The head gasket is a vital part of the engine. If it is not working as the manufacturer intended, then this can lead to bigger problems. Stay until the end and find out everything about common Head Gasket failures here .
This critical gasket is located between the engine block and the cylinder heads. It is usually made of steel or copper, although some manufacturers use graphite and there are even asbestos gaskets in older cars.
What function does the head gasket have?
The gasket helps ensure that the engine remains fully pressurized during the combustion process. Remember that the dynamic release of energy when the fuel is ignited drives the pistons, so any drop in pressure means a drop in power.
Oil and coolant are also supplied to the engine through the gasket, meaning problems with the part could lead to cross-contamination between the two fluids (a troublesome scenario for any engine).
What Causes Head Gasket Failure?
The biggest factor in head gasket failure is heat. If the engine gets too hot, the gasket will be damaged. Obviously this varies from make to make and model to model, but if your cooling system is leaking or lacking the necessary fluid levels then this can lead to failure fairly quickly.
If your engine is made of aluminium, thanks to the high expansion rate of this material, it is likely to put extra stress on the gasket, which means you need to be more vigilant than someone with a standard steel engine .
The dangers of not changing a damaged head gasket
When a part that often fails is not fixed, it can have side effects, damaging other engine systems. And yes, they are going to be expensive to repair. The first thing that happens when the gasket fails is that the engine loses pressure, which causes a decrease in performance and fuel efficiency.
However, the big problems start when the coolant and oil start to mix. Coolant in the oil means your engine will stop running smoothly and oil in the coolant means your engine will overheat. Fix it quickly.
Common Head Gasket Symptoms and Failures
It is vital to ensure that the head gasket always works correctly. As with all part failures there are a number of signs that could indicate a malfunction, keep an eye out for the following common head gasket signs and failures:
1- White smoke in the exhaust
If coolant and oil mix, this will cause the coolant to burn in your engine, resulting in pale gray or white smoke emanating from your exhaust.
2- Low coolant levels
Again, if the gasket is damaged to the point of allowing coolant to leak into your oil supply, this will mean your coolant will be depleted at a faster rate than normal . Check if the engine temperature is high, as the coolant system will also not work effectively.
3- Coolant stains
Another way to confirm that there are gasket issues is to look around your regular parking spots for small puddles of coolant. These could very well come from a problem with the part and will help confirm your suspicions if this signal appears along with others on the list.
4- The radiator swallows water or coolant
Coolant problems manifest in the radiator . If the refrigerant system is damaged, this means not only leaks, but also poor heat control. And your radiator will try to compensate for the higher temperature levels by using more water or coolant.
Check the levels regularly, and if you find it’s filling up more than it used to, then head gasket problems could be to blame.
5- CO2 in the refrigerant
Again, if you think your head gasket has a problem , then testing the coolant for the presence of CO2 gas will also help you identify this problem by showing that engine pressure is getting into the cooling system.
6- Bubbles in the coolant
Pressure from the engine seeping into the cooling system can also create visible bubbles of CO2 and other exhaust gases in the fluid, especially if head gasket problems have developed to a particularly severe level.
Place a funnel where the radiator cap should be, start the car and observe the coolant as it circulates: if you see a large number of bubbles, it is most likely due to a failed head gasket.
7- Engine overheated
If the cooling system is bad, it doesn’t take a mechanical genius to figure out that this problem manifests itself with a sharp increase in engine temperature.
If you find that even the shortest ride increases heat, the answer could be in the head gasket. Also keep in mind that problems with the car’s radiator or ventilation systems could also be the reason for a failed head gasket.
8- Milky white oil
We have already discussed contamination in the cooling system when the head gasket fails, causing engine oil and air to mix with the coolant. What happens when coolant mixes with oil?
Obviously, this not only degrades oil performance, but you’ll also see milky sludge on the bottom of your dipstick or oil filler cap. If this problem is not taken into account, the motor bearings could fail as well.
9- Dirty spark plugs
When coolant burns in the combustion chamber, deposits form around the electrode and the spark plug ground strap . Although this can point to a failed head gasket, there are other issues that can cause this buildup, but when factored in with other symptoms on this list it can help determine a failed gasket.
10- Low integrity of the refrigeration system
Head gasket problems can cause a loss of pressure within the cooling system as fluid seeps through the cracks into the oil and engine space.
Perform a leak test to see how much air your engine is holding and how much is escaping if you’re noticing pressure drops in your coolant system and want to investigate further.
11- Loss of power
The head gasket is responsible for maintaining engine pressure and when it breaks or fails, pressure is shot out of the engine. As the energy from combustion is no longer contained inside, the engine’s performance will drop drastically, and you will notice that the car doesn’t run as smoothly either.
Keep an eye out… A blown head gasket is a problem to be taken seriously. If you have any kind of suspicion about your car, go to the mechanic to have it checked. Our list of common head gasket failures contains a number of signs that will show up on their own and some that require a bit more investigative work, and can almost be used as evidence to confirm the failure. So when some of these signs appear together, do not hesitate to reserve that space in the workshop.