Dumb question: drain the oil before replacing valve cover gasket?

I’m about to attempt vtec solenoid gasket and valve cover gasket replacements on my 260k mile 2002 CR-V, thanks to inspiration from so many youtube videos. One thing none of these youtubers indicate, though, is whether or not they drained the oil from the engine first. Is that needed? I assume not, but just don’t want to be unpleasantly surprised when I loosen those last few bolts…

I would change the oil afterward just on the chance that any crud fell into one of the oil returns.

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You assume correctly.

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There is no need to drain the oil before replacing these gaskets. Both parts are well above the pooled oil in the oil pan. Might be a good idea to drain after the change though.


I do this procedure when the car is ready for an oil change.Any crud that may fall into the crankcase during the valve cover gasket replacement will be flushed with the oil change.

While it’s off, the valves are right there. It’s a good time to adjust them.

I have adjusted them many times on my 1999 Civic, but have not needed a new valve cover gasket. Are you sure yours is leaking?

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Thanks everyone, I’ll do an oil change right after. I’m absolutely not 100% sure this is the cause, but there’s definitely a leak that’s gone from nuisance to serious in the last week. For a couple years every mechanic I’ve asked has responded “it’s just an old car burning oil, they do that”, when asked why I need to put in a quart after every couple of gas tanks’ worth of driving. That never felt right, especially given the sheen of oil left whenever I parked over a puddle. And also, everyone on the internet indicating these two gaskets are a common source of oil leaks in old CRVs. And also, now while the car’s idling, watching a drop every couple of seconds land on the ground approximately below where the vtec solenoid is and on the driver side rear corner of the engine. For $35 in parts and some basic tools this seems like something I can at least attempt. Wish me luck! I’ll report back. If there are other ideas, would love to hear them.

How does one do that? (by even asking that I suspect I’m already out of my depth)

Nevermind. Just watched 1/2 of Eric the car guy doing it. I’ll leave that one for the shop.

It’s not that difficult. But you need a feeler gauge.

Well that was a waste of a Saturday. I managed to replace the valve cover gasket just fine and so far it doesn’t appear to be the source of leaks. Coils were clean as a whistle. But I couldn’t replace the VTEC solenoid gasket since one of the 3 bolt heads was too stripped for my cheap sockets to get a grip. Too little room to get vise grips or anything else in my toolkit on it.
However, I’m now not convinced the solenoid is the main source of leakage. I wiped down every surface I could reach, and after running the engine a bit there was oil on everything that was in line with the serpentine belt. My current guess is the leak is finding its way onto the belt which is then spraying it everywhere. I just can’t yet see an obvious source. Candidates might be the VTC

I think at least 2 quarts disappeared during a 20 minute drive to Walmart (to buy lots of oil). Pretty horrifying to me. Dumped a quart of Lucas Stop Leaks in yet another desperate experiment.

Crank seal. Gotta be it. Right?

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