WHAT IS A HEAD GASKET?
Due to its position between hot and cold engine components, the head gasket faces a full range of temperatures, from the high heat of the combustion chamber to the often cold temperatures of the cooling system. As the impacts of temperature changes take their toll over time, the head gasket can ultimately bear marks along the surface. Consequently, leaks do often develop along this crucial area. If the problem worsens, the gasket can blow — all of which begs the question: What is a blown head gasket?
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF A BLOWN HEAD GASKET?
- Overheating could be caused by a restricted radiator, which can get worse the farther you drive along.
- Coolant in the oil, usually blamed on head gaskets, could actually be due to problems with the intake gasket.
THE TROUBLE WITH IGNORING BLOWN HEAD GASKET SYMPTOMS.
- Damage to the catalytic converter
- Leaks into the engine oil, which can ruin the engine
- Erosion of lubrication
- Overheating caused by mixtures of coolant and combustion gases
OTHER BLOWN HEAD GASKET SIGNS? MAYBE, MAYBE NOT.
- A chipped or warped cylinder head, which could affect the head gasket, but wouldn’t necessarily be the result of a blown head gasket
- Corrosion at the surface of the head gasket, which would indicate a leak, but one that wouldn’t necessarily be due to a head gasket blown
RELATED SYMPTOMS OF BLOWN HEAD GASKET TROUBLE.
- Lowered compression due to rough idling
- Overheating of the engine
- Coolant leakage to the oil compartment
- Coolant on top of a spark plug
OVERHEATING DUE TO A BLOWN HEAD GASKET.
However, overheating can also do damage when it doesn’t become apparent, such as during short trips along slow roads. For example, if you drive from your house to the nearby grocery store, your car might not exceed 35 mph for the trip. Therefore, the car won’t reach the freeway speeds that would more likely agitate an overheating issue. Nonetheless, the problem will still simmer inside the engine, even if you don’t end up seeing the heat gauge spike or any smoke seep from the hood of the car.
In cars where overheating does not become readily apparent, damages caused by combustion gasses could include the following:
- Damage to the cooling system
- Failure of the radiator
- Erosion of the hoses
Often times, problems such as these are triggered not from overheating, but by other causes. One example would be a leak in the water pump, which could damage the cooling system and in turn make the engine overheat. As an example of the domino effect with these kinds of problems, the water pump could be replaced, only for the other issues to continue, worsen and ultimately ruin the new pump.
Then again, a water pump replacement might fix the problem, but only temporarily. Sooner or later, the head gasket could collapse — its weakness having been initiated during the overheat. Simply put, overheating can often be the gift that keeps on giving.
BLOWN HEAD GASKETS AND NEARBY COMPONENTS.
- The head gasket couldn’t possibly be responsible for an oil leak.
- If there’s an oil leak, it must be due to a faulty valve cover.
HOW TO TEST FOR A BLOWN HEAD GASKET.
- Lower the level of coolant in the radiator (to provide a testing air space).
- Warm the engine (for improved accuracy).
- Use the tool to extract fume samples from the coolant.
- Mix samples in testing solution.
Another problem that a carbon dioxide test could possibly reveal is a ruptured cylinder head, which causes similar symptoms to a failed head gasket. In many cases, a cylinder head crack will be too tiny for the human eye to spot, yet it could still be a major problem. At some repair shops, cracks are found with the use of dyes or the application of pressure tests. As with coolant tests, cylinder head testing is best done by a professional car technician.
CAR DESIGNS AND FAULTY HEAD GASKETS.
The failure of a head gasket is sometimes due to limitations in the vehicle’s engine design. Consequently, maintenance of the cooling system with quality fluid and top-ups is evermore essential in today’s cars. In modern engines, normal temperature levels place in the range of 200 to 225 °F. Therefore, when a temperature gauge rises to the hot zone, it means that the engine is really hot. If an engine rises above 240 °F, the head gasket and cooling system could both be pushed beyond their normal limits. If the engine soars past 260 °F, the impact is almost inevitable.
HOW TO MINIMIZE HEAD GASKET PROBLEMS.
- Before the coolant drops below a pH of 7.0, refill the reservoir.
- Use readymade coolant/water mixtures — never add the two separately.
- Cut the engine the moment it overheats.
- Examine and remedy the conditions of overheating. Have the engine professionally diagnosed if necessary.
HOW TO TELL IF YOU HAVE A BLOWN HEAD GASKET
- External leaks of coolant from under the exhaust gasket
- Overheating under the hood
- Smoke blowing from the exhaust with a white-ish tint
- Depleted coolant levels with no trace of leakage
- Bubble formations in the radiator and overflow compartment
- Milky discoloration of the oil
VISUAL SIGNS OF BLOWN HEAD GASKET SYMPTOMS.
The problems don’t stop once you park the car, either. After the engine is shut off, coolant that lingers in the cylinder can leak into the engine oil. This newly corrupted oil will often assume a milky appearance that can usually be identified with an inspection of either the dipstick or cap rings.
When the engine runs, white smoke will form from whatever is left of the coolant inside the combustion chamber. The smoke in question is easiest to identify on warm days, when it can often be seen blowing from the exhaust pipes as the car sits warm and idling. On cold and wet days, the smoke is harder to identify due to the increased likelihood of steam, which has a similar appearance. Alternately, symptoms such as these can be identified by certain smells. A sweet smell, for instance, is usually indicative of a head gasket problem.
In the midst of all these problems, exhaust gases from the combustion chamber could enter the cooling system, where they’ll circulate and pass to the radiator. The easiest place to spot evidence of this is in the cooling tank, which may contain bubbles as a result of pressurization. The cooling system remains pressurized for as long as the engine is warm, so the radiator cap should never be removed while the engine is idling or has just recently been shut off.
In short, some of the most telltale visual signs of a blown head gasket include:
- Milky Oil
- White exhaust
- Bubble formations along the cooling system
In the event that your gasket is most likely blown, refrain from driving your car much, if at all, until the problem is rectified. The components that connect to the gasket can get warped or irreparably damaged from the temperature extremes and fluid leaks that head gasket problems can cause, all of which could result in huge repair bills. In a worst case scenario, the engine might need to be replaced outright.
HOW TO SPOT SIGNS OF BLOWN HEAD GASKET TROUBLE IN NEWER VEHICLES.
- The engine gets flooded with coolant.
- The coolant gets consumed with exhaust gasses.
- The engine rapidly overheats.
- An overabundance of steam coming out of the exhaust pipe
- Bubble formations in the coolant reservoir
OIL CHARACTERISTICS WITH A BLOWN HEAD GASKET.
- Excessive exhaust with a faint blue or whitish tint
- Diminished idling ability
Of all the symptoms that stem from a blown head gasket, few are as dangerous as the mixing of fluids that are not supposed to come into contact — namely coolant and oil. When the coolant seeps into the oil, the oil’s properties can become corrupted to the point where the engine is robbed of its lubrication. When you consider how oil is the lifeblood of an engine, the leaking and mixing of fluids caused by head gasket failure is basically a car’s equivalent of a lethal injection. In short, the consequences of corrupted engine oil are as follows:
- Loss of proper viscosity
- Diminished ability to lubricate the engine and all of its moving parts
- Erosion of key engine parts and bearings
CAN YOU DRIVE WITH A BLOWN HEAD GASKET?
However, if you find yourself repeatedly adding coolant to the engine just to keep it from overheating, you’ve got a serious problem on your hand that will hardly be staved off with the stopgap method of coolant top offs. Even if the engine doesn’t overheat, it could still incur irreparable damage over a short period of time if constantly placed under high pressure conditions.
People also wonder if it’s safe to drive a vehicle when the engine pushes coolant just slightly, but without evidence of gushing or clouds of white exhaust. The answer here is yes and no. In order to really know, you need to test the vehicle first.
HOW TO TEST A HEAD GASKET TO SEE IF THE CAR IS STILL SAFE FOR DRIVING.
- Fill the coolant up and drive the car around with the coolant cap loose.
- Let the speed work its way up to about 50 mph.
- Drive around for an afternoon and see how much coolant the engine consumes during a 50-mile trip.
Each time you add liquid to the coolant system of a heating engine, the liquid must be at least a 50/50 mix of coolant to water. Never pour cold water into a hot motor — cast iron will not withstand this. Cold water in a hot motor could also end up cracking the head, which could cost you a whole lot more money in repairs.
Driving with a blown head gasket over distances of 1,000 miles or more is another matter. Doing so can actually wear away material around the coolant jackets. Basically, driving around on a blown head gasket is something that can be done for moderate distances at moderate speeds with coolant on hand. The thing to understand is that you can’t expect to keep this method up indefinitely. Coolant top offs are a stopgap measure you can use with a vehicle with moderate gasket problems until you set aside the funds for engine repairs.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO FIX A BLOWN HEAD GASKET?
Bar’s Leaks has long provided professionally-proven chemical solutions to a range of car problems, from head gasket issues to coolant and oil leaks. When it comes to problems with the head gasket, repairs are often outside the budget range of the average driver. On older cars in particular, the investment required for a mechanical blown head gasket fix is often not worth it, considering the value of the car. For just a fraction of what you’d spend for an outright gasket replacement, our products will get your car back out on the road and driving again.
BAR’S LEAKS SOLUTIONS FOR A BLOWN HEAD GASKET
“How can I tell if your head gasket products will fix my head gasket leak? I’ve heard some of these products don’t work.”
There is one bottom-line truth, no matter what any chemical tool company tells you: if your head gasket leak is too severe, no chemical repair will seal the leak. We’d love to tell you otherwise, but we’re always honest with our customers. If your leak too advanced, then you’re looking at a physical repair.
But there are many steps between a healthy head gasket and a blown head gasket, and that’s where we come in.
So, here’s how to tell if your blown head gasket is a good fit for one of our head gasket repair solutions:
CAN YOUR CAR RUN OR BE DRIVEN FOR 15 MINUTES WITHOUT OVERHEATING?
But wait. Before you decide on our HG-1 product, there is another question:
CAN YOUR CAR RUN OR BE DRIVEN FOR 20 MINUTES WITHOUT OVERHEATING?
If you want a cheaper, but also strong product whose installation is a bit more involved, our Bar’s Leaks Head Gasket Repair (p/n 1100) is a great option. It offers a very strong seal and a lower price, but installation is more demanding because the formula is not compatible with antifreeze.
So, basically speaking, this is how you can tell if one of our products can help with your blown head gasket:
- If your vehicle can run for 15 minutes without overheating and you need our most professional-grade solution, consider our HG-1 product.
- If your vehicle can run for 20 minutes without overheating, consider our 1111 product or 1100 product, depending on how easy you want the installation to be.
- The real, honest truth that most chemical repair companies won’t tell you: If your vehicle overheats within 15 minutes, chances are you need a hard-part repair by a qualified mechanic. We’d love to be able to sell you a product, but if your car is overheating rapidly, no chemical fix will work. It’s not just ours that probably won’t work, but any. Save your money for a mechanic’s attention.
FIX YOUR CAR THE EASY WAY WITH BAR’S LEAKS PRODUCTS.
In our seven decades at the forefront of stop-leak innovation, our products have saved untold sums of money for millions of drivers by enabling simple repairs of what would otherwise be costly workshop concerns. If your car or truck has a mild or moderate issue with the head gasket, cooling system or any other fluids, don’t blow a fortune on a new engine when Bar’s Leaks formulas can solve the problem. To learn more about our products or to locate a store nearest you, click on over to our products and locator pages.