Dealing with a blown head gasket (2023)

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Three words nobody wants to hear: defective head gasket. In the automotive lexicon, the simple term is as bad as it gets for the average consumer, as it is usually translated to mean a major repair that will cost the owner thousands of dollars.

Here we're usually telling you to take a breather, grab your tools, hit the shop and we'll walk you through the repair, but working on the head gasket is something else. Unfortunately this is not an issue that you or we can easily solve with a 1 hour garage session.

Instead of,Unitit will provide you with information to help you assess how to proceed. What is right for you will not be right for someone else with a different vehicle. Dive in and decide how to deal with the blown head gasket. We're just going to apologize now to get this over with.

What is a head gasket?

Ahead gasketIt's the piece of reinforced material that sits between the engine block and the engine head. By bolting the cylinder head to the block, the gasket forms a seal that maintains the required pressure in the engine.

What does a head gasket do?

The head gasket seals the connection between the cylinder head, which contains the camshaft, and the engine block, which contains the cylinders and pistons. Modern joints are designed to accommodate minor surface imperfections and handle vertical and horizontal movement between the block and the head.

Different types of seals,Depositphotos

Does the head gasket need glue?

In the past, some head gaskets required adhesives or sealants for installation, but that is no longer the case. Modern head gaskets are engineered with the perfect thickness and embedded technology to create a dry-fit seal.

What are the holes in the head gasket for?

Various sizes of holes are drilled in the head gasket. The large holes are for the cylinders, some of the middle holes are for the bolts, and several small holes are for the coolant.

How long do head gaskets last?

unless you are oneSubaru owners, Head gaskets should last a long time. Head gaskets should last at least 10 years but can last over 15 years depending on the vehicle and conditions.

(Video) Learn 3 Symptoms of Blown Head Gasket

Symptoms of a blown head gasket

Some symptoms of a blown head gasket are subtle, while others literally send smoke signals. These gauges could indicate a larger engine problem.

Soda oil leaks

If you notice coolant or oil leaking on or around the cylinder head and engine block, this could be an indication that the head gasket is no longer sealing.

excessive heating

If a head gasket blows even slightly, the engine may not be able to cool down to acceptable driveability. Overheating can damage many engine components, so shut down the vehicle immediately until you determine the cause of the problem. One thing you should never do if your car is overheating: remove the radiator cap and check the coolant. How to get a one-way ticket to the emergency room for a scalded face.

Engine misfire

For an engine to function properly, spark, air and fuel must constantly work together with the precision of a Japanese sand artist. It must be the exact amount of air mixed with the exact amount of fuel that will be ignited at a specific ignition voltage at a specific time. If any of these factors are off by a theoretical grain of sand, you can get pre-ignition,blow, or misfires. More than one of these factors can be affected by a blown head gasket.

Water vapor or white smoke comes out of the exhaust

If the head gasket fails, coolant can get into the engine. In this case, you may see white smoke or water vapor coming out of the tailpipe as a result.

milky oil

If you notice beige or milky colors in youroilYou may have a blown gasket - the underside of your car's oil pan cover is likely spattered with the milky oil. This happens when the coolant comes in contact with the oil and contaminates it.

Bubbling internal cooler

If you notice bubbles in the radiator or coolant reservoir, this is an indication that your system has air, which could be due to a leak or a blown head gasket.

Dirty or wet spark plugs

If the gasket burns, refrigerant, oil or gas can enter the cylinders. This can foul or flood the spark plugs.

Disassemble the engine of an Opel GT.,Toni Markowitsch

Causes of a blown head gasket

There are several processes that can lead to head gasket failure. Your problem is most likely the result of one of these issues.

(Video) Do Head Gasket Sealers Actually Work (FULL 2yr TEST with Engine Teardown)

excessive heating

Heat creates pressure and when an engine overheats it not only puts extra stress on the head but also on the head gasket. If the heat is too great, it may cause the connection to fail. The reasons for a car to overheat are numerous, but most likely it is the result of a malfunction, failure or blockage of the radiator and/or the cooling system.

Warped or cracked block or head

Just as heat can damage the gasket, heat can also damage the engine block or cylinder head. Ball ends, most commonly found in engines with aluminum parts, which wear more easily than steel, interfere with the flat surface required for a seal. Without a flat surface, the connection can fail.


A head gasket is constantly exposed to temperature fluctuations, head and block movement, and intense pressure. After years of wear and tear, the seal will crack, lose its integrity and of course fail.

wrong installation

If someone has ever fiddled with the head gasket and not installed it correctly, there may have been a weak point from the start that ultimately failed.

How to test for a blown head gasket

Not all head gasket leaks are immediately catastrophic. Sometimes a small leak occurs and you slowly lose coolant. If you suspect a head gasket leak, there are a few ways to confirm your suspicions.

Check the radiator for bubbles.

This is more of a review than a test, but useful nonetheless. One of the main symptoms of a leaking head gasket is radiator fluid bubbling due to exhaust gases escaping from the cooling system. After stopping the car, open the hood, remove the radiator cap and start the car. If you notice bubbles, this is an indication of a significant leak.

Leak tester for head gaskets

You can purchase head gasket leak testers, also known as compression leak onlineor in yourslocal auto parts store.

Refrigerant compression test

use oneCoolant Pressure Test Kitto check the pressure in your cooling system. If the pressure is lower than the normal operating condition, coolant leaks may occur due to a blown head gasket.

How much does it cost to repair a blown head gasket?

There is no single number that we can use to answer this question. Even if everything is fine with your engine and the gasket has simply gone bad, replacing the gasket is so time consuming that aprofessional workIt will likely cost between $1,000 and $3,000. Consider the additional engine problems that led to the blown head gasket, which can quickly add up to $5,000 or more.

(Video) Methods For Diagnosing Blown Head Gasket, Warped or Cracked Head

Head gaskets can wear out for a variety of reasons.Depositphotos

Options for dealing with a blown head gasket

There are few ways to deal with a blown head gasket, and unfortunately none of them are particularly good.

You should consider these questions: Does a repair cost more than the car? Does the repair cost more than a replacement engine? Does replacing the engine cost more than the car? If you answered yes to all of these questions, maybe it's best to accept the death of your car and move on. If you want to proceed with the repairs, have your credit card ready and break out the soothing lavender bath salts.

Pay for a repair

Taking a car to a body shop with a blown head gasket is essentially giving the body shop a blank check. First, labor costs begin when the mechanic performs tests to confirm that the head gasket has blown. Once confirmed, work is required to remove half of the engine to access the head gasket. After opening, there are a variety of additional problems that may require more time, more work and more money. There's also a chance you could pay the mechanic to disassemble the engine and discover a crack that could ruin the entire project.

pay for a new engine

If you don't want to keep the original shape of your vehicle with the original engine, engine replacement is an option. It is possible to find a cheaper engine swap candidate than the cost of just replacing a head gasket. However, you must install the motor yourself or hire a professional to replace it.

try to fix it yourself

Even if you've already disassembled and rebuilt an engine, there are still some parts of this process that may require professional repair services, such as: B. to take the engine to an auto repair shop. This is an expert-level job, so only attempt it if you have the right tools and plenty of experience.

If you decide to do this, use a service manual for specific instructions on removing the parts until you get to the blown head gasket. When replacing the seal, make sure the surfaces are clean, smooth and flat. And don't forget to go beyond replacing the gasket as well. Inspect everything that could be affected by a blown gasket, including the cooling system, cylinders and a million other things. It also doesn't hurt to test, inspect and swap out the old parts while the engine is disassembled.

get a new ride

If you have an old car with a lot of miles, sentimental and worthless, maybe it's time to leave it behind. It's hard, we know that means it's time to lose yourself on Craigslist for three weeks.

Do head gaskets work?

If you search "how to fix a blown head gasket" it will bring up a number of head gasket sealants that claim no fuss, no labor solutions. So that we understand each other:head sealsfix nothing They temporarily stop a leak and eventually fail again.

By using a sealant and thinking the problem is solved, you may be ignoring the real problem that may have caused the joint to leak in the first place. Ignoring problems can quickly lead to more problems or ruin your engine.

(Video) 12 Ways of How To Test A Blown Head Gasket Compared- PART1

We understand that not everyone can afford to repair or replace an engine, but your safety is our top priority.

Get head gasket repair help from a mechanic on JustAnswer

Unitrecognizes that while our instructions are detailed and easy to follow, a rusty bolt, misplaced engine component, or oil spilling anywhere can derail a project. That's why we partner with JustAnswer, which connects you with certified mechanics from around the world to help you with even the toughest jobs.

So if you have any questions or get stuck,Click hereand speak to a mechanic near you.

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5. How to Fix a Head Gasket Leak in Your Car
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