Valve covers can make or break an engine’s underhood appeal. In addition to providing adequate valvetrain clearance and helping keep oil where it’s supposed to be, they are one of the most eye-catching aesthetics of an engine bay. But what happens when that pair of shiny new covers you spent hard-earned coin on doesn’t fit? Well, it’s time to break out some tools and make that square peg fit a round hole.
One of the most common points of interference when installing tall valve covers on a small-block Chevy is the alternator. The side of the case smacks the extra height of the valve cover and due to the fixed length of the upper alternator bracket, installing a longer belt won’t solve the problem. The solution is simple but requires a little bit of elbow grease and a whole lot of sparks to fly.
Tools you’ll need:
• Angle grinder
• Metal Saw (a hacksaw will do)
1. These old valve covers were still pretty shiny, but years of repeated installation and removal had left them distorted and leaky.
2. Unbolt the upper alternator bracket and rock it toward the fender. It’s a good idea to disconnect the battery cables to avoid grounding out the hot post on the back of the alternator.
3. Here is where the alternator smacks the new FAST valve cover.
4. This is where the alternator should ideally be positioned. Note that the upper alternator bracket is not long enough to reach the bolt. However, by adding some metal to the old bracket, we can fix that.
5. Clamp the bracket in a vice and cut it off at the bottom. Make sure to cut on a flat plane and not in the middle of a curve. This will help keep the bracket from being distorted.
6. Take a piece of metal of the same thickness and about 2-inches long and add it to the bottom of the bracket. It helps if it’s the same width, but this is what we had sitting around the shop. We’ll make it pretty later.
7. With the metal cleaned and chamfered, weld the two pieces together. Make sure to clamp the piece to keep the new and old sections flat and parallel.
8. Here’s the new welded bracket. Note the additional material at the bottom.
9. Drill a 3/8-inch hole in the base of the bracket so that it can mount to the cylinder head.
10. We mocked up the bracket and the alternator. We’re in luck, not only does it fit, but we have plenty of adjustment range for belt tension
11. Now that we know our bracket will work, it’s time to clean it up.
12. Mark a line where the bracket should be cut to match the original, and chop it down.
13. With a flap wheel, grind down the weld and clean up any sharp edges on the bracket. Now, it’s ready for a quick squirt of paint.
14. The next task is to find the right belt. The easiest way to accomplish this is to head to the local parts store and buy three or four belts in a few larger increments and return the ones that aren’t winners. We bought three at 1-, 2-, and 3-inches longer than stock. The 2-inch-longer belt was the ticket.
15. After about an hour of work, the valve cover now fits snuggly without any clearance issues. Problem solved.