Head Gasket Repair Cost

How much does head gasket repair cost? Are you looking to repair your engine’s head gasket for better performance?

An essential part of a vehicle’s engine is the head gasket which covers cylinder heads in the engine block. Without the head gasket, an engine will not work as it ought to.

The head gasket may fail, if this may happen, the effects will be evident on the vehicle’s performance. If a vehicle’s head gasket blows, it could have several effects, which will certainly require a repair or replacement. So, what will a blown head gasket repair cost a vehicle owner?

Everything that needs to be known about replacing a blown head gasket and other related topics will be discussed here. 

Let’s get started!

Although, the cost of labor that comes with repairing or replacing a blown head gasket, is very high because the task can be time-consuming and complex, which will take a qualified mechanic a lot of time to complete. Hence, it is quite an expensive task. Considering the prices of scrap cars at this particular time, many vehicle owners prefer to sell off their vehicles and purchase new ones, instead of wasting extra money on some old ones.

Replacing a head gasket may be very cheap if the replacement is not complete or total. This means that assuming all that is needed to repair a blown head gasket is the gasket sealer, all it may take to repair the gasket in this instance may be as little as $20. Also, this task may be done by the vehicle owner, as all that needs to be done is to pour sealant into the vehicle’s engine.

Symptoms Of A Blown Head Gasket

The mere fact that a vehicle is not working, should not be solely linked to a damaged head gasket. Nonetheless, a lot of undeniable signs that indicate problems with a blown head gasket exist, and some very popular signs of a damaged gasket are discussed below:

White Exhaust Smoke

A thin white smoke from a vehicle’s exhaust can be a normal occurrence when a vehicle is started in cold weather. It is just condensed moisture present in the vehicle’s cylinders being condensed. Regardless, if the white, thick smoke does not stop after a couple of minutes of not driving, it could be a problem because the vehicle’s coolant may have found a way into the cylinders, due to the damaged head gasket.

A blown or damaged head gasket is the only way a large quantity of moisture could find its way into a vehicle’s engine cylinder. When it finds a way into the engine’s cylinder and the engine is started, the coolant burns with the fuel and air mixture, and this causes the white smoke that is seen coming out of the exhaust. Suppose the smoke persists or becomes even worse after driving for a while, in that case, the next thing to consider is to stop driving the vehicle and have it examined by a qualified mechanic immediately.

Unless the vehicle uses diesel, it should not produce smoke of any color. Exhaust smoke should be transparent and clear without any color. If a vehicle’s exhaust starts to pass out colored smoke.

Also Read: Head Gasket Replacement Cost

Bubbles In Radiator

A damaged head gasket will free up space for the ignition gases, to find a way into the vehicle’s cooling system, which will cause bubbling in the radiator. On the other hand, when a head gasket is in good shape, it does not stop coolant from finding its way into the cylinder heads alone, but it also stops the hot gases used by the combustor, from entering the cooling system.

To know if bubbles in a radiator:

  • Wait until the vehicle has cooled off, for two hours or after driving.
  • Take the radiator cap off.
  • After this, start the vehicle and keep a close eye on the coolant in the radiator.

If a small amount of bubble is found, the vehicle could be normal as the air trapped in the radiator is finding its way out. But if the bubbling continues after the vehicle has been idle for about 10 to 20 minutes, the head gasket may have gone bad and possibly damaged.

Difficulty Starting The Engine

As stated earlier, a damaged head gasket usually allows coolant to find a way into the engine cylinders. White exhaust smoke is not the only consequence, as it may also stop the air and fuel mixture in the engine cylinders from burning properly. This may cause ignition problems for the vehicle, or it can be rough even in a situation where it starts.

Recently made vehicles have a fuel injection system and usually do not encounter ignition problems unless there is an issue with the battery, like when it loses its charge.

However, difficulty in starting a vehicle can be caused by other factors like bad ignition coils, and spark plugs. For certain, older vehicles that use carburetors could experience a rough engine start. When none of these factors is responsible for the white exhaust smoke, then the head gasket of the vehicle should be looked at.

Frequent Overheating

A damaged head gasket may cause a vehicle to start overheating due to three factors, which are:

  • The oil combines with the coolant, and the coolant becomes less effective in taking heat away from the vehicle’s engine.
  • A good quantity of coolant has found a way into the engine cylinders from the cooling system, which means that the cooling system loses a large quantity of coolant.
  • The cooling system loses pressure, which reduces the rate at which the coolant boils. Consequently, the coolant burns and is converted to steam.

Overheating may occur due to various factors like having a damaged thermostat, a malfunctioning water pump, or a radiator leak. However, if other possible causes have been overruled, then it is likely Case that something has gone wrong with the vehicle’s head gasket.

Loss Of Pressure In The Cooling System

A vehicle’s cooling system is structured to add pressure to the engine, as it gets warm. This is because the boiling point of a pressurized coolant is lower than that which is not a pressurized. This is necessary, as it prevents the coolant from boiling and turning to steam while driving. If it turns to steam, it will result in overheating even when the driving conditions are normal.

Since a damaged head gasket can break the closed setup of a vehicle’s cooling system, making the engine lose pressure. A vehicle owner may choose to rent or buy tools, to test if the cooling system’s pressure is where it ought to be. 

To test the pressure of a vehicle’s cooling system, follow the procedure below:

Mixed Oil And Coolant

The function of a head gasket in a vehicle is to keep the oil and coolant where they should be placed while moving around the engine. For this reason, when there is a leak, a mixture of fluids may occur, which is not a good thing for an engine. If coolant finds its way into the engine, it can reduce lubricity, which will cause the engine to dilapidate. On the other hand, if oil mixes with coolant, it can result in overheating even when driving conditions are normal.

Check the oil dipstick, and look inside the radiator to determine if a mixture of these fluids has occurred. If coolant finds its way into the oil, the oil turns cream in color and tends to foam a lot. However, if oil mixes with coolant, black specks may be seen floating above the coolant in the vehicle’s radiator.

Cylinder Compression Loss

Compression loss in a cylinder or more can signify a damaged head gasket. This is because engine cylinders contain combustion gases (which is why they are usually sealed), which create energy and use the same to put the crankshaft into action, which makes the vehicle move.

The pressure in these cylinders can rise from at least 100 – 1,000 psi, although this will depend on the combustion level of the engine. For diesel engines, the pressure may go up as high as 2,000psi. Therefore, testing the cylinders becomes necessary to know whether a vehicle is losing its compression. Two ways to test cylinders are as follows:

  • Compression test: Put a compression tester inside the plug port of the engine cylinders, to check the amount of pressure being produced.
  • Leak-down test: A leak-down tester is used for this test, and it is used to force pressurized air into cylinders through their spark plug’s port, and then observe if it does not lose the air. If a cylinder does not hold, then it could be the case that the head gasket is damaged.

The accuracy of a leak-down test is a near-perfect way of knowing whether a vehicle is losing its combustion pressure or not. Regardless, never forget that damaged valves and piston rings are also capable of causing compression loss.

What Causes A Blown Head Gasket?

Head gaskets are usually produced from one composite steel, copper, or multi-layer steel. Although these materials can be very strong, it starts to fail if exposed to the pressure and heat that comes with a working engine. However, head gaskets can stay good for several miles, and even years if used as they should.

Certain factors may cause a vehicle’s head gasket to fail prematurely. The most common cause of head gasket failure is excessive heat. If an engine starts overheating, it can fail a head gasket as they are not built to handle severe temperatures, especially when the head gasket is produced with asbestos or graphite.

Another factor that can make head gaskets fail, is too much pressure. If a vehicle owner installs fairly used parts on a vehicle, this could increase the pressure of a vehicle’s engine cylinders and, consequently, make the head gasket fail. Many people who use performance parts on their vehicles, also adjust the engine’s head gasket to make it fit and handle extra wear and tear.

Head Gasket Repair Cost

Repair Options for Blown Head Gasket

What are the available options, if it is deemed necessary to fix a damaged head gasket? There are a few options that can be taken, and some are usually cheaper than others. Many people think of different ways to fix a damaged head gasket without replacing it. First of all, replacing the head gasket sealers may fix the problem. This is because sealants usually work when there is only a small leak. However, a blown head gasket will widen the space, making a sealant technically useless.

Applying sealants can be pretty easy. All that needs to be done is to pour the sealant into the vehicle’s engine, with the engine oil. Once this is done, start the vehicle, which should work normally. The sealant moves around the engine and blocks small cracks or spaces in the gasket, as it circulates.

When there is a more severe problem, a total replacement of the head gasket becomes necessary. A professional mechanic should be engaged for this task, or take it to a workshop. It can be difficult, and a little mechanical knowledge will be required to successfully undertake this task. A full replacement of a vehicle’s head gasket takes a lot of time and is quite expensive. The expected cost of replacing a blown head gasket will be discussed in the subsequent section.

Also Read: Temporary Fix for Crankshaft Position Sensor (Expert Guide)

Frequently Asked Questions – Head Gasket Repair Cost

Is it worth fixing a blown head gasket?

Generally, fixing a head gasket is necessary, when it gets damaged. While it may cost an average of $1,500 to fix this problem, it is not up to the amount spent on purchasing a new vehicle. However, if the vehicle is old and has developed other issues, spending such a huge amount on repairs may be unnecessary. Disposing of the vehicle should be considered, after which a new vehicle may be bought as a replacement.

Why is a blown head gasket so expensive?

A damaged head gasket can be expensive, due to how complex and time-consuming the task can be. On the other hand, a single head gasket can be very cheap and, in certain cases, does not cost more than $100. Although, a technician may need around 10 to 20 hours before concluding the task. The labor cost may range from $75 – $150 for every hour, which is summed up when paying the repair fees.

Can I drive a car with a blown head gasket?

When the head gasket of a vehicle is damaged, the engine might not stop working until the damage becomes too great. Regardless, if head gasket problems are noticed, it is better to stop driving the vehicle as this can cause more severe problems such as warped pistons, blown cylinder heads, and cracked engine blocks. Immediately you notice any of the symptoms mentioned earlier in the article, have a qualified mechanic check the vehicle.

Is it possible to replace a head gasket by oneself?

Definitely. A head gasket can be repaired by the vehicle owner himself, although it can be a very difficult thing to do. The appropriate tools and technical know-how, are also important to complete this task. Without the required knowledge and experience, no vehicle owner should try to replace a vehicle’s head gasket, as this can cause more problems for the vehicle, pushing up the repair cost.

Is it expensive to replace a head gasket?

What is the cost of replacing a head gasket? Statistics show that it will cost an average price of $1,624 to $1,979 to replace a damaged head gasket. In addition, the labor cost for this job ranges from $909 to $1147, and the cost of parts themselves costs between $715 to $832.

Is a head gasket a big deal?

A leaking head gasket can be a very big problem for a vehicle. Asides from the fact that it can make a vehicle engine lose its coolant and start overheating, if antifreeze finds a way into the engine cylinder, it can wash off the oil protecting the pistons and rings of the vehicle.

Does a blown head gasket mean a new engine?

No! A damaged head gasket causes serious problems for a vehicle’s engine, and can be very expensive to fix. This is because the head gasket has to distinguish between the head (the upper region of the engine that has all the valves), and the engine block (the bottom region of the engine where the cylinders are located).

How many labor hours does it take to replace a head gasket?

For newbies, head gasket replacements usually take about 3 to 8 hours, based on the structure of the vehicle and the procedure it takes to dismantle and remount it. Labor cost takes a large share of the cost paid for a head gasket replacement. In addition to the cost of labor, more replacement parts need to be added for this task.

Is it better to replace the head gasket or engine?

Water finding a way into oil will make a vehicle’s bearing start to rust and wear out faster. For example, suppose a leak in the head gasket has led to this problem. In that case, it is advisable to have the whole engine replaced, because replacing the head gasket will stop the leakage, although it may not necessarily improve the damage caused to the bearing.

Why are head gaskets so expensive?

The expensive nature of replacing a head gasket, can generally be attributed to the labor needed to fix this issue, and not necessarily what is paid to get the replacement part. However, replacing a vehicle’s head gasket is a task that consumes a lot of time, because the engine head is usually taken out, and a new one is put in its place.

Can I replace a head gasket myself?

Replacing a head gasket is not something that some random vehicle owner should do. Although it is not common for head gaskets to expire due to old age, when this occurs, it means the gaskets have worn out completely, to a point where the only solution is to replace them. Taking the head off a vehicle’s engine, checking inside might show, and prove the wholesome damage.

Can a head gasket be temporarily fixed?

Engine block sealers may bHead Head e used as a temporary fix, or may even solve the problem permanently, if there is a tiny leak in a vehicle’s gasket. However, if it is serious, have a professional mechanic replace the damaged head gasket.

Conclusion – Head Gasket Repair Cost

A very important part of a vehicle’s engine is the head gasket, and when the gasket fails, it may result in oil leaks, overheating coolant leaks, and other problems.

While a vehicle may continue to work even with a tiny head gasket leak, it will become self-evident when total damage to the head gasket occurs. The best thing to do in this situation is to immediately stop driving such a vehicle and have it examined by a professional mechanic.

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