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Cracked part that holds oil? (not mechanically inclined)

Well once again I need the infinite wisdom of the Cartalk community. Here’s the story: My engine misfires one night so the next day I check the spark plugs and there is oil in the far left plug well. I decided to change the valve gasket cover. Went to take off the covers and the cover wouldn’t budge. It ended up cracking some metal piece that I SUSPECT houses the timing chain. I’ve included several pictures of my engine bay so you can get a feel for how it looks. Not sure what the part that is cracked is called so I’m hoping someone knows. Anyway my real question is, is it worth it to replace this part and sell the car for around 1800 or just scrap it for about 500? If you need any more pics or info please let me know. The parts circled in red are where the crack is.

Pontiac sunfire 1997 2.4L 4 Cylinder

Houses the timing chain? That might be a timing chain housing. If it is aluminum and removable, you can get it straightened and welded and then dress up any rough gasket contacting surface with a file. Yes, it’s worth a repair. If you can’t repair the part, then get another from a scrapyard. If the part is integral to the engine block, it might still be possible to weld in place (beware of nearby gasoline) but your photos are not clear and I don’t know that engine. Another possibility is to degrease the part in the area of the crack and then seal it up with silicone rubber if there is no distortion to cause a leak in a nearby gasketed area.

That’s just a gasket that seals the timing cover to the valve cover.

Go to a parts store and purchase a can of the Right Stuff.

Run a bead of sealant around the gap and you’ll be good to go.


It is very unlikely that you could replace that part without a great deal of help from someone experienced with those engines.

@Tester, I see cracked aluminum. I think the timing chain cover needs to come off before the valve cover can be removed, and it looks like he tried to pry off the valve cover first, cracking the timing chain cover badly. Until the parts are removed correctly, it’s impossible to know if you damage the valve cover as well. Time to go junk yard shopping for a new timing chain cover. I doubt large quantities of ‘Gorilla Snot’ will seal this area for long.

I agree with the other comments and would like to add one to the “Off Topic” arena that has to do with your title. One of my favorite movies is “A Christmas Story.” There is a line in the movie that I remembered when I saw the title of your original comment. The line goes: “Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time” Now…back to the problem at hand.

You know what? I think this problem might can be solved with a little JB Weld epoxy glue. That part probably doesn’t hold oil. It’s just protecting the timing chain (or belt) from damage caused by rocks thrown up from the road, and also to protect curious people from getting their fingers stuck in the timing chain, with undesirable consequences. The OP might could just clean thoroughly, apply some JB Weld to seal the crack, let it dry 24 hour, then watch over time to see if it holds ok.

Before doing this though, best to at least get a mechanic to look at it, there may be other factors which are not evident from the photos and would only be evident by a good mechanic standing there over the engine compartment.

OP: When doing repairs of this sort, good idea to read through the instruction in the factory service manual or at least a Chiltons/Haynes, or the like. Often the procedure has to be done in a certain order to avoid this kind of problem, and the manual will tell you which order to do it in.

I followed my Haynes manual as best I could. But since this is a 2.4 only 17% of 1997 sunfires have a 2.4 so no pic was included. Turns out two bolts were holding the gasket cover to the timing chain case. Therefore this engine requires that the entire timing chain assembly be removed (which requires the removal of a motor mount and the alternator belt) I didn’t know about the bolts so the case cracked. I got it all back together and I’ll post some more pictures tomorrow to see if the epoxy solution will be an adequate one. It does seem that the cracked area just protects the chain from debris. The cam and timing chain don’t seem to be exposed by the crack.

The main worry I could see here would be not knowing if the cracks would continue to spread due to engine vibrations and which could cause one crack to meet another. An errant piece of timing cover falling into the chaincase could cause utter havoc if the chunk were to go in between the chain and a sprocket.

so here’s some updated pictures. the first one shows the hole in the timing chain cover. The timing chain isn’t exposed only the wheel that the chain turns on. The last picture shows the other valve cover that isn’t cracked.

Let me reiterate, dismantling the front of that engine is not a job for a beginner IMHO.

Oh believe me I know that. But I also know that changing a valve gasket cover is typically a very easy job. For this car it wasn’t though. Anyhow even with that small hole in my second set of pictures the engine is running smoothly and everything is fine. Now the question would be a solution ( if any ) to filling that small hole.

Duct tape.

Part of your problem is that you were not replacing the VALVE cover gasket. You were trying to replace the CAMSHAFT cover gasket. There is obviously a difference.

Your timing CHAIN has to be lubricated. Therefor there is some oil on the chain side of your crack/hole.

I have found that it’s easy to determine whether an engine has a timing belt or chain by the timing cover. If it’s plastic it has a timing belt. If it’s metal, there is oil behind it and it has a timing chain. Perhaps there are engines to which this axiom doesn’t apply, but I have not seen one yet.

For this car the camshaft gaskets get replaced at the same time as the valve cover gaskets. This is because the bolts hold down both covers at once.

Like I said, the Right Stuff will seal the crack.

The timing chain cover isn’t under any pressure. You can see the vent hose on the side of the cover. You just want to prevent any oil from splashing out of the opening.


Tester its not a crack anymore, its a hole now. Will the right stuff still work you think?

MG McAnick writes …

Part of your problem is that you were not replacing the VALVE cover gasket. You were trying to replace the CAMSHAFT cover gasket. There is obviously a difference.

I don’t see what you mean MG. On my Corolla the valve cover and the camshaft cover is the same thing. Is the OP’s car a different configuration? Or do are you referring to the top part of timing chain cover as camshaft cover, b/c it covers the camshaft sprocket?

Your timing CHAIN has to be lubricated.

Yes, a timing chain is oiled and it will tend to be flinging some oil off, esp at the bends where it turns. This doesn’t necessary mean it will leak at the crack though. OP should monitor for oil leaks there.

I have found that it's easy to determine whether an engine has a timing belt or chain by the timing cover. If it's plastic it has a timing belt.

Not in all cases. My Corolla has a belt, and a metal timing cover.

To OP: It is indeed an unfortunate design if you have to get involved with the engine mounts just to remove the valve cover. Just wondering if you may be able to simply loosen the timing belt cover rather than completely removing it though. A consultation of the factory service manual or even just a look-see at what AllData says about removing the valve cover might provide a definitive answer.

Ahhhh. The Quad 4. Another GM engineering marvel. I would try jb welding it, but your taking a chance a piece of aluminum might get into the timing mechanism.

The very sight of that engine makes me angry. Is there anything not convoluted on those engines? My favorite is the cam covers, and the worlds biggest coil pack assembly.

Loosening the chain cover is not an option at all. The cover runs the entire length of the engine. And yeah this engine really is an abomination in my opinion, everything about it is just strange.