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About three months ago, my sister’s ’99 Rav4 (188K) started exhibiting the following very noticeable performance issues:


1.) Misfiring, significant sluggishness;
2.) Shuttering, poor responsiveness.​

She particularly noticed issues when stopped at red-lights: the car would shake and sputter, and she described it to me as though she thought it was “going to stall," to the point that she was not comfortable driving it. I drove it, and noticed this right away, just as she said. She said the behavior had just started with the last week or so. The engine was rather weak on hills and just generally not its "usual self".

I didn't have a lot of time to work on it, and so I was hoping that it was something simple….but those hopes were dashed when I pulled the first spark plug wire and saw oil all over it. I pulled the second and third, and those wires were dry. At last I pulled the fourth and it was completely DRENCHED in oil. The plugs in those two cylinders were soaked.

The most likely cause of this particular leak in our engines is a failure of the form-in-place-gasket (FIPG) material on the bottom threads of the spark plug tube. The bottom of the spark plug tube is threaded, just like the top. The whole tube screws into cylinder head, and since this part of the tube spends much of its life submerged in oil, the threads are sealed with a FIPG (rub-on gasket-maker) material. Over time and cycles, the material weakens and allows oil to flow into the spark plug tube and eventually onto the electrode, which causes misfiring and performance issues. The remedy for this oil leak is to remove the tube and re-seal the bottom threads with FIPG.

In order to access the bottom of the tubes, they must be removed. There is apparently Toyota SST somewhere in the universe which allows for the removal of the tubes without removing the valve cover, but I don't know how to obtain it.

I would love to have it, because it is unfortunate to have to replace a valve cover gasket that's not leaking. (Note: "valve cover" is often called "cylinder head cover" in Toyota documents.) Lacking the SST, the only other way is to completely remove the valve cover so you can turn the tubes out with a pipe wrench or two-nut method. Removal of the valve cover requires at minimum replacement of the valve cover gasket, but preferably replacement of the spark plug tube grommets, as well. The parts of are not expensive (about $25 - $30), but it does take more time.

About two months after completing this repair on my sister's Rav, I was checking the plugs on my own '00 Rav and noticed that a small amount of oil had reached the plug threads for my #1 cylinder. So, I got to do this job all over again on a different 3SFE. This DIY shows a mix of pictures from both jobs, in case you see differences.

The hardest part of this job is getting the bloody valve cover off due to the very tight confines. Having done this twice now, I think it is almost worth removing the throttle body to get that bracket out of the way, but I didn't want to deal with coolant so I didn't do this. I regretted that decision, though it is certainly possible to do without removing that bracket -- it just looks like it would be so much easier. If anyone knows of a better way of removing the valve cover, please add your experience here!


TOOLS:
- 5/8” spark plug socket
- 6” socket extension
- torque wrench with low side range to 13 ft-lbs
- 10mm, 12mm, 14mm sockets or wrenches
- 30mm socket
- pliers for hose clamps, etc
- pipe wrench (or channel-locks, or vice grips)
- much patience for removing the cover!


PARTS NEEDED:
- new valve cover gasket:
(Toyota part #11213-74020, $13.61 at localpartsstore.com)​
- four new spark plug tube grommets:
(Toyota part #90480-30025, $4.14 each at localpartsstore.com)​
(Note: I had time to order the Toyota parts for my '00 because it was a planned repair, but my sister's '99 was an emergency repair, so I had to go with the Felpro kit from Advance Auto. The kit was about $25 and came with the valve cover gasket and 4 grommets, and everything seemed to be of high quality, and to work well; there have been no issues with the Felpro kit)​
- FIPG, "form-in-place-gasket", aka "gasket-maker":
(I used Permatex Ultra Black because I was in a pinch, but the Toyota FIPG is part #00295-00103; I think Permatex Ultra Black is a good substitute)​
- new ignition wires:
(you only need new wires if you either have never replaced yours, or they are contaminated with oil. Many in this forum and myself recommend the NGK wires)​
- new spark plugs:
(many in this forum and myself recommend Denso PK20TR11 Double Platinum; don't use Bosch)​

If you'd like to replace the PCV valve, this is a good time to do it. You will need the PCV valve (Toyota #12204-74030, $8.26) and the grommet (Toyota #90480-18001, $4.22). I replaced mine only because it hasn't been replaced and the grommet was in bad shape.


STEPS:
**The hardest part of this job is getting that dang cover off! Don't give up! (see the notes below)**

1.) Disconnect the negative side of the battery.

2.) Remove all the components noted in the picture, being sure to label all hoses and electrical to make re-installation quick and easy. They are: air filter and housing, engine hooks, accelerator link from the throttle body, power steering reservoir (pull it up off the bracket), and the plastic electrical housing by the timing belt cover. Also disconnect the hose from the PCV valve to the throttle body.







3.) Remove the spark plug wires (see this DIY) but do not remove the spark plugs yet. It is important to leave the plugs in to prevent things from falling into the cylinders.


4.) Use the 30 mm socket to remove the spark plug tube nuts. These nuts are what hold the cover in place. Don't be surprised if they are very loose.






5.) Remove the valve cover. Again, this is much easier said than done due to the tight constraints. You can use a screwdriver to pop the cover free on the corner, as show, just don't put the screwdriver into the gasket area. Once the cover pops free, you'll have to remove it by lifting it up along the path of the tubes, and that's the hard part because there is a bracket in the way on the driver's side and the timing belt cover and electrical housing on the passenger side. I found that moving the power steering reservoir and the plastic electrical housing by the timing belt cover UP and OVER towards the passenger side gave a little more room to work, but it is still very tight.







On the driver's side, there is a bracket for the throttle body that basically gives you no room to work. If you have a helper, have your helper lift the power steering reservoir and the electrical plastic cover thing up and over as much as possible, while you lift the valve cover up and over. If you don't have a helper, use zip ties/fishing line/whatever to tie all that stuff up and give yourself room on that end (passenger's side) of the valve cover. It is total pain, but it can be done. You'll have to do this all over again when you replace it, so keep track of what works.


6.) Set the valve cover and old gasket aside for the moment and clean the mating surface on the cylinder head. Carefully remove all of the old FIPG material, which you'll find in four places on each end. Remember these places because you'll be re-applying FIPG to these same locations later. Remove any bits of old gasket from the mating surface.




7.) Use the pipe wrench to remove the spark plug tubes. I understand that some people have used the "two-nut" method, but this didn't work for me; others said that they budged it with channel locks or vice grips. My grip is no where near adequate to budge these tubes using those tools! They are in there pretty tightly. I'm a medium sized woman, and it look a pipe wrench and quite a bit of steady force for me to budge these, but they will budge.




To remove them, turn counter-clockwise, as shown in the picture. Don't use any impact methods; use steady force and a good moment arm length. Mind the little metal bits that you'll produce using a pipe wrench, and protect the cam area with a towel and clean those little bits up with a magnet or whatever other method you use. You might wish to begin at the #4 cylinder end (driver's side) because you'll have more room to remove the others. Be careful removing the #1 tube because your tools may be very near the gear -- protect the teeth to prevent damaging them.


8.) Once removed, inspect and clean the spark plug tube. Remove all the only FIPG from the bottom threads. Don't apply the new FIPG until you are ready to re-install the tube. You might want to clean the area in the well around the spark plugs before replacing the tube because its easier to get in there without the tube.






9.) After cleaning the area around the spark plugs, you might wish to remove the plugs and clean further. If you do this, just be careful not to drop anything into the cylinders. Use the 5/8" spark plug socket to remove the plugs, and re-torque the plugs to 13 ft-lbs dry or 10 ft-lbs if you add anti-seize.


10.) Apply a new coat of FIPG to the threads of the spark plug tube, and re-install the tube. Be sure not to cross-thread as you are turning it. Turn the tube back in place rather tightly (I have no torque values to reference, but its tight!)


9.) Repeat the steps for the other spark plug tubes, if desired. You may wish to only re-seal the problem tube and leave the others be if they are not leaking. I decided to reseal all of them because I didn't want to have to do this again soon.




10.) Once the tubes are reseated, carefully clean and re-inspect the area for anything that shouldn't be in there, such as pieces of FIPG or metal bits. Remove the old gasket from the valve cover, and clean the gasket track well.


11.) Place the new gasket on the valve cover, and install the new PVC valve and grommet (if you're doing this). The PVC valve is metal and pulls out of the grommet by hand with force. The grommet will likely be very brittle -- try to remove it with a needle-nosed pliers to prevent pieces falling into the cover. Pull out any pieces that fall in before installing the new grommet and PCV valve.




12.) Once you are totally ready to re-install the valve cover, apply the FIPG to the areas shown in the picture below. There are four spots on each end of the head.






13.) With the new gasket in place on the valve cover and the FIPG applied, re-install the valve cover. You will again have to deal with the tight constraints, but hopefully it will be easier to put on than it was to remove. As far as I could tell, you have to get the driver's side end in first before dropping it in on the passenger's side. Its a pain.


14.) Once the valve cover is seated, install the new spark plug tube grommets. These grommets have a small tab on the perimeter, and this tab should be aligned as shown in the picture. If you are in a fix and must re-use your old grommets, replace them each to the same tube as you removed them.






15.) Install the tube nuts, only hand-tightening as you go. Using a torque wrench, alternate randomly between the four nuts to tighten them evenly to a final torque of 17 ft-lbs. Note: my older service manual has a typo showing an incorrect torque value. I have confirmed that the proper value is 17 ft-lbs.


16.) Re-install the spark plug wires and press them in firmly. Re-install the rest of the components.


Ideally, you would then let the FIPG cure for 24 hrs, but overnight curing should be adequate. Also, it is good idea to change your oil shortly after doing this repair to get any loosened material out of the system.

I hope this has been helpful -- please post tips on the valve cover removal if you have any!
 

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Wow....great write up! Thanks for this detailed post with pics tips.

I will doing this job soon on my 1997. This will help tremendously!

I ordered a Fel-Pro valve cover gasket and it comes with spark plug tubes. However, no grommets were mentioned. Are these a seperate item, as I would like to replace them during this job.

Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I ordered a Fel-Pro valve cover gasket and it comes with spark plug tubes. However, no grommets were mentioned. Are these a seperate item, as I would like to replace them during this job.
I'm glad I could help -- please add your tips to that post after you do the job. Its not a tough job...its just getting that dang cover off that is the most trouble.

If you ordered the Felpro VS50304R-1 kit, it will come with the spark plug tube seals -- that's the same thing as "grommets" in this case. Toyota just calls them "grommets". They are the circular rubber-coated metal pieces that you will first see when you remove the 30-mm spark plug tube nuts on the top of the valve cover.

I used that Felpro kit myself for one of the Ravs I did, and I thought it was of very good quality. Be sure to get some gasket maker, because you absolutely need it, or else that new valve cover gasket will leak on the both ends. Just put the gasket maker in the places shown in the pictures in that post, and it won't leak (as long as you don't over-torque the spark plug tube nuts -- use a torque wrench for that low spec). Let it cure for at least an hour, but preferably overnight (there are directions on the label). As I mentioned in that post, I used Permatex Ultra Black, which also goes by the name Permatex 82180. It is this stuff here:

https://www.amazon.com/Permatex-82180-Maximum-Resistance-Silicone/dp/B0002UEN1U

You can get it at Autozone, Advance Auto, or Carquest or any place like that. You only need a little, so you can buy the smallest size they have.

Lastly, be sure to pull your plugs and have a look at them before you start the job to see if you'll need to reseal those tubes. Resealing the tubes will add some time to the job. Our plugs use a 5/8" spark plug socket. Be sure to put a thin coat of dielectric on the porcelain of the plugs before you re-install them because some people have had arcing without it. The Denso PK20TR11 plugs are highly recommended if you find you need to replace the plugs.
 

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Great article and great pics---and a question-- I have an oil leak in my '97--looks like it's coming from the cam seal area--and it looks as though removing the valve cover gives you great accessability to the seal-of course the cam gear would need to be removed as well--
Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Thanks!!!
 

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Just a small note that might be helpful ..... removing the throttle body and that damn bracket does make access much easier ... and there is no need to worry about coolant. The 2 coolant lines that enter the IAC/throttle body stay completely contained within there ... they dont go into the inlet manifold at all ...at least not on my '98 ...pretty sure it will be the same on all of them. So just unbolt the throttle body and move it to the rear out of the way ....there is usually enough free length and flexibility in all the hoses & lines to allow it to move back against the bulkhead ..... just tie it back there. Be aware of the thin metal gasket that occasionally falls off into the darkness down the back of the engine...i guess you could replace this too...but i have re-used it without issue several times now... albeit with a thin smear of instant gasket.
As I said tho ..no need to break into any coolant lines at all.
 

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Hey y'all
i was wondering
Whats gonna be the cost to this type of job at a auto shop?
I'm a little bit worry to do it by my self
Thanks a lot
 

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1998 Rav4, manual transmission, 2WD, JDM engine installed in 2013
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Great thread. I have an oil leak on my 1998 Rav4 that I am troubleshooting. It is at the passenger end of the engine. Specifically, the exterior of the cam sensor housing has a drip at its bottom. I will be replacing the valve cover gasket on my recently purchased 1998 Rav4 in a week or so as a start. I am another medium sized woman. I appreciate the "customized" write-up. :)
 
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Even if you're not having problems, it's worth checking how tight your plug tube nuts are. I checked mine, first by hand, 2 loose, tightened them, then used a torque wrench, all 4 tightend up some more.
 

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Notes after replacing my 1998 Rav4's valve cover gasket:

-- I found two of my Rav's 30mm spark plug tube nuts finger loose. The loose nuts and and old, hardened gasket might explain the oil leak my Rav has been experiencing.

-- I could not figure out how to remove the annoying bracket on the driver's side of the valve cover. I removed two of its bolts and it still was not budging. With an enormous screwdriver, I did pry it a bit away from the valve cover. I think the bracket (a.k.a. "stay") is part number 17139-74180. See pictures below. I probably failed to see the lower bolts. I wonder if the coils have to be removed to access these bolts.

-- I installed the new valve cover gasket into the groove of the valve cover and then installed the valve cover.

-- My valve cover gasket kit included the two half moons. The old half moons came out pretty easily.

-- Acetone is great for cleaning up the area where the valve cover sits, including taking off the old FIPG. I have also used mineral spirits.

-- Despite the bracket on the driver's side, I thought the valve cover went on pretty easily, though probably because of all the clues in demoder's guide above.
 

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15.) Install the tube nuts, only hand-tightening as you go. Using a torque wrench, alternate randomly between the four nuts to tighten them evenly to a final torque of 17 ft-lbs. Note: my older service manual has a typo showing an incorrect torque value. I have confirmed that the proper value is 17 ft-lbs.

What makes you say those torque settings are wrong? My Haynes manual and other sites I've looked at says that's what they should be.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
What makes you say those torque settings are wrong? My Haynes manual and other sites I've looked at says that's what they should be.
There has been some controversy over this, and these torque specs have changed over time.

My understanding is that the Gen 1 Rav 3SFE valve cover itself can handle the 33 ft-lbs, but there was later a change to the grommets material and the gasket material which allowed for (required?) the reduced torque spec, with the goal of reduced the risk of warping the aluminum cover or damaging the tube threads. This apparently precipitated a TIS (which I have not seen, only been told about).

The 3SFE was modified in Rav4 applications (and others) starting with the model year '98, and the re-design included the removal of the distributor. The head was not significantly changed (this is why you still see that "poor empty bearing cap" which now serves as a seal cap, where the distributor used to connect to the rear end of intake cam, like in #13 picture above). I don't know if the torque spec changes correlate with these changes or not, but as I mentioned in the post, I have been informed by techs that the recommended spec is now 17 ft-lbs.

I have used that information on several distributor-less 3SFE's and have not had any issues with oil leaks.

Perhaps a tech on this site can confirm that the spec hasn't changed again? (I am a simple shade-tree mechanic, not a trained Toyota technician).

The 5SFE was spec'd at 17 ft-lbs in the '90s, while at the same time the 3SFE was spec'd at 9 ft-lbs...then changed to 17 ft-lbs, then to 33 ft-lbs, then 17 ft-lbs.

Whatever you use, these nuts loosen over time: you have to re-check them anyway. They need to be tight enough to prevent leaks, but not so tight that they deform the grommets, gasket, tube threads, or cover.

For real-world experience: using OE Toyota gasket and Toyota grommets, I have been fine with 17 ft-lbs, with a re-check after a week. I also use this spec with Felpro valve cover gaskets and grommets. I haven't used any other brands.

Its up to you which you'd like to try. Here are some opinions of each method/spec, as well as the discussion:

https://www.rav4world.com/forums/85-4-1-faults-fixes/120745-illustrated-valve-cover-gasket-replacement.html

https://www.toyotanation.com/forum/103-camry-3rd-4th-gen-1992-1996-1997-2001-1st-gen-solara-1999-2003/367635-valve-cover-torque.html

Good luck with your repair!
 

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Is Blue threadlocker an option for the valve cover bolts?

I was reading through these posts about the different torque numbers and remember how much the cover likes to loosen up around the spark plug tubes. Would using a med strength threadlocker be an option here ?
 

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So I believe I made a mistake. Did this job last night, (That valve cover def wasn't the easiest to remove) but I forgot one thing... That was to let it cure. I was in my buddies garage, so I had to drive home. Which I did... Should I just go ahead and plan on doing it again? Thanks in advance for any answers...
 

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Keep an eye on it...it may have dried. Don assume you need to re-do.
How long after assembly did you start/use engine?
What do instructions state on tube?
 

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Thanks for BRILLIANT write-up. I have Class-3 leak (''3 = recurring fluid that results in formation of non-falling droplet'') at Valve Cover Gasket, which I'm fixing to repair. Your Thread comes just in the nick of time!



Anyone have input (no suitable videos on YouTube so far...) on: Adjusting Valve Clearances? Might as well do Valves while R&R'ing Valve Cover Gasket at same time. [Shall I move question, don't wish to HIGHJACK your Thread, only ENHANCE it]. Specifically, need to know how to get all 8-Cams into proper "up" position to employ Feeler Gauge. Scotty Kilmer advises, Manual Transmission, put into 5th-Gear & push vehicle backward. Can anyone elaborate? Push it how far, as my current driveway is short. All tips helpful-- NEVER gapped Valves before. THANK YOU!
 

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Mindflayed,
My tube of Toyota FIPG instructions says it's okay to drive "after 1-2 hours."

Keep an eye on it. Pray. Observe.
 

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Mindflayed,
My tube of Toyota FIPG instructions says it's okay to drive "after 1-2 hours."

Keep an eye on it. Pray. Observe.
Awesome. Thanks. I’d almost forgot I broke the pic valve and used to tape to just mAke sure I didn’t get a CEL or oil spray under the hood. Popped the heard and couldn’t figure where the hissing sound was coming from. Then I saw the tape and thought, yup there it is. Replaced pic valve and also got a fighter clamp for the powered steering return. It was seeping. I think we got all the leaks. Changing oils today and making sure that drain plug is installed correctly as well as filter and those pesky sticking gaskets that can make an easy job a nightmare if missed.

Thanks again for the heads up.
 
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