danger - engine trouble ahead
Your car hasn’t been running right lately. You take it to your trusted technician and he says those words that no one wants to hear: “You have a blown head gasket.”
Your mind starts reeling as the dollar signs begin to pile up. You know it’s a labor-intensive and expensive repair but you wonder what exactly a head gasket is, what causes a head gasket to become blown and what the signs of a blown head gasket are. Read on for the answers to all your head gasket questions.
What does a head gasket do?
Your car’s engine is divided into two parts, the cylinder block where the pistons and cylinders reside and the cylinder head where the valves, spark plugs and camshaft(s) are located. Cushioned between these two massive engine parts is the head gasket.
One of the most critical gaskets in your engine, the head gasket is designed to seal the cylinders’ firing pressure and to prevent coolant and engine oil from leaking into the cylinders as well as to the outside. The head gasket must withstand the stresses of the two surfaces expanding, shrinking, warping and rubbing while sealing in cylinder pressure, coolant and engine oil running through casting ports.
Blown head gasket causes
Your car’s engine operates in extreme conditions with intense heat. If this heat becomes more than normal, your engine can overheat causing a blown head gasket. The extra heat results in the cylinder head and engine block expanding too much which results in a failure in the head gasket. Detonation is another cause of head gasket failure because it damages the armors or fire rings, allowing cylinder pressure to leak past the armors.
Bad head gasket symptoms
Because the cylinder head gasket seals coolant passages, a blown head gasket will allow coolant to enter the cylinders. Coolant in the cylinders will cause:
White smoke coming from the tailpipe
BUBBLING IN THE RADIATOR AND COOLANT RESERVOIR
unexplained coolant loss with no leaks
Milky white coloration in the oil
Since the cylinder head gasket also seals in the coolant and oil, you may see streaks of oil and coolant streaming down from the gasket.
You may also notice a loss of engine power due to lower cylinder compression if the head gasket leaks to adjacent cylinders.
If you experience any of these symptoms, the cooling system may be pressurized, shut the engine down and do not attempt to release the pressure. Have your vehicle looked at by your professional technician and always use replacement gaskets that meet or exceed the original manufacturer’s specifications.
How can I prevent a blown head gasket?
The best way to prevent head gasket failure in your car is to keep the engine coolant at the proper level with the correct mixture according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. If you experience coolant leaks on the ground or garage floor, have it checked out. Also, make it a habit to keep an eye on your temperature gauge; if you notice it running hot, have it immediately checked out by your professional technician.
The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be used in lieu of seeking professional advice from a certified technician or mechanic. We encourage you to consult with a certified technician or mechanic if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered herein. Under no circumstances will we be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on any content.
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