A head gasket leak is a serious issue that can affect the performance and lifespan of your engine. By knowing the function of your head gasket, the signs of a head gasket leak, the causes of a damaged head gasket, and the most common head gasket leak symptoms can help you save your vehicle!
What is a head gasket?
When you look at the traditional car engine, you will find that a head gasket plays a crucial part in the inner workings of your vehicle. The head gasket is a ring or circular-shaped panel located between the cylinder head and engine block.
The cylinder head sits above the cylinders on top of 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 the spot in which 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 down the street.
The head gasket keeps any excess fluid from the engine from leaking into the cylinders. This barrier formed by the head gasket means that it is easily one of the most important components in the combustion chamber. Therefore, noticing any head gasket leak symptoms before the problem worsens is crucial to your car’s lifespan.
Head Gasket Location
Due to the head gasket location nestled between both hot and cold engine components, the head gasket has to be durable enough to withstand a wide range of temperatures. Since the frequent temperature changes can dramatically impact the longevity of an internal engine part, the head gasket must be durable and able to withstand tough conditions.
However, if the head gasket has not been properly maintained or checked through regular mechanic visits, the part may have experienced excess wear and tear. This could lead to a blown head gasket and noticeable head gasket leak symptoms.
What is a blown head gasket?
So, here comes our next question – what is the cause of a blown head gasket? The cause could be anything from a coolant leak to internal combustion components concerns. This means that the cause could range in severity from a minor fix to a serious replacement, increasing the overall repair cost.
One of the most confusing aspects of a blown head gasket is the frequency of a blown head gasket resembling another problem in your vehicle. Since head gasket failure could be similar to other issues, drivers may not notice the head gasket leak symptoms before it is too late.
Some examples of common symptoms of a head gasket failure are overheating caused by a blocked radiator, leading to increased engine damage the more you drive. In addition, the coolant in the oil is typically attributed to head gaskets but could be traced back to the intake gasket malfunctioning.
Noticing a Blown Head Gasket
Noticing the signs and symptoms of a leaking head gasket can help you solve this issue and bring your car to a mechanic before the issues worsen and lead to irreversible damage. But why is it so hard to get an accurate diagnosis of head gasket failure in your specific car?
Sometimes, there is too much similarity between issues with head gaskets and other engine parts. The mechanic may have mistaken head gasket concerns with a warped cylinder head, affecting the head gasket’s performance. In addition, corrosion at the end of the head gasket could indicate a blown head gasket but may have different head gasket leak symptoms.
To diagnose and fix the head gasket leak symptoms, you need to be sure of head gasket trouble before paying for any repair or replacement. Some coon symptoms of head gasket failure are engine misfiring or leaking between cylinders. Evidence of engine misfiring can be seen as lowered compression, rough idling, engine overheating, coolant leakage, and coolant leaking on top of the spark plug.
The head gasket failure between a coolant line and an engine cylinder can cause excess head gasket leakage. When you notice the head gasket leak symptoms, engine misfiring is highly likely due to pressure on the car’s ignition.
Overheating as a result of a blown head gasket
Possibly the most common head gasket leak symptom is engine overheating. When a head gasket malfunctions and fails between the cooling system and the combustion chambers, it can result in coolant leaks and engine friction.
The excess friction is the main cause of overheating, which can be easily seen when the engine has trouble starting and driving on rough terrain. In addition, overheating can also cause damage – even when the head gasket leak symptom is not immediately noticeable.
Even without a clear picture of what is wrong with your internal combustion engine, the overheating engine can still be causing damage your car, resulting in the inability to accelerate and drive uphill. Therefore, the car will not reach high speeds that would lead to overheating.
In certain cars where you may not notice overheating. Damage caused by combustion gases can lead to hose erosion, radiator failure, and damage to the cooling system. All of these issues with your vehicle can be traced back to head gasket leak symptoms, even if the driver does not notice them.
Testing for a blown head gasket – Signs of a Leaking Head Gasket
If you notice the head gasket leak symptoms, you may choose to eat for a blown head gasket to see if this is the root cause of your problems. A sure-fire way to determine whether the head gasket is the cause of your car’s issues is by examining the internal engine for any trace of combustion gas.
To repair the combustion gases, you need to purchase the correct tool or apparatus to see if the gas solution changes color after coming in contact with carbon monoxide. Carrying out this test requires the owner of the car or the mechanic to follow three steps in precise order.
For step one, you need to lower the coolant level in the radiator to test for proper air space. The next steps involve warming the engine, using the diagnostic tool to test samples from the coolant, and mixing the samples in the testing solution to see if the color changes after combing in contact with carbon dioxide.
If you find the solution changes color and turns yellow, this means the coolant has failed your test. If this is the case, there is a problem that directly relates to the faulty head gasket leak symptoms. Even though this test is sometimes unreliable, it typically lets the car owner know if there is a minuscule crack that can be hard to see just by the human eye.
How to minimize a blown head gasket
As soon as you notice the head gasket leak symptoms, it could be too late. We can help you prevent irreversible damage by giving you a few tips and tricks to reduce head gasket problems in the future.
First, you can refill the coolant reservoir before it drops below the pH of 7.0 on the acidity scale. In addition, you can use readymade coolant or water mixtures instead of adding them separately, helping to reduce any head gasket leak symptoms.
Thirdly, drives should cut the engine the moment it overheats. As soon as you notice any head gasket leak symptoms, turn off the engine so that the friction does not increase and the overheating does not permanently damage the internal components. Lastly, fix the conditions of overheating by professionally diagnosing the engine at a local mechanic’s shop.
Blown head gasket symptoms – Signs of a Leaking Head Gasket
There are a few key symptoms you can use to determine if your head gasket has become damaged due to a head gasket leak.
External Head Gasket Leak
First, you may have an external head gasket leak. A head gasket leaking can cause coolant to flow for the intake or the exhaust manifold. As this will only happen once your engine is warmed up, you will notice the head gasket leak symptoms by examining the cooling passages or hoses near the head gasket.
Second, if you notice white smoke coming from the tailpipe, you may be noticing one of the main head gasket leak symptoms. When the coolant flows into the combustion chamber too frequently, the coolant burns and evaporates with the combustion process. Drivers will notice this smoke differs from moisture you may notice during a cold start, as the smoke will continue even after the engine has been warmed up.
Third, an internal head gasket leak symptom can be noticed by bubbles in the radiator. If the leak causes exhaust gases to leak into the coolant, the bubbles will move into the cooling system during the combustion process, leading to a blown head gasket.
Fourth, if you have a blown head gasket, your engine will overheat during long drives in tough conditions. This usually happens due to the lack of coolant in your engine, excess heat, and the inability of your car's radiator to cool the engine liquid. If the engine overheats, you will notice one of the main head gasket leak symptoms.
Fifth, coolant leaking into your combustion chamber can move past piston rings and into the engine oil. Over time, oil and water will combine and cause the oil to change color and prevent any lubrication during overheating and engine movement. If your oil ineffectively lubricates your motor, it can lead to one of the most common head gasket leak symptoms.
Faulty Spark Plug
Lastly, a broken spark plug or malfunctioning plug can cause tiny white deposits to be left on your spark plugs and engine electrodes. Although this is not one of the most noticeable head gasket leak symptoms, it shows that your engine’s internal components are not working correctly.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, knowing the most common head gasket leak symptoms in your vehicle can help you prevent any of these problems before worsening over time. Noticing a fouled spark plug, white oil, overheating engine, radiator bubbles, white smoke from your tailpipe, or an external head gasket leak can help you keep your car running safely.