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What Causes A Blown Head Gasket?

What Causes A Blown Head Gasket

There is nothing more frustrating than hearing “your vehicle has a blown head gasket” from your mechanic!

⚠️ If It's Broken, Don't Fix It - Get Paid Cash for Your Vehicle ⚠️

Immediately you will be thinking about “what causes a blown head gasket?” and how did my vehicle get to this point needing thousands of dollars to get repaired?

Read on for answers to most of your questions related to a blown head gasket.

At the end of this article, we highlight some of the most frequently asked questions on Quora about the causes of a blown head gasket. 

What is your vehicle’s head gasket?


The head gasket is one of the most critical components of any combustion system. It sits right on top of the cylinders to maintain the required operating compression and prevent liquids from leaking inside the cylinders.

The head gasket is exposed to extreme conditions, including the continuous expansion and shrinking of both the cylinders and the engine block. It also withstands the passage of coolant and oil around the engine.

Why do I have a blown head gasket?


The head gasket is explicitly designed to withstand all the mentioned extreme conditions and extreme temperatures from the engine.

If the engine’s temperature gets higher than the operating limit, it is most likely to deal with a blown head gasket. This additional heat from both the engine’s block and the cylinders causes the head gasket to get damaged. 

What causes a blown head gasket?


while the engine’s age might be a strong reason for a blown head gasket, there are usually two leading causes for a blown head gasket, including:


  • Car overheating


The first and primary cause for a blown head gasket is engine overheating, as we mentioned earlier.

As your engine overheats, it expands and affects the level of cylinder sealing by the head gasket. 

This head gasket is not designed to withstand too high temperatures above the operating limit.

As a result of overheating, your head gasket will blow out.

One way to visually confirm the issue is by monitoring the smoke coming out of the exhaust system. If the smoke has a strange while color, it indicates a coolant leak to the cylinder.


  • Issues with ignition timing


A second probable cause of a blown head gasket is an issue with the ignition timing. 

Your ignition must happen at the right moment needed by the combustion system. If there were a slight shift in ignition timing, a lot of pressure would be sent to the cylinder’s head, causing a blown head gasket. 

To confirm its the ignition causing the issue, you might need to look for signs of the engine running rough right after starting the engine. 

Can I prevent a blown head gasket?


Since the leading causes of a blown head gasket are issues with the engine overheating and cylinder’s pressure, you need to make sure your vehicle doesn’t have any of these problems by:


  • Maintain the engine at operating temperatures to prevent a blown head gasket


The most common source of engine overheating is a problem with any component of the cooling system.

Your cooling system consists of the coolant, the water pump, the thermostat, the radiator, and the hoses. 

The coolant is the primary liquid responsible for bringing the engine’s temperature down. There are a lot of situations where your vehicle runs low on coolant. Therefore temperature exceeds the optimum level. Once the engine shows signs of overheating, the thermostat opens and allows the coolant to run around the machine. 

The thermostat might quickly get stuck closed, resulting in preventing the coolant from flowing around the engine, causing engine overheating.

Therefore, you need to maintain regular checking on the thermostat and make sure it works properly.

The water pump is responsible for providing the required pressure to the coolant liquid to allow it to flow around the engine as needed. Again, if the water pump has a problem, the machine will not cool down due to insufficient coolant pressure.

The radiator ensures that the coolant’s temperature drops as it passes around the radiator to continue its job of cooling down the engine. 

Finally., the hoses are responsible for transporting the coolant around the engine and to the radiator. If the hoses have any leaks, they allow air to get to the system, reduce the coolant level, and disturb the cooling system’s efficiency.


  • Keep the optimum pressure on the cylinders to prevent a blown head gasket


The cylinders operate under continuous pressure, and there is a high chance that this pressure gets above the required limit, causing a blown head gasket. 

Therefore, it is essential to maintain continuous repairs to the pressure sensors in the cylinders and make sure they are working correctly—all the time.

What are the main signs of a blown head gasket?


Usually, the head gasket would tell you when it’s going to blow out before it even does. 

luckily, there is a list of signs of a blown head gasket, including:


  • Strange smokes coming out of the exhaust system


Since the head gasket is responsible for sealing the cylinders and preventing coolant leaks, a blown head gasket allows coolant and oil to make their way to the cylinders.

In the cylinder itself, things get burned with a certain amount of air-fuel ratio. Imagine what happens if you introduced a new fluid to the cylinder as it is trying to burn the oil fuel mixture?

  • The exhaust system will produce weird smokes indicating oil and coolant being burned in the cylinder.


  • Some water coming out of the tailpipe


A blown head gasket allows a lot of coolants to get to the cylinders. The combustion system can not burn the coolant during the explosion; it only ignites the air-fuel mixture.

That’s why you might see some water leaking out of the exhaust tailpipe.


  • Chocolate-milk like substance under the oil cap


This is one of the most obvious signs to confirm a blown head gasket. As the head gasket goes wrong, the engine’s oil gets contaminated with coolant causing something like a chocolate-milk-like substance under the oil cap.

Therefore, the first thing that can 100% confirm your head gasket causing the problems is this symptom.


How much does it cost to replace a blown head gasket?


Replacing a blown head gasket usually costs between $1,000 and $2,000.

It is important to note that most of this repair cost goes to the labor cost, not the parts costs. 

Replacing a head gasket is one of the most complicated repairs that you might be dealing with. It doesn’t only require a certain level of mechanical skillsets; it also requires a very long time sometimes up to a couple of days. 

Therefore, before making a final decision to repair your head gasket, you must sit down and do a quick evaluation about whether it’s worth replacing a blown head gasket or not. 

To do so, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my vehicle already have high mileage?
  • Are there other significant problems in the vehicle like issues with the transmission or the engine?
  • Are repair costs getting closer to the vehicle’s value? 

If you answered any of these mentioned questions by “yes,” it is usually not worth replacing your blown head gasket. 

Instead, you might need to think of junking your car to Cash Cars Buyer!

At Cash Cars Buyer, we buy all cars from all makes, models, and years despite their condition. In other words, if your engine has a blown head gasket, our team will still buy it! 

You never need to pay any penny for towing your vehicle; we provide free towing for all customers despite their living location.

Our process is very straightforward. All that you need to do is to visit our main website and choose “Get Instant Offer.”

If the offer sounds reasonable to you, you can go ahead and schedule a pickup time and location, get your car removed, and receive your cash payment right on the spot!

Frequently asked questions about a blown head gasket.


In this section, we cover some of the most frequently asked questions about the causes of a blown head gasket on both Quora website:


  • Can you drive your car with a blown head gasket?


According to Ryan’s answer that more than 16 people found it useful, 

“So, how long will your car last? It’s impossible to tell. As you can see from my experiences, some engines are tougher than others and let’s just say that they don’t build them like they used to. If you can’t afford to have it fixed right now, park it and don’t risk further damage; get to know your local public transportation systems and the joys of walking. Save your money and fix it right. Find out what happened to blow the head gasket in the first place and make sure you do whatever you can to prevent a repeat situation.”


  • What are the top five causes for a blown head gasket?


In her answer, Supriya Malhorta mentioned that you could-ignition problems and a bad head gasket.

More specifically, she mentioned that “In some cases, the unique head gasket for the automobile can just be badly designed and the poor design can be a reason for a blown head gasket over some time.”

And also added, “There are engines which might be at risk of hot spots among the center cylinders within the cylinder head.”


  • How long does it take to repair a head gasket?


According to Glen McMillian’s answer, the time required to repair a blown head gasket varies by engine’s complexity “On some simple older vehicles, it is possible to do the job in three or four hours total, maybe even less, but there are very few such vehicles still in service.”

He also added that more modern vehicles require at least one whole day before getting the job done “On modern cars, it usually takes at the MINIMUM a full day if the mechanic is very highly skilled and quick and has done the job a couple of times on the same model.”


  • Where does coolant go when a car has a blown head gasket?


Jim Thompson, an ASE certified auto mechanic, indicated that there three prominent central locations the coolant might leak into, including: to the oil pathways, the cylinder, or the engine’s exterior.

He mentioned, “The most common leak on failed head gaskets is where the coolant is drawn into a cylinder.”

He also added, “… there are many cooling system leaks that are difficult to find, especially those under the dash. Sometimes you don't find these until you realize the carpet under the passenger floor mat is sopping wet. In your case, I wouldn't assume the head gasket is the cause until everything else is thoroughly inspected and tested.”




The head gasket is responsible for preventing fluids from leaking to the cylinders and maintaining the required compression in the cylinder’s block.

The head gasket’s critical position is located at, and it is exposed to extreme temperature and pressure from both the engine’s block and the cylinders.

It is not surprising to wonder, “what causes a blown head gasket?” because you can deal with such a problem any time.

The primary causes for a blown head gasket are engine overheating and pre-ignition timing.

To prevent dealing with a blown head gasket, you need to maintain an acceptable temperature range for your engine by regularly check your cooling system components. 

Furthermore, you need to keep the optimum operating pressure by repairing any issue with pressure sensors.

If you noticed any sign of a blown head gasket, you must take your vehicle to a professional mechanic as soon as possible and get it fixed. 

That been said, if the repair costs are getting closer to the value of your vehicle, you might need to consider junking your car with a blown head gasket instead of fixing it.

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