5 Types of head gasket failures

Below I am listing several types of head gasket failures that occurs within a vehicles engine to help you understand which type of failure you may have. Keep in mind that any head gasket failure needs to be addressed ASAP, for further driving the vehicle causes more damage and will bring on higher repair cost.

  1.  Failure between cylinder and coolant system passage. This type will cause over pressurization of the cooling system. Coolant can also be pulled into the combustion chamber and will cause a misfire. White smoke will also emit from the tail pipe as a sign of this type of failure. Continued driving with this type of condition will damage the catalytic converter. Another sign of this type of failure is if you remove the radiator cap before start up, and then start the engine, you may see bubbling in the coolant fluid or in some cases I have seen coolant shoot up 10 feet out of the radiator due to the pressure the pistons create within cylinders.

  2. Failure between 2 cylinders that are side by side. This also will most likely cause a misfire with the engine. Both cylinders will have a lower compression rate compared to the rest of the cylinders and will cause the engine to run rough.

  3. Failure between the coolant port and oil port on the head gasket. With this type you will notice your oil level increasing and the appearance of the oil will look like chocolate milk. However, a failed intake gasket can give the same results and removal is the only way to tell. Chevy's 3.4L & 3.9L engines are common with intake gasket failure. Sometimes you may get oil in the coolant as well with a head gasket failure, but it is not common. If you have a oil cooler, that also can fail and cause oil to be injected into the engine cooling system due to the oil pressure is greater than the cooling system pressure. This is a common issue with Fords engines that have an oil cooler mounted to the block.

  4. Failure between cylinder and oil port. This type of failure will make the compression less in a cylinder and pressurize the crank case and possibly blow oil seals. You can remove the oil fill cap or PVC valve and feel the pressure pulsate within the crank case. This will cause a poor running condition in addition to misfires.

  5. Failure from coolant or oil ports to the outside. Although rare, this type can happen and cause further damage if not repaired. Symptoms are oil or coolant leaking between the head and the block.

The following are several different ways to detect a blown head gasket. • Cylinder pressure testing • Chemical testing • Cooling system pressure testing • Vacuum testing • Water in oil • Immediate pressurization of the cooling system

To replace a head gasket, the heads need to be removed. This involves removing the complete top of the engine, and sometimes the complete front and bottom. Engine removal is also required on some vehicle models and cab removal on some trucks. Also, a complete upper gasket set is required, and most engines made after 1995 require the head bolts to be replaced due to torque to yield specs. When the heads are removed, they will need to be inspected for warpage, cracks, burnt or bent valves, bad valve seats or guides, etc.

With proper maintenance, a vehicles engine can last your lifetime. I have seen engines with over 500K miles on them. Head gaskets can fail just due to age or vehicles left sitting for extended periods of time (years). High mileage vehicles are common targets of the head gasket monster.

Call your mechanic or myself if you think you have a head gasket problem. I may not be able to remove every head from every engine due to the special tools required, but at least I can see what is required to do the job with my Mitchell on Demand program which gives me labor times, procedures and tools required to complete any job for any vehicle from 1969 thru 2018. Your vehicle which is most likely paid for can be made to run again.

My name is Scott, and my brother Russell can both be reached @ 225-44-FIXED, 225-443-4933, and or business name is "Xtreme Auto Repair". Interest free financing is available.

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