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The cylinder head gasket might be the most important part of your car that you’ve never heard of. There are two major responsibilities for the cylinder head gasket, and it’s pretty good at multitasking. The gasket serves to form a very tight seal between the engine block and the cylinder head. That seals off the combustion chamber and keeps the oil and coolant passages in the cylinder head separated. That might not sound like much, but it is. Without the cylinder head gasket to do those things, your car’s engine won’t function properly, and will be liable to suffer serious damage. You don’t want that. Cylinder head gaskets normally have a long lifespan, but they can occasionally die. Given their job and their location, they’re subject to a lot of wear and tear, as well as extreme temperatures and pressure. That can eventually lead the cylinder head gaskets to die, at which point they’ll need to be replaced.
The check engine light exists for a reason, and that reason is to let you know that there’s something wrong with your car that may be potentially serious. That something could be a busted cylinder head gasket, which, if ignored, will result in severe and highly expensive issues with your engine. Still think that little warning light on the dashboard is insignificant?
You may ignore the warning lights on your dashboard, but you’re probably a little less likely to ignore when your engine doesn’t feel quite right. If your car’s cylinder head gasket is busted, then it may not be creating enough compression in the combustion chamber. The result will be an engine that isn’t quite functioning properly, which will result in misfiring. Not familiar with misfiring? You’ll likely hear some popping noises now and then, and you may notice a loss of power.
Your car’s cylinder head gasket is a seal. When that seal isn’t...well, sealing, then coolant can enter the cylinders. Do I really need to explain to you why coolant running away from home is bad? Coolant in the combustion chamber means coolant isn’t where it should be, and that will lower the fluid level in the coolant reservoir. Look, you don’t need to understand how your car works, or be able to perform repairs, or even change a tire. But if you have some spare time on the weekend, maybe get in the practice of checking your car’s fluid levels. That way you’ll notice if you’re low on coolant, which could be a sign of a busted cylinder head gasket.
If the head gasket fails, the oil and coolant passages inside the cylinder head may not be sealed off properly. As a result, coolant may enter the oil and visa versa.
Some things can deal with overheating. When you accidentally put your popcorn in the microwave, sure, you lost your popcorn, but no big deal. Not the case with your engine. An overheating engine is not a good thing, and it’s a sign that something isn’t working right. If your car’s cylinder head gasket isn’t working, then the system will be leaking coolant into the combustion chamber, and the coolant won’t be able to do its job, which is to keep the engine from overheating. You can probably guess what happens next: an overheating engine. So, if that temperature gauge on the dashboard is rising, pay attention to it.
The coolant in your car has one primary purpose: To keep the engine from overheating. But it has a notable secondary purpose as well: To heat the car’s cabin. Your car’s interior heater gets heat from the coolant that circulates around the engine, absorbing heat. If the cylinder head gasket fails, the coolant will leak out of the system and into the combustion chamber, and there won’t be enough coolant to warm the interior of the car. Which means you’ll probably be stuck shivering.
You’re not in college anymore. A fog machine might have made for a cool ambiance at your house parties, but you’re long past that. Hopefully. White smoke emerging from the tailpipe of your car? Not a good thing. Not a good thing at all. It’s often caused by coolant leaking into the engine, which, if you’ve been paying any attention at all, is often the result of a damaged cylinder head gasket.
If enough coolant leaks into the combustion chamber, serious damage can occur to the engine. The coolant can also mix with the oil, keeping the engine from having adequate lubrication, which will also lead to irreparable damage. If you pay attention to the above signs, you can get the cylinder head gasket replaced before your engine completely fails. But if you ignore them, you’re in for a treat. And by “treat” I mean “disaster.”
Have you been paying attention? A busted cylinder head gasket will result in an engine that doesn’t perform optimally, and will eventually lead to catastrophic engine damage that is wildly expensive to repair.
You don’t want that.
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