The head gasket plays a crucial role in your vehicle. Sitting between the engine block and the engine head, this material is key to maintaining pressure within your engine.
With a head gasket failure, your engine is prone to all sorts of problems — from the fixable to catastrophic damage. So, a head gasket repair should sit at the top of your auto repair list.
In this article, we’ll answer all your head gasket repair questions, including what a head gasket is, repair options, how much the repair costs, symptoms of a bad head gasket, and key FAQs.
This Article Contains:
- What Is A Head Gasket?
- 8 Symptoms Of A Damaged Head Gasket
- What Causes A Blown Head Gasket?
- 4 Options For Head Gasket Repair
- How Much Does A Head Gasket Repair Cost?
Let’s get started.
What Is A Head Gasket?
A head gasket is a reinforced material that seals the connection between the engine block and the cylinder head.
The head gasket seals the combustion gases within the cylinder. It keeps coolant in the coolant passage, preventing coolant from flowing into the combustion chamber.
A head gasket leak could cause engine overheating and poor engine performance, eventually leading to your car shutting down.
Let’s see what the signs of a blown head gasket are.
8 Symptoms Of A Bad Head Gasket
Here are the eight common symptoms that can help you confirm if your head gasket is blown:
1. Engine Oil Or Coolant Leak
You may notice a coolant or oil leak on or around your engine head, engine block, and other cooling system components. This could indicate that your head gasket is no longer properly sealing.
2. Engine Overheating
If your head gasket blows, even slightly, the engine won’t be able to cool itself down to acceptable driving levels.
Overheating can cause serious engine damage. So turn your vehicle off until you can determine the source of the issue. Removing the radiator cap and checking the engine coolant when your car is overheating can also harm your car.
3. Engine Misfiring
For an engine to work correctly, air, spark, and fuel must consistently work together with precision. The exact amount of air and fuel mix is ignited by the spark at a specific time.
A blown head gasket could affect more than one of these factors. And if any of these factors are slightly off, you could get pre-ignition or an engine misfire.
4. Warped Engine Block Or Cylinder Head
A warped engine block or cylinder head can interrupt the flat surface required to create a seal in the head gasket. A broken head bolt can also damage this surface.
Without a flat surface, you may have a head gasket failure.
5. White Smoke
If your cylinder head gasket is damaged, the coolant in the coolant passage may work its way into the engine.
During such an event, you would see white smoke or water vapor from your exhaust pipe or exhaust manifold.
6. Milky Engine Oil
Tan or milky colors in your engine oil are indicators that you may have a blown gasket. The underside of your car’s oil reservoir cap will likely be splattered with the milky oil.
This happens when a blown gasket causes the engine coolant to come in contact with and contaminates the engine oil.
7. Wet Spark Plug
A bad head gasket can cause the coolant, oil, or gas to get into the cylinders. This could flood your spark plug.
8. Bubbling Inside Radiator
If you notice bubbling inside the coolant reservoir or radiator, it indicates air in your system. The air is caused by combustion gases exiting the coolant system.
And this could be a result of a blown head gasket. Note that bubbling in the reservoir can also signify a bad radiator cap.
If you notice any of these symptoms, you can further confirm a head gasket leak with a coolant pressure tester kit or a head gasket leak tester.
What Causes A Blown Head Gasket?
Several sequences can lead to a head gasket failure.
In most cases, your problem is the result of one of these issues:
- Increased engine overheating
- Cracked engine block or cylinder head
- Natural wear and tear with age
- Improper installation
- Manufacturing defect (the Subaru head gasket repair crisis in the 1990s is the perfect example)
While only a professional can determine the exact cause, you can suspect a blown head gasket from the following symptoms.
4 Head Gasket Repair Options
Here are four repair options you can consider for a damaged head gasket:
1. Try A Head Gasket Sealer
Wondering if a head gasket sealer will fix your leaking head gasket?
We have some bad news. For the most part, a head gasket sealer won’t solve your head gasket problem. On the rare occasions where it does, it’s never a permanent fix.
Additionally, whether the head gasket sealer works successfully will entirely depend on how your head gasket has failed. For example, if the head gasket leak appeared after your engine overheated, the head gasket sealer won’t work.
However, if your car doesn’t overheat and there’s a leak between the combustion chamber and the cooling system, there’s a chance that this temporary gasket sealer will work and stop the coolant leak.
2. Pay For A Head Gasket Replacement
Repairing a blown head gasket is an expensive, labor-intensive job that involves a certified professional.
During a head gasket replacement, a mechanic will:
- Perform tests to confirm if the head gasket is blown
- Pull apart the engine components to access the head gasket
- Fix the gasket while tending to the cooling system errors and engine damage
3. Get A New Engine
If you don’t mind giving up your vehicle’s original engine, you can choose engine replacement over engine repair. It’s possible to find a candidate for an engine swap. That too, for a cheaper cost than a head gasket replacement.
However, you’ll need to get a professional to swap it out.
4. Get A New Ride
If you have an old car with many miles that holds no sentimental value and isn’t worth fixing, consider letting it go.
Note: The one option we don’t recommend is attempting to repair the head gasket yourself. An engine repair of this nature is an expert-level job that requires proper tools and tons of experience!
Naturally, you may wonder how much a professional repair will cost. Read on to find out.
How Much Does A Head Gasket Repair Cost?
Assuming there’s nothing wrong with your engine and the gasket deteriorated, it costs between $1,624 and $1,979 for a head gasket replacement.
The associated labor costs are estimated between $909 and $1147, while the parts themselves vary in the range of $715 and $832.
Factor in possible engine problems that caused the head gasket to blow, and the head gasket replacement cost could quickly climb to $3,000 or more.
These numbers may be overwhelming. So let’s take a step back to see what causes a blown head gasket.
The head gasket is a highly crucial component in your engine. When seeking auto repair for a blown head gasket, it’s best to consult a professional mechanic.
Make sure that they:
- Are ASE-certified
- Only use high-quality replacement parts
- Offer you a service warranty
And luckily, RepairSmith is the most convenient mobile car repair and maintenance solution that offers all of this.