If you’re wondering, “Can I drive with a blown head gasket?” It means that either your head gasket is already blown or you are driving a car that tends to blow head gaskets.
If your situation is the second one, you can take steps to stop this from happening, which we’ll talk more about in the next section.
Can you drive with a blown head gasket?
Now, let me help you answer the question. First, we’ll talk about the basics of head gaskets, then we’ll get to the question itself.
How do head gaskets work?
A head gasket is a seal between the engine block and the cylinder head of your car. It keeps the fuel and compressed air inside the combustion chamber, where they can be lit and turned into energy. A head gasket also stops oil or coolant from getting into the chamber where the engine burns.
All modern cars have a head gasket, but the thickness and design of the gasket depends on how the engine was made.
Given what a head gasket does, a blown one would cause a lot of problems because the fluids and gases in the engine wouldn’t be where they should be. A blown head gasket, for example, can let coolant flow into the cylinders, exhaust gases into the coolant, coolant into the oil, and so on. As we’ll see in the next section, these kinds of things can be very dangerous.
Problems Caused by a Blown Head Gasket
When coolant leaks into the combustion chamber, it can cause a number of issues. For one thing, the coolant deposits left over from combustion can clog the spark plugs and make the engine run poorly. Second, it can change the amount of air and fuel and make the sensor stop working. Lastly, coolant in the combustion chamber can cause the piston, piston ring, and cylinder wall to rust. This lowers the compression and makes it necessary to rebuild the engine.
Also, if the coolant gets into the cylinders, it could mix with the engine oil and make the oil less effective at lubricating. And because important engine parts like the main bearings, valve train, and crankcase need to be lubricated, not having enough lubrication could damage the main bearings and cause the engine to stop working completely. Even if the oil leak is on the outside, it has the same effect because it leads to low engine oil.
If your head gasket blows, combustion gases could leak out of the combustion chamber. This could cause your car’s cooling system to be under a lot of pressure. The heat from these gases could also hurt metals in the area.
Coolant could also leak outside, which could cause the engine to overheat when you drive and possibly damage it. Most of the time, the coolant that leaks is hot, so it could burn you if you go under the hood to look. It could also cause your car to catch fire.
Some cars will stop right away if the head gasket blows, but others can run for a few months with the damage. But because it is dangerous, it is not worth the risk to drive with a blown head gasket. So, for safety’s sake, we suggest that you either fix the leak or replace the head gasket right away.
How to Tell if a Head Gasket is Blown: Blown head gasket symptoms
There are several signs that the head gasket has blown:
Your engine is leaking coolant on the outside. Most of the time, the leak is right below the intake or exhaust manifold, and it’s easier to see when the engine is hot. It looks like steam is coming out of the engine.
Engine is always getting too hot. When the car is driven for a long time, the engine will overheat if the coolant leaks out of the car. If the engine gets too hot, it could get broken and need to be rebuilt.
White smoke with a sweet smell was coming out of the pipe. A head gasket leak could also be on the inside, letting coolant flow into the combustion chamber. The combustion then turns it into white smoke that smells sweet and keeps coming out even when the engine is warm.
The radiator has bubbles in it. Exhaust gases can get into the cooling system if the head gasket is leaking from the inside. This makes bubbles in the radiator or coolant reservoir. You can do a chemical test on your coolant to see if it has exhaust gases by yourself. Most parts stores sell the test kit (B000NPDL76), which is the best way to check for a blown head gasket.
The oil is getting milky. If the leak inside the engine is big enough, the coolant will leak through the piston rings and into the oil. When water is added to oil, it makes the oil look like milk. You can look at your oil dipstick or under your oil cap to see if this is the case.
Preventing a Head Gasket from Blowing
Because of what it does, a head gasket is often subjected to high pressure and big changes in temperature. Most head gaskets blow when these kinds of conditions are present.
All internal combustion engines, on the other hand, need a combustion chamber with a lot of pressure. Head gaskets are made to handle this pressure all the time, which is a good thing. When the pressure goes up more than it should, that’s a problem. When there is too much pressure in the combustion chamber, it can be caused by:
Knocking or a jump start. To stop either of these things from happening, make sure your car’s fuel system is clean and your ignition timing is set the way the engine manufacturer tells you to. (B00092893E)
A compression ratio that is unusually high. When carbon deposits build up, the size of the combustion chamber gets smaller, which makes the compression ratio go up. Make sure you add a fuel system cleaner to your car’s gas tank on a regular basis to keep carbon from building up too much.
High pressure in the intake manifold. If your car has a forced-induction engine, such as a turbocharger or supercharger, make sure the systems that control the pressure are working right.
As was already said, high temperatures can also cause head gaskets to blow. And even though head gaskets are made to withstand the high temperatures of combustion, they can be damaged by temperatures that are too high.
When your engine is exposed to temperatures that are too high, the metal parts expand and contract, leaving gaps between them that allow air to leak through the head gasket. Make sure your car’s cooling system is working well and check the coolant level in your car often to keep your engine from getting too hot. (B0002KO112)
Now, if your head gasket blows, expect to pay a lot to fix it because it takes a lot of work to take apart and rebuild an engine. Another way to stop the leak is to use a head gasket sealer (B003RGIWO0). This is a good option to think about because head gasket sealers are cheap, easy to use, and fast, so you should be back on the road soon.
How Much Does a Head Gasket Repair Cost?
It is thought that a head gasket repair will cost between $1000 and $2000.
The price of fixing a head gasket varies a lot from one car to the next because of things like:
Cylinder head type
how many banks of cylinders
Engine block or cylinder head damage
Additional component replacements
Head gaskets almost never cost more than $100, and most of them cost much less. Most of the cost of repairing a head gasket is due to the time and skill it takes. The cost goes up the more complicated the job is.
Six- and eight-cylinder V-shaped engines, for example, have two head gaskets, one on each side. To keep the engine balanced, if you replace one, you also have to replace the other. To get to the head gaskets, most of the engine has to be taken apart. So, the cost of replacing a head gasket in an engine with a V shape or a boxer shape can be doubled or even tripled.
TIP: Both head gaskets should be replaced at the same time to save money. Replacing one requires more work than replacing the other.
Leaking head gaskets can also cause a lot of extra damage that can add a lot to the cost of fixing them. One of the jobs of a head gasket is to hold in the high temperatures and pressures of combustion. However, if the engine block and cylinder head are damaged, the head gasket will not be able to seal the combustion chamber properly, even if it is fixed or replaced.
So, the cylinder head will also need to be straightened, fixed, or replaced if it is bent, cracked, or dented. The engine block is the same. And since most places that do this kind of work on cars are specialty shops, their prices can be very high. If there are any other problems, you will have to spend more money, especially if the engine block can’t be fixed.
A blown head gasket is thought to be one of the most expensive things to fix on a car. As was already said, you can avoid these costs by using a sealer for blown head gaskets that works well to stop leaks.
Most head gaskets don’t just blow out of nowhere. Instead, they start to leak a little at first. So, it is important to keep an eye out for the signs of a blown head gasket so that you can find leaks early and fix them quickly. Doing so will lower the cost of fixing the car and keep it from getting any worse, which would happen if the head gasket blew.
You should also keep up with regular maintenance on your car, as this is a good way to avoid blowing a head gasket. If your head gasket blows, get it fixed right away and don’t drive your car until it’s fixed. If you keep driving with a blown head gasket, the engine could break down completely.
I hope you found the answer to your question, “Can I drive with a blown head gasket?”
Check out How Much Does a Car Weigh and What to Do After Buying a Used Car if you liked this article.