A head gasket is a seal that sits between the cylinder head and engine block. It’s a fairly vital part that doesn’t need too much attention until it fails.
The head gasket maintains the compression while also preventing leakage of coolant and oil into the cylinders. It negotiates a vast range of temperatures and pressures, so over time, it’s likely to end up leaking or cracking, which leads it to “blow”, or fail.
Some symptoms of a blown head gasket are subtle, while others, literally, send smoke signals. The symptoms below could indicate a major engine problem:
If you notice the coolant or oil leaking on or around the cylinder head or engine block, it could be an indication that the head gasket is no longer sealed.
The worst thing about a sub-standard head gasket is that it tends to allow the engine to overheat. Since the coolant is probably leaking out somewhere, the cooling system will underperform. And if the engine’s oil is contaminated, there will be more friction in the engine, and that means even more heat!
If the head gasket is bad, the coolant might work its way into the engine. White smoke coming from the tailpipe of your vehicle is a classic sign that the engine is burning coolant, and a leakage of the head gasket is one of the most common reasons that this can happen.
The head gasket is designed to keep the oil and coolant in their individual channels. A blown head gasket can allow coolant to get into the oil system where they will mix together. As you know, oil and water don't mix, and coolant is mostly made up of water with a few added chemicals to prevent corrosion, help clean the engine and keep the coolant from freezing on cold days. The coolant getting into the oil will reduce its ability to properly lubricate and protect your car’s engine.
A blown head gasket allows the oil or coolant to leak into the engine internally, which can cause the spark plugs to become fouled - coated with oil or coolant. This will prevent it from forming a spark properly, and will lead to problems like misfires, poor fuel economy and reduced performance. To get this problem fixed, you will need to have the fouled spark plugs replaced with new ones. And then the head gasket needs to be fixed.
The best way to prevent the failure of head gasket in your car is to get regular oil changes, to keep the engine coolant at the proper level with the correct mixture according to the manufacturer’s recommendation and maintain your car according to the manufacturer's recommended schedule.
If you're driving and notice that the engine sounds funny or is running hot, or if you experience coolant leaks on the ground or garage floor, have it immediately checked out by our professional technicians. Quick response and timing can be the difference between getting your current engine repaired or needing a whole new engine.