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Replacing a Faulty Head Gasket

Replacing a Faulty Head Gasket Part I


One of the most vital parts of any vehicle’s engine is the head gasket. It seals the head of the cylinder which houses the valves of the engine to the engine block which has pistons and crankshafts inside.

The leaks in the head gasket can range in severity. Negligible leaks can simply make the engine guzzle extra oil or coolant. Severe leaks can lead to the mixing of coolant and oil which causes loss of lubrication in the crankcase or absolute loss of compression which leads to relentless issues with drivability.  A car that runs poorly without an obvious explanation is likely to have a blown head gasket and should be checked thoroughly for the problem. There are few symptoms that point towards a blown head gasket. Any car showing signs of these symptoms should be put through a compression test to check the reliability of the head gasket.

The head gasket of a car is a simple piece of metal that is enveloped in a rubber-like material and yet its malfunction is one of the most disabling ailments that an engine can face. To understand why this is a matter of concern, you first need to understand the vital role your head gasket plays in your engine’s health along with understanding the various car engine problems.

What is a head gasket?

The cylinder head gasket is the seal located between the engine block and cylinder head assembly. An in-line engine design contains one cylinder head as this is arranged directly along the engine block.

A “V” shaped engine design for instance, the V6 or V8 comprises of two cylinder-heads one for each bank.  A V6 engine has 3 cylinders located on each bank.

Note: An extensive amount of labour is involved with the repair of the cylinder head gasket even if the displacement engine is smaller in size.

Get a professional to establish if cylinder head gasket repair is required or not with the help of official testing. This repair is intensive in nature and cannot be simply done for any reason at all. At times, it can end up doing much harm than good if not done properly.

Word of Caution: Ensure that you always employ safety measures while working on your car to prevent any injury or hazard. Put on the recommended safety gear including gloves and safety glasses while handling engine oil, coolant and other components of the vehicle.

Getting to the Task of Replacing a Faulty Head Gasket


Before arriving on the conclusion that the task of replacing the gasket is the job best left to experienced professionals, you can make an effort to understand the reason why it is difficult to replace the head gasket on your own. This process requires major level of engine dismantling before you even get to touch and properly see a broken or a leaking gasket. Before you start working on the broken gasket, ensure that the cooling system is drained completely.

Next step is to ensure that the intake and exhaust manifolds employed in the system are completely removed. Follow this by taking out the timing cover, timing belt and timing chain one after another. The valve cover that wraps the engine valve should be taken out next. It is only when you remove the head of the cylinder completely, you will be able to see the head gasket. Give your car a complete once over in order to trace other car engine troubles.

If you intend to put your mind to perform a head gasket repair and replacement entirely by yourself, you have will have to carry out the steps mentioned above in reverse order after the gasket is fitted. Needless to say, this is going to take up a considerable amount of time and missing out on fixing any of the components can turn out to be an absolute disaster. Additionally, you will have to use studs for the engine to ensure torque functionality.  There’s a pretty good chances that the studs may have expanded already due to earlier torque and thus should be discarded completely.

While the job has heavyset technicalities attached to it, it is recommended that head gasket repair and replacement shouldn’t be taken up as a DIY project. This job needs a proficient technician like In Town Automotive considering the series of tests required before and after replacing the gasket. Overheating of the engine and white smoke emanating from the exhaust are basic blown head gasket symptoms. One cannot simply determine if the gasket needs to be replaced by just glancing at these symptoms because other issues with the car can also be responsible.

But, if you are going to execute the replacing of the head gasket on your own, you might as well do it properly employing each step with absolute care.

Given below is the A-Z guide that will be your gospel to analyse and replace faulty head gasket of your vehicle.

Part 1 – Collect Information and Supplies

Before you embark on the project, here is a list of materials you will require:

  • Cylinder head gasket kit
  • Engine oil
  • Engine oil filter
  • Spark plugs
  • Safety glasses
  • Torque wrenches (⅜” and ½” )
  • Code reader (optional)
  • Cylinder for old engine oil and coolant
  • Drip pans
  • Engine thermostat
  • Gloves
  • Tool set for mechanics with multiple socket and wrench combinations
  • Valve cover gaskets
  • Vehicle service manual
  • Timing belt set which is specific to your vehicle
  • Intake manifold gasket kit
  • Exhaust manifold gasket set

Step 1 of Part 1 – Locate the VIN

vin number

Gather information related to vehicle which is both specific and applicable to your vehicle. This is to make your hunt for the car components more simplified.

Your vehicle comes with two very important stickers. You will get information regarding the size of your engine with the help of the emissions sticker under the hood. The label inside the door jamb of the driver’s seat will show the vehicle identification number or VIN.

Step 2 of Part 1 – Find a vehicle service manual for your car

Knowing the size of the engine is integral as a number of engine designs vary and the components differ from one another.

Tip: The service manual of a vehicle is usually much more detailed than the vehicle owner’s manual. The service manual will contain of essential information and will also comprise of simple repair and car servicing procedures.

You will be able to locate this easily at several auto parts store and online vendors. If you do not find a service manual for your vehicle on the shelf, request an associate about placing an order for one. They are fairly cheap and the information it holds is very useful.

The service manual mentions the special tools that will be required for repairs and will state which car parts to leave out while the repair process is on. It may be mandatory to supervise the procedure a couple of times before you start with it yourself.  It is best to get acquainted with the work you are going to perform before you begin dismantling your car’s engine.

Tip: When trying to locate a cylinder head gasket, try purchasing a complete one that consists of many different seals. Even if these kits have seals that you might not really need or has duplicates, it is always better to have a seal when you really need one instead of not having any at all.


When any car component is taken out, any related seals will have to be switched so as to eliminate the likelihood of potential leaks at the time of engine reassembling. Once the seals are replaced, it is important that you apply fasteners for each component at the required torque arrangements.

Contact us today to find out more about replacing head gasket. While you are at it, check out other services that we offer.