We were asked the following question by Forza magazine:
"I think the valve cover gaskets are leaking on my F430. The
car is stored for the winter, so I’ve got some time to tinker. Is this a
They wanted to know our thoughts based on past experience specializing in Ferrari repairs. Here's what we had to say:
The introduction of the F430 brought sweeping changes to
everything Ferrari owners knew about Maranello’s V8 powertrains. The gearbox
hardware and software had been upgraded, an electrical differential was added,
and the engine was all-new. Compared to the 360’s V8, the new engine boasted
more displacement, more power, computer adjustment for all four camshafts, and
no timing belts. While the additional 90 horsepower was nice, that last item
was a game changer for Ferrari owners who had long agonized over the high cost
of timing-belt services.
Over the last 13 years, the F430 has proven to be very
inexpensive (by earlier Ferrari standards) to own. Aside from problematic
headers and some convertible-top issues on the Spiders, these cars are
worry-free. Routine maintenance and away they go!
We’re just now starting to see some small issues with the
lovely 4.3-liter V8, one of which has been oil leakage from up high. The
cam-cover gaskets are as updated and beautiful as the rest of this
powerplant—they’re one-piece, molded rubber as opposed to the fiddly,
four-piece, cut-it-out-and-glue-it-yourself green paper gaskets Ferrari used to
use—but, as with anything that is heated and cooled, oiled, expanded and
contracted, they do eventually lose their structure and start to leak.
When they do leak, it most often shows up at the rear of the
cylinder heads, where the gasket is shaped like a pair of half-moons. Spotting
oil here is not where the diagnosis stops, though, as there have been many
mistaken “cam cover” leaks that were actually caused by leaking variator
Ferrari’s fantastic adjustable camshafts are adjusted via
oil pressure, and not the regular engine-oil pressure. Instead, there’s a
high-pressure oil pump, driven by an intake cam to an accumulator, that
operates the system. The variator control solenoids regulate this high-pressure
oil to phase the cam angle. Due to the high internal pressure running through
these solenoids, over time oil tends to push through the wiring and out of the
connectors located on top of the cam covers.
All four connectors come from the factory wrapped in a foil
cover and closed with blue zip ties. My recommendation when diagnosing an oil
leak up-high is to open up all these foil wraps and slide them back. Even if
you find one or more leaks, don’t stop there. Next, using two small picks (I
use two paper clips slightly filed at the end), lightly pry the solenoid
connector tabs open, slide the connectors apart, and check inside for any signs
of oil. If pressurized oil has forced its way inside the connector, that
solenoid must be replaced.
If a shop is doing this work, given the cost of parts and
labor it makes sense to replace all four solenoids while everything is apart.
Unfortunately, this can run the repair cost up quickly. If you’re doing this
job yourself, however, you have option to repair just one bank or just one
solenoid; all the parts are available separately.
To answer your specific DIY question, this is not an
extremely difficult job. Owning a coupe will make the job tougher, as you will
have to do some deep reaching to the front of the engine. I have never removed
the interior access panel for this job, but that may be a worthwhile step if
time is not a factor for you.
A few tips for the DIYer. There was a service campaign
(#225/#274) that fitted breather vent covers, which look like odd-shaped rectangles,
to the tops of the ignition coils. At first glance, they may seem like they’re
part of the coil, but when you remove a coil bolt these will fall straight
off—so take care when you’re removing the coils (which you need to do in order
to remove the cam cover) and be sure to collect all the parts. When
reassembling the cam covers, don’t stress over the position of the solenoid
pass-throughs. They’re not fussy even though they look like they’re keyed in
Finally, it’s important to
apply a dab of silicone at the points where the timing cover on the front of
the engine meets the cylinder head (there are two points for each bank), as
this is a potential leak point. Also apply silicone at the corners of the
gasket’s half-moons at the rear of the heads.