There are some makes or models of cars that have a reputation for blowing head gaskets. One such vehicle has such a bad reputation for head gasket problems there is a group of owners trying to get the manufacturer to have a recall on them. If you happen to own one of these vehicles, don’t worry it does not mean that you have a bad car or that you are going to spend lots of money.
Learning what blown head gasket symptoms look like is one of the best ways to avoid higher expenses due to additional engine damage caused by driving with a blown head gasket. To understand the symptoms it can be helpful to understand what the head gasket does in your vehicle’s engine.
Why Do Head Gaskets Blow?
The head gasket forms a seal between the engine block and the cylinder head. This seals both the combustion chamber and the coolant and oil passages in your engine. This means your head gasket has to seal both extremely hot, high-pressure combustion gases as well as engine coolant which can be anywhere from cold ambient temperatures to the normal operating temperature of your engine. Due to the wide range of temperatures and relatively large surface area, it is not unusual for head gaskets to develop leaks over time. To better understand why, check out this article on why head gaskets blow.
Since the head gasket seals the coolant passage both from the atmosphere and the combustion chamber you can’t see much of the head gasket on a vehicle with the engine installed. Because much of the gasket can’t be seen without disassembling the engine, blown head gaskets symptoms can be very difficult to diagnose. Since a visual inspection usually will not prove a head gasket leak, it is important to know the other symptoms so you can accurately diagnose a head gasket problem.
How To Tell if a Head Gasket Is Blown:
- Coolant leaking externally from below the exhaust manifold
- White smoke from the exhaust pipe
- Bubbles in the radiator or coolant overflow tank
- Overheating engine
- White milky oil
- Fouled spark plugs
- Low cooling system integrity
External Head Gasket Leak
A head gasket leaking external would cause coolant to come from below the exhaust manifold and often only happens when the engine is completely warmed up. If there are no other cooling passages or hoses near the head gasket you may be able to positively identify the leak as a head gasket leak, but if there are other cooling passages nearby, a cooling system pressure test with dye in the coolant may be the best way to identify the leak.
White Smoke From Tailpipe
Most head gasket leaks are internal to the engine allowing coolant to flow into the combustion chamber on every intake stroke. When this happens to coolant burns/evaporates with the combustion process and appears as white smoke coming from the tailpipe. This smoke can be differentiated from moisture during a cold start by a sweet smell and will continue even when the engine is warm.
Bubbles in the Radiator
The same problem can cause bubbles to be in the radiator or coolant reservoir making the coolant look like it’s boiling even when it’s cold. The bubbles are exhaust gases that force their way into the cooling system during the combustion process. You can perform a chemical test on your coolant to check for the presence of exhaust gases to see if this is happening in your car and is a positive sign of a blown head gasket.
If you’ve got a blown head gasket, your engine usually will overheat after longer drives. This happens both due to the lack of coolant as your engine consumes it, but also the efficient combustion process, the excess heat from the exhaust in the coolant and the inability of your vehicle’s radiator to cool the dirty coolant.
White or Milky Oil
As coolant leaks into your combustion chamber, it will seep past your piston rings into your oil. Over time oil and water will mix and cause the oil to turn a milky white. You can look for this on your dipstick and around your engine oil cap.
Fouled Spark Plug
As coolant burns in your combustion chamber, it will leave tiny white deposits on your spark plug usually around the ground strap and electrode. Other problems can cause these white deposits so this isn’t a conclusive blown head gasket symptom but if others are present it could give you more proof.
Low Cooling System Integrity
If there is a leak from your head gasket, pressurizing your cooling system and watching for pressure loss can help prove you have a blown head gasket as well. Since there could be other leaks you don’t know about, this also isn’t a conclusive test, but again just more indications that you may have a blown head gasket.
Can I Drive With a Blown Head Gasket?
If you have multiple blown head gasket symptoms, it is important to drive your vehicle as little as possible. The hot gases and cold coolant moving through the hole in the gasket can quickly erode or warp the metal head or engine block leaving you with costly machining bills or even having to purchase new heads or a new engine and having water in your engine oil can destroy bearings quickly.
To quickly and permanently seal your blown head gasket, go to your local auto parts store and pick up one of BlueDevil’s head gasket sealing products. If you have a small leak or 4 or 6 cylinder engine pick up BlueDevil Pour-N-Go 16oz Head Gasket Sealer. Simply add it to your radiator and your head gasket leak will be sealed as your drive! For larger leaks or 8 cylinder engines, use BlueDevil Head Gasket Sealer. BlueDevil Head Gasket Sealer requires the removal of your vehicle’s thermostat and a complete cooling system flush but is guaranteed to fix your blown head gasket!
Don’t risk getting stranded or damaging your vehicle’s engine by driving with a blown head gasket. Stop by your local auto part store today and pick up the quick and easy solution from BlueDevil!
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