Blown Head Gasket: Causes And Costs To Repair It

The car repair cost is an unavoidable burden on the car owner’s pocket. When it comes to the cost of a full-blown cylinder head gasket, you should know that the average cost of repairing a blown head gasket is between $1,000 to $2,000, in some cases till $2,500. However, you should also have some information on how a burnt cylinder head gasket to understand the repairs your car may undergo.

Head Gasket: What Is It? What Does It Do?

A head gasket might appear as an insignificant part of your engine. It consists of several layers of steel and elastomer, thick and thin, intertwined within holes. The head gasket sits between the engine block and the cylinder to create an airtight seal in the internal combustion engine. This allows the engine to carry out the combustion reaction safely inside the cylinder, sealing it like coolant and oil. The tight seal provides the compression needed to run the engine.

Some gaskets present inside older and high-end cars are made of copper rather than multilayer steel. A copper seal is usually very strong, so if you have a blown seal, chances are less than its copper. Copper, being a soft metal and capable enough to fit snugly in compact places, forms an exceptional seal between the engine block and cylinder head. Compound cylinder head gaskets in older vehicles are made from materials such as asbestos and graphite, the least reliable material for seal.

Fortunately, such material is not used anymore, so if you have a new car that won’t be a problem.

What Causes The Head Gasket To Fail?

The term “blown” describes what happens to a cylinder head gasket. Since the cylinder must maintain the compression, otherwise, the thermal pressure can damage the head seal, breaking it and causing an explosion.

However, this is only one of several possible causes, so let’s take a look at others.

Improper Seal Installation

Improper seal installation is a potential cause of a blown seal. This may be due to the fact that the gasket is the wrong size and is not designed for your car or has been installed inaccurately.

Seals Wearing Out

Some seals can easily wear out with time. This is more common with a composite seal, but it can also happen with multilayer steel.

Hot Spots

Hot spots can be more difficult to predict as a cause for gaskets to burn. Some engines are designed for specific cylinder head gasket filling certain areas of the cylinder head. Replacing the factory seal may expose no longer protected hot spots, damaging the new seal faster.

Abnormal Combustion

Abnormal combustion can also blow up the head gasket. If there is a problem with fuel injection or engine ignition, it can cause excessive tension inside the cylinder head gasket. This gasket will deteriorate over time, causing it to explode soon.

High Temperatures

High temperatures can be the most common cause of blown head gaskets. On the high temperature, the coolant soon starts leaking, causing the engine to overheat, and the gasket cracks open due to heat expansion.

There are many reasons for a blown head gasket. Finding out the right reason is the best way to solve the problem. The type of gasket will also be included in the repair costs.

How Can You Figure Out A Blown Head Gasket?

No one wants to blow the head gasket as it will cost a lot to repair it, but how do you know if this happened in the first place?

Signs of a Blown Head gasket

Here is a list of few things that could mean a blown head gasket:

  • White smoke from the exhaust indicates a burning coolant and is a potential sign of a head gasket. Blue smoke from burning oil can also mean the same thing.
  • If the oil becomes milky or frothy, it means that it has been contaminated with a burnt gasket.
  • The engine is usually at high temperature every now, and then you drive your car.
  • The constant omission of the cylinder is often the result of a blown head seal. Lack of proper compression causes it to blow.
  •  The refrigerant is contamination. If the oil penetrates inside it, a film will be formed on the top resembling mayonnaise.
  • You find external refrigerant leaks under the drain pipe.

If you notice any of these symptoms, then take it as a hint for a problem with a blown head gasket. You should definitely go to the mechanic for inspection as soon as possible.

A Blown Head Gasket: Repair or Replace?

You must be thinking if repairing a blown head gasket is useful? The answer is Yes! If the blown head gasket is not repaired in time, there is a risk of damage resulting in a cascade. You can’t ignore a burnt cylinder head gasket and expect your car to be in good condition. This can damage the ignition system, fuel injection system, exhaust system, and then you will be left with just one possibility that is repair or replacement of the entire engine. At this point, depending on the age and condition of the rest of the vehicle, this could result in the complete loss of the vehicle, which can’t be repaired any longer. So, by spending $1,000 to $2,000 to repair the head gasket, you could save all the cost of a new vehicle if you deal with the problem on time.

At this point, you need to consider the value of your car as a whole. If you own an old model, then is it worth investing $2,000 or more to repair it? Your decision should depend on the age and value of your car and the time and effort you are ready to invest in it. You can consider selling your car as junk and switching to something more reliable.

Why Does It Cost A Lot To Repair A Full-blown Head Gasket?

The cylinder head gasket itself is not an expensive part. You can easily purchase one online for $20 – $50, but that’s not what you only pay for here. Don’t forget the hard work required to fix it. The engine must be towed to repair the burnt cylinder head gasket. It can take as long as several days to be fixed.

It will take some time to disassemble the engine, and it will take even longer to reassemble it. The reels only work if they are appropriately fitted, and calibrating them once more is not something you can imagine. This is a very complex repair and needs to be done very carefully, depending on how busy your mechanic is, otherwise the situation could actually get worse. The repair actually covers most of the cost you pay for fixing a blown head gasket.

Is Driving With A Blown Head Gasket Safe?

If you can start your car after blowing the head gasket off, that’s great. However, you really shouldn’t drive it unless you’re literally on the road for a mechanic. It can damage your engine. The longer you drive, the less likely you would want to continue. Driving with a blown head gasket can get the water into the engine, oil into the radiator, gasoline into the coolant, destroying spark plugs, damage internal sensors, and more. So, basically, you are signing up for a dangerous mess with the engine components.

There is a product you can buy to drive safely. It is a bottle of sodium silicate and other additives, a type of liquid glass with embedded fibers. Pour this mixture into the radiator and pass it through your car engine for about half an hour, it will bond to the gasket forming a heat-resistant seal. This temporary repair and the liquid sealant will only last for some time, but it would definitely help you take the damaged car to the mechanic. Most importantly, this product only costs around $13, so it’s clearly a low-budget to work it out for the time being.

How Can You Prevent Head Gasket From Blowing?

Taking care of certain aspects can help you to prevent the cylinder head gasket from going out, so you don’t have to face a cost burden immediately.

Don’t Miss The Recommended Oil Changes On The User Manual 

Many drivers don’t pay attention to it for a long time, but there is a reason why your guide will recommend changing the oil after covering a certain kilometer. Watch out for it closely as possible to extend the life of all engine parts, including the cylinder head gasket.

Monitor Engine Temperatures

If you find your car running with the red temperature gauge too often, then get it checked immediately. The longer your car is hot, the more likely you are to throw away the cylinder head gasket.

Pay Attention To The Oil And Coolant Of The Car

The owner’s manual will tell you exactly what type of oil and coolant you should use, so make sure you follow the instructions and get the right thing.

Look Out For The Engine 

If your car has an engine failure, take it to the mechanic to diagnose it and repair it as soon as possible.

Summing It All Up

To put it simply, you should avoid driving with a blown head gasket at all costs. If absolutely necessary, a sealant blend could help you get a little more life out of your seal. Repairing a burnt cylinder head gasket is one of the most expensive repairs you can pay for as a car owner.

There are legitimately only three or four other repairs that can be more expensive, such as replacing the whole engine, so you really need to take this issue seriously if you don’t want to spend more money than necessary. Just remember that the longer you wait, the more expensive it will be.