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Technical Tips

Tools to Use for Gasket Surface Preparation


For any type of gasket or seal installation to be successful, cleaning and properly preparing the sealing surface is essential. Depending on the sealing job, you may need a variety of tools to get the job done. For the seasoned technician, you probably already have these; for new techs, you’ll want to acquire these items to be prepared for the next sealing job that comes in the repair bay.



There are a variety of metal and plastic scrapers that aid in removing old gasket material, carbon and dirt from sealing surfaces. Flat blade paint removal-type scrapers are the most popular, along with carbide scrapers. In addition, a razor blade (metal or plastic) mounted in a holder can be useful on paper gaskets and for removing MLS coating from sealing surfaces. When using a scraper or a razor blade, keep a flat, low angle to the surface being cleaned to avoid creating gouges, and avoid using the corners of the blade. When cleaning aluminum surfaces, especially surfaces using MLS-type gaskets, be sure to use a plastic scraper or plastic razor blade. 



Before you start to grind away at the sealing surfaces, you should “seal off” open passages using masking tape, paper towels or rags to keep dirt, carbon, RTV, old gasket material and any stray wire strands from entering important engine areas. Make sure you protect your ears and eyes when using any type of power equipment.

There are two styles of wire wheels that can be used in a die grinder for heavy cleaning such as the removal of carbon, dirt, RTV, paper and old gasket material. A coarse wire wheel (0.014" wire) can be used on cast iron sealing surfaces but shouldn’t be used on aluminum or plastic surfaces. A fine wire wheel (0.006" wire) can be used on both cast iron and aluminum surfaces. Use caution and “feel” when using a wire wheel in a die grinder. You want to preserve the surface finish of the sealing surface so the replacement gasket can seal properly.

A brass hand wire brush can be handy for cleaning RTV from aluminum and plastic valve covers and intake manifolds. The brass will clean the parts safely and will grab RTV and dirt away from the parts. The same goes for nylon or brass rifle type or round brushes. These work well for cleaning out bolt holes.

Tips: Seal off open passages using masking tape, paper towels or rags to keep dirt, carbon, RTV, old gasket material and any stray wire strands from entering important engine areas. Make sure you protect your eyes and ears when using any type of power equipment. 



While there are many types of cleaners and degreasers on the market, be sure to select one that doesn’t leave any residue or oily finish. Before starting, make sure you wear the proper protection on your hands and eyes. You want your sealing surface clean and dry for the gasket installation. The same goes for the rag you may use to wipe down the sealing surfaces – try to choose one that leaves little or no lint behind. If possible, rinse off engine parts with water and blow them dry.


Other Tools

Small pocket screwdrivers and dental-type picks with straight and curved tips come in handy for the removal of O-rings, RTV in crevices, and dirt/crud caught in small areas. 


Shop Vacuum & Magnets

For those repair jobs that are done in the vehicle such as head gaskets or intake manifolds, it is a good practice to run a vacuum cleaner over the engine parts after you’re done cleaning. Sometimes compressed air can make a mess and push old gasket material, dirt/crud and sludge where you don’t want it. Using a pencil-style magnet over the castings can grab any small metal particles that the vacuum didn’t get.

Tools Not To Use

Avoid the use of Scotch-Brite™ pads, Roloc™ discs, body grinders, sandpaper, screwdrivers, or Roloc bristle discs for the cleaning of any sealing surface. These tools can gouge and remove metal very quickly and cause uneven sealing surfaces that make it impossible for any gasket to work properly. You don’t want any type of abrasives to end up in the engine and cause damage later. 

Learn more about Fel-Pro quality gaskets that are specifically designed for the repair environment, find your car part, or find where to buy your auto part today.

The content in this article is for informational purposes only. You should consult with a certified technician or mechanic if you have questions relating to any of the topics covered herein. Tenneco will not be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on any content.

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