What is a head gasket?

The head gasket is the seal between 2 components of the engine: the head and the block. Its job is to make sure nothing gets in or leaks out.

This is vital to make sure the combustion chamber is perfectly sealed for the fuel ignition process to operate correctly.

Your car engine requires many liquid elements to ensure its correct running. Fuel to power it; oil to lubricate it, and water/coolant to keep it running at its optimum working temperature.

If your head gasket fails, and these fluids are allowed to mix, then it can mean big trouble, and costly repairs.

What does it mean to have a blown head gasket?

This is a phrase you’ll regularly hear bandied around garages while mechanics suck air through their teeth.

The air sucking goes hand in hand with the expensive head gasket repairs and labour-intensive fixes.

Is it worth repairing a head gasket?

The head gasket cost — the actual component — is surprisingly affordable. The bulk of the charge for your blown head gasket repair is in the labour.

Removing your engine’s cylinder head is a labour intensive operation, and that’s where the lion’s share of your money will go.

What are the signs of a blown head gasket?

A blown head gasket

The following list shows the typical blown head gasket symptoms:

Coolant leaking from the exhaust manifold

When your head gasket fails along one of the outer portions, water can leak to the outside of your engine.

Take a look underneath your car where the engine meets the exhaust.

Your engine is overheating

If the coolant has leaked away or burned off, there won’t be a sufficient amount to keep your engine running at the temperature that it’s designed to operate.

You should get a nice selection of warning lights illuminating on your dashboard.

Loss of coolant

If you can’t spot a leak, yet your engine’s coolant is disappearing from the resevoir, there could be a leak into the combustion chamber via your head gasket.

The most aware driver won’t be able to see this happening, but they will notice the loss of coolant without any visible signs of leakage.

White smoke coming from your exhaust

This is primarily steam and burned glycol. An internal leak allows coolant into the combustion chamber, and this white smoke is the result of it being burned off.

You should also notice that your engine isn’t running anything like it normally does, and won’t until all the coolant has been burned off.

Low power and poor engine performance

Having the incorrect fluids leaking into the combustion chamber will affect your engine’s performance.

More importantly, any leaks and lack of compression will prevent your engine from carrying out its proper fuel-burning cycle.

This will leave you with a very rough engine idling and a significant lack of power.

Bubbles in the overflow tank or radiator

Your blown head gasket can allow air to infiltrate your cooling system as well as the different fluid components into the engine.

Air in the cooling system can build into air pockets, and prevent the coolant from getting to where it needs to be.

Milky oil

When oil and water mix, the resulting liquid will be a milky white gloop.

It’s simple to inspect for this; simply remove the oil cap from your engine and take a look at the state of what’s inside.

If your engine’s coolant has got into the oil through a leaking head gasket, then this could be a tell-tale sign.



What does it cost to fix a head gasket?

The blown head gasket cost will vary from car to car. You could be looking at a price anywhere from around £450 to a few thousand.

The process of accessing and replacing your head gasket can take up to 10 hours, so it’s easy to see where the bulk of your head gasket repair price goes.

Can you still drive a car with a blown head gasket?

A blown head gasket will leave your car with severe malfunctioning issues.

In turn, these will lead to the failure of the other components in your engine.

It’s imperative to stop driving as soon as you think this could be the case.

Further operation will only accelerate the harm to your engine. The last thing any driver wants is to have to replace their car’s engine.

How to protect your head gasket to extend the life of its operation

The keener motorists among you will want to know how to protect this vital component to keep it (and your car) healthy and operational for the lifetime of your vehicle.

The best way is to keep your car’s cooling system in premium working order.

Keep an eye out for leaks, that your radiator is healthy and that your engine coolant is topped up to the correct level with the recommended ratio of water and antifreeze. For the keenest of motorists, you could even run to the expense of a head gasket service.

What’s involved in replacing a head gasket?

Replacing a broken head gasket isn’t a repair to be carried out by the DIY motor enthusiast or a thrifty driver looking to save money.

You need an experienced and qualified expert to take care of the operation, and that’s where our superb selection of garages and mechanics are here to help.

  1. Inspection
    The mechanic will inspect all parts of your engine’s components to analyse the full extent of your blown gasket issue, paying special attention to the cylinder head.

  2. Replacement
    The head gasket will be replaced where required. If any other parts or components have been compromised, they will alert the customer and advise the best possible route of repair.

  3. Sealing
    In the event of damage being made to the cylinder head due to the faulty head gasket, then your mechanic may advise it to be skimmed to provide the correct level of connection.

  4. Connection
    The engine’s cylinder head bolts may also require replacing, and where required, your mechanic will suggest so.

  5. Completion
    On the completion of the new gasket installation, your mechanic will carry out a full inspection to make sure there are no further issues. They will ensure that your vehicle is once again running at its complete and correct capacity.


About Fixter

Fixter is revolutionising the car maintenance industry, one repair at a time. Fixter was founded to make car maintenance as easy as booking a taxi. Digital, transparent and stress-free, with world-class customer service. Since launching in Manchester in 2017, Fixter has expanded to more than 100 cities across the UK and provided thousands of car owners with honest, convenient and affordable car repair services.