Blown Head Gasket Symptoms – How To Tackle Them?August 6, 2022
Is your engine overheating lately and is blowing white smoke from the exhaust? This is unfortunate because these two are some of the blown head gasket symptoms that indicate that your head gasket has failed and is due to be replaced. And in this article, we are going to share with you everything you need to know when it comes to the blown head gasket issue.
The head gasket is one of the crucial components in our cars that guarantees that there is a proper seal. Sometimes these gaskets fail and know to develop numerous issues with our cars. It’s up to you to recognize these issues and learn the blown head gasket symptoms that we are going to cover in the article. Knowing these symptoms is going to help you out diagnosing the problem much quicker.
Mechanics often misdiagnose problems and know to make you pay thousands of dollars on unnecessary repairs. You have to be a step further and know what is causing the issues on your car. By doing this you will be able to pinpoint the problem when you go to the mechanic’s shop and then the mechanic will not have another option other than fixing the issue. Or you should fix it by yourself and we are going to explain how.
In this article, we are going to learn what is a head gasket and what is its role in internal combustion vehicles. Then we will cover all the blown head gasket symptoms. Knowing these symptoms is essential in diagnosing the problem. Then we will explain how to diagnose the issue and the costs involved in replacing the blown head gasket material. Lastly, we are going to explain how you can perform this work at home. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the article.
What Is A Head Gasket?
The head gasket is a special material that has the main role of connecting the head with the block. And also make a tight seal in the process so no fluid escapes from the compartment that it was meant to.
The head gasket keeps the oil in the oil gallery, while the coolant is in the coolant compartment. Also, keeps the cylinders nice and dry and doesn’t allow any coolant to enter inside of them.
But the head gasket knows to fail sometimes and cause a lot of headaches to car owners. It basically ruins the car ownership to a lot of people if the problem is not treated on time and can cause so many problems that the repairs later are going to be really expensive and costly.
That’s why knowing the blown head gasket symptoms is key in order to understand the problem and know what to do when you are having an issue like this. That’s why in this article we are going to cover all of these symptoms that will help you out determine if you have a blown head gasket issue on your car and then how to fix this problem.
The important thing is not to leave the problem untreated. Because if you leave the problem untreated it will make you pay some really expensive repair bills in the long run. That’s why if you doubt that the head gasket has failed, it is key to hurry and diagnose the problem. By doing this, you will avoid paying a fortune for repairs.
The costs for this repair are not cheap and we are going to cover the prices after we cover the blown head gasket symptoms. After reading these symptoms you will be ready to tell if your gasket has failed or it is in good condition.
Blown Head Gasket Symptoms
In this chapter, we are going to cover the blown head gasket symptoms. After reading this chapter, you will be able to pinpoint the problem and tell if you have a blown head gasket or not. This will be of great importance in improving your troubleshooting skills and learning how to think like mechanics and be able to connect all the dots in order to find the issues on your car. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the symptoms and learn which are the blown head gasket symptoms.
1. Overheating Issues
One of the first things that you will notice when the head gasket is blown are the overheating issues on your car. These overheating issues can be caused also by other bad components like a bad thermostat or running water instead of coolant. Running low coolant.
But the most frequent cause of this problem is the blown head gasket. When the head gasket is blown it allows the coolant to go into the combustion chamber and burn, leaving the vehicle on low coolant in the process. The lower the coolant, the bigger the chance for the vehicle to overheat and cause all sorts of issues.
That’s why when you notice how the temperature needle goes in the red zone, or you get a warning light for no coolant, it is of great importance to top off the coolant and if you continue losing coolant from your engine. This is your problem. The gasket is allowing the coolant to escape inside of the cylinders and this is causing the engine to lose coolant.
The coolant is basically burning inside of the combustion process. This engine work can also damage other components like the spark plugs, O2 sensor, these components simply do not like when there is coolant in the mix.
When you notice this symptom with overheating. It is key to address the problem as soon as possible and we are going to explain later on how you can do this work. But first, let’s finish all the blown head gasket symptoms.
2. Loss Of Power
Loss of power is also common when the engine is overheating. But why does this happen? This is happening because the engine is overheating. The engine simply doesn’t like the hot temperatures and is not running in its sweet spot.
When the engine is not running at the temperatures as it was meant to, it’s going to lose power and will work badly. That’s why you need to address the problem as soon as possible. It is difficult to connect the loss of power with overheating but if these two symptoms happen at the same time you know that there is something wrong with the system.
The engine overheating should be a red alert by itself and on top of it if the engine loses power is a clear indication that there is something wrong and has to be checked.
The important thing in this situation is not to panic and learn more about the blown head gasket symptoms. Since most of the cars when they are burning the coolant has the same common symptoms like overheating, loss of power, and others that we are going to cover in the next chapter.
3. Bubbles In The Coolant Expansion Tank
Another symptom that is fairly common when you have a blown head gasket issue are the air bubbles that are in the coolant expansion tank.
When the engine overheats it basically boils the coolant and air is getting into the pressurized cooling system. The system is basically filled with unmetered air that is doing no good in terms of cooling the engine and in fact, makes things even worse when it comes to cooling.
The engine runs too hot when there is air into the expansion tank. This can cause the hoses to get bloated and even explode from all that pressure that is accumulated. And you should not even try to open the cap of the expansion tank when the car is hot if you don’t want to burn yourself. Remember that your coolant is boiling hot at this moment.
The best thing to do in this situation is to take your car to a shop and tell them that you are having overheating issues and the car needs to be checked asap.
There the technicians will diagnose the issue and replace the head gasket. They will also perform machining work if that is necessary in order to bring the head into factory condition. Since from all that overheating the head will probably get bent. This is the case because the aluminum from which the heads are usually made from is getting bent when exposed to immense heat cycles.
Heat can damage the head permanently as well. And you don’t want that to be honest. That’s why addressing the problem as soon as possible is key if you want to avoid paying thousands of dollars on mechanics and components.
4. Low Coolant
A low coolant level is also present when you have a blown head gasket. This is the case because the coolant is getting into the combustion process and the coolant is burning when there is an explosion in the cylinder. It burns off with the fuel and the level of coolant drops significantly if the car is running like this for a longer period of time.
That’s why checking the level of coolant in the expansion tank is key in noticing this symptom and reacting accordingly. The first thing when you notice this symptom is to fill up the reservoir at the recommended level. Make sure that you use a 50/50 mixture in order not to use too strong a concoction.
Then, you are going to track the level of coolant and if you notice that the vehicle is losing the coolant too frequently, you know that there is a coolant consumption and the coolant is either leaking from the hoses or it burns in the combustion.
The next thing you need to do is to inspect the hoses and the radiator to make sure that there are no leaks on the hoses or under the car. If there are no visible leaks on the hoses and the radiator, you should inspect the block as well for possible leaks. Check the place where the gasket goes and see if there are any leaks. Check if there is smoke coming from the engine. Because if there are any leaks from the engine block, the coolant is very likely hitting the headers and the coolant evaporates. There will be white stains on the headers if there are leaks.
If there is nothing of this, then you know that your coolant is consumed by the engine and the head gasket is leaking. You have to replace the head gasket and machine the engine head, how you can perform this work we are going to cover later in this article after we cover all of the blown head gasket symptoms.
5. White Smoke Coming Out From The Exhaust
White smoke coming from the exhaust is another symptom of a blown head gasket. But why there is white smoke coming from the exhaust? This is the case because the coolant is entering into the combustion chamber and burning. When the coolant burns it produces white smoke as a result.
When you notice this issue, it is clear that the level in your expansion tank has reduced and you have to check the coolant level if you don’t want to leave your engine to overheat.
A little white smoke in the morning is normal and this is only condensation. But if you notice this white smoke while the engine is warmed up, then you know that you are having a coolant burning problem.
If you leave this issue untreated, it will damage your spark plugs and will cause them to blister, also the O2 sensor will get damaged and your engine will lose the ability to cool down since the coolant will burn. That’s why it is of great concern to address this problem as soon as possible and make sure that there are no leaks.
6. Leaks From The Outside Of The Engine Block
Leaks from the side of the engine block are also present as we mentioned. This symptom is rare but it knows to happen.
If you notice how a weird smell is coming from the engine and you notice how something evaporates from the side of the headers, then you know that there is a coolant that is leaking from the side of the engine. There will be white stains usually when this symptom occurs.
The head gasket is right at the top of the gasket and the heat from the header is going to cause the leak to evaporate and cause steam. That’s why when you notice something like this it is important to react quickly and make sure that you tackle this issue as soon as possible.
7. Milky Oil
If you pull the oil dipstick and you notice how your oil has become milky and thick it means that the coolant is mixing with the oil. The coolant is entering the oil chamber and causing these two fluids to mix, creating a big mess in the process.
This can result in engine damage if left untreated. When the oil is contaminated, it no longer keeping its lubricating ability and if the oil does not lube the bearings and oil rings, these components will wear down prematurely.
When you notice something like this, it is important to act quickly and get this issue sorted. Driving like this is unacceptable and you shouldn’t drive like this. The longer you drive your car with milky oil, the worse the engine damage will be.
In the worst-case scenario, this problem can even scrap your engine altogether. The only way around this will be to replace the engine with a new one and pay thousands of dollars in the process. And you don’t want that.
How To Diagnose A Blown Head Gasket?
The only precise way to diagnose a blown head gasket is to remove the engine head. You can make assumptions by reading the blown head gasket symptoms. But the only way to be sure that your engine gasket is blown is to remove the engine head.
That’s why you need to make a deep investigation into the problem and connect the dots in your head to make the right conclusion. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to do so.
Let’s say if your vehicle is drinking the coolant and there are no visible leaks on the radiator hoses and the radiator. It is highly likely that the head gasket is blown and the engine is consuming the coolant.
If you notice milky oil when you pull the dipstick, it is also very likely that the engine is mixing coolant with oil. The milky oil should not be there by any means.
If you notice milky residue on the oil cap, you should not panic. The reason why the residue is there is because of condensation inside of the engine.
Also, if you notice how there is white smoke from the exhaust while the engine is warmed up. It also means that you are having a blown head gasket. Your car should not smoke if the engine is up to temperature and running well.
If you are not completely sure about the blown head gasket symptoms that you are experiencing. Then it is a good idea to consult with a mechanic and see what he will say about this. You should always consider an opinion from a more experienced person.
Cost To Replace A Head Gasket? – Blown Head Gasket Symptoms
The cost to replace a head gasket is not cheap. The gasket itself is fairly cheap and can come at a cost of $30 to $60. But the labor that goes into this work is huge.
The average labor prices are somewhere between $50 and $100. And with this job involving a great amount of time to do it will require quite a lot of money to do.
The cheapest that you can get this work done is somewhere around $500 and that is if the head is in good condition and only the head gasket needs replacing.
But if the head is bent from overheating, then it is highly likely that you will end up paying somewhere between $1000 to $2000 for all of the machining work and gasket replacement.
That’s why taking care of this issue quickly is a good idea before it becomes serious and hurt your wallet. Either way, you will have to pay the price, that’s why it is a good idea before you buy a car to see if your engine is prone to these types of problems. And if it is, stay away from it. Because in the end, you will pay a fortune in order to repair it. Or you can try to replace the gasket at home, which is also an option. And in the next chapter, we will see how you can do this work.
Replacing Head Gasket DIY
Replacing a head gasket is straightforward work that isn’t that complicated. The complex thing when replacing a head gasket is the damage to the engine head.
If the engine head is damaged, bent, or if it’s cracked, will mean that it’s going to require machining work in order to bring it back to factory OEM condition.
And in most cases when there is a blown head gasket, it is highly likely that the engine head is busted as well. This is the case because engine heads are made out of aluminum which is fairly easy to manipulate and heat can easily damage them.
When the head is bent, the only way is to resurface the head. Here is a video of how this work is done at home in DIY conditions.
Conclusion – Blown Head Gasket Symptoms
In this article, we have covered a lot when it comes to the blown head gasket problem. We have learned what a head gasket is and what are the blown head gasket symptoms.
After reading the symptoms you will be able to pinpoint the problem and diagnose the issue fairly quickly since we shared in-depth information about the problem and the behavior of the vehicle when these symptoms are happening.
Then we have covered the cost of fixing this issue. It is worth noting that repairing the problem is not the cheapest thing at it will cost you some dollars.
Lastly, we have covered if this issue could be solved in a DIY fashion. Frankly, it is possible, but it requires a lot of skill, more precisely the head resurfacing can be extremely tricky to do.