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Die cast aluminum can be porous, and if the valve covers are used, there's probable oil soaked into them, which will cause the paint to flake or lift. To clean them, start by soaking them in acetone, over night will probably do it. Pull them out of the soak, dry them off and heat them in an oven set at 400º for about 30min. After they cool off, reclean them an fresh acetone, allow them to air dry then paint.
 
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Has anyone ever painted Mickey Thompson valve covers? Wondering you just paint the whole cover then sand off the raised parts?
I have painted my Cobra valve covers a couple times in 37 years. Yes, paint and sand. Let the paint cure for several days before sanding and sand lightly. You want remove as little aluminum as possible.
 
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