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Is it worth fixing a blown head gasket? Here’s What You Should Know

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You may have already asked yourself, ”is it worth fixing a blown head gasket?” Yes, it is a good idea to fix it. However, there are different factors you have to consider to know if it is worth the fix. It is best to count the costs if you are to repair the broken gasket. Say you have your vehicle insured, insurance companies will compute the cost of repairs and the overall value of your car. If the damage is beyond repair, surely replacement is the rational option. But there are instances when you can repair your vehicle with a blown head gasket.

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In this article, you will get answers to a variety of questions about the head gasket. You will be able to understand what it does to your car and why it is important. Another vital part you need to learn is the symptoms of a blown head gasket.


Let's start with the basics. What is a head gasket? What does it do?


Your car's engine has two parts. First, the pistons are housed inside a cylinder block. The second major part is the cylinder head that contains several components such as valves, spark plugs, and camshafts. Located at the middle of the cylinder block and cylinder head is the head gasket.


The head gasket works to seal the cylinder and prevent leaking. Lubrication is very important for any vehicle to work properly. The head gasket makes sure that the coolant and engine oil will not leak into the cylinders or flow out of the vehicle.


Head gaskets are made to be durable. Normally, the cylinder block and cylinder head at the sides of the head gaskets undergo a lot of stress when your car runs. The head gasket must endure the expanding, warping, and other harsh motions from the surfaces. All the while, the cylinder pressure, coolant, and engine oil must be kept sealed.

Is replacing a blown head gasket a lot of work?


Yes. Replacing a blown head gasket does take a lot of work. Head gaskets, in themselves, are not that expensive. Having a blown head gasket replaced is expensive because it is an involved process. This means that there are many components you need to move if you are to replace the bad head gasket. 


This section will provide you steps on how you can replace your vehicle's broken head gasket. Follow each step carefully to get through the replacement process successfully.


  • Check the location of different parts

The owner's manual is a trusted friend when you need to replace or fix anything in your car. Check the service manual for removable parts and take them into a mental note. Put off the components that are easier to detach such as the exhaust manifold. Take out the other components one by one as carefully as you can.


  • Check the major parts

Remove the cylinder box and the cylinder head. These parts must be checked by professionals. Cracks must be repaired. The machine shop will be the one to handle that job. If it is clear that there is no problem with the major parts and just the head gasket is giving you trouble, continue to the next step.


  • Get the surface ready for changing

Make sure not to use materials that are too harsh on the metal. Worn off metal surfaces can lead to leakage in the long run. Ensure that the head bolt torque is correct. Use compressed air to blow away impurities.


  • Finish the new placement

Now that you have enough access to the head gasket, you can fix it to the right orientation. Go back to your owner's manual to know if you need to apply sealant. The service manual will specify which parts require sealant. Tighten the bolts. You may need to use new bolts to ensure that everything is sealed correctly. Apply engine oil into the bolt threads before you place them in. There is a sequence to be followed when tightening the bolts. Refer to the owner's manual on the correct bolt tightening sequence.


Are head gaskets expensive to fix?


Yes, fixing a broken head gasket can be quite pricey. The cost of repair depends on what type of damage your head gasket has. Given the importance of a head gasket to the engine, it is not a surprise that its labor cost alone reaches about 900 to 1100 dollars. You might wonder if it is still worth it to fix the broken head gasket of your car instead of just scrapping the whole vehicle. It is suggested that you fix the problem with the head gasket though the repair runs to the thousands. Doing so can save further damages to your car and extra dollars for buying a new vehicle. 


Be prepared to pay around 1000 to 2000 dollars if you plan to get your blown head gasket fixed. The price of the parts of your head gasket does not necessarily affect the cost of the repair.  What contributes the most to the expenses of fixing a broken or blown head gasket is the labor cost. Fixing a blown head gasket requires long hours of work. 


The head gasket is relatively small which makes repairs more complicated. The mechanic will need to disassemble the whole engine of the vehicle just to fix the blown head gasket. Since it is located near other critical parts of the engine such as the cylinder head and the engine block, the process of the repair must be carefully carried out. 


Be informed that a blown head gasket is one of the hardest problems to fix in a car. Compared with other symptoms of a broken head gasket like an overheating engine or white smoke emitted by the tailpipe that takes about 6 hours or less to fix, a blown head gasket will take 8 hours to a few days to be completely repaired. 

Is it better to fix the head gasket or replace the engine?


It all boils down to the damage of the component. If it has incurred more damage than can be fixed, you must immediately replace it. On the other hand, you may opt to fix the blown head gasket if it still has a probability to be salvaged.


Some car owners prefer to replace the engine right away. If you have experienced replacing your vehicle's engine, you are well aware that the replacement, oftentimes, costs more than your car's worth. Furthermore, the price ranges tend to go up for complex processes and replacements. If your engine is still new, it may not be practical to replace it with a new one although it is giving you problems. It costs between $4,000 to $5,000 to replace a new four-cylinder engine.


If you discovered that your vehicle's problem is a blown head gasket, it is well worth the fix. Even the replacement cost of a blown head gasket does not come close to the replacement of the whole engine. The replacement cost for a head gasket is around $1,400 to $1,600. Yes, it is worth fixing a broken head gasket. It will help your engine to run in a good condition. Whether you replace or fix the components of your car, you will get a good result. 


What are the symptoms of a blown head gasket?

Getting a blown head gasket fixed and running well will cost a lot of time and money. The good news is, you can save yourself from all those dilemmas by determining early symptoms of a blown head gasket. Here are just a few: 


  • Your tailpipe is emitting white smoke

You might wonder what the color of the smoke has to do with determining signs of a blown gasket. Tailpipes usually emit black smoke when the engine air filter is already dirty. This kind of problem can be easily fixed with fuel additives. The case of white smoke is different. Excessive emission of white smoke is an indicator of head gasket failure. The white smoke is coming from the burnt coolant. This problem is addressed as a coolant leak.


  • There is bubbling in your radiator and coolant reservoir

Bubbling occurs when there is an obstruction to the flow of liquid in the engine. Air pockets can block the liquid and divert its direction to your car's cooling system where it is not supposed to enter. The liquid will then damage the coolant reservoir causing the engine to overheat. On the other hand bubbles in the radiator can indicate failure on the radiator itself. However, a blown head gasket can also cause the same failure. You can fix this problem by simply filling up your coolant reservoir leaving no space for liquid to enter. 


  • Your coolant is lost but there are no leaks

It is a mystery for some car owners how their cooling system is empty while there is no trace of any leak. A blown head gasket could be the primary reason for such an instance. As mentioned earlier, having a blown gasket can cause the flow of water to be disrupted by pockets of air. This can cause the internal parts of the car to overheat including the engine. When there is excessive heat in the engine, your car's coolant can dry up leaving your reservoir empty. It might make you wonder where the engine coolant goes. Usually, it turns into smoke.


  • The oil turning into a milky-white color

The color of your engine oil can tell a lot of things about what is going on with the interior of your vehicle. Usually, the oil of your engine turns into a milky-white color when water gets mixed into it. A leaky head gasket can cause this problem. The water that fused with your engine oil may be coming from the cooling system of your car. Coolant can also turn oil to change in color. You must address this problem right away since it is a clear indicator of a head gasket failure that can in turn make the engine fail. Having a blown head gasket can also reduce the lubrication that the engine needs to provide to get your car running smoothly. 


  • Your engine is overheating

Overheating can be one of the primary pointers of a blown head gasket. Your car can easily overheat for several reasons but having a damaged head gasket is among the most serious ones. You must not drive while your engine is overheating. If you are on the road, pull over as soon as you can and open the hood and your car windows to let air in. Call a mechanic right away. 


Can you drive with a broken head gasket?


It is not advisable to drive with a broken head gasket. Your car can still move even when the head gasket is blown or broken. Technically, you can drive with a broken gasket for about a month and after that, your car will be suffering significant damage, and eventually, it will fail. It is not worth the risk. 


The best thing to do when you have a blown head gasket is to have the problem fixed. Normally, engine failure starts with a small crack in the head gasket that grows over time. When the crack increases in size, coolant leaks occur, and the car experiences the symptoms mentioned above. When those symptoms manifest, you might be already driving with a bad head gasket without knowing it. There is no surety that your car can endure such damage. 


Is it worth fixing a blown head gasket? A resounding yes. Not only will you get the most of the driving experience, you will also be rest assured that you can drive safely. Watch out for the symptoms of a bad head gasket and you can prevent a lot of problems in the long run. Replacing a broken head gasket may be pricey, but it sure is worth it. If there are other problems, it is also a good choice to get your vehicle checked by a professional.

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