Holden Commodore VS VT VX Ecotec 3.8 V6 Engine rocker cover gasket replacement

Introduction If you own a Holden Commodore 1996 - 2001 fitted with the V6 Ecotec engine, and find the engine smoking and/or burnt oil smells being drawn into the passenger compartment after an extended period of driving, you may have faulty rocker cover gaskets.

These gaskets only have a finite life. The high heat causes them to melt, making the seal ineffective, allowing engine oil to leak out and flow onto the exhaust headers, creating the burning oil smell. In this state, your vehicle will also start to lose engine oil, requiring top-ups.

This article details how you can replace the seals yourself, rather than taking your car to a mechanic and paying for a relatively simple job.

Requirements: About one hour
10mm,8mm socket and driver set
Rocker cover gaskets to suit (one if only one side is leaking, two if both)


1. Ensure the engine is not boiling hot. Do not attempt this procedure immediately after driving!  
2. Remove the plastic cover from the top of the engine by unfastening the four nuts with a 3/8 inch socket.
Plastic Cover Removed - WebDevSys
3. Loosen the clamp for the air intake pipe, and disconnect the pipe from the manifold inlet. Remove air intake pipe - WebDevSys Air intake pipe removed - WebDevSys
4. Unfasten the bolt used to secure the engine oil dipstick tube - this allows you to move the dipstick tube out of the way. Unfasten dipstick tube - WebDevSys
5. Unfasten the throttle cable bracket assembly. Unfasten throttle cable assembly - WebDevSys Throttle cable assembly loosened - WebDevSys
6. Unscrew the six bolts around the perimeter of each of the rocker cover, and remove the covers. Rocker cover bolt - WebDevSys rocker cover removed - WebDevSys rocker cover removed - closeup - WebDevSys
7. These photos show the extent of the disintegration of the gasket - you can see how the heat has caused the rounded edge to be flattened, reducing the effectiveness of the seal. The lower part of the rocker cover seal is very close to the exhaust headers, and some parts of the gasket have been burnt brown. rocker cover with old gasket - WebDevSys Flattened gasket - WebDevSys Melted gasket - WebDevSys Other part - still good - WebDevSys Part of gasket, slightly flattened - WebDevSys
8. Remove the old gasket from the rocker cover. Old rocker cover gasket removed - WebDevSys
9. The upper part of the rocker housing where the gasket touches the edge shows a nice clean area where the gasket is providing a good contact seal. Conversely, the lower part shows engine oil over the contact area, and this is where the oil has been seeping. Contact area - good gasket part - WebDevSys Contact area - bad gasket part - WebDevSys
10. Open the package for your new gaskets and place them onto the rocker cover. Contact area - bad gasket part - WebDevSys New gasket in packaging - WebDevSys
11. Reassemble the covers on the engine in reverse order that you took them off.  
12. After you have cleaned up and made sure there are no loose parts or tools, start the engine and see if there are any leaks.  
13. If your gasket(s) have been leaking for some time, you should check your engine oil levels and top up as required.  


macca, Mon, 21 Sep 2009 06:37 pm: Reply
great tutorial thanks

Zee, Tue, 22 Sep 2009 12:05 pm: Reply
thatnks mate great step by step instructions greatly appreciated.

Paulie Shore, Sat, 06 Mar 2010 01:38 pm: Reply
Thanks for this, im not an expert with this sort of thing and without this I would haven't been able too do this. Saved me well over $100 mechanic fee.

Kayne, Fri, 23 Apr 2010 01:31 pm: Reply
Good work mate, pic's help a ton cheers!

Ruben, Mon, 03 May 2010 11:48 pm: Reply
Wow, I need to fix this for my RWC. I'm no expert either but the way you explain everything with the pics, and why and how it happens is fantastic. I feel like everything makes sense now and I'm capable of fixing it myself. Thank you.

Carlo, Wed, 12 May 2010 12:36 am: Reply
Cheers big time.... very thorough and precise.....helped imensely.

emry, Tue, 25 May 2010 12:38 pm: Reply
i did this several times. not that hard just put some silicon inside the valve covers where the new rubbers sitting so when you upside down the rocker covers gaskets wont foll down, also don't tight up the bolts too much,

Rob, Sat, 05 Jun 2010 06:22 am: Reply
Great step by step guide. I put my VY in for service at Holden and they told me I need to replace both rocker cover gaskets and valley seals also due to leaks, cost $710! However I suspect it's only the rockers leaking (maybe only one). Too coincidental that both rocker covers and the valley seals have developed a leak all at the same time. Cheers Thanks heaps.

andyobi1, Mon, 14 Jun 2010 07:31 pm: Reply
Do I need to apply any silicone to the gasket surface?
David, Mon, 22 Aug 2011 10:13 pm:
I did not use any, all worked fine

michael, Sat, 26 Jun 2010 03:54 pm: Reply
this artcile is helpful i was just wondering how tight do i need to tighten the bolt will i need a tork rench ?

Gavin, Tue, 06 Jul 2010 04:50 pm: Reply
No, you don't need any silicone. A new gasket mating to a clean and undamaged head is best. The silicone suggestion is only on the rocker cover side to help stop the gasket from falling out of the groove once the rocker cover is turned over for reassembly. By the way Michael, it's spelt "torque wrench" and yes, it would be best but no crucial as long as you know what 7 - 11 nm feels like.

Shane, Sun, 08 Aug 2010 03:56 pm: Reply
Also a suggestion if your car still has the pieces of metal that come up about halfway from the exhaust manafold you can take them off and it makes it easier when your putting the covers back on

botty, Sun, 12 Sep 2010 06:39 pm: Reply
hey just wondering i have a 93 VR commodore and was wondering how much work would be involved in puttin a eco motor in it. i no the motor will bolt straight in and i need to change the wirrin loom and computer, but wat bout the gearbox will i have to put a VS gearbox in and if so wil the VR tailshaft stil fit the VS gearbox. if any one could help me out i would be very appresiative cheers

Sam, Sun, 30 Jan 2011 09:50 am: Reply
Thank you so much for taking the time out to help others much appreciated!

TeeBee, Sat, 26 Feb 2011 02:42 pm: Reply
Great article, helped us heaps. Only thing I found was a 3/8th socket was a better fit on the rocker cover bolts.
Kurt, Sat, 23 Mar 2013 11:57 pm:
I agree, the 10 socket was slipping on some of the bolts.

tex, Thu, 14 Jul 2011 11:44 pm: Reply
need more diy articles as good as this one to save being ripped off by dodgy mechanics!!!

Pazman, Sat, 13 Aug 2011 09:37 pm: Reply
Nice work dude.

George, Fri, 19 Aug 2011 02:28 am: Reply
Would this be the same process for a vz alloytec engine?

Brad, Sat, 20 Aug 2011 07:41 pm: Reply
Thanks for that usually do most myself i used scotch brite to clean off the burnt oil and did not have a problem with gaskets falling out also undone the lead brackets doing engine mounts next any suggestions been looking and seems like the sequence you do it matters?

Stacey, Sat, 27 Aug 2011 10:14 am: Reply
No a Vz alloytech is completely different

Jeremy, Wed, 21 Sep 2011 05:46 pm: Reply
Thanks for this tutorial man, I have both my rocker cover gaskets leaking.

Vince, Tue, 01 Nov 2011 01:39 pm: Reply
A great article. Now I can fix my daughter's vt oil leak

Tim, Fri, 18 Nov 2011 11:29 pm: Reply
Will a vs 5 speed fit a vy that had a 5 speed

louise, Thu, 26 Jan 2012 02:46 pm: Reply
got a friend whos car vs commodore ecotec motor just died in the middle of the street, not the coil pak, not the fuel pump, the car cranks over but also no spark, just got a new crank angle sensor too and was fitted by a professional mechanic wtf??!!! help

Rickie, Sat, 17 Mar 2012 04:31 pm: Reply
my car done that and was as simple as a relay i think its *engine cont* if nnot that were the wiring lume goins into your coil pack give it a hard wiggle sometimes its just somethink simple
Jg, Sun, 07 Sep 2014 05:01 pm:
Awesome tip, the relay fixed my not starting issue, saved a tone of money. Thanks

Shaun, Thu, 29 Mar 2012 03:04 pm: Reply
Good stuff man! I got a rounded bolt on my engine but, no clue how to get it off, or how it got so destroyed. Any tips would be awesome

Darren, Tue, 24 Apr 2012 08:09 am: Reply
I don't have a torque wrench, and im not sure what 7-11nm feels like...is there any way you can describe what that it? like, fingertight, then approx 1 turn (example). Don't really want to spend cash on a tool im probably only going to use once. (not the greatest mechanic :P)

Nick, Wed, 30 May 2012 05:03 pm: Reply
this is very good, thanks

Reddy, Thu, 19 Jul 2012 10:10 am: Reply
Nice explanation with images

Anonymous, Mon, 30 Jul 2012 01:09 am: Reply
If u have to ask a question because you're too inept to (a) search google or other Holden/commodore specific forums (b) too cheap to buy a workshop manual or (c) just simply don't have any mechanical ability beyond assembling and Ikea flat pack, then cough up the dough and pay a professional.
An unscrupulous mechanic will only take advantage of ignorant ninnies who let them.

badbubblegum, Mon, 30 Jul 2012 01:09 am: Reply
If u have to ask a question because you're too inept to (a) search google or other Holden/commodore specific forums (b) too cheap to buy a workshop manual or (c) just simply don't have any mechanical ability beyond assembling and Ikea flat pack, then cough up the dough and pay a professional.
An unscrupulous mechanic will only take advantage of ignorant ninnies who let them.

SCOTT, Sun, 07 Oct 2012 07:00 pm: Reply

Tam, Tue, 09 Oct 2012 08:55 pm: Reply
Can I put a v8 vs auto gearbox into my vt ss ?

vs calais series ii, Tue, 16 Oct 2012 10:54 pm: Reply
hi my car always smells hot outside the car and when i open the door... Even when i haven't drove that far... It doesn't overheat. Could it be my rocker covers leaking oil onto my exhaust that smells hot???
Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Andrew, Wed, 28 Nov 2012 09:37 pm: Reply
Thanks alot, great info!
My notes after doing it on the weekend:
- LH cover
- don't try to remove throttle cable, just remove bolts so bracket can be moved out of the way.
- need to remove the vacuum hose from bottom of air intak manifold to allow cover to be removed easily
- LH & RH covers
- need to remove spark lead brackets as well
- clean both head and cover so new gasket seals properly
- scrape head with a razor blade and screw driver to remove baked on gasket
- RH cover
- the cover is a little different to LH cover, it looks like it might be warped in two places due to exhaust heat, but it isn't

Ben, Sat, 13 Jul 2013 11:07 pm: Reply
I had no problems putting the new gasket in although it took a lot longer to clean the surfaces thoroughly than I thought it would. I had an issue when I did a test drive in that the engine was idling @ 2000 rpm instead of 750 rpm. I figured that I messed up when I put the accelerator cable assembly back on but that all looked fine. It turned out that the computer got itself in a knot with all the cables that I needed to pull out to do the ' job. To resolve,I just disconnected the battery and then reconnected it and it was all good.

Liam Quinlan, Sun, 10 Aug 2014 05:53 pm: Reply
Will a vx engine and gearbox fit vs am will I have probs with tail sharft

pete, Tue, 25 Nov 2014 12:36 pm: Reply

Jeffo, Thu, 28 Jan 2016 09:35 am: Reply
Great write-up. Good pix too!
Re tightening the rocker cover bolts, the idea is to just squish the rubber gasket so it makes good contact. Not so tight that the rocker cover warps, or the gasket is squashed flat. If you can judge that tightness, you are in! Most mechanics develop these talents as second nature.
I would use a 1/4" drive socket on a small screwdriver-style handle. Tighten the bolts firmly with that - only.
To Rob with the VY and the $710 quote - most Ecotec motors blow the rocker cover gaskets and the inlet manifold ('valley") gasket around the same time. Your service guys are being cautious. The symptoms (oil leaks) are very similar and if they just did the rocker cover gaskets, you'd be back a week later saying it's still leaking.
Also, there;s much dismantling to get into the valley gaskets. Might as well do the rocker cover gaskets as well. That would get you another 100,000 + k's without trouble.
Dealers have to cover themselves in case something else fails at the same time - and with ecotecs, it usually does!
There is enough of them around for distinct patterns of whar fails when, to emerge.
Just the same, my local mechanic quoted "about $500" for the same job.

reffie, Thu, 14 Apr 2016 10:05 pm: Reply
Just read this thread, after replacing VT rocker cover seal, to double check I'd done everything. (a chick under the bonnet.....you know what we're like :OP )
And I too would like to thank VTvoodoo for the tutorial. Straight to the point, all steps covered and explained in such a way that we 'non-grease monkeys' are able to feel confident enough to get her back together and fire her up, with a big cheezy 'I F...en did that' smile!
Thanks to all the other contributors as well, Every bit of advice is appreciated!
Have a good night guys, Cheers

Evo, Tue, 09 May 2017 06:30 pm: Reply
Do you have a guide for valley cover and rocker cover gaskets for vt v8 models?

Pauly, Thu, 24 May 2018 06:36 pm: Reply
Just replaced valley cover gasets , new coolant , runs fine but both fans cut strait in and wont cut out ?? Any solutions??

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