Blown head gasket symptoms

What causes a blown head gasket

A head gasket can not only wear over time but also during heavy usage. Problems can occur:

  • as soon as the engine is operating while its coolant is running low
  • when coolant is leaking
  • when the cooling system is failing

The engine is likely to get overheated resulting in damaged head gaskets. It is therefore important to recognize the blown head gasket symptoms to avoid major car problems.

Overheated engine

Engine parts are made of metal so when the engine is overheated, the metal body of the engine expands and may end up in a blown gasket.

Abnormal combustion

Another cause that leads to a blown head gasket is abnormal combustion when the flame does not spread evenly and smoothly through the combustion chamber. This leads to pre-ignition or detonation problems of an engine, which puts extra strain on the valves and the head gasket.

Installation problems

Not only coolant problems can cause a blown head gasket but also installation problems like a wrong bolt sequence and wrong torque settings. Also damaged bolts and wrong choice of material for the head gasket can cause head gasket problems that may lead to a blown head gasket.

Head gasket material

An aluminium head gasket has a higher chance of having a blown head gasket due to the high thermal expansion rate of aluminium. A head gasket made out of iron is a better choice as it has a lower thermal expansion rate.

Structural engine problems may lead to an overheated engine resulting in blown head gaskets. Again, realize that knowing all blown head gasket symptoms is crucial to prevent major car troubles.

Blown head gasket symptoms

The blown head gasket symptoms and the problems it can cause are:

  • A leak between coolant and cylinder resulting in a sweet smelling white exhaust smoke along with water droplets from the exhaust pipe when cooling water gets into the cylinder: If the coolant level dropped suddenly, then the head gasket could be blown up
  • Coolant can reach the oil system, causing the oil to become thick
  • Oil can reach the coolant: If you notice a frothy formation on the dipstick, then the head gasket could be blown up
  • Chronic Engine Overheating: a consistently high temperature of the car engine will lead eventually to a blown head gasket, always keep an eye on the engine temperature gauge on the dashboard.
  • Popping of Coolant Overflow Tank Cap: Shut down the engine and remove the tank cap and if it makes a popping sound, that means the cooling system is still pressurized even after engine has shutdown. Definitely a blown head gasket problem.

Blown head gasket symptoms example: white smoke from the exhaust pipe
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You can save yourself a lot of money if blown head gasket symptoms are diagnosed early.

How to repair a Blown Head Gasket

You can do a head gasket repair by yourself. But you need experience, knowledge, time and a lot of patience to get the job done. If you decide to take you car to a car repair center, you need to know that head gasket repair is expensive. The biggest cost factor by far is labor costs when repairing the head gasket by a professional. This is because of the time required to replace the head gasket.

Blown Head Gasket Repair Cost

Not correctly identifying blown head gasket symptoms can result in high repair costs. The average costs of a head gasket repair are between $1300 and $1400. The labor costs are between $900 and $1000, head gasket parts are between $300 and $500.


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