Screenshot: Chris Fix (YouTube)

Engine bay decoration is an under-appreciated art because, well, it sits in the dark under the hood most of the time. But painting your valve cover and other engine parts are a great way to add automotive easter eggs to your car and this video is the best guide I’ve ever seen on how to do it easily.

Chris Fix, who consistently turns out clean, concise and idiot-proof car repair DIY videos, posted this step-by-step instructable on how to do to paint a car’s valve cover and I highly recommend the whole thing if you’re considering attempting this task yourself.

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Painting a valve cover on some cars is going to be a lot easier than others. The four-cylinder engine in this Honda (I think it’s a Del Sol) is easily accessible and small, so getting it off the head and out of the car would be a cinch. You might find your valve covers are a little harder to access, and if you’ve got more than four cylinders you’ll have more than one.

Naturally you’re going to want to look at a guide on getting the valve cover off on your car specifically, especially if you haven’t done much wrenching. But the painting process will be the same once you’ve yanked the piece out of the engine bay.

Chris Fix’s visual aids make the how-to a lot easier to interpret, but basically:

  1. Remove valve cover
  2. Remove all plastic
  3. Use paint stripper to get rid of existing paint (don’t let it touch plastic!)
  4. Do lots of cleaning
  5. Get spray paint that’s rated for heat
  6. Read all the instructions on our chosen spray paint
  7. Make a paint booth with a plastic storage box
  8. Tape and mask things you don’t want to paint, or be ready to sand down later
  9. Spray light coats
  10. Spray a primer, spray a color, spray clear coat in that order
  11. Don’t forget to unmask before your paint is completely dry, but don’t reinstall until it is
  12. And! Be careful with gaskets, fresh ones are recommended.

The video includes bonus tips on how to spray paint and very cool techniques for keeping bugs and dust from messing up your project. I also love the sticker-as-masking-tape strategy which I’ve never considered.

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This bright blue color is a little intense for my taste (though the execution is excellent), but even if you don’t want to dress up your engine bay you could use these strategies to bring an old engine back to its original glory by using something close to the stock valve cover color.