How to Tell If You Have a Blown Head Gasket

By: HowStuffWorks.com Contributors  | 

The head gasket plays a very important role in the function of your car's engine, and a blown head gasket can cause serious damage and lead to major repairs. A head gasket is a seal that is fitted between the piston cylinder head and the engine block. The car's engine is an internal combustion engine. For combustion to occur inside the piston chamber, high compression pressure must be achieved. The head gasket seals the combustion process and prevents the coolant and engine oil from mixing together in the combustion chamber. A blown head gasket can cause engine malfunction and significant loss of engine power [source: Bumbeck]. Let us now learn how to tell if you have a blown head gasket.

  • Watch your engine temperature gauge. If your car is constantly overheating it may be a symptom of a blown head gasket.
  • Check the engine coolant level. If the car is constantly losing coolant, it may be because your car's coolant is leaking from the cooling system into the oil pan. This happens when the head gasket is blown.
  • Check your car's oil level with the oil dipstick. If you notice froth on the dipstick, there may be coolant mixed in with the oil due to a faulty head gasket.
  • Watch for sweet smelling white smoke with water droplets coming from the exhaust pipe. This could be a sign that the head gasket has been blown off [source: Cars Direct].

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Originally Published: Jun 27, 2011

Blown Head Gasket FAQ

How much does it cost to replace a head gasket?
According to Repair Pal, the average cost is $1,285 and $1,568 to replace a head gasket.
Can you drive a car with a blown head gasket?
No, this is actually dangerous. The engine could overheat and start a fire, or coolant could enter the cylinders and cause other problems.
How do I know if my head gasket is blown?
Watch your engine temperature gauge. If your car is constantly overheating it may be a symptom of a blown head gasket.
What happens if you blow a head gasket?
A blown head gasket can cause engine malfunction and significant loss of engine power.
What causes a head gasket to fail?
The most common reason for a head gasket to fail is an overheating engine.

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