it.
4.) Put the cam gear back onto the intake camshaft, and bolt it on. Once you have it lined up, you may need to spin the engine via the cam bolt with your 14mm wrench to orient it so it's facing exactly where you made your timing belt marks to slide them back on IN TIME. If you get this wrong, or got this wrong, the engine won't run and you'll next be doing a timing job. The belt is hard to reinstall, you will have to eat your spinach because you wont find it easy no matter who you are. Get creative, but use caution and don't cut the belt.
4.) Gently wiggle the plastic cam cover back into place, and put back the 5 10mm bolts you removed from it.
5.) Replace the valve cover using new gasket & 4 top seals if you have them at this point, secure the cover with your large socket or channel lock pliers.
6.) reinstall the 5'th injector now, and since you left the bolts in the manifold, you didn't lose them... right!?
7.) Install the spark plugs, and wires,
8.) Plug in your a/c harness
9.) Connect your negative battery terminal ... start the car and SET THE IGNITION TIMING, OR HAVE SOMEONE DO IT IF YOU DON'T KNOW HOW.
10.) Clean up your MESSSSS!!!!!!

If it doesn't start, the timing belt / cam orientation is off.

Disclaimer. This how-to is just for some general information on what's involved in changing the valve stem seals on your 5sfe. It may be incomplete, or unorthodox in method. Tools and results will vary from person to person, so always work using your best judgment and proper caution. Should you choose to tackle this job yourself, I am not responsible for any damage resulting to you, your property, or anybody else' in the event of error. This how-to is not approved by any establishments or the maker of this automobile. You are advised to work on your own vehicle, at your own risk.

Did I cover it all? Good luck everyone!

1,689 Posts
Very nice write-up. :) A couple of things I would add... if it was me I would crank the engine to TDC for cylinders 1 and 4 and then 180 degrees for 2 and 3. That way if a valve does drop you will still be able to pull it back up. The bad part about that is you will have to align the mechanical timing from scratch when you are done and putting it all back together. It's not too hard though if you follow the BGB. Make sure to hold pressure pulling up on the timing belt as it turns and doesn't get tangled or fall off the lower pulley. I also use a piece of wire to keep the timing belt pulled up and attach it next to the engine lid hinge to be sure it doesn't slip while working. You can leave the belt on the cam gear and just wire the whole thing so it stays put. Lastly any time you work with the timing belt put a towel down in the hole so anything that gets dropped doesn't end up in the bottom. If you drop something like a bolt you can get it with a magnet but anything else and you will have to pull the crank pulley and the lower cover to get it.

387 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Ah yes thank you for reminding me about the timing belt part, I wanted to say that as long as the timing belt doesn't come off the other pulleys (and it shouldn't) you can put the crank pulley on 0 degrees TDC on the compression stroke, and align the cam pulley by eye... there are 2 marks on the back side of the cap, and 1 on the front of it.. so with the head in the vehicle you can not see the one on the front for the alignment hole. You can however see there is a very obvious little notch, and a raised bump directly behind the sight hole in the cam pulley.. that's the timing mark.

Also, when aligning the camshafts, simply ignore the double dots. Align the single spaced indentations, those are the timing marks. The double indents side by side are for assembly only apparently.

14 Posts
Thank you for this write-up, I think I might have to do this job too.

I just had some questions.
For camshaft removal the BGB talks about putting a service bolt into the main and subgear. I was wondering what this is for, and did you do that while removing your camshafts?
Also what size was your Lisle valve keeper tool? The bigger one or the smaller one?

22 Posts
Best valve stem seals?

Thanks for the write up. I'm hoping to do this some time this summer. Any suggestions for brands to use or avoid?

134 Posts
This write-up has been helpful with my valve stem seal replacement. Another thing I would add is when removing the camshafts, rotate intake cam (knock pin) until it's about 10-45 degrees before tdc on the notch of rear bearing cap then install service bolt in exhaust cam which is a M6x1.0 mm bolt. Then remove cam bearing caps in service passes per bgb. Then rotate intake cam to 80-115 degrees btdc. Then remove cam bearing caps in several passes. Make sure the exhaust cam gets lifted out evenly.

1 Posts
I know this is a little late but does anyone have any suggestions for getting the belt back on because I can’t figure out a way
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