Dealing with a Blown Head Gasket
How it Happens, What To Do, How Much It Costs and How To Talk To an Expert Mechanic About it for Free
In an internal combustion engine, a blown head gasket is something that can happen over a period of time or due to neglect of the car owner. Unfortunately, most people usually don’t know much about the symptoms, causes or solutions for such a problem. Basically, the head gasket which sits between the cylinder head and the engine block is used to seal the cylinders to make sure that maximum compression is achieved. As for how much it costs, that answer is far more complex.
James describes the different factors that determine head gasket repair cost in this 30 second video.
Fixing a blown head gasket has a very wide cost range, from $500 all the way to $3000!
So the question you have to ask is, “how do I make sure I pay the right price for my car?” The #1 answer is to fix it yourself, and if you happen to be a DIY type of person, click HERE to get to the part of this page you need to read. But for those of us who are NOT mechanics, what can we do?
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The Secret to Getting Your Blown Head Gasket Fixed Fast and as Inexpensive as Possible
1. You know the handsome dude in the videos above? (You know, the guy at the top talking about blown head gaskets) That’s James, one of our ASE certified master mechanics. He’s an expert with blown head gaskets AND he is great at explaining in plain English what is happening with your car. The video to the left explains how you can have James be your personal mechanic to give you advice FOR FREE, talk to the other mechanics at the repair shop so that they don’t overcharge you FOR FREE, and audit your repair so that you know you got the correct repair at a fair price FOR FREE (are we seeing a theme?)
2. Not all mechanics are like James. In fact, only 1/3 of mechanics are actually ASE certified (can you imagine if it was like that for doctors? We’d demand that they get their act together!) But lucky for you, we know who those top mechanics are. We have 45,000 auto shops in our network throughout the US that we know are good, honest mechanics. We can find a repair shop near you that is actually certified to do this type of work. Now you don’t have to go to one of our shops (James will still call in and make sure there isn’t any funny business going on regardless), but its nice to know that the guy working on your car isn’t just a guy off the streets who fixed a few cars as a teenager.
So let us help you. Get free access to James and our 9 other ASE Master mechanics who will make sure that the guys down at the shop charge you the right price, for the right repair, and that they finish it when they say they will. That’s all yours for free so try it out by using the form below.
DIYers, are you still with me? Whatever you do, don’t look up at that other section, its forbidden. It will make you want to not become a DIYer, and that would be terrible. Alright, lets get back to the science of a blown head gasket.
The sealing of the cylinders helps in preventing leakage of the engine oil or coolant into the cylinders. This means that it represents one of the most important sealing applications in any vehicle engine that is part of the combustion chamber.
In an attempt to understand the condition of a blown head gasket it is equally important to note the different types used in a vehicle engine. Essentially, these types may dictate how vulnerable your car is to a blown head gasket condition or will help you select the right type of head gasket material to avoid the condition. This however does not mean that a blown head gasket will be completely avoided but probably minimized.
Types of Head Gaskets
- Multiple Layers Steel (MLS) – majority of newer head engines make use of MLS gaskets because they are made up of three layers of steel. A rubber-like coating is applied to the contact faces which sticks to the cylinder block and the cylinder head. The thicker center however is left bare intentionally.
- Solid copper – this particular type of head gasket works in combination with a specialized machining method known as o-ringing. A piece of wire is placed around the circumference of the cylinder which bites into the copper. Copper gaskets are considered by many car manufacturers as extremely durable. Solid copper gaskets have also been produced with integral sealing wires which will allow retrofitting without removing the engine block.
- Composite – represents an older technology that makes use of graphite or asbestos. Unfortunately these are more prone to blown head gasket conditions and are becoming rare due to health effects of asbestos.
- Elastomeric – used originally in the K series engines of Rover, it has a steel core plate equipped with silicone rubber beads that are molded in place. These seal the coolant passages as well as the oil. The design attempted to imitate technology used in F1 engines.
Role of the Head Gasket Seal
During the explosive cycle of the internal combustion engine, gases are created. The role of the head gasket seal is to ensure that the gasses do not escape. The importance of this lies in the mixture of the air and gas which is ignited by the spark plugs.
The explosion is expected to occur in order to drive the pistons down which results in the motion of the vehicle. This means that a blown head gasket can result in possible permanent damages to the vehicle.
Once the seal has been broken and the gases escape between the head and the piston, a loss of engine power is expected to happen. Primarily, the head of the engine is the one responsible for controlling the valves. In this context, the valves are required to observe a specific order of movement that will allow the fuel mixture coming in as well as the exhaust that is going out of the system.
Heat is the Enemy of the Head Gasket
Every vehicle engine is designed to observe proper cooling with its individual heat limits. Basically when the engine becomes extremely hot the components begin to move in such a way that it disrupts the operation of the metal parts. The heat generated by the engine can lead to a blown head gasket. One of the most common causes of engine heat is improper or inadequate oil levels in the engine which generates friction.
There are actually many vehicles that include a built-in oil cooler in the radiator to prevent this heat condition. Improper levels of coolant also contribute to excessive heat that is generated by the engine. Inadequate amounts of oil or coolant will fail to draw away heat from the engine. You must realize that in this condition the heat must be carried away somewhere. Unfortunately, it usually gets absorbed into the metal leading to a blown head gasket.
Is a Blown Gasket Serious?
Any qualified technician can categorically say that a blown head gasket is a serious condition that should be avoided or dealt with immediately. When a blown head gasket occurs there is a tendency that coolant may leak into the cylinders of the engine including the adjacent cylinders or even outside.
Because of this the potential results of a blown head gasket can be:
- Very expensive repairs or replacement of damaged components
- Other underlying problems especially if the coolant or oil spills outside the engine block
- Replacement of other components aside from the head gasket
It is equally important to note that a blown head gasket occurs usually at the weakest point – the thinnest portion between adjacent cylinders. Understanding that excessive heat and the resulting pressure build up are the reasons why the head gasket gets damaged can help car owners avoid a blown head gasket. In the same manner that it is important to understand that dealing with a blown head gasket is something that a qualified technician should handle (which is what al those non-DIYers are doing). However, if you feel up to it, we suggest the following.
You might only need sealant and a few tweaks to get yourself up and running. Visit Amazon, purchase blue devil sealant, and watch this video.
For something more serious, take a look at this video series done by “expertvillage” on Youtube that explains the step by step process of replacing a head gasket over the course of about 13 movies.
If it all seems like too much and you just want to give in and have a professional do it, then try out TalkToMyMechanic by filling out the form below. Its the easy, free way to guarantee that you don’t get charged $5000 for your blown head gasket when it should have only costed $500.