Using a Pressure Gauge to Check A Head Gasket

Cars don’t stop working all of a sudden and they give away symptoms of minor problems that can lead to major repair. A blown head gasket is one of the common complaints you get to hear from car owners and it results in overheating of the car. Due to wear and tear and poor maintenance, the head gasket can develop cracks or even blow under pressure. Typically, a head gasket only costs $100, but the replacement cost may be as much as $2000 due to the extensive labor involved. That is why you have to use a pressure gauge to determine whether you have a problem with the head gasket. Using the right tools, anyone can easily identify problem with a head gasket and save money with DIY repair.

A cracked or blown head gasket can produce various problems with your car. Burning up of coolant in the engine is a surefire way to understand that coolant leaks into the combustion chamber. Mixing up of coolant and oil will result in bearing failure. The piston reaches a higher temperature and expands resulting in scoring of pistons and cylinders. A decrease in power and cooling system problems will be immediately evident when combustion gases enter the cooling system.

To begin testing your car with a pressure gauge, first start with a car that hasn’t been driven in a while. The engine should be completely cool. You have to remove the radiator cap during the diagnosis process and the heated engine will emit hot coolant which can cause scalding. Once the engine has cooled off, remove the radiator cap. If the level of the fluid is low, fill up the radiator first. Use the cap from the pressure tester to seal the radiator. Now, you have to connect the gauge to start measuring the readings to find out problems with the head gasket. According to the pressure tester, fit the gauge properly.

Then, start your vehicle and this will crank up the engine. Look at the gauge when engine is running. The reading should be zero if there is no problem with the combustion gas leak. The pressure should also be very minimal because there shouldn’t be any pressure with the thermostat when it is not running with cold engine. If you get to see pressure readings or the gauge climbs up very quickly, then it is an indication that there is a high possibility of combustion gas leaking into the cooling system. You may have to run the engine for a while to actually build the pressure to get more readings which may indicate a problem. If there is already a combustion gas leak, the pressure gauge test will show rapid pressure increase.

During the diagnosis, if the pressure climbs up fast with your pressure gauge, then you have to shut the engine immediately. Your tester may be damaged if you end up building too much pressure. If the pressure tester doesn’t show wild readings, then your engine problem is caused by the engine itself. After diagnosing that the problem is with head gasket, you can call your mechanic to fix it or if you are an experienced DIY mechanic interested in taking your car apart, you can do that on your own.

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