One of the most important and least expensive group of parts on any automobile are the gaskets. Gaskets can be found in close proximity to water pumps, cylinder heads, transmissions, brake parts, oil pans and just about anywhere there is a contained fluid or gas. They serve an important role by preventing leaks that could cause significant engine damage or other harm to the vehicle. On many European cars, gaskets are of even more importance because of the high-performing characteristics of some makes and models. That means there is less margin for error, as these automobiles have little tolerance for a poorly-installed gasket. If you are performing work on your European-made car, then you should be particularly mindful of the importance of properly installing gaskets. Below is how you can install a gasket that will seal tight and perform its job with total reliability:
What you will need
Thin scraper or putty knife
Small tube of room temperature vulcanization (RTV) silicone
Isopropyl rubbing alcohol
How to do it
1. Remove the component - whether the part in question is a water pump, cylinder head or some other component, it needs to be detached from its mounting. While removing it, be careful not to damage the interface that attaches to the component. If you chip, scrape or gouge the metal in this area, your gasket will not seal, no matter how careful you are to properly install it.
Scrape the surface of the mounting face – once you remove the component that is in the way, take a careful look at the mounting location. It is likely to be covered with at least some amount of gasket material that has adhered to the metal. The best way to begin removing it is by gently scraping the material away from the metal with a thin scraper blade or putty knife. Hold the scraper at an angle nearly parallel to the surface, and begin pushing it forward. Be careful not to scratch or gouge the surface, and lift the scraper after each forward stroke. You may need to scrape from multiple directions to be most effective.
2. Apply mineral spirits to the mounting location – once you have removed the bulk of the gasket material, dampen a shop rag with a small amount of mineral spirits. Scrub the surface of the metal using a circular motion to remove stubborn bits of gasket and adhesives. Reapply the mineral spirits to the shop rag as often as necessary, and continue scrubbing until the surface is clear of gasket residue or foreign materials.
3. Clean the mounting location with isopropyl alcohol – after the surface is clear of debris, you will want to make sure the metal is completely clean and free of oil. Dampen another shop rag with isopropyl alcohol and apply it to the metal. After that, squirt a generous amount of alcohol onto the metal and allow it to evaporate. Don't touch the surface after the alcohol dries in order to keep the metal free from contamination.
4. Apply RTV silicone to the mounting surface – using a clean finger, apply a thin layer of RTV silicone to the surface of the metal face. Don't use too much, as only a small amount is necessary to form a tight seal. Place the new, clean and dry gasket on the metal surface, and precisely align it with the bolt or screw mounting holes; the RTV silicone should hold it in place.
5. Apply RTV silicone to the mounting surface -after mounting the gasket, apply another thin layer of RTV silicone on top of the gasket. If you dislodge the gasket, move it back into position. Remember to keep everything clean and dry. If at any point you accidentally moisten the gasket or contaminate it with oil, pull it off, and start over from the beginning with a new gasket.
6. Attach the component to the mounting surface – check the component's housing where it attaches to the mounting surface for any contamination, and clean it using mineral spirits and isopropyl alcohol as you did above. Allow the alcohol to evaporate, and reattach the component.
If you're unable or uncomfortable performing any of the above tasks, remember to reach out to a professional foreign car repair service.