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Old 03-19-2017, 06:33 AM   #1
jwcutler
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Oil in spark plug tube

While installing a new valve cover gasket yesterday I found some oil in several spark plug tubes. Except for #5 it was very minimal and probably of no real concern but there was enough in #5 that the coil boot was covered when I removed it. I did the best I could with a rag and a screwdriver to wick it up but if anyone has a more thorough method for cleaning it out I would like to go back and finish cleaning out the tubes.
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Old 03-19-2017, 07:15 AM   #2
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The valve cover gasket set includes 6 o-rings that prevent oil from getting into the spark plug wells. Yours are leaking. You need to buy and install an OEM valve cover gasket set including the 15 grommets. Plenty of YouTube vids on this.
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Old 03-19-2017, 07:47 AM   #3
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I think you cleaned it up fine. Just remember that when you pull the plug some oil might get on the threads so screwing in new plug will be easier...so be careful not to overtorque it. Use the directions on the spark plug box...screw to stop, then about 1/2 turn, then about 1/3 turn...those 'abouts' are 'abouts' but pretty close!
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Old 03-19-2017, 08:05 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by markusmarkus View Post
The valve cover gasket set includes 6 o-rings that prevent oil from getting into the spark plug wells. Yours are leaking. You need to buy and install an OEM valve cover gasket set including the 15 grommets. Plenty of YouTube vids on this.
Actually, the E46 valve cover set includes two strips of three gaskets, not sure I would call them o-rings even though they are round, for the spark plug wells. Two of the strips had become torn which may have shifted the position of the gaskets which allowed oil to leak into the tubes.

This basic advice may have been helpful to the previous owner/mechanic who also appears to not have read his Bentley and did not apply any sealant to the half moons in the front and rear and to the corners by the VANOS unit.

Thanks for your thoughts though.
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Old 03-19-2017, 10:29 AM   #5
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be careful not to overtorque it. Use the directions on the spark plug box...screw to stop, then about 1/2 turn, then about 1/3 turn...those 'abouts' are 'abouts' but pretty close!
Or use a torque wrench and get it correct the first time before you damage a very expensive aluminum head.
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Old 03-19-2017, 12:34 PM   #6
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Actually the OP's question was "if anyone has a more thorough method for cleaning it out I would like to go back and finish cleaning out the tubes." The answer is you may try the blue shop towels but otherwise you've done it. Additionally, you can try and use a rag dipped in brake cleaner and go over what you did to get all the old oil residue other-wise, drive safely knowing you fixed the oil leak with the new VCG
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Old 03-19-2017, 03:14 PM   #7
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Actually the OP's question was "if anyone has a more thorough method for cleaning it out I would like to go back and finish cleaning out the tubes." The answer is you may try the blue shop towels but otherwise you've done it. Additionally, you can try and use a rag dipped in brake cleaner and go over what you did to get all the old oil residue other-wise, drive safely knowing you fixed the oil leak with the new VCG
Thank you, I had not thought of using brake cleaner, I'll give that a shot. I'm OK with a little bit that will burn off when I change plug if any gets into the cylinder but the one I mentioned was more than I was comfortable with.
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Old 03-19-2017, 05:08 PM   #8
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Just roll up paper towels enough to fit over the spark plug. Keep doing this until the plug hole is as dry as you can get it.

Be sure you clean your coil too.
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Old 03-19-2017, 09:17 PM   #9
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Just roll up paper towels enough to fit over the spark plug. Keep doing this until the plug hole is as dry as you can get it.

Be sure you clean your coil too.
hmm...the simple approach, I'll give it a try! Bounty, the Quicker Picker Upper!
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Old 03-19-2017, 09:28 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by mtnbimmer View Post
Or use a torque wrench and get it correct the first time before you damage a very expensive aluminum head.


Dmax was referring to the fact that if the threads have oil on them, to account for that lubrication when tightening the plugs. You will notice in the Bentley manual, they have torque specs for with or without antisieze. This is due to the lubricating properties that cause false torque readings. It's usually safe to adjust by 10-15% on your specs. So 20ft-lbs with oil or antisieze would be around 17-18ft-lbs.

I would use throttle body cleaner sprayed on the paper towel not directly in the tube. I'm not sure if brake cleaner would cause issues if it got into the combustion chamber.
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Old 03-20-2017, 03:41 PM   #11
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Dmax was referring to the fact that if the threads have oil on them, to account for that lubrication when tightening the plugs.
I know that. It still does not negate the need for a torque wrench to apply the correct torque. Turning a half turn then another third of turn is not an accurate method of applying torque unless called out for in the tightening sequence.

NGK has a good little primer on spark plugs which everyone should know:

https://www.ngksparkplugs.com/about-...ut-spark-plugs

Last edited by mtnbimmer; 03-20-2017 at 03:42 PM.
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Old 03-20-2017, 04:06 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by jwcutler View Post
I did the best I could with a rag and a screwdriver to wick it up but if anyone has a more thorough method for cleaning it out I would like to go back and finish cleaning out the tubes.
the owner of a local BMW indy shop told me to spray a solvent like brake cleaner in the tube then use air compressor to get the solvent out - spray in tube with rag/paper towels. Repeat and time or 2 till it is clean. Spray with more air to dry the solvent.

If there is a little bit of oil still left - that is ok. You don't want so much that taking the plug out drops enough oil in to hydrolock the engine when restarting it.
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Old 03-20-2017, 06:17 PM   #13
jwcutler
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the owner of a local BMW indy shop told me to spray a solvent like brake cleaner in the tube then use air compressor to get the solvent out - spray in tube with rag/paper towels. Repeat and time or 2 till it is clean. Spray with more air to dry the solvent.

If there is a little bit of oil still left - that is ok. You don't want so much that taking the plug out drops enough oil in to hydrolock the engine when restarting it.
Might give this a try. Cover everything close and blow out the oil. Friend told me he used a shop vac and a drinking straw on his 740! His tubes are not as deep as mine but it sounded as good as anything else!
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