I have had several blown head gaskets in my life. So, I put the below articles to help you a bit if you are faced with the same problem as I did. I’ll have answered the usual questions we all ask ourselves: “What’s a head gasket?”, “can you fix a blown head gasket?”, “Is there a blown head gasket quick fix?”.
What is a head gasket?
A head gasket is a small but vital component of any engine. It is installed between the cylinder head and the cylinder block of any type of internal combustion engine. A head gasket provides the means to seal your engine allowing the oil and coolant to circulate and lubricate the different engine’s parts.
Any gasket leaks can lead to catastrophic failure of your engine. That’s why you really need to act quickly when you detect such a leak. There are many methods to fix such leaks. The easiest is to use a gasket sealant. You can find some of these sealants by clicking here.
A modern vehicle head gasket comprises several layers of steel material. These are entwined with an elastomer so that they last longer and are more reliable. The elastomer is used as it can expand under heating conditions and contract when it is cold, all without leaks appearing.
In the past, cars were equipped with gaskets that were made of either graphite or asbestos materials. I have to say that I am glad that no more asbestos is used. But I am also glad that the latest technologies and material science are used to build gaskets. These are much better equipped to deal with heat and cold temperatures. In addition, they are less prone to leakage.
What are the symptoms of a blown head gasket?
First, I want you to know this: “you really want to detect a failed head gasket before it blows”. If your head gasket blows, then you are in for a big mechanical bill. So best to avoid this if you can. If you have a little bit of time, then I advise you to understand how to detect such an issue.
The signs of a blown head gasket are easy to detect. First, a quick reminder. You have three main fluids used in your car. These are;
- The fuel (diesel, gasoline);
- The coolant.
- The engine oil.
If your car engine’s gasket fails, then these fluids may mix up together inside the combustion chamber. It is easy to define if you have this problem:
- Engine starting to overheat – that’s the most common symptom. You’ll notice this on your dashboard when a red light will switch on. You’ll also notice that your engine heat gauge is going up to a higher temperature than usual and much faster too. This is the cause of fail gasket, where the coolant is entering the combustion chamber and hence there is a lack of or reduced amount of coolant. This can also be caused by the fuel (diesel, gasoline) entering the cooling system.
- You’ll see some white, blue, or grey smoke coming out of your engine – This clearly indicates coolant or oil is in the combustion chamber. Fix your gasket or use a sealant.
- Loss of engine power – Again this is pretty common and due to a lack of compression as pressure is lost from the engine due to the failed gasket. In effect, the engine cannot build power as it cannot build up compression because all of the compressed gases are partially released through the small leaks in the gasket.
- Engine oil is discolored – Next time you check your engine oil, look for a chocolate milk-like-looking oil. If you have this, then you have coolant mixing with oil in the engine, and as such, the gasket is broken.
The easy way to detect a gasket leak
There’s another easy way to detect a blown head gasket. Switch on the engine and listen to the engine. If you hear a depressurize noise, then you may have a failed gasket. Have a quick visual inspection of the gasket, you may notice some small leaks. You may see some bubbles, fumes, or excess heat coming out of your engine. There’s also some kind of weird smell as oil mixes with coolant.
So, use your eyes, ears, and sense of smell. Using all of your senses will help you identify any leak. I want to re-iterate this: “one small leak is all that is necessary for the head gasket to fail”.
Now say that you have checked for leaks by looking for any unusual odor in the engine compartment and by checking the engine noise. If you have any doubts, when you detect a leak, then re-start the car and drive it at a steady speed for a short distance and look at the temperature gauge. If it goes up quickly, park your car and get a gasket sealant or replace the gasket altogether.
How to fix a blown head gasket without replacing it?
If the head gasket fails, it leaves an opening between the cylinder and the head. As these gases are released, the engine is not able to build up pressure, and therefore you lose the engine’s power. So, you may be asking yourselves: How to fix a blown head gasket without replacing it?
Well, you can fix small partial holes in the air gasket using a sealant. And there are plenty of sealants around for you to do this. Some of these are for the head gasket and others for your radiators. And there are some that are for both. You just need to buy a sealant use it and that should do the trick. Note that some sealant needs you to run your engine for it to work. So, check the instructions before you complain that it is not working.
Sometimes the sealant may not work, then you’ll have no choice but to change your gasket. This is possibly due to the fact that your gasket is really damaged and that your head has bent.
Now, you are in for an expensive job to do. It requires dismantling the top end of the engine. Then getting a replacement gasket, fixing it, and remounting the head. That’s why people hate head gaskets. They are so expensive to fix if they go really wrong.
Note that if your head gasket has failed and your engine has overheated, then the bill will be even higher. That’s why you prefer to check your gasket now and again and if you see just a little bit of leak, use a sealant. Do not wait. Keep checking the gasket every 3 months for peace of mind.
Usually, when things really go wrong and your engine has overheated, you’ll have to replace the head. This is due to the fact that the head has bent in some places and therefore they’re more leaks.
Instead of buying a new head, which is really expensive, there is another cheaper solution. You can always take your head to a milling machine shop. The milling machine engineer will straighten your engine head. Obviously, you’ll need to put a new gasket and off you go on the road.
Note that a new head can cost a few thousand dollars, but the costs drop considerably if you are able to find a decent sealer. They are pretty cheap brands for as little as $25.
How much does a blown head gasket cost?
A head gasket price is not the same for all cars. But as a rule of thumb, a head gasket price is between $1000 to $3000. That’s if you have a standard car. If you have a large 4×4 car, it can go up to $5000 as there are more parts to be changed.
Advice: if the weather is hot and you drive a lot, then check your gasket on a weekly basis, and not on 3 monthly basis. This only takes a couple of seconds and you can sleep happily.
The above is the usual blown head gasket cost that you’ll find all over the USA.
So to summarise, the cheap sealant solution is the cheapest option. This can be applied when the gasket’s leak has just started. The sealant would cost about $25 to $200 maximum.
If the gasket is really damaged, then there will be a need for a new head gasket replacement cost. It is fairly cheap to buy the head gasket, about $100. To that, you’ll have to add a couple of hours of work or pay a mechanic to do this for you at around $350 to $500.
The last resort is to pay for the head gasket cost and milling the head. You know how much it cost for the gasket, and the milling is about $800. But then you need to pay the mechanics, which is probably another $800 if the engine is simple. If it is a complex engine this can go up to $2000.
I do not like going through changing the head with a new one and you also need to change the engine gasket. Changing the head and the car gasket is the most expensive of all of the different methods to repair your car.
You’ll need a head gasket replacement and the head. And this does not mean it is finished. You may need to mill your engine block if it has bent. So best to check before buying a new head. I am not even going to tell you how this solution costs for replacing the cylinder head gasket, the head, and then milling the cylinder block. It’s just shocking.
Your car and the engine warranty are valid for the first year and some engines are valid for 5 years. But in most cases, the gasket is not part of the warranty. As such, if it fails, then you lose your car warranty. So, ensure that you know if this is the case or not.
If you’re unsure about your car’s gasket, you should contact your dealer or nearest mechanics. Your dealer and mechanics can perform all the diagnostic tests, and advise you as to how to deal with the problem.
In this article, I have provided you with the different head gasket repair costs. It can be cheap by applying a sealant and can quickly go up to several thousands of dollars for milling and replacing the gasket.
The best solution is always prevention. Check your engine and ensure you apply the sealant as soon as you feel there is a small leak. You’ll be pleased with a $100 expenditure for the sealant than have a $2500 bill for changing the seal and milling the head.