Most car owners are familiar with the routine maintenance that must be performed on their vehicle to keep it running properly. These items include oil changes, tire rotations, air filter replacement, and others. However, as your car ages, some parts begin to fail even though it has been maintained flawlessly throughout its lifetime.
If you own your car long enough, you can expect a serpentine belt to fail and need replacement. Timing belts will eventually need replacement. Another one of those parts that will fail eventually is the head gasket. Unfortunately, a blown head gasket can lead to big problems and can be quite expensive to repair. If you have experienced a blown head gasket or think your car has signs pointing toward one, continue reading! We will take a look at what causes this issue, what you can expect to pay for a repair, and what your best options are to move forward.
What Causes a Blown Head Gasket?
Before diving in too deep with the causes of the issue, it really helps if you understand the composition and function of a head gasket. Let’s first take a look at what a head gasket does and what it’s usually made of, and then we’ll explore the causes of failure.
The head gasket on your vehicle sits between the engine block and the cylinder head, and it ensures there is a perfect seal between these two parts. Engine oil and coolant flow between the block and the heads, and without this gasket, those two fluids would mix and leak. That would not be good!
If you have a head gasket leak or even worse, a total failure, then antifreeze and oil can find their way into the cylinders of your engine. They might also begin to leak onto the outside of your engine. When the antifreeze can’t circulate properly through your engine without leaking, it can quickly lead to overheating issues. This can obviously create even more problems!
So, now that it is clear just how important a head gasket’s job is, let’s take a look at what kinds of materials these gaskets are made of. They need to be made of a material that can withstand extreme temperatures as well as a lot of pressure. The most common types of head gasket materials are composite, copper, and multi-layer steel.
Generally, composite head gaskets are found on older vehicles. The material that these gaskets were made from sometimes contained asbestos or graphite. These types of gaskets are not as durable as the newer gaskets made from steel or copper, so they usually fail much quicker. If you have a car with a composite head gasket, you will probably be looking at a head gasket replacement sooner rather than later.
Copper head gaskets became quite popular due to the softness of the metal. Tightening the cylinder head down onto the engine block allowed a copper gasket to be squeezed and perfectly seal the two parts together. It could also withstand the high temperatures created inside the engine. While some high performance engines still use copper head gaskets, the most popular choice today is multi-layer steel.
This is the most popular choice in today’s vehicles. These gaskets contain between two to five layers of steel with an elastic compound holding them all together. This combination makes the gasket extremely durable and able to withstand the heat and compression necessary to last a long time. If you drive a car that was manufactured during the last two decades, you likely have a multi-layer steel head gasket.
So, now that you fully understand what a head gasket is, what it does, and what it is made of, let’s examine the most common causes of a head gasket failure. Here are the three most common causes of a failure:
- Age / Wear & Tear
The most common cause of head gasket problems is simple wear and tear. You will typically not experience a blown gasket on a newer vehicle unless you are trying to push the engine beyond its boundaries. Most gaskets fail because they have become old and brittle. The constant heat and pressure changes simply cause cracks and leaks over time. These parts simply don’t last forever, and age is the biggest factor in most failures.
Another thing that can cause a failure is excess heat. If you have a problem with your cooling system and your engine overheating, it can lead to head gasket problems. These gaskets are designed to operate under normal conditions, and excess heat can cause them to start to melt or become extremely brittle. If your car is running hotter than it should, be sure to address this problem before it leads to even more damage!
Finally, excess pressure in your engine can easily cause a blown head gasket. This usually occurs when the owner is trying to increase the performance of their engine by increasing the compression. They may even add an aftermarket supercharger or turbocharger. If you do this and try to push the engine beyond its limits, you will be looking at a car repair in no time! Your head gasket is only made to withstand normal pressure, so if you attempt to add any of these parts, be sure you also upgrade your head gasket to one that can handle the increased compression!
How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Head Gasket?
While the answer to that question depends on several factors, the average cost at most repair shops to replace the head gasket is $1,000 – $2,000. On some cars, the cost can go as high as $3,000 due to the difficulty of the job.
This can be quite an expensive repair, although the high price is not because of the head gasket cost itself. The part is typically not very expensive. An average head gasket price is only about $100, but the repair takes many hours to complete. The engine must be completely torn apart and placed back together to complete the repair successfully. At best, the engine head will have to be removed and the old gasket cleaned from the block. In some cases, the engine must even be removed from the vehicle.
This type of repair requires a great deal of expertise and time to complete. When reassembling engine components, a mechanic must take time to make sure that everything is done perfectly. One minor misstep could cause catastrophic problems when you attempt to crank the engine. With mechanics charging anywhere from $50 – $150 per hour, a job such as this can really add up since it may take 20 hours of work or more. Now you have an idea of why a blown head gasket repair cost is so high!
The cost for this repair is in line with other major automotive repairs such as a cracked engine block or catalytic converter replacement. Most of the time, people don’t have this much cash sitting around for an unexpected auto repair. If that’s the case, you may be better off getting an instant cash offer to sell your car to someone who will buy it without performing any repairs. This can help you get some money in your pocket so that you can buy a new car that doesn’t have the same problems.
Is It Worth Fixing a Blown Head Gasket?
Now that you know how much it will cost you to get the problem fixed, the next question is whether it’s worth it to spend that much on your vehicle. If your car is still fairly new and has no other issues, then it might make sense to spend the money on the repair. In this case, you might be able to make the repair and get several more years of use from your vehicle. Hence, it probably is worth it to get it fixed.
However, there are many situations where it just doesn’t make financial sense to put that much money into your car. Some examples of those situations include:
- Your car is very old
- Your car has other, known issues that require constant repairs
- There are no competent local mechanics in your area
- You were already thinking of buying a new car anyway
- You can’t go without your car for weeks until the vehicle can get fixed
If you’ve got an old junk car, then it probably doesn’t make sense to pour that much money into it for a head gasket repair when something else is likely to break soon anyway. You are likely to experience other part failures soon such as the thermostat or water pump, and the money from the head gasket replacement cost could be better spent on a new vehicle.
In this case, why not get some money for your old car instead of pouring a ton of money into it. You could attempt to sell the car on your own, although finding a buyer for a car that needs a new head gasket can be difficult. Another option is to sell the working parts off the car to people who need them. Again, it can be difficult to line up buyers for all those parts, plus you have to do quite a bit of work to remove them.
A better option is using a buyer who will buy your vehicle in its current condition without any work on your part. You don’t have to worry about performing any repairs because Auto Wranglers will buy your car regardless of its condition. Get an instant cash offer today to find out how much your car is worth, even with a blown head gasket!
How to Fix a Blown Head Gasket Without Replacing It
Many people often ask whether it’s possible to fix a blown or leaky head gasket without completely replacing it. The answer is yes! However, this will only apply in certain situations where the damage is not extensive. That is why you should stop driving the car immediately if you experience any of the symptoms of a blown head gasket.
These symptoms can include coolant leaks, white smoke from the tailpipe, fouled spark plugs, misfires, loss of compression or engine performance, or a check engine light. Since a leaking head gasket no longer seals the combustion chambers of your engine properly, a loss of compression is almost always a tell tale sign of a head gasket leak.
White smoke can signal a head gasket problem, especially if it has a sweet smell to it. Antifreeze can enter the combustion chamber and get burned off, resulting in the white smoke and sweet smell from the tailpipe. Misfires and fouled spark plugs can be the result of oil entering the chambers and not allowing the spark to fire properly.
Overheating can be another common symptom of a head gasket issue. Since the coolant does not flow through the engine properly, heat cannot be removed as efficiently as it should. This leads to heat building up in the heads and blocks and causes the temperature to rise higher than it should. If you have noticed any of these symptoms, then it may be time to consider a fix while there is still time!
If you are going to attempt to fix the head gasket without replacing it, you must do so before further damage is done or the gasket is completely blown out! If you catch it early, there are commercial sealants available that can fix damaged head gaskets without the need to completely tear apart the engine!
Using these types of sealants is pretty straightforward. Generally, you will simply add the sealant to your radiator or your coolant expansion tank. Then you’ll crank the engine and let your car get up to normal operating temperature. This will allow the sealant to circulate through the passages in the engine and seal any possible leaks, even at the head gasket.
If caught early enough, this can be a great option to replacement of the head gasket. It is also a much less expensive option, so it really saves the pressure on your wallet!
Bad head gaskets are no joke, and your car’s engine will not last very long with that issue. The repair or replacement of a head gasket is an expensive repair, so in some cases it might not make sense to put that much money into your vehicle. Many people do not have that kind of cash just sitting around for an expense like a blown head gasket cost.
In those cases, you are likely better off selling your car and using that money to purchase a new one. Auto Wranglers will make you an instant offer to buy your vehicle, come pick up the car for free, and put some cash in your pocket. If you don’t want to spend a few thousand dollars on this repair, then contact Auto Wranglers today to find out how much your car is worth!