Blown Head Gasket? 4 things to know – iBAV

Blown Head Gasket? 4 Things to know before pouring money down the drain.

4 things to know about a blown head gasket

No matter how much or how little you know about the internal workings of motor vehicles, you’ve probably heard that a blown head gasket is a serious problem. And that is very true. A blown head gasket, if not fixed as soon as possible, can cause both safety and major financial issues down the line.  Whether you are a grease monkey brushing up on what you know about head gaskets or you are unsure how your engine is performing, here is a quick run down of everything you need to know about your head gasket.

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  1. First, what is a head gasket?

In an internal combustion engine, the head gasket sits between the cylinder head and the engine block. The head gasket seals in the internal combustion process and also keeps the coolant and oil in your engine from mixing together as they move from the engine block to the cylinder head. The head gasket essentially is sealing where these two parts of the engine assemble and seals three areas:

  • The combustion chamber, where the compression takes place. This is the usual location for head gasket breakdown because it has to handle high pressure and high temperatures.
  • The coolant passages. Coolant is a corrosive and in some situations can corrode the head gasket enough to cause a leak.
  • The oil passages. In rare occasions if the head gasket is faulty there may be a leak through the oil passages.

Now, if either your cylinder head or engine block are faulty, they can be taken apart and fixed individually. However, if the head gasket is faulty, then you have a real problem because its location between those two means you can’t get to it easily.


  1. How to confirm whether you have a blown head gasket

Even if you don’t have a lot of automotive and mechanical experience, determining whether you have a problem with your head gasket can be an easy task.  Just make your way through this checklist to see if you have a problem:


Is your car running abnormally?

 If you know your car well, you may be able to tell the subtleties in how the engine is running. If it feels like your engine is not responding as it usually would and it appears slow it could be the sign of a blown gasket and your car is at risk of overheating. If you feel your engine is unresponsive, it pays to check quickly because leaving it can cause bigger problems.


Are your spark plugs discolored? Another sign that a head gasket is blown is if the spark plugs are discolored. Discoloration of the spark plugs, particularly if they take on the color of coolant, is a sure sign that your head gasket is causing the issue.


Do you have water leaking from your exhaust? Water or white smoke coming out of your exhaust is another signal that you could have blown a head gasket.  .


Are there air bubbles in your radiator? Air bubbles in your radiator are another sign of a head gasket problem. To check for air bubbles, remove the radiator cap and then hop into your car and give the engine a bit of a whirl a few times. Then return to your engine and if air bubbles have surfaced then it’s highly likely you have a blown head gasket.


Is your oil contaminated? If coolant has made its way into your oil you will have to replace your head gasket. It is quite simple to check if your oil is contaminated. If you remove your oil cap and find a milkish hue around it, you will have an issue on your hands. If this is the case, when you replace your head gasket, make sure to also replace your oil at the same time as it is already contaminated.


  1. How big an issue can a blown head gasket be?

If a head gasket is said to have blown then it is not fulfilling its functions. Essentially, your car engine will lose its capabilities and get progressively worse over time. If the liquids mix for an extended period of time through your engine the consequences can be quite bad.


  • If liquid is lost due to a head gasket failure and reach critically low levels the engine can easily overheat.
  • If coolant escapes into fuel chambers then it can harm the pistons and other engine parts, which can result in a need for engine replacement or significant repair
  • If oil mixes with coolant the cross-contamination compromises their individual functions and can devastate the engine.


Replacing a head gasket, can be an expensive exercise. The extent of the damage has to be assessed and sometimes in serious situations, the engine needs to be completely replaced. However, if the engine can still function, then it is only the head gasket that needs to be substituted.


  1. Are there any quick fixes when you have blown a head gasket?

Unfortunately, the short answer is that there are no quick fixes. You may have heard of a few temporary quick fixes to solve the issue, but they do not provide a long-term solution and either way you will need to replace your head gasket. In fact, quick fixes for your head gasket can often result in longer lasting, permanent engine damage. This will be an extremely expensive exercise in the long run.


You should always err on the side of caution and if you come to the realization that you have blown a head gasket your most appropriate response is probably to assess the value of your vehicle against the cost of repairs. Take into consideration  possible damage to other parts of your engine. If the cost is excessive, perhaps your best option is to scrap the vehicle. You can  easily do this by selling it to a junk vehicle buyer, who will assess the vehicle and give you some cash for it. You can then put that cash towards a new vehicle. This nifty tool   gives you instant quotes for your vehicle and provides access to many different buyers. With it, you have the opportunity to get a good price for your vehicle, despite the blown head gasket.