If our searching for “can you drive with a blown head gasket?”, this means you are dealing with a blown head gasket now or expecting it to blow out soon.
If your head gasket didn’t get damaged yet, luckily, you are at the right place because we will walk you through a list of preventive measures that you can follow to protect your head gasket and your entire engine.
Before discussing these measures, we provide you with a quick overview of the role of the head gasket in your combustion system, answering the question of “can you drive with a blown head gasket? Why or why not?”
What is the car’s head gasket?
Before discussing the different preventive measures that you can follow to maintain your head gasket, it is important to understand what the head gasket is and what it's doing in your combustion system.
The head gasket is a metal piece with rings placed between the engine and the cylinder head to maintain the operating compression level for your cylinders and prevent fluids leaks to these cylinders.
Your vehicle’s head gasket also protects your engine’s oil from getting contaminated with coolant, reducing its capacity to lubricate the engine.
Suppose the oil was not able to lubricate the engine properly. In that case, there is a high chance of engine overheating due to the high heat generated as the engine’s internal components wear out against each other.
All vehicles with a combustion system should have a head gasket. That been said, this doesn’t mean that the head gasket is the same in all vehicles; the head gasket varies in size depending on the car’s make, model, and year.
Can you drive with a blown head gasket?
The short answer is that automotive experts never recommend driving with a blown head gasket.
To understand where this conclusion came from, it is important to fully grasp what happens to your engine if you have a blown head gasket?
- If your vehicle has a blown head gasket, it creates a space between the engine’s body and the cylinder allowing coolant to leak to the cylinder. With coolant deposits in the cylinder, there is a high chance that your spark will not be able to ignite the air-fuel mixture. As a result, your engine will not have combustion, and you will experience a power loss.
- With the coolant leak inside the cylinder, you disturb the air-fuel ratio, which could damage the sensors and reduce the vehicle’s efficiency of producing power.
- With a liquid like a coolant in the cylinders, you scarify the piston, the piston ring, and the cylinder’s wall to rust or corrode due to this moisture.
- The coolant doesn’t only affect the cylinder; it also can get mixed with the oil causing what’s called “oil contamination.” As oil gets contaminated, it will not lubricate the engine properly, causing the moving parts to generate heat due to friction, which results in significant engine overheating.
- Without sufficient lubrication to the engine’s bearings, crankcase, valve train, you are scarifying these parts, which can easily lead to complete engine failure.
- If your head gasket is blown, there is a high chance that the gases resulting from the combustion explosion leak out of the cylinders and destroy the surrounding metal parts around the engine’s area, including the cooling system components.
- With a blown head gasket, a lot of the coolant liquid can leak to the cylinders, leaving your cooling system with an insufficient coolant amount. Without the required amount of coolant, your cooling system will not cool down the engine resulting in significant engine overheating. As we mentioned earlier, engine overheating is one of the most critical issues that could happen to your engine as it results in the quickest engine failure.
While many of the mentioned consequences do not happen with small issues with the head gasket, leaving or ignoring problems with the head gasket can complicate the problem and increase the repair costs significantly.
That been said, while a blown head gasket might stop the vehicle from operating, you shouldn’t feel good and keep driving the vehicle. Instead, have it inspected and repaired by a professional mechanic as soon as possible.
Are there any preventive measures to prevent the head gasket from blowing?
As we mentioned earlier, the head gasket location keeps it in continuous exposure to high temperatures and compression.
While the head gasket is designed to withstand these situations, it is not surprising to deal with the head gasket issues over time of use.
One of the first causes of head gasket failure is a pressure increase in the cylinders. Luckily, you can bring the cylinders to pressure down by:
Make sure the pressure regulating system works properly
In some vehicles, the engine works on forced induction as the supercharger or the turbocharger.
Usually, these engines have a pressure regulating systems. To prevent the pressure from rising to a level that could blow out the head gasket, make sure these systems are in good condition and maintain them well.
Prevent carbon build-up
Over time of use, the combustion chamber builds up layers of carbon during its performance. If the carbon layers increased, the combustion also decreased, resulting in a higher pressure in the cylinders.
Therefore, it is recommended to add fuel cleaner to your fuel tank regularly to get rid of these carbon layers.
Make sure to pre-ignite your system
To prevent a significant pressure increase in the combustion system, it is important to time your ignition as specified in your vehicle’s owner’s manual and to have clean fuel in your fuel tank.
If you don’t have a copy of your manual, you can request a copy from your professional mechanic or download a soft copy from the internet.
Another primary cause for your head gasket to blow out is a significant increase in the engine’s temperature. To keep your engine’s temperature within the appropriate operating limits, you can do the followings:
- Perform regular check to your cooling system, including:
- Measure your coolant level and make sure it is not below the minimum level. If that’s the case, ensure to top off the coolant but not to overfill it.
- Test the thermostat and make sure it is not stuck open or stuck closed, preventing the coolant from flowing around the engine.
- Check the radiator and make sure it's working properly. If there is an issue with the radiator, the coolant can get super high without dropping this temperature. As a result, the engine’s temperature will continue rising, causing engine overheating.
- Make sure the water pump doesn’t have any problem. A broken or faulty water pump prevents the coolant from flowing around and throughout the cooling system.
If you could not keep the head gasket and end up with a blown head gasket, you must stop driving and have your vehicle inspected and repaired by a professional mechanic.
How much does replacing the head gasket cost?
In general, expect to pay between $1000 and $2000 to replace your vehicle’s head gasket. Yes, it is one of the highest repairs in your car.
It is important to note that this cost range is just a rough estimate, and the accurate numbers differ by:
- Your vehicle’s make, model, year
- Number of cylinders in your vehicle’s engine
- Type of cylinders in your vehicle’s engine
- Level of damage in the cylinder or engine block
- And other components needed to be replaced
One thing about the head gasket repairs is that most of this cost doesn’t go to the parts costs; instead, it all costs labor costs.
This is not surprising because replacing the head gasket is one of the very complicated repairs that require intensive labor, time, and effort.
For instance, think about an engine with eight cylinders, and each cylinder has two head gaskets on each side. Imagine how much time it will take the mechanic to remove each gasket and replace it while maintaining the engine’s balance.
Many people might wonder, can I replace my head gasket?
Unfortunately, replacing the head gasket is one of the very complicated repairs that doesn’t usually work with DIYs.
Even if there are details DIYs on the web, it is not recommended to attempt replacing the head gasket on your own. First, because most DIYs do not work for the first time.
Second, there is a high chance that you will make another mistake, costing you a lot of money, like damaging the entire engine.
Is it worth fixing my head gasket?
As you might notice, replacing the head gasket is very costly, not because the parts are expensive, but because it requires a lot of labor’s time and effort to be done right.
Before replacing the head gasket and paying a penny, it is important to sit back and evaluate the situation.
There are a couple of questions we always recommend people to ask themselves before performing any costly repair, including:
- Does your car have high mileage?
- Are there other major issues with your vehicle? for instance, how are the transmission and the engine?
- What about the total repair cost? Is it getting close to or more than your car's value?
If you answered any of the mentioned questions by “yes,” it is never worth paying a penny replacing the head gasket.
Unfortunately, yes, that’s the expert's recommendations.
Then, what do I do?
Well, we are happy to let you know that you are in the right place!
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If you decided to go ahead and junk your car, here is all that you need to do:
- Give us a call and describe your car’s make, model, year, and condition.
- Receive our instant offer, review it, and accept it.
- Schedule a pickup time and location
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What’s even more exciting is that even if your car doesn’t have a title, we can still help you as long as you have additional paperwork to prove ownership.
The head gasket is one of the very critical parts of any combustion engine.
Without a head gasket, your cylinders will not maintain the required compression pressure. A misfire is most likely to happen; there is a high chance for coolant and oil to leak to the cylinder, and the oil might get contaminated by coolant.
All these consequences can result in quick engine overheating resulting in complete engine damage in no time.
Many people ask the question of “can you drive with a blown head gasket?”
The bottom answer is that it is never recommended to drive your car with a bad head gasket because sometimes the head gasket issue might start small and repairable. When driving in this situation, all you are doing is complicating the issue with the head gasket and fastening the engine failure.
Therefore, if you noticed any sign of a blown head gasket, you must stop driving and have your vehicle inspected and repaired by a professional mechanic as soon as possible.