If you’re a do-it-yourself-er, you probably have something like these in your toolbox. Stiff wire brush, some kind of a gasket scraper or chisel like this to get rid of old gaskets. Well you better throw them away if you have a late model car, because they use aluminum, and aluminum can easily be damaged.

So if you’re going to clean a gasket, you need one of these: it’s a scraper with a plastic razorblade. It won’t damage the aluminum. You also will want this: this is gasket remover. It will soften the gasket, and make it easier to get off, and lessen the chance at damaging the aluminum in the head or whatever part you’re working on.

Now, gaskets themselves have changed. This is a popular one these days. Thin sheet of aluminum punched out, with little dabs of sealant around each of the openings. Gotta be careful that you don’t bend it, because if you bend it, it’s shot. It’s no good. So handle it carefully, and follow any directions that come with it.

Now, most gaskets these days have evolved into something like this: this is a valve cover off of a late model engine. And it has a groove in the cover itself and a matching protrusion on the bottom end of the gasket. It fits down into there, without any kind of sealant or anything, and that is the installation of your gasket. Not much in the way of cleaning, in most cases, so you don’t have to worry about that.

But there are other issues. Now a lot of engines; they just don’t have gaskets; period. And they tell you that you have to use some form of RTV sealant, which stands for room temperature vulcanizing. A soft substance that you’re going to put on in a particular pattern. They’ll usually give you instructions in a service manual. Follow those instructions to the letter. Now the reason that I’m telling you that, is that this stuff works great if you do it right, but if you don’t, it’s terrible.

Now, one of the things: too much of it, and you’ll get pieces of the material that will work itself loose over time and get down into the oil pan. Then, when you’re driving down the road, especially at high speed, lots of suction here on the pickup screen for the oil pump. This stiff gets sucked up into it. We’ve seen cars with a lot of it. Well, there’ll be enough of it sucked up into that screen that it restricts oil flow, and you get an oil warning light. So be real careful with that. That could cost you an engine. So all of this stuff: in a lot of ways it’s simpler, as long as you read the service manual, use a torque wrench, and all of the things they tell you to do in that service manual.

And if you have a question or a comment, drop me a line right here at MotorWeek.