You are on page 1of 5

Symptoms of a Blown Head Gasket

A blown head gasket is a common cause for a number of symptoms. Coolant in the engine oil, an engine misfire or oil leaking could
all be a symptom. These could each also have other causes and an actual blown head gasket may show none of the above symptoms.
Diagnosing a head gasket problemby the symptoms can be quite misleading.
This is because a failed head gasket is NOT a single thing
The symptoms often depend on how and where the head gasket fails.
For instance, a head gasket that fails between cylinders will generally cause a misfire and perhaps few other symptoms. There may be
no overheating, no coolant in the oil, etc.
Such a failure will also not show up on a traditional hydrocarbon test. The same can be said for several other types of head gasket
failures. Even leakage between the cylinder and the coolant may not show up. This does not mean a hydrocarbon test is not useful, it
is simply limited.
Symptoms of a Blown Head Gasket
1 of 5 8/30/2012 4:39 PM
A test positive for hydrocarbons indicates a problem. A negative test simply does NOT mean there is not a problem
Many times hydrocarbons may NOT show up even though the head gasket is blown. It is also very difficult to determine if the
problemis a blown head gasket, cracked or warped cylinder head.
A cracked cylinder head will often not show on a hydrocarbon test. Despite not showing up on the test, it can give the exact same
Symptoms of a Blown Head Gasket
2 of 5 8/30/2012 4:39 PM
symptoms as a blown gasket. This may be a moot point as the head[s] will have to be removed in either case. The above cylinder
head crack is an extreme example. Often cracks too small to be seen with the eye will cause serious problems. Cylinder head shops
use dye and other methods to detect small cracks.
A similar problemis cylinder head corrosion. Corroded cylinder head surfaces often results froma lack of or improper cooling
systemservice. If the corrosion is too deep the cylinder head has to be replaced. In less severe cases it can sometimes be machined
Another problem, particularly with aluminumcylinder heads is warp. The surface of a cylinder head can warp and no longer provide
a flat surface to hold the head gasket properly. Warp in a cylinder head is checked with a straight edge and a feeler blade, once the
head is removed and cleaned. If a feeler blade can be inserted between the head and the straight edge, a problemexist.
Symptoms of a Blown Head Gasket
3 of 5 8/30/2012 4:39 PM
The amount of allowable warp varies somewhat fromone engine to another but is quite small. Normally .003 to .004 inch for
four-cylinder, V6 and V8 engines. Some inline six-cylinder engines may allow slightly more. A warped cylinder head can sometimes
be straightened and/or machined to make it usable. Cracked cylinder heads can also sometimes be repaired by cylinder head specialty
In most cases replacement of cylinder heads and gaskets will be quite expensive, due to their location on modern engines
Symptoms of a Blown Head Gasket
4 of 5 8/30/2012 4:39 PM
With over-head and double over-head camengines, many times the front and top of the engine will have to be removed to gain access.
This will normally also include removing the timing chain[s] and/or timing belt. In some vehicles this also involves removing the
engine fromthe vehicle.
Head gasket failure is more of a problemin some vehicles than in others. This is due to engine design limitations. Preventing head
gasket and cylinder head problems is always much easier with good cooling systemservice. Keeping the cooling systemin proper
order will greatly reduce the odds of head gasket and cylinder head problems.
Modern engines run very hot, 200 to 225 degrees Fahrenheit under normal conditions. When the temperature gauge indicates hot, they
are very hot and damage will quickly occur. When an engine exceeds 240 degrees Fahrenheit, damage can occur and when exceeding
260 degrees damage is likely.
Replace engine coolant before the pH falls below 7.0
Use distilled water and the proper coolant type only
Always pre-mix coolant and water, before putting in the engine
When an engine starts to overheat, shut it off, IMMEDIATELY
Repair any over-heating conditions immediately
A cooling systemspecialist like AGCO Automotive can diagnose and resolve head gasket and cylinder head problems for you. Even
better, we can normally prevent most problems. Quick action is the key! If your temperature gauge starts to climb, remember AGCO,
its the place to go.
Symptoms of a Blown Head Gasket
5 of 5 8/30/2012 4:39 PM