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Blog 5 Signs Of A Head Gasket Leak & What To Do About It

5 Signs Of A Head Gasket Leak & What To Do About It

August 3, 2022

If you smell something sweet, it might be time  to get out of your car…here’s why.  This “sweet scent” is usually a sign that you’ve just been a victim of a head gasket leak, which can be catastrophic for your engine if it goes ignored. Luckily, there are often signs and symptoms that appear before the damage becomes permanent. These can be corrected with proper vehicle service. Read on to learn more about the signs that can point to a leak in your head gasket. 

What does a head gasket leak mean? 

A head gasket leak occurs when coolant leaks from your vehicle. When this happens, it can drip into the cylinder areas and oil passages, compromising the function of your engine. This, if left untreated, can lead to engine seizure and total failure. 

If you’re concerned about possible head gasket malfunction, we recommend that you consider vehicle head gasket repair options as soon as possible to minimize the damage caused to your engine. 

Common signs of a head gasket leak

There are many different signs to watch for if you’re concerned about a blown head gasket. We’ve listed a few of the most common signs below. 

1. Engine codes 

Engine codes are one of the first signs that something is wrong with your vehicle. If you see error code p0300, it points to an issue with your head gasket. 

2. Discolored oil 

Checking your oil is an easy maintenance task that can help you to identify a potentially blown head gasket. Milky colors or “cloudiness” found in your oil can be a sign that coolant has made its way into the oil passages, signifying a blown gasket. 

3. Loss of power 

In severe cases, your blown head gasket can cause a loss of power to the engine. This is due to the leaking coolant clogging the smaller orifices in the engine, blocking the flow of oil and the proper rate of combustion for your engine’s function. 

4. White colored smoke 

Head gasket leaks can cause white colored smoke, which indicates that water or coolant runoff has reached the cylinders and burned–resulting in white emissions. These can also smell sweet as the coolant mixes with the oil, leading to that classic head gasket “scent.” 

5. Overheating 

High engine temperatures and overheating can be caused by coolant blocking the engine’s intricate facets, and can point to later engine failure if it isn’t addressed. 

Is it safe to drive with a leaking head gasket? 

It is not safe to drive with a head gasket leak. If you continue to drive without servicing your vehicle, you run the risk of engine malfunction, failure, or total seizure. 

If you’re driving and you encounter signs that could indicate a head gasket leak, be sure to pull over and call your local tow service, or AAA if you have a membership. 

You should avoid driving your car immediately after noticing signs of a leak in order to protect the engine, and seek a tow to your nearest mechanic to diagnose and assess your vehicle. They’ll be able to advise you of any next steps you’ll need to take to repair and maintain your vehicle. 

If you have no option for a tow, pull over as soon as possible and go to your nearest mechanic. Watch for signs of overheating or of power loss to the engine, and drive as cautiously as possible to avoid engine strain. 

Other signs of a blown head gasket 

Below are a few other signs of a blown head gasket that shouldn’t be ignored: 

1. Low coolant levels

Low coolant levels can occur as the head gasket leaks coolant, which can happen quickly once the seal is ruptured. If you notice white smoke coming from the exhaust pipe or notice a sudden hike in your engine’s temperature, there’s a good chance that you’re experiencing a coolant leak. 

2. “Knocking” noises from the engine 

Hearing a knocking noise from the engine can be a sign of engine failure, as this can occur when the engine isn’t properly lubricated. This is also a sign that the coolant leak has spread to your engine and has been taken in with the oil, which can compromise your engine and put you at a higher risk for engine seizure. 

3. “Bubbling” coolant 

If you take a look at your coolant reserve and you notice that the liquid inside is bubbling, this could indicate that your coolant has risen to an unstable temperature due to malfunction or rupture of your head gasket’s seal. This can lead to  your engine overheating, and further complications if it reaches the oil uptake point in your engine’s assembly. 

4. Misfires 

Misfires are some of the most noticeable signs of a head gasket leak. Misfires occur when coolant begins to leak and mix in your cylinders, compromising and igniting on the spark plugs. This can lead to sudden loss of power, rough idling, and a check engine light coming on–all of which can indicate a misfire or other engine trouble. 

Convenient, low-cost auto repair at home 

Looking for your auto repair solution? Consider the team at RepairSmith. Our expert mechanics will drop by your driveway to ensure your car, including your head gasket, is good to go! For more information, please contact us now.