While you might not even know what your car’s head gasket does, you likely know that a blown head gasket is bad news. If you suspect you might have head gasket issues, you really need to verify what is indeed causing the problem. A blown head gasket could be a big problem, but you might be able to repair things before it gets that far. Let’s take a look at the causes and symptoms of a blown head gasket as well as repair costs for head gasket issues.
What Causes A Blown Head Gasket
One of the main culprits of a blown head gasket is overheating. Head gaskets are not indestructible, and the constant heat and pressure that they experience really takes a toll on their integrity. They are typically made from multi-layer steel, although they can also be made from copper or a composite material. They are designed to withstand temperatures within the car’s normal operating range. When those temperatures rise higher than they are supposed to be, the head gasket begins to break down and can fail.
Another thing that causes head gaskets to fail is pressure. Again, your vehicle compresses the air and fuel mixture inside the combustion chamber to a standard pressure. If you decide to add performance enhancing parts such as a turbo or supercharger, then this greatly increases the pressure inside the combustion chamber. This additional pressure might be more than your head gasket can handle. Too much pressure can cause the gasket to blow and experience a catastrophic failure.
Symptoms Of A Blown Head Gasket
So, how do you know if you have a blown head gasket? One of the first symptoms that may point in that direction is a loss of engine performance. When your head gasket no longer seals the cylinder heads to the engine block, your engine cannot maintain proper compression. This loss of compression can have drastic effects on your engine performance.
Another thing that might signal a blown head gasket is a mixture of your engine fluids. If your coolant and oil become mixed, this could be caused from a bad head gasket. The head gasket must form a perfect seal as these fluids travel through the channels in the engine. Otherwise, the fluids can become mixed as they pass between the block and heads. You might notice that your oil is milky and frothy or your coolant is dark and murky. If you see this, then you should immediately stop driving your car and have it checked for a blown head gasket.
We have a detailed guide looking Subaru head gasket issues if that is your area of research.
Repair Techniques And Cost
If you do have a blown head gasket, you should know that repairing a damaged head gasket can be pricey. When the head gasket experiences total failure and needs to be replaced, the repair can cost anywhere from $1,000 – $2,000. While the gasket itself is not extremely expensive, the job requires many hours of labor to complete. You will need an experienced mechanic to perform the job, and they typically charge anywhere from $50 – $150 per hour.
Some folks are lucky enough to catch their head gasket problem early enough that they do not require total replacement. In some cases, you may be able to use a sealant placed into the coolant reservoir that will repair small cracks and issues. These sealers are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased for $25 or less. Just know that they only work on very small cracks and will not fix a completely blown head gasket.
Head gasket repair costs can be very high, especially if you plan on selling your vehicle later on, so it is imperative that you catch them early before any further damage is done. Caught early enough, you might be able to seal the gasket with an inexpensive fix. If, however, the gasket needs replacement, then expect to spend $1,000 or more for that repair. Be sure you know the signs and symptoms so that you can get your car to a mechanic right away if you suspect you may have an issue!