How to Spot a VW Valve Cover Gasket Leak

Do you have a hunch that your Volkswagen’s valve cover gasket is leaking? Let’s see if you’re right!

Here’s a comprehensive diagnostic guide for Volkswagen owners looking to confirm a leaking valve cover gasket. You can use this guide on pretty much any Volkswagen engine. Most VW's have four cylinder engines, and they are pretty easy to inspect. If you have a V-6, you might need to use a mirror to see some areas. Even if you have a V-6, this guide should still point you in the right direction.

Symptoms of a VW Valve Cover Gasket Leak

If you experience a few of the following symptoms, then it’s worth taking the time to check your valve cover gasket for any leaks.

  • Burning oil smell
  • Engine running low on oil
  • Misfiring engine
  • Rough idling
  • Reduced engine performance
  • Dirty valve cover

Confirming a Valve Cover Gasket Leak

Gasket 1

There are two different ways to confirm that your valve cover gasket is blown:

  • Visual inspection: Drive the vehicle for a while. Then pop the hood and then visually inspect the engine to pinpoint where the leak is coming from.
  • Dye test: Add an UV dye to the oil and then observe the valve cover gasket with an UV light to spot where the leak is coming from.

To do a dye test, you need to purchase the dye, and buy or borrow a UV light. It’s free to do a visual inspection, so that's the easiest first step. And we’ll show you how:

  1. Drive your car around long enough to warm up the engine.
  2. Let your engine cool a bit.
  3. Open the hood.
  4. Remove the engine cover.
  5. The valve cover is visible from the top of the engine. Grab a flashlight and then inspect the area between the valve cover and the engine head.
    1. If there’s oil running down from that point, then the valve cover gasket is bad and it needs to be replaced as soon as possible.
    2. If you see oil leaking from above the valve cover gasket area, then you’re likely dealing with a cracked valve cover that needs to be replaced right away.
  6. If there is so much dirt and grime that you can't tell where the leak is, you'll need to:
    1. Wash the engine at a self service car wash.
    2. Wait until the engine is dry.
    3. Use an aerosol foot powder or baby powder and spray the areas where you suspect you might have a leak.
    4. Drive normally and wait a day or two. Then inspect again. The powder will highlight any leaking.

What if You Need to Replace a Valve Cover Gasket?

Gasket 2

You can replace a broken valve cover gasket at home as long as you have certain tools. Just find a tutorial geared toward your model of Volkswagen to see if it’s a job you can tackle. Here’s a tutorial on replacing a valve cover and/or gasket on a Beetle.

If you’re looking for a genuine OEM replacement valve cover gasket, look no further than We offer wholesale pricing to the public, so you’d be hard-pressed to find better prices elsewhere. Check out the OEM valve cover gaskets in our catalog to see if we have the right one for your car. Here’s a couple of quick links to our most popular valve cover gaskets:

  • Part No. 03L-103-483: For 2009-2015 Beetles, Golfs, and Jettas
  • Part No. 051-103-483-A: For 1996-2002 Beetles, Cabrios, Golfs, and Jettas