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Why You Need to Ensure That Your Head Gasket Is Still Doing Its Job

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A cylinder head gasket may look like a fairly innocuous spare part. It's made of a very thin layer and features a range of holes with different circumference punched through. However, this component is very precisely engineered and is crucial if you're going to maintain engine efficiency and endurance. In fact, the head gasket is one of the most vital part of the whole car. Why is this the case and why do you need to make sure that it's always in good working order?

The head gasket is fitted in between the cylinder head and the main part of the engine, the "block." The cylinder head has the valves and chambers where all the action takes place, while the engine block houses the pistons and crankshaft that generate the energy. Two things are important here. One, a great deal of heat is developed during the combustion and energy creating process, and two, all of this activity needs lubrication or it would seize up.

In order to compensate for this, there are dozens of different passages contained within the engine cylinder head. Coolant is designed to flow through some of these passages under pressure, to help absorb the heat created in the engine and distribute it through the radiator. There are also a large number of other passages within the cylinder head that are designed to distribute the oil to critical components.

The head gasket presents a solid seal in between the cylinder head and the engine block and helps to segregate all of these different passages. As you can imagine, a compromised head gasket could cause all kinds of issues, including the following:

Coolant Leaks

For a start, if the head gasket was to rupture, coolant could leak from the passages and get into the cylinders. One way to check if this has happened is to look at the vehicle's exhaust pipe when the engine is running. If you can see steam or even water dripping out of the back of the exhaust, this could signify gasket problems. You may also be able to see tiny air bubbles in the reservoir that holds the coolant.

Oil Leaks

Likewise, a rupture in the head gasket could lead to excess oil consumption. You may be able to diagnose this by looking at the exhaust as well. A blown head gasket could result in smoke that has a blue tint to it coming out of the exhaust pipe.

Nightmare Mixtures

Even worse, if the coolant happens to mix with the oil due to a failing head gasket, it could cause major issues to those fast moving parts, bearings and valves. You may be able to check for this by looking at the oil dipstick. If you can see even the smallest trace of water on the stick when you pull it out, this is a major problem.

Usually, a head gasket change is a job for a skilled mechanic. Even so, make sure that you change all of the gaskets on your engine at the same time when you're doing this.