The head gasket is a crucial part of your internal mechanism in your vehicle. Most of the time, however, trouble within your car’s head gasket can start out as a small crack – before you know it, the entire part is completely blown, leading to extensive problems. So, the real question is – can you drive with a blown head gasket?
Since those cracks will begin to get bigger over time and expand, they can lead to wider and more problematic cracks if they are not dealt with in a timely manner or addressed before it is too late. Not fixing the root cause of the issue can lead to further damage in the transmission system and more expensive repairs or replacements.
Most experts say to never drive with a cracked head gasket! If you continue putting pressure on this sensitive part, it will lead to a blown head gasket in no time at all. If you are worried and asking yourself “can you drive with a blown head gasket?”, we can help provide you with some information that will make the decision easy and quick for you.
What is a head gasket?
The head gasket is a ring or circular-shaped panel located between the cylinder head and engine block. The cylinder head sits above the cylinder block, helping to form the closure on the top of the combustion chamber in the engine. The upper part of the engine is the cylinder head, while the lower part is commonly referred to as the engine block.
The engine block is the lower part of the engine that houses all of the major components of the bottom of your car's motor. This is when combustion occurs in an internal combustion engine and houses important components like the crankshaft.
As you can see, the head gasket, cylinder head, and engine block help make the engine run. Without these three components, your car would not be able to drive, and you’d have an answer to “can you drive with a blown head gasket?”
Cracked Head Gasket Symptoms
Keeping an eye and ear out for symptoms of a damaged head gasket can help prevent the issue from worsening over time and causing a blown gasket. Car owners need to know how they can tell if they have a blown or cracked gasket, but before you can fully understand the scope of the issue, you need to make sure you have gone through the proper diagnostic process.
A cracked or blown head gasket will typically show itself by low coolant levels, oil and antifreeze mixture, and white smoke coming from the exhaust. Furthermore, there are some additional signs that you have a damaged head gasket.
One common sign of engine damage and a malfunctioning head gasket is overheating. When you notice your engine overheating, you see the side effects of the metal expanding and pinching the head gasket. If the head gasket atrial is pinched and squeezed, the mechanism no longer seals properly and causes an increased head gasket repair cost.
Another sign of head gasket damage, drivers could notice low coolant levels due to a leak. A faulty head gasket or damaged part can cause coolant to leak out of the system, leading to coolant pooling under the vehicle. Low coolant levels will cause an increased engine temperature, increased friction, overheating, and a higher head gasket repair cost. When asking yourself “can you drive with a blown head gasket?”, keep the coolant longevity and engine lifespan in your mind.
In addition, if you notice discolored oil in your vehicle, you will notice other signs of a damaged head gasket. The discoloration results from coolant inappropriately mixing with motor oil while being held in the engine, resulting in a milk-like color. Noticing any discolored oil can alert you to head gasket issues and a higher head gasket repair cost in your car.
Can you drive with a blown head gasket?
For us to give you a better idea of why it is a bad and unsafe idea to drive with a cracked or blown head gasket, you need to understand the inner workings of your car’s motor to see the function and role of the head gasket in your vehicle. The head gasket in your car is positioned in between the block and cylinder head of your engine.
The head gasket forms part of the combustion chamber and works to keep the compressed air and fuel ratio mixture inside of the cylinder. By keeping the proper air and fuel ratio inside the cylinder, it can be ignited and turned into energy to power your vehicle.
Furthermore, the head gasket prevents coolant and oil from getting into the combustion chamber. This way, the oil and coolant do not disrupt the ignition process or cause your vehicle’s fluid to leak and cause excessive friction. As you can see, continuing to drive your car could harm these important components, helping answer the question of “can you drive with a blown head gasket?”
Lastly, when you realize you have a blown head gasket, the mechanism will unintentionally allow one or more of these fluids, like coolant or oil, to get to a place they are not supposed to be. This will throw off the oil, gas, and coolant mixture in the specific area. A blown head gasket permits combustion gases to move into your coolant, engine coolant to flow into the combustion area, and coolant to properly mix with oil.
The blown head gasket may also let engine oil leak all over the inside of your car. If this happens, it can lead to a dangerous and unsafe driving situation. When asking yourself “can you drive with a blown head gasket?”, the answer should be NO.
What happens if you continue driving with a cracked head gasket?
If you decide to take a risk because you need to get somewhere, you don’t think the problem is that serious, and you don’t have the money to pay for any cracked head gasket repairs, you could be setting yourself (and your car) up for failure.
Coolant in Combustion Area
Allowing coolant into the combustion area can create a whole heap of new problems that can significantly damage your engine, transmission, or fuel system. First, letting coolant into the combustion area can damage spark plugs and cause the engine performance to suffer. If the engine has to run with contaminants or deposits left behind by the burning coolant, this will not only harm the engine performance but can cause irreversible engine damage.
Secondly, coolant in the combustion area can cause the air and fuel ratio to change, leading to damage to the nearby sensors. When answering “can you drive with a blown head gasket?,” you run the risk of harming your engine and the surrounding electrical components, leading to costly repairs.
Lastly, having coolant in the combustion chamber can cause premature wear and tear and excessive rust on the piston, piston ring, and cylinder wall. If you inadvertently damage all of these parts as a result of coolant leaking into the area, it can lead to a lower compression rate. When asking yourself the question “can you drive with a blown head gasket?,” you need to be prepared to pay for an entire engine rebuild if you continue driving your vehicle.
The price of an engine rebuild for damaged piston rings, piston, and cylinder wall will cost the driver around $2,500 and $4,000 on average. Although some repairs might just require replacing some of the smaller parts, the rebuild is a hefty fix that will cost at least a few thousand dollars. While asking “can you drive with a blown head gasket?,” it is usually not worth it to continue driving on a damaged head gasket.
Coolant in Engine Oil
Furthermore, you could end up with coolant mixing together with the ol from your engine. Coolant in the engine oil can lead to extreme issues, as it drastically limits the engine oil’s capabilities of lubricating internal engine components. If the lubricant of parts is not present in the engine, certain parts will cause excess friction and overheating, like the camshaft or crank bearings.
If this occurs in your engine, a lower compression rate can lead to a complete engine rebuild. When asking yourself “can you drive with a blown head gasket?,” taking care of your engine and preventing any damage to your crankshaft and crank bearings is more important than driving on a broken head gasket.
Engine Oil Leak
Lastly, if engine oil leaks inside of your vehicle, it can lower the engine oil levels. If the engine oil levels are below the proper level, the lubrication in your car will cause the same damage to internal components olike the crank bearings and the camshafts. Furthermore, allowing gas to leak out of the chamber can cause extremely elevated pressure levels in your cooling system and durability issues in the metal around the leak area.
If the coolant is leaking and the combustion area is creating high temperatures, this can lead to premature erosion and possible cracking of the cylinder head. When answer “can you drive with a blown head gasket?”, you need to take into account the important engine components that could be damaged with continuing to drive your vehicle.
How often do head gaskets need to be replaced?
Head gaskets can fail at any time – unfortunately, the failure will differ depending on variables like coolant levels, car lifespan, and type of car make and model. Head gaskets generally last around 100,000 miles, especially if you take care of your vehicle and bring it to the mechanic during regular intervals to check the oil and coolant levels.
However, if you do not stay on a maintenance schedule and notice coolant leaks, this will lead to a higher head gasket repair cost. In order to keep the head gasket working properly and in good condition, any discolored oil, dirty fluid, or contaminated coolant should be replaced.
When asking yourself “can you drive with a blown head gasket?,” the best way to keep your head gasket working well is to ensure the engine runs at a proper temperature. Preventing overheating and excess friction can help reduce the overall head gasket repair cost.
The Bottom Line
When answering “can you drive with a blown head gasket?”, you need to know the function of a head gasket, symptoms of a blown or cracked head gasket, advice as to whether or not you should drive on this damaged part, and advice on how often head gaskets need to be replaced.