How Often Should A Head Gasket Be Replaced?

Published: March 2, 2022
Last updated: March 14, 2022

The head gasket in your car's engine is a critical component. It is responsible for sealing the cylinder head to the engine block. The engine valves are housed in the cylinder head, while the crankshaft and pistons are housed in the engine block. Head gaskets can begin to leak over time. 

The severity of these leaks varies, and although a slight leak may just increase oil or coolant consumption, a more serious leak or blown head gasket can result in complete compression loss. Your cooling system may also fail, causing your car's engine to overheat. 

While head gasket replacement is not considered normal maintenance, the gasket may need to be replaced in some cases. It's preferable to consult a mechanic if you suspect you'll need to repair your head gasket.

Symptoms of a Blown Head Gasket

There are several indicators that your head gasket has blown. These warning signs may send you in the right direction, but a compression test performed by a mechanic at an auto repair shop is required to precisely verify the state and integrity of the head gasket and decide whether it needs to be replaced.

Coolant Consumption: A modern car's cylinder head contains dozens of coolant tubes. These passageways are essential to the cooling system because they allow a coolant (or antifreeze) to flow through and remove heat. The head gasket seals the channels to prevent coolant from escaping into the engine's combustion chambers when it is in good condition. However, coolant may leak into the cylinder if the head gasket is broken. Your engine will begin to consume coolant if this occurs.

While your car is running, take a look at your exhaust pipe. A blown head gasket could be indicated by water dripping from the exhaust or excess steam. While driving, pay attention to your vehicle's gauges as well. A burst head gasket could be causing problems with your cooling system and preventing your antifreeze from working properly if your car is running too hot.

Oil Consumption: Your automobile may be consuming too much oil if it emits a bluish-white exhaust and idles erratically. Oil passageways are equal in number to coolant passages in modern cylinder heads. These passages are cast into the cylinder head as oil travels between the cylinder head and the engine block to transport oil to and from the valve train. If your automobile is consuming too much oil, the head gasket may have a leak, preventing it from effectively sealing the passageways.

Oil And Coolant Mixing: A burst head gasket can cause coolant and oil to mix. The lubricating capabilities of the oil are harmed when coolant from the cooling system interacts with the oil in the engine block. It has the potential to harm engine bearings, cylinders, pistons, and other components. Examine your dipstick. It could be a symptom of significant head gasket difficulties if the oil is dark or bubbling or any signs of water or other abnormalities. Stop driving your car and have the engine evaluated as soon as possible.

How to Replace a Head Gasket?

Head gasket failure is a major issue that requires immediate attention. Unfortunately, head gasket replacement is a big engine repair, and it's usually preferable to call your mechanic if you need this type of time-consuming work done. The most difficult aspect of the project is getting to the gasket, which requires removing a huge number of engine components. 

The exact procedure differs from car to vehicle, so consult your owner's manual or a service manual before starting. Even if you've replaced a head gasket in a Honda Civic, the procedure for a Ford F-150 or a Toyota Camry may be quite different. Before you start pulling your engine apart, make sure you understand what you're getting yourself into.

After you've exposed the gasket, you'll need to remove the head bolts from the cylinder with a wrench. The old gasket must then be pried out using a pry bar. Clean the surface of the heads beneath the old gasket with a soft cloth. This ensures that the new gasket has a good seal.

Visually inspect your heads before replacing the gasket with a new one. Look for evidence of wear and tear, as well as other issues. If everything appears to be in order, install the new gasket on the head tightly to achieve a tight seal. If there is a gap, a head gasket sealer may be required. Ensure there are no gaps between the head and the new head gasket before replacing the head bolts. 

Check the torque specifications to ensure that the cylinder head bolts are properly tightened. After replacing the gasket and tightening the head bolts, reassemble the engine in the same manner as it was taken apart. If done correctly, the replacement head gasket should have your vehicle running like new.

Want to learn more about cars? Read this blog post of ours to help keep your car brand new.

Managing Editor Before joining Keep Driving, Elaine was an editor for an international internet technology consulting firm. She shows tremendous interest in writing about future technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learnings.
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