Valve Guide Wear – Can Cause Other Major Damage, Besides Burning Oil

Valve Guide Wear - Can Cause Other Major Damage, Besides Burning Oil
Valve Guide Wear - Can Cause Other Major Damage, Besides Burning Oil

Valve guide wear, refers to excessive clearance, between valve stem and valve guide.

As valve guides wear, the side to side movement, can cause valves to seat improperly.

Valve leakage, causing compression loss, is another reason for engine issues. For this reason, valve guides must be checked; and replaced or repaired, if beyond manufacturer’s specifications.

One thing you can almost always count on when rebuilding a cylinder head is, valve guide wear. The valve guides experience a lot of wear; because of the constant friction, between the guide and valve stem.

Positive Valve Stem Seals
Positive Valve Stem Seals

To make matters worse, positive valve stem seals on late model engines; prevent the guides from receiving much lubrication. Side forces on the valve stem, caused by changes in valve train geometry; or by direct acting overhead cams, further contribute to guide wear.

Valve Guide Wear

So, the engine will use oil, if the valve guides are worn or; there is too much clearance, between the guide and valve stem. This applies to both, intake and exhaust guides.

Valve Guide Wear Causing Oil Consumption
Valve Guide Wear Causing Oil Consumption

Oil consumption can be more of a problem, on the intake side because:

  • Constant exposure to, engine vacuum.
  • Oil can also be pulled down the exhaust guides, by suction in the exhaust port.
  • The flow of exhaust, past the exhaust guide; creates a venture effect, that can pull oil down the guide.

Oil in the exhaust system on late model vehicles with catalytic converters; may cause the converter to overheat and suffer damage.

Problems Are Always Worse, On The Intake Side:

  • Oil drawn into the engine past worn intake guides, can foul spark plugs.
  • It will cause the engine to emit, higher than normal, unburned hydrocarbon (HC) emissions.
  • Also, contribute to a rapid buildup of carbon deposits; on the backs of the intake valves and in the combustion chamber.

Carbon deposits in the combustion chamber, can raise compression; to the point where, detonation occurs under load.

Massive Carbon Buildup On Back Of Valves
Massive Carbon Buildup On Back Of Valves

Deposits on the backs of the intake valves, in engines equipped with multi-port fuel injection; can cause hesitation and idle problems; because the deposits interfere with proper fuel delivery.

This Can Also Cause Engine Misfires; If The Carbon Holds The Valve In The Open Position

Inadequate valve cooling and premature valve failure is another problem; that can be caused by valve guide wear or ones with excessive clearance. About 75% of the heat from a typical valve, is conducted to the seat. The remaining 25% goes up the stem and out through the guide.

On late model engines with three-angle narrow seats; the amount of heat transfer that takes place through the stem, is even higher. Because, less heat can be dissipated, through the valve seat. As a result, the valve may run hot and burn.

Worn guides can also, pass air. “Unmetered” air drawn into the intake ports past the guides; creates an effect similar to, worn throttle shafts on a carburetor. The extra air, reduces intake vacuum and upsets; the air/fuel calibration of the engine at idle. The result may be, a lean misfire problem and rough idle.

Valve Breakage

Valve guide wear, can also contribute to valve breakage. The guides support and center the valves, as they open and close. A worn guide, will allow the valve, to wobble slightly as it opens. This will cause it to drift off-center, with respect to the seat.

This can cause the head of the valve to, flex slightly each time it closes.

Head Of The Valve Breaks Off
Head Of The Valve Breaks Off

After so many cycles, the metal fatigues and the head of the valve, breaks off from the stem.

Intake valve, stem-to guide clearance for most passenger cars, ranges from .001 to .003 in. Because, of extra heat, the exhaust, will be .002 to .004 in. Diesel engines as a rule, have looser specs; on both intake and exhaust guides than gasoline engines.

Engine Exhaust Smoke

When blue smoke is seen on startup, on a cold engine, you can pin the problem on; excessive valve guide clearance or worn valve seals.

Valve Guide Wear Causing Blue Smoke
Valve Guide Wear Causing Blue Smoke

But, if the engine smokes all the time or on heavy acceleration; the problem is more likely to be, the piston rings. In both cases, I recommend professional diagnosis if possible; before spending a lot of money on large engine repairs.


So, valve guide wear is a sign of, serious issues with your engine. Consequently, properly sealed valves, are crucial to your engine’s compression. Finally, if you believe your vehicle is having, valve guide problems; you should take it to a certified professional mechanic and have it, thoroughly evaluated.

Thank You !