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Old 05-19-2015, 06:27 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default DIY: Valve Stem Seals

I did this on my 89 civic with its original D15B1, but you can use this guide on pretty much any honda SOHC 4-cyl.

A list of the tools you will need.


Start by removing the four valve cover nuts with a 10mm socket. then get everything out of your way to remove the valve cover like the spark plug wires (only unplug the spark plug side, not the dist side, and move out of the way), clutch cable and throttle cable come out of various brackets by hand, and disconnect the crankcase breather hose.


now that the valve cover is off, you can see the rocker arm assembly that will need to be removed next. this is so you can gain access to your valve springs. start by just loosening the 16 black bolts with your 12mm deep socket. go slow. once they are loose, you can then back them all the way out. i like to get them completely unthreaded BUT leave them in their respective holes so i don't lose them or mix them up (they are not all the same length). now you can remove the rocker arm assembly. it takes some wiggling and maybe some light prying, but will come off all together without much fuss. BE CAREFUL! you dont want to scratch or damage any sensitive surfaces while your removing this assembly like the cam or rocker faces.


all four spark plugs need to be removed. use your 5/8in deep spark plug socket. hint: the plug wires can be used to grab the spark plugs to be removed once they are threaded all the way out.


now that the assembly is off, we finally get access to the valve springs. if you are asking yourself "hey, dont the distributor, cam, and timing belt also have to be removed?" NO! if done with care, all these can be left in place during this procedure without any damage or issues.


tip: i like to use the valve cover turned upside down as a spare parts/hardware holder.


the is a piece of 3/8in dowel rod. i use it to make sure i'm at bottom dead center of the cylinder i'm working on before i start to cram in the nylon rope. i even marked it to make it dummy proof. you may ask "why did you make yours out of wood?" well, i dont want to damage the spark plug threads with a metal rod so wood or plastic make great choices.


insert the dowel rod into the cylinder through the spark plug hole and turn the engine by hand using the cam gear. since the car is in neutral, the spark plugs have been removed, and the cam is no longer trying to open valves, turning the engine is easy. when the rod gets to its lowest point, you've reached bottom dead center.

Last edited by TexasTechX1; 05-19-2015 at 11:12 AM.
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Old 05-19-2015, 06:27 AM   #2 (permalink)
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this is what we're going to use to fill the cylinder to hold the valves in place while we remove the springs. this is a necessary cheap tool to have because without the springs holding the valves onto the head, they will fall into the cylinder. if a valve falls into the cylinder, the only way to get it out is to completely remove the head... which is a much more difficult and time consuming process. its a 3/8in nylon rope about 6ft long. i tied a loop around the end to make it easier to pullout when finished. again, i choose a soft material like nylon that doesnt fray so i dont do any damage in the engine or leave debris behind inside.


with the the cylinder you're going to work on at bottom dead center, insert the nylon rope into the spark plug hole. it may take some wiggling to get most of it in. once most of it is filling the cylinder, turn the engine over by hand, this will move the piston up towards the combustion chamber where the valves seat. turn until it stops, this way you know the piston is sandwiching the rope firm against the valves so you can work without them moving or falling in.


now grab your valve spring compressor tool. these can be had cheap at your local auto part stores or Harbor Freight. i picked mine up for $10. please note, this is a universal tool and may take a little work to make it work best for your application. these are made for bigger valve springs like you find in American V8's, but the skinny springs in this engine are hard to grab without bending the arms in just a little with a hammer to get them to grab the springs just right.


and here are the locks. PLEASE BE CAREFUL! these can be awkward to get out because of their small size and the odd positioning of the tool. its VERY easy to drop one of these and lose it... or worse, drop it into your now open engine.


with the tool still compressing the spring (no need to loosen it until were ready to re install it), pull the spring out to expose the valve stem seal. the small seal we're after! grab your pliers and pull the seal off of the valve stem guide.


some come off easy, some take a lot of twisting a wiggling to get off. just be careful to not damage anything around it in the process.


now that the old one is off, its time to install the new one. this is the socket i found in my pile of spare sockets that we'll use as the installation tool. it holds the seal perfectly. The smaller diameter hole inside this socket fits AROUND the rubber part of the seal instead of pushing on it, this is REQUIRED so you install the new seals without crushing, pinching, or ruining the new seal (IE: the metal socket/tool should only be touching the metal part of the seal).


the seal sits into the socket like this. it has no room the wiggle but still slides in and out with ease... like it was made for this job! you dont want to hammer these on or install them half assed. you could install them crooked or damage the seal itself, turning a long job into a fruitless endeavor.

Last edited by TexasTechX1; 05-19-2015 at 11:18 AM.
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Old 05-19-2015, 06:28 AM   #3 (permalink)
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with the socket holding the seal, slide it onto the valve stem and onto the guide. i used the 12mm deep socket from earlier to press the new seal on. again, it doesnt need to be hammered on, but it does need to be pressed firmly on by hand. I install the seals dry and wipe the oil off of the valve stem and guide where the new seal seats. once they're pressed on, a few drops of oil are applied to prevent a dry startup condition when you first fire it up.


and here it is, the new seal properly installed. now just reverse the process to reinstall the spring and locks, and move on to the next valve.

one down... fifteen more to go. like i said, not hard, just tedious.


quick note: this is how the valve springs on this engine are meant to be ran, with the tighter wound coils at the bottom and the wider spaced coils at the top where the retainer seats.


once you get done with all four valve stem seals for that cylinder (two in front of the spark plug hole and the two behind it), you can loosen the piston holding the rope by turning the engine back the other way and pulling the rope out. now you can move on to the next cylinders and repeat the steps until all 16 seals have been replaced.


once the seals are finally done, you can reinstall the rocker arm assembly. take your time and go easy it takes a little patience to get it seated down again properly and all the bolts threaded back in. this picture is the sequence the bolts have to be tightened in and the torque specs for them.


and now its time to enjoy your hard work!

but i hope your luck is better than mine... looks like i picked up a nail in the road on my way back from the parts store where i grabbed the new seals. by the time i was done, it was way too flat to drive on. maybe tomorrow.

Last edited by TexasTechX1; 05-19-2015 at 09:54 AM.
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Old 05-19-2015, 06:54 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Great write up
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But one question. Arent you not suppose to back turn the motor. Due to the rod bearings spining around.
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Old 05-19-2015, 07:01 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by xile6 View Post
Great write up
Rep+

But one question. Arent you not suppose to back turn the motor. Due to the rod bearings spining around.
that's a great point, glad you brought it up. the only time I turn the engine during this job is slowly and by hand. while you are correct in that you aren't supposed to turn the engine backwards, I've done this many many times on Hondas without issue. probably because i'm going slow and turning it by hand with no load.

EDIT: and thanks for the rep!
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Old 05-19-2015, 07:06 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Nice use of shit around the house. A+ write up
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Old 05-19-2015, 07:11 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Nice use of shit around the house. A+ write up
thanks! but i'll admit, I had to buy the dowel rod and rope at the local hardware store. less than $5 for both.
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Old 05-19-2015, 07:21 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Good DIY!!

One thing I would suggest is the sock for the seal.

The one you selected presses on the rubber of the seal, and can deform or damage the seal and/or spring.

Find one that the rubber fits in snug, and you press on the shoulder of the seal.

IIRC 10mm for a Vtec seal and 11mm for a non Vtec seal.


@xile... its not the rod bearings spinning backwards that is the issue.
It is the timing belt and how the slack side of the belt becomes tight and the tight side slack and how the belt tensioner can compress then skip.

The rod bearing are locked press fit into the rod housing bores and do not move.
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Old 05-19-2015, 07:26 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by BogusSVO View Post
Good DIY!!

One thing I would suggest is the sock for the seal.

The one you selected presses on the rubber of the seal, and can deform or damage the seal and/or spring.

Find one that the rubber fits in snug, and you press on the shoulder of the seal.

IIRC 10mm for a Vtec seal and 11mm for a non Vtec seal.
The socket I used does NOT press on the rubber at all, it DOES press on the metal shoulder only. it took me about half an hour digging through my bucket of spare old sockets to find the perfect one. sorry I didn't take any pics, its hard to get that shot with an old iPhone.

EDIT: you can see it pretty good in this pic: http://i.imgur.com/3uVYm07.jpg, that center hole is bigger than the OD of the rubber side of the seal. so there is only metal to metal contact.

Last edited by TexasTechX1; 05-19-2015 at 07:30 AM.
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Old 05-19-2015, 07:29 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Did you put oil on the new valve seals before installing or did you do her dry.

good diy. we like pictures!
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Old 05-19-2015, 07:36 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Did you put oil on the new valve seals before installing or did you do her dry.

good diy. we like pictures!
I didn't lube the seals themselves. where the seal seats on the guide, I wiped the oil off so there's no chance of them coming off while running (which is very unlikely anyways, but that's how I was taught). but I did leave the oil on the valve stem so it would stay lubed when I first fired it up, to avoid them running dry for the first few seconds.

I built cylinder heads for Texas Speed and Performance for a few years and this is how I was taught. never had any issues.
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Old 05-19-2015, 07:45 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Thanks everyone for the compliments so far! I use to write up a bunch of domestic stuff in the past on forums and enjoyed it. I plan to do more for this car, even if its something simple. I always appreciated a good write up when I was a younger noob and looking for info.

EDIT: and thanks for pointing out the minor details I left out, i'll go back and edit the posts.

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Old 05-19-2015, 11:20 AM   #13 (permalink)
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did you replaced the spark plug tube seals

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Old 05-19-2015, 11:25 AM   #14 (permalink)
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did you replaced the spark plug seals
the rubber o-ring like gaskets that go between the head and rocker arm assembly? yes I did... sort of
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Old 05-19-2015, 12:12 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Nice writeup, ive seen guys do this with an air compressor and spark plug hole adapter to keep the valves in place, but I like the looks of the rope method better.
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Old 05-19-2015, 12:29 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Nice writeup, ive seen guys do this with an air compressor and spark plug hole adapter to keep the valves in place, but I like the looks of the rope method better.
I've used both and they both work great. this method is a big help for those that don't own an air compressor. I have one at the shop but not in my garage where I ended up working on this. its also a quieter and cheaper alternative.
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Old 05-20-2015, 12:10 PM   #17 (permalink)
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These type of valve seal pliers don't cost too much and make really short work of removing those pesky seals off the guides:

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Old 05-20-2015, 12:16 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Damn... those would've been really helpful.
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Old 01-24-2016, 04:10 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Very nice write up. i always have a telescoping magnet to get the spring retainers, they are so easily dropped..
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Old 01-24-2016, 10:22 PM   #20 (permalink)
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The seals are hogged out because the guides are out of spec. Especially the exhaust.
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