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What is an Intake Manifold Gasket?
Let’s take this step by step, and start with the intake manifold. What is an intake manifold, you might ask. It’s a vital, but pretty straightforward component in your car’s engine. The intake manifold is attached to the car’s cylinder head, which rests on top of the engine block. The intake manifold’s job is to funnel air (and fuel in some cases) into the cylinders. More specifically, the intake manifold is responsible for evenly dispersing air throughout the cylinders.
Why? Because engines require a precise mixture of air and fuel to run properly. Otherwise, the cylinders won’t fire properly, and the engine won’t perform the way it's supposed to. Do you want your engine to malfunction? Probably not.
Now, if your curiosity is still piqued, read up further on intake manifolds. There’s a lot going on there, but I’m gonna assume you’re good with what we’ve covered.
So, let’s move on to the gaskets. Your car has a lot of gaskets, which is really just a car word for seals. The intake manifolds are one of the many components that rely on gaskets. In an intake manifold, the gaskets seals the manifold to the cylinder head. That, in turn, also keeps excess air out of the cylinders. In many modern cars, the gaskets also serve as a seal for the engine coolant and motor oil in the system.
Depending on your car, you may have one intake manifold gasket, or two. Like all of the gaskets in your car, intake manifold gaskets can wear out over time, and begin to fail.
Symptoms of a failing Intake Manifold Gasket
Check engine warning light is on
You’re smarter than a tiny little light in your car, right?
The check engine warning light is telling you something. It’s telling you to check your engine before it’s too late. If the intake manifold gasket is taking a day off, then the air-to-fuel ratio will be wonky in your engine, and that will trigger a warning light.
Poor engine performance
Now this one should definitely get your attention.
If your intake manifold gasket is busted, your car won’t have a good air-to-fuel ratio, which will impact the performance of the engine. There may be some hesitation or some jerkiness, or you may just notice that it’s a completely uninspiring engine.
Cars have a lot of fluids, which means there are a lot of opportunities for leaks. A puddle, or even some drips under your car are a bad sign, but they could be the result of many different things.
In some cars, the intake manifold gasket serves to seal in coolant. So, if there’s coolant outside of the car, instead of inside it...well, you can do the math on that one, yeah?
Low fluid levels
Well, here’s a no-brainer for you. If your car is leaking fluid, you’re likely to have lower fluid levels.
Hey, if you prefer to leave your fluids up to the mechanics, no judgement here. But we're all about being smart car owners, and it only takes five minutes to check the fluids in your car. If you do it every now and again, you may be able to spot a potential issue before it’s a big problem. I’m just saying.
So, if you notice that your car has a low level of engine coolant, you may have an unhappy intake manifold gasket.
Engine is overheating
Okay, so we’ve spent a fair amount of time talking about how a broken intake manifold gasket can cause coolant to leak, and coolant absorbs heat from your engine, keeping the motor at a safe temperature.
So, if your car is leaking coolant, then you're risking your engine overheating.
How urgent is an Intake Manifold Gasket replacement?
It’s safe to drive a car with a broken intake manifold gasket for short distances. The car won’t be dangerous.
However, it will put stress on your engine, and stress on your engine eventually leads to damage. So you can have a quick and affordable fix now, or let things get a lot worse and a lot more expensive, very quickly.