On most of today’s cars, you have to remove the engine cover in order to gain access to the engine.
If you’re doing any kind of DIY repair or making a thorough inspection, the cover will simply have to come off.
Most drivers are reluctant to do this for various reasons but as this article will show you, it’s not hard and is something you can surely do on your own.
Besides the actual procedure you can also find some additional information on this topic that may come in handy.
At the end of the article, you’ll find a video tutorial or you can watch it on our You Tube channel.
PRECAUTIONS BEFORE STARTING
Always remove the engine cover when the engine is cold. Otherwise you may severely burn yourself
Use protective gloves. The gloves will protect you both from scratches and keep your hands clean.
Before you start, it would be best to inform yourself how the engine cover is held in place for your car specifically. If you’re not sure Google it or ask someone who has the same car. This is in order to avoid causing any unwanted damage.
See if there is any additional installation holding on to the engine cover (like rubber hoses, various holders etc). If there is, be sure to remove them either before taking off the cover or when you lift it up. This way you’ll avoid damaging them.
WHAT WILL YOU NEED TO REMOVE THE ENGINE COVER?
Best case scenario:
Your own two hands and a pair of gloves.
Worst case scenario (when you need additional tools):
Screw driver, small ratchet and fitting socket, pair of pliers and a trim tool.
You probably won’t need all of these tools at once. It all depends on the how the cover is held in place.
HOW IS THE COVER HELD IN PLACE?
Most common ways are:
1. Rubber plugs
This system is the most common one, perhaps because it’s the most convenient.
Rubber plugs are attached to the underside of the cover. They are meant to be mounted on metal anchors located on the engine.
With this system, the cover is simply pulled off or pressed in to place.
2. Screws or nuts
This way is perhaps better in terms of holding the engine cover more firmly in place.
Downside is that you need tools.
3. Plastic clips
Plastic clips are more mostly used to hold the variuos plastic coverings located beside the actual engine cover.
On some cars however, all the coverings (including the engine cover) are held in place by them.
The types of plastic clips that are mostly used are the ones with additional insurance (they have a small wedge stuck in to the clip).
This way is perhaps the hardest and most time-consuming to remove. Main reason is that these plastic clips are prone to breaking mostly because they become brittle over time or damaged due to previous removing.
In this case, best have some spare ones at hand.
Also, a trim tool will come in handy as it’s a lot easier to remove the clips.
HOW TO REMOVE THE ENGINE COVER?
The procedure goes like this:
1. Open the hood
2. See how the engine cover is held in place. If there are no screws, nuts or plastic clips on the cover then it’s probably held in place with rubber plugs. Maybe best Google this topic for your car model specifically so you don’t damage anything.
3. If there are screws, bolts or plastic clips remove them using the ratchet with the proper socket or a trim tool. If needed you can additionally use pliers or a screwdriver.Once you take them off, the cover should loosen.
(Note: the pictures in this section serve as an example. The Skoda engine cover is held in place with rubber plugs).
4. If there are rubber plugs, grab firmly one side of the engine cover and pull it up. Repeat this on all four sides of the cover.
You may have to use a bit more force but that’s just the way it goes. You don’t have to neccessarilly use the order shown on the picture, just be sure to pull on all four sides.
The best place for your hands is somewhere near the rubber plug and anchor, preferably where the plastic is the thickest. This reduces the possibility of accidentally breaking off a part of the engine cover.
Just be sure that there aren’t any additional holders or screws holding the cover in place. If there are, remove them before you lift the cover up.
5. Remove the engine cover. If you see any hoses or any other installation, remove them once you lift the cover up.
HOW TO RETURN THE COVER IN TO PLACE?
Returning the cover goes like this:
1. Place the cover near the engine. If there were any kind of installations like hoses or otherwise, attach them before fitting the cover. Later you perhaps won’t be able to reach them.
(Note: on the Fabia engine cover there is an air-intake rubber gasket. It’s suppose to sit firmly on the air intake so make sure it does. Otherwise you may have a check engine light problem).
2. Apply some lithium grease or other lubricant to the rubber plugs. This is optional but with some lubricant the plugs will sit on the metal anchors much easier.
These are the metal anchors on which the rubber plugs are attached to.
3. Lay down the cover in to place. You should feel the rubber plugs sitting on to the metal anchors. Make sure everything fits and is in place so the cover doesn’t warp or even break.
4. Once you’re certain that the cover is properly aligned, push it down until the cover pops in to place (you’ll feel it under your hand).
Best press directly above the plug and anchor location to avoid breaking the cover. Also, don’t press diagonally, rather from corner to corner like in the picture.
Be sure to press on all four sides to make sure that everything fits.
5. Start the engine and check that everything is OK (no warning lights, strange sounds or else)
6. Close the hood
If the cover is held by screws, bolts or plastic clips:
The principle is the same, the main difference is that instead of pressing the engine cover back in to place, you tighten it with screws, nuts or plastic clips.
1. Lay the engine cover in to place. Make sure to align the holes on the cover with the anchor threads on the engine.
They must match exactly (especially in case of screws and nuts) otherwise you may warp the cover or damage the anchor threads on the engine .
2. Tighten screws or nuts using a diagonal pattern.
3. With plastic clips, just insert the clip first and then press the wedge in. Here, the order of returning the clips doesn’t really matter.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE ENGINE COVER?
Most common purposes that come to mind are:
This is, in my opinion the main reason why the engine cover was invented. In a certain era of car design and production, manufacturers came to the conclusion that the engine bay is an aesthetically untouched part of the car.
The engine bay simply looked too rudimentary to the naked eye and a plastic cover seemed like a good solution.
It gave a sleek and uniformly look to the engine bay making it a pleasant site for the buyer.
Since then, almost all car manufacturers have adopted this practice.
On some cars the engine cover has a dual purpose. Besides aesthetics it can serve as housing, holder or else.
One of the best examples is the Skoda Fabia mk1 which has a cover combined with the air filter housing. I can’t but notice that this a rather ingenious way of saving material and space, isn’t it?
Downside of this system is that the car can’t work properly without it as it’s part of the air intake.
The simpler engine cover can be totally removed and the engine will still function without any problems.
3. Restriction purpose
Now this purpose is something that is highly debatable.
Let’s face it, a lot of drivers, once they see a monolithic plastic “table” under the hood, they think twice about doing any kind of DIY work.
On top of that, a lot of engine covers are intertwined with the rest of the plastic coverings making it even more complicated to remove (you must first take off one part to take off the other, if you know what I mean).
On some cars, not knowing the exact procedure for removing the engine cover may cause damage like broken clips, coverings or else.
All that you can access, at best, are the checking points (oil, coolant, brake fluid or else).
Simply, it all seems like a pretty good discouragement for any kind of DIY work.
Is this intentional or not…..well best you be the judge of that.
CAN YOU DRIVE THE CAR WITHOUT THE COVER?
If it’s not a functional part of the car, yes. As mentioned, in most cars it has a purely aesthetic function so driving without it won’t cause any harm whatsoever.
Some drivers happily get rid of the cover for various reasons; most common are that they damaged it, they see it as a nuisance for regular maintenance or else.
On the other hand, if it has a functional purpose like in the Skoda Fabia (where it’s also a housing for the air filter) you’d better not drive without it.
You can start the engine but it’s not preferable to drive the car because there is no protection for the air intake. Same goes if there are other parts of a crucial system connected to the engine cover.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF THE ENGINE COVER BREAKS?
The cover is made from very durable plastic (on most cars). The chance of breaking it (if you’re at least a bit careful) is minimal.
However, if you had the bad luck of breaking the cover while removing or returning it, there are a few options:
Mending the broken plastic
This maybe an option if the damage is not severe (like small cracks). This way is also preferable if the damage happened on the underside of the engine cover.
This way, the mending won’t be noticed and the aesthetics won’t be harmed which is maybe most important here.
Mending can be done with things like glue guns, plastic welding etc. On this part I would recommend to let a professional weld the plastic; this way the fix will probably be more long-lasting.
Replacing the old engine cover with a used one
This option, in my opinion, is the best one if the cover is beyond repair.
Take a look on the internet or visit your local car scrapyard. You should be able to find a good engine cover especially if your car brand and type is popular in your country.
Main thing here is to find one that’s in good order and without any kind of damage.
If it’s in good condition, just give it a proper clean and install.
Buying a new engine cover
If all the above fails, then it’s time to buy a new one.
Visit your local dealership, car parts store and especially the internet. Prices vary so make a good query.
Your options will boil down to original parts or copies.
Of course the copies are significantly cheaper but of less quality (the engine cover, in most cases, is flimsy and the overall aesthetics are not up to level).
Originals do cost more, but are well worth it especially if they have a functioning purpose (like on the Skoda Fabia). Also, it will look the same as the original making it a better site.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com