Engine Maintenance

Symptoms of a Blown Head Gasket


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As a motorist, you should be able to identify signs of trouble in your vehicle, such as a blown head gasket. The head gasket is a mechanical seal that is installed between the (cylinder) head and the main engine block. Its purpose is to ensure that the cylinders are tightly sealed off as compression and combustion take place inside the engine. The head gasket prevents coolant and engine oil from leaking into the combustion chamber. It should therefore maintain its integrity and strength to serve this purpose.

Early head gasket designs made use of graphite and asbestos. Later on, gasket manufacturers turned to steel, copper, and even steel and silicon rubber combinations. Constant, intense pressure over time may cause a head gasket to crack or become warped. The following are symptoms of a damaged or blown head gasket.

1. White Exhaust Smoke

If you notice white smoke coming from your exhaust, then coolant may be leaking into the cylinders through a breach in the head gasket, causing the coolant to form this steam.

2. Blue Exhaust Smoke and White Substance in the Oil

If blue smoke comes out of your exhaust, this may indicate oil leaking into and being burned inside the cylinders. Upon checking via the dipstick you might find a white, paste-like substance mixed with the engine oil - a sure sign of head gasket damage.

3. Overheating

Coolant leaking into the cylinders will, of course, cause it to run out and cause the engine to overheat. A blown head gasket may be the culprit. A good way to check for coolant leak is by removing the radiator or overflow cap and checking for air bubbles when the engine is revved.

4. Rough-Running Engine, Loss of Power, and Visual Oil and Coolant Leaks

If left unchecked, a blown head gasket may cause the engine to run roughly, lose power and become less efficient. When oil or coolant is seeping through where the cylinder head and engine block are joined, or where the spark plugs are, then it may mean that the head gasket is damaged.

In such cases, the head gasket must be replaced immediately to prevent serious damage to your car's engine.

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