What does oil- and dirt-covered surface of 2000 Honda engine suggest?

I have some photos of a 2000 Honda Civic engine with 140,000 kilometers (87,500 miles). 98% of them local, urban miles. Fuel has always been a 95 octane. Engine oil has always been synthetic (in this part of the
planet) but changed every 10,000 km (6000-7000 miles) anyway because all the driving is local and in high stress traffic.
Photos: http://drop.io/OilyHondaEngine [note that image size is 2048x1536 pixels, and the website preview is too small to see detail; click download to see orig rez]
I noticed too much oil around the engine surface recently, a burning smell coming from the front. Don't notice any smoky exhaust at all, although the noise from the exhaust isn't as quiet as it used to be (although not at all excessively noisy).
Photos (some taken with flash, others no flash) show heavy oil buildup (with lots of dirt) in bottom/crankcase part. The borderline of oil on the valve at the top seems to show even (horizontal) line a few centimeters above the main engine block. No real noticeable loss of engine power (compression?) problems.
Putting it all together, potential problems suggest:
* worn-and-torn gasket or seal between valve cover and main engine block: I consider this most likely problem, since the horizontal line of oil suggests this, and the leak of oil would eventually cover the whole engine block
* worn piston rings: wholly unlikely, since wouldn't that cause a heavy smoky exhaust, and why would oil leak out of engine
* some other seal or gasket problem? in addition to the problem I indicate above? I will probably only be able to learn this after having one part replaced and then somehow cleaning the entire engine block free of dirt and oil...how to do this easily?
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mavigozler wrote:

??? bizarre!

dude, what you have is called a "perfectly normal engine". just drive the freakin' thing with the hood closed and you'll be fine.
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From what the picture show, this looks entirely normal for an older car. I suspect someone checked the valves (does the 2000 use hydraulic lash adjustment?) and did a sloppy job with the gasket. Also possible is a slow leak from the distributor seal. If it bugs you, buy and install a new gasket, then give the block a shot of engine cleaner.
Unless you have more to go on, I'm thinking the exhaust noise has nothing to do with this.
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The valve cover gasket is leaking. It could be old, aftermarket, or the nuts may be improperly tightened.
This is a simple fix: Just replace it with a new one from the dealer.

Once the leak is stopped, wipe off as much as you can with a rag. The rest will wear off with the weather.
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Compared to my Sister's old Civic, your engine is clean. Looks like a weeping valve cover gaskets to me. From what I have seen, this is standard operation proceedure for older Hondas. Are you actually losing enough oil between changes to require oil to be added? If the oily engine bothers you, have someone repalce the valve cover gasket. This is not a difficult operation. On the other hand, if you are not losing much oil, and the minor oil film doesn't bother you, close the hood and drive. My sister wouldn't spend a dime to fix her leaks and the engine was running fine at 147,000 miles. The rest of the car was a POS, but the engine ran fine...
Ed

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There's absolutely no inherent reason why that should be so. Honda valve covers (including the OP's) are traditionally cast-aluminum. They fracture rather than bend, so the mating surfaces tend to remain intact and true unless obviously damaged.
My money is on an original (or aftermarket) valve cover gasket that is not sealing properly. Has the OP even checked the nuts to see if they're tight?
I've never personally seen a leak of this type which was NOT solved simply with proper installation of a new OEM valve cover gasket. The gasket is about $20. Installation is trivially easy, maybe a half-hour's labor, at most.
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I just had a better look at the OP's images 04.jpg and 05.jpg.
OP's original text:

See the seepage from the hold-down bolt gasket at right? This is NOT normal.
I suspect bad installation, aftermarket gasket, or simple neglect.
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All of your comments have been helpful.
I will try to find all my tools---I had been out-of-country for a couple of years and the socket wrench set and other tools I have, have become scattered and "stored away." I have more or less lived here for 15 years and this car has been taken care of by the dealer service personnel, whose work I have checked and have been generally pleased.
The car had a "major service" I guess while I was away, I believe, and I have not been given the details of what the major service was. I suspected normal wear-and-tear and not careless maintenance work here for several reasons: my wife is a university officer and she gets chauffered vehicles, and sometimes the chauffers/drivers have driven the Honda, and they tend not to care so much about the autos of others...so I assumed that they were doing things like gunning the engine and creating unnecessary havoc as they usually do with government-owned vehicles. So my thinking was coming from that perspective.
Anyway, I will check all this out. Thanks.
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wrote:

What about the PCV valve?
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Unlikely. Excess air flow ends up going out the breather pipe, so there wouldn't be any excess pressure in the crankcase.
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I'll vote for a bad valve cover gasket. It looks like it's leaky in the pictures. A slow oil drip or leak from the valve cover would also explain the smell which is probably oil dripping onto your exhaust manifold.
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