02 Impala 3.4L 185k: Front Cover Gasket

Shop Manual says you need to remove the oil pan as part of the front cover gasket repair. Is that really true? Removing the oil pan on this car is a very complicated procedure. Want to make sure it’s abosolutely necessary before continuing.

What shop manual are you referring to?

My on-line repair manual mentions nothing about the oil pan when removing the front engine cover.


Hi Tester! Great to hear from you again!

It’s the Helm manual. It goes off on a tangent removing the oil pan and in the process gets into some crazy stuff that doesn’t seem related. I could post the steps later.

But I know with my 97 Taurus, the oil pan did have to come off because the flange overlapped (and bolted into) the very flat bottom of the front cover - which meant the pan’s gasket was also affected.

I didn’t notice any mention of overlap in the manual this time and the car is dead right now with the engine apart for a possible intake gasket replacement. Trying to decide if I want to do the front cover gasket too because coolant was coming out through one or the other. Couldn’t tell during pressure test with everything still in place (came out a tight crevice behind PS pump), and can’t test now unless I put back coolant bypass tube. Have UIM, alternator, PS pump, harness, fuel rail, EGR, etc. off so far and I’ve meticulously cleaned all around the engine - so I should be able to see the leak point now

I would try to get it off without taking off the pan, but it could be like my son’s Nissan Sentra. The shop manual for his car did not show having to remove the oil pan, but when the engine was assembled, the factory used a pair of locater pins on the pan that went up into the front cover and the front cover had a several locater pins sticking out from the block.

These pins make assembly much easier as the locator pins, also called guide pins place the part accurately so all the bolt holes line up. But with the pan in place, the front cover could not be moved away from the block, nor could it be moved upward, so the pan had to come off.

I do not know if this applies to your vehicle or not.

“Mr. Glacial” reporting back:

Hey Keith! How’s everything going? Still running that Saturn? I should’ve bought my brother’s '97 Saturn in Chicago (he had bought it brand new and only 60,000 miles when he traded it in due to a foot problem which made driving the stick difficult). Probably still be driving it.

Anyway …

Impala Front Cover removed, oil pan did not have to come off (no bolts coming upward from the oil pan flange like my Taurus), but who knows if the very slim (still original) factory oil pan gasket will be sufficient going forward. It appears to be intact, but it’s pretty minimal. My Taurus had a 1" wide, fairly thick pan gasket that covered the entire surface of the flange. This one is embedded in the flange of the pan and very minimal. If removing the pan wasn’t such a Herculean task, I’d replace it, but …

A few questions (of course):

1.) Should I put a dab of Black Permatex at the 90-degree seam where the horizontal pan protrudes past the vertical face of the front of the engine (and where the front cover will ‘sit’ atop the pan)? The Fel-Pro gasket will hang on the locator pins and seal the sides and top of the cover, but it merely sits atop the pan like the cover. There is no real “seal” where the cover sits atop the pan (except for that embedded gasket in the lip of the pan which may not be as flexible as it once was).

2.) Should I coat the Fel-Pro front cover gasket with a thin film of Black Permatex, or is it sufficient just going on dry? I think I coated my Taurus front cover gasket, but it wasn’t uniform and I wondered if this could create “islands” of unevenness, mimicking the remains of old gasket material.

3.) Only ONE of the cover bolts (#3 on the left or firewall side), when removed, caused some residual coolant/water to gush out, however, it appears that there are FOUR of these larger-sized bolts surrounding the (2) water jacket 1.5" channels on either side. Should I put pipe sealant on these four bolts, medium-strength thread locker, or both? I used pipe sealant, which I bought at Home Depot, on my Taurus’ front cover, but its consistency was not smooth. It seemed like it had embedded sand in it, which made for a sloppy coating on the threads. Did I buy the wrong stuff?

4.) Check out the attached photobucket pictures.

1st Picture: The top of the timing chain and the intersection of the firewall-side head and lower intake (and front cover - if it was installed). Notice the (cast) pan-shaped “gouge” (for lack of better word) just under the head. I cleaned this area out (it had oil and grease in it). At first I thought it was a corroded hole and was the source of my leak, but it seems to be just the way the block was cast. Question is: I’m not going to pull the LIM and heads just yet. I’m going to put the cover back on, put it all back together, fill it up, and see if it still leaks. Should I fill in this gouge with Black Permatex?? If there’s a pinhole leak here, maybe the Permatex will stop it good enough, but if not, I’ll be taking it apart again down to at least the LIM (and maybe the heads). Just don’t feel like tearing into this thing any more at this point.

2nd Picture: The harmonic balancer. Don’t know if you can see it, but there is a feel-able groove in the outer surface of the hub. Apparently this is caused by the rubber seal contacting the outer surface of the hub as it spins??? Is that correct? I didn’t buy the gasket kit with the sleeve, and I just tapped in the new seal. I should’ve bought the sleeve, right? It goes OVER the hub, and then the seal has a slightly wider-circumference opening … is that how it works? Anyway, I didn’t tap the new seal in as deeply as the original seal - which was just a hair past flush with the face of the hub. I’m thinking, this way, the new seal will be contacting the hub just a hair in front of that groove. The new seal is perfectly flush with the face of the hub. Do you think this will be OK?

If I were doing that job I would use brush-on thread sealant on the t/c bolts that extend into the water jacket, and a dab of RTV at the corners where the t/c and oil pan meet. And if the groove in the balancer were enough to catch a thumbnail I would have installed the speedi-sleeve.


Another thing . . .

Chase all the bolts and threaded holes

If you don’t and wind up breaking off a bolt because of the crud on the threads, you’ll be crying

Believe me, you don’t want to be drilling and extracting any broken bolts. Not on this kind of job, anyways


Hey - actually made some progress this morning! I’ve decided to take the mornings off and work afternoons to evening until I get the car back together.

So the front cover is back on. YAHOO! The night before, filled that “pan-shaped” cavity - just underneath the head where the cover meets the lower intake, with some of that Permatex Ultra Black I had left over from the Taurus cover job. Then, this morning, used the stuff to ‘paint’ the back side of the FelPro cover gasket! Covered the whole thing in black with a thin layer, then hung it on the locator pegs and lightly pressed on like wallpaper. Noticed during the ‘dry run’ test that the very bottom of the gasket, where it met the pan, was actually just a hair too long, and the gasket seemed to buckle just a bit because of this. Instructions said to cut it with a razor, but couldn’t bring myself to do that because the bottom hole was too close (would’ve torn the gasket for sure). So then ‘painted’ the cover all around the perimeter and bolt holes, waited for a little tackiness, then pushed cover on. Everything seemed OK, but:

Can’t stand it when the Haynes manual shows one set of numbers for torque and the Chevy Helm manual shows another. Eg: Haynes Manual said to torque small bolts (5- #1’s) to 20 ft-lbs and large bolts (2- #3’s and 3 - #2’s) to 35 ft-lbs. Helm manual said to torque small bolts to 35 ft-lbs, #2 larger bolts to 15 ft-lbs, and #3 larger bolts to 41 ft-lbs. So, you can see - the numbers were all over the place. Ended up doing 26 ft-lbs on the smalls and 35 ft-lbs on the bigs because 20 just seemed to loose to me for the smalls and 15 seemed to loose for the #2 bigs. I’ve found (what I believe to be) typos in both manuals and unfortunately, it’s common with the torque specs (especially the units).

Also - I had to wonder: the locator pins are great for hanging the gasket, but the cover should probably be molded with a SLOT so that you don’t have to push it straight on. It might be better if you could kind of drop it onto the pan, but then again, maybe you could dislodge the gasket? I waited until the Ultra black set a bit, stabilizing the gasket, before pushing the cover on.

And maybe the thing to do is to put a very light film of oil on the bottom of the cover so that it glides over the gasket as you push it on. Trying to put a dab of sealant in that 90 degree corner where the cover meets the pan and block seems almost futile to me. It’s so thin there that you can’t really put any, so I just painted the cover with the stuff.

Idle thought while installing balancer and starter motor this morning before work:

With the starter motor removed, the crank turned quite a bit during both balancer removal and re-install before jamming the flywheel teeth to stop the movement.

Is it possible (now) that the starter motor gear teeth could clash with the flywheel teeth because they are slightly mis-aligned?

Never gave this a thought before, but how is it that the starter gear teeth always seem to mesh perfectly with the flywheel teeth? Is it because the flywheel teeth are smaller and more numerous while the starter teeth are larger and few in number? Is that what makes it work?



Looking like a wasted morning here … can’t for the life of me get the fuel injectors to pop into the holes in the LIM!!! Feel like an idiot!

Tried wiping them off with gas. Tried wiping out the holes with gas. Tried re-installing the two center rail mounting bolts to see if that would exert enough pressure to allow me to pop them in, but NOPE - not even one goes in!

Didn’t have any problem in May 2008 when I did the LIM gaskets. Pretty much fell right in. But I changed the O-rings on the injectors at that time. Car had 105,000 miles on it. It now has 175,000. Do I have to change the O-rings to get them to drop in? Probably should anyway, but is this because the O-rings:

1.) Are 7 years old and are hardened and less flexible, so they won’t bend as they’re pushed into the holes

2.) Have actually expanded from sitting outside the LIM (I’ve had the rail out and pushed to the side for a few weeks now).

I’m beside myself. My son was hoping I’d have the car back together today but I warned him up-front that any little thing is capable of stopping me in my tracks.

Coat the O-rings with petroleum jelly and the injectors will pop right in.


@ColtHero Did you put a little engine oil on the injector o-rings?

That is a common requirement in many service manuals

Speaking from personal experience, it does make a difference

Don’t take this the wrong way, please . . . are there any old o-rings or debris sitting in the holes, preventing you from seating the injectors?

Did you double up on the o-rings?

You are correct about old o-rings . . . if they have expanded, you’ll have a devil of a time trying to seat the injectors. If they’ve hardened, you might seat the injectors, but break the o-rings while installing them. At which point, you’ve just created false air

If you’re at all in doubt about those o-rings, just buy a new set. It’s only a few dollars, and many parts stores have them in set. They usually sell them by the set, so that you don’t have to actually count how many you need

By the way, wiping the injector o-rings off with gasoline was not a good idea, in my opinion. I know, from personal experience, again, that gasoline will cause some seals and gaskets to expand, making them impossible to reinstall


Tester, db4690:

Thanks! I was afraid to put anything other than gasoline on them for fear of contaminating the injector heads. What I was really doing was cleaning the rubber because they looked dusty and I thought if they were cleaner maybe they’d slip in easier. Just dabbed paper towels with gas and wiped. Didn’t dunk them. I also cleaned out the holes because - even after vacuuming the top of the LIM to remove the sand, there was still some particulates around the injector holes. Anyway, I’ll give a little lube a try. Don’t want to replace the O-rings just yet because I have a feeling I’ll be pulling this apart again after it’s back together and starts leaking again…

And I don’t think there are any old O-rings in the holes. Each injector has the thicker O-ring higher up and the black “stocking” at the bottom (I think there’s an O-ring under this boot?? … seem to remember changing TWO O-rings on each injector last time … thicker one up top, thinner one near the nozzle head).

Looks like Advance sells a set of FOUR??? No 6-pc set?? Geez…

When I removed the fuel injectors on my old VW Rabbit, I always had to replace the O-rings with new ones in order to get the injectors to pop back in. If I didn’t do this, either they’d deform and not form a tight seal, or they just wouldn’t allow the injector to go back in. It was still something of a chore to get them back in even with new O-rings. I followed John Muir’s advice which as I recall was to soak the new O-rings in gasoline overnight first.

The Rabbit was configured differently than yours, no fuel rail. Each injector was on a separate flexible fuel line from the next. But maybe my experience might still help you out.

There’s a some pretty good utube videos on techniques for removing and reinstalling fuel rails, you might try looking there too. As I recall the basic idea they give is to simply align the injectors and O-rings, and then tighten the rail-to-mainifold bolts to create the force to pop the injectors back in.


“I followed John Muir’s advice which as I recall was to soak the new O-rings in gasoline overnight first.”

Very strange advice . . . and that’s being kind

As I said before, I’ve seen that method cause problems, because it caused seals and gaskets . . . and that’s what the o-ring is, actually . . . to significantly swell, to the point that the component can’t be reinstalled

“the basic idea they give is to simply align the injectors and O-rings, and then tighten the rail-to-manifold bolts to create the force to pop the injectors back in.”

Speaking from experience, that is a bad idea. I’ve seen that method backfire. Whenever possible, seat a component completely, then tighten the bolts. Don’t use the bolts to draw the component in

If somebody’s wrists are so shot, that they can’t pop the rail in themselves, then they should take the car to a shop

Even if you are planning on pulling this all apart again…next month or next year…I’d replace the o-rings. It is only a few dollars and it will make the job go back together much easier.

I never reuse the o-rings on injectors because I don’t want to have to pull it apart tomorrow because of a leaky o-ring that I didn’t replace.


I’m just wondering…why was the fuel rail out? I’ve done quite a few of those timing covers and the fuel system never gets touched.

Those old Rabbits are CIS. The O-rings are fat and fit into plastic injector seats which are screwed into the intake manifold.
I’ve done a countless number of those and can’t say that I would ever agree with Mr. Muir about soaking those O-rings in gasoline; much less overnight. It’s a waste of a gasoline, time, and downright pointless.

There’s a special tool for removing the injectors as the seals age although a screwdriver can work.
A tiny dab of petroleum jelly and the injectors will pop right back in place by hand with new O-rings.


You’re right, I should just replace them. Didn’t have any trouble getting the last set to drop in (105,000 miles 7 yrs ago). And I’m almost certain I just pushed them in - without any lube.


The fuel rail is out because I’m a dufus. This all started as a LIM and possibly a head gasket job (hence fuel rail), but then decided to concentrate on front cover and do an incremental fix: close back up and test for leaks, then MAYBE go back for LIM gaskets. Getting harder and harder to align both time and energy as I get older


Yeah, no problem getting injectors out, and putting them in - even with new O-rings, I still should use a lubricant? Maybe I did use something last time. I saw a bottle of “lube” of some type in my shed which I know I bought for the LIM gasket job 7 years ago, but I can’t remember what I used it for.

Oh wait! Maybe the new lifters?? Yeah, I think that’s what it was for. I didn’t put anything on the injectors. They just popped in with minimal pressure.