How to Clean Chrome Valve Covers

by Joshua Smyth

Chrome is a metal electrically plated with chromium to give it shine, and it can turn a crowded engine compartment into something worth admiring. Valve covers are large metal pieces that sit on top of a car's engine valves; they're usually located centrally under the hood. Chrome valve covers are replacement parts that shine with the familiar bright silver color of chrome. Of course, engine compartments are dirty places. To get the full effect of chrome valve covers, they must be cleaned regularly.

Use chrome cleaner. A variety of cleaning liquids for chrome are available at any auto parts store, and they generally work more quickly than household cleaners. However, they are more expensive and damaging to the environment when disposed. Pour the cleaner onto a clean, soft rag and wipe the valve covers with it using small, circular strokes. To avoid spotting, wash the wheel thoroughly with clean water and pat it dry with a towel after applying the cleaner.

Mix dish soap into a bucket of warm water and then dip a rag into the mixture. Use the rag to scrub the valve covers in order to remove dirt that hasn't caked on or been baked into place by the engine heat. However, it won't be useful for removing rust or tarnish. Wash the valve covers with water and pat them dry to avoid leaving soapy film or spots on them after cleaning.

Scrub the valve covers with white vinegar. This is a common cooking ingredient available from the grocery store, but it is also a strong enough acid to dissolve tarnish and caked-on dirt. Adding baking soda to the vinegar will make it even more effective. Dip a rag in the vinegar and then scrub the tarnished areas on the valve covers until they are clean. Be sure to ball up the rag and then rotate it regularly to ensure that clean fabric is in contact with the chrome. Wash the covers with water and pat them dry after using vinegar on them.

Cut a piece of aluminum foil (the type used in a kitchen) and ball it up, shiny side out. This will effectively remove rust from chrome once the chrome has been washed with something acidic. Either white vinegar or cola (the drink) has enough acidity to work in this role, although cola will leave your valve covers sticky. Use the foil as you would a rag, scrubbing with short circular motions wherever there is rust.

Wax the valve covers. A thin layer of automotive wax will protect them from grime and give you more time between cleanings. Any car wax will work. Just apply a small amount to a rag, wipe a thin layer onto the valve covers and then use another clean rag to buff the wax to a shine. Apply at least two coats for maximum shine.


  • check A toothbrush can be useful to clean out awkward spots on valve covers or to reach between them and other engine parts.

Items you will need

About the Author

Joshua Smyth started writing in 2003 and is based in St. John's, Newfoundland. He has written for the award-winning "Cord Weekly" and for "Blueprint Magazine" in Waterloo, Ontario, where he spent a year as editor-in-chief. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and economics from Wilfrid Laurier University.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Red and Chrome engine image by Digital Photique from