Halp! or name that part (+potential problems)?

Alright, so I’m by no means a car guru - and really trying to learn. So, I apologize in advance if this seems like a really novice question.

I just purchased a pick-up about a week ago and have been trying to look everything over before I start a tune-up.

I’ve never noticed any oil puddles or leaks.

However, today I was going to look at the condition of the spark plugs and noticed some oil leakage on the part above it ( I don’t know what this part is called!) I’m guessing the valve cover?

To help describe it better: It’s right above the spark plugs (cylinders) and the part where the oil fill cap is attached to aka where one would put in the oil. It’s a 2.3L 4 cylinder if that helps as well.

Before I noticed this problem I have been keeping a close eye on the oil level and it has been fine- no noticeable loss via dipstick or on ground (but on some engine parts below it).

I realize pretty much any leak is cause for concern and would like to nip this in the rear if possible or worth it. Anyone know how potential of a problem this is? Any/all help is greatly appreciated.


Sorry to add more…

Is there a good way to tell if it is indeed the valve cover? I’m assuming clean off and keep watch over the next few days.

And if it is the valve cover, do these sound like potential fixes? Anything else to add?

Start simple- cover bolts lose- tighten (anyone know where i can find torque spec for that?)

Bad PCV - planning on replacing anyways

New gasket?

Make? Model? Year? Miles? As for tightening the valve cover, I just go to ‘snug’, no torque wrench.

Order yourself a factory service manual and you’ll learn all you need to know. It’ll have the drawings and names of all the parts, repair procedures, diagnostic aids and charts, and so on. It really is the best way to learn.

A Haynes repair manual from the parts store (about $25) would be an excellent investment for you. It’ll be good reading, too.

Not all leaks are cause for concern. Your car has a number of system fluids, soome of which are there as hydraulic fluids, some just to lubricate, and some to cool. Most perform more than one duty. For example, cooling fluid not only transfers and dissipates heat, it also lubricates the water pump and prevents corrosion in the cooling system. Automatice tranny fluid is not only a hydraulic fluid, it also performs the function of a cooling fluid.

Leaks in some systems, such as an automatic tranny, the cooling system, or the power steering system, need to be looked into and corrected. Any leak of brake fluid is extremely dangerous and the car should not be driven until it’s resolved. Small oil leaks in old engines are not unusual or critical and as long as the fluid level is kept up the engine can have many more years of life. It sounds to me like the leak you’re describing falls into the last category. However the single most important first step is to identify the fluid. If it’s oil, be sure you keep the level up and you can drive the vehicle without worry while you look into it.

A good way to identify the fluid is to soak a bit up with a clean bright white cloth. If it’s light tan, it’s oil. If it’s green, it’s coolant. Red or pink could be coolant (some are pink), power steering fluid, or tranny fluid. Based on your description I suspect it’s oil…and normal.