Have you ever experienced your car overheating while driving, leaving you stranded on the side of the road?
One potential culprit could be a blown head gasket. But can a blown head gasket really cause overheating? Let’s take a closer look at the issue.
Can A Blown Head Gasket Cause Overheating?
Yes, a blown head gasket can cause overheating in a vehicle.
The head gasket sits between the engine block and cylinder head and seals the combustion chamber to prevent the mixture of oil and coolant.
When the head gasket fails, it can cause oil and coolant to mix, leading to various problems, including overheating.
The mixture of oil and coolant can cause blockages in the coolant passages, leading to poor circulation and overheating.
It can also cause excess pressure and heat within the engine leading to overheating.
The blown head gasket can also cause coolant to leak out of the engine, leading to insufficient cooling and, ultimately, overheating.
Overheating can cause severe damage to the engine, including warped cylinder heads and even engine seizures.
Therefore, if a blown head gasket is suspected, it should be repaired immediately to avoid further damage.
The Dangers Of Leaving A Blown Head Gasket Untreated
Here are the dangers of leaving a blown head gasket untreated.
A blown head gasket can result in a loss of compression and power and may cause overheating and damage to the engine.
The seal between the cylinder head and the engine block fails, leading to coolant leaks, oil leaks, or gases escaping from the engine.
Over time, these leaks can cause extensive damage to the engine and may even result in engine failure.
Dangerous Driving Conditions
Driving with a blown head gasket can create dangerous driving conditions.
If coolant leaks into the combustion chamber, it can cause the engine to misfire or stall, which could lead to an accident.
If oil and coolant mix, it can also create a thick, viscous substance that can block engine passages and reduce engine performance.
This can make it difficult to control the vehicle and may cause the engine to stop suddenly.
Leaving a blown head gasket untreated can also result in costly repairs.
The longer you continue to drive your vehicle with a blown head gasket, the more damage you will likely cause to the engine.
Eventually, the engine may become irreparable, and you may need to replace the entire engine.
Common Causes Of A Blown Head Gasket
Here are the common causes of a blown head gasket:
Engine overheating is the most common cause of head gasket failures.
Overheating can expose the gasket to temperatures it wasn’t designed to handle and cause an aluminum head to expand beyond its normal rate, resulting in a head gasket failure.
Pre-Ignition or Detonation
Pre-ignition, also known as detonation, is another common cause of head gasket failure.
Detonation causes a sharp spike in combustion chamber pressure that can overload and crack the gasket armor surrounding the cylinder, leading to burn-through and compression loss.
Contamination of the coolant by oil can be a cause of head gasket failure.
The mixing of these two fluids can create a sludge-like substance that can accumulate and cause blockages and overheating.
Poor Maintenance or Age of Engine
Engines that are not well-maintained or have aged can also experience head gasket failure. The gasket can degrade over time and lose its ability to seal properly.
Faulty Gasket Material or Installation
In some cases, the failure of the head gasket is due to the material used in the gasket or improper installation.
Inferior gasket material can fail under pressure, and improper installation can cause gaps that can lead to gasket failure.
Other possible causes of head gasket failure include cylinder head warping, cracks in the engine block, and cylinder misfire.
How To Diagnose A Blown Head Gasket?
Here are ways to diagnose a blown head gasket:
Check Your Engine Oil
One of the easiest and most effective ways to test if you have a blown head gasket is to check your engine oil.
You can do this by pulling the dipstick or draining the oil from the pan.
If you notice a creamy or milky substance on the dipstick or in the oil, it could be a sign that coolant is leaking into the engine oil, indicating a blown head gasket.
Coffee Color Test
The coffee color test is another method that can help diagnose a blown head gasket.
You can perform this test by removing the oil filler cap when the engine is cold and checking if a coffee-colored liquid has formed in and around the cap.
If you notice a coffee-colored liquid, it is a sign that the coolant has mixed with your oil, indicating a blown head gasket.
Block Tester Tool
The block tester tool can also detect a blown head gasket.
This tool can help detect the presence of combustion gases in the coolant, which is a sign of a blown head gasket. You can buy this tool on e-commerce websites like eBay.
How To Fix A Blown Head Gasket?
There are several ways to fix a blown head gasket:
Replace the Head Gasket
The most common and effective way to fix a blown head gasket is to replace it.
This involves disassembling the engine, removing the old head gasket, cleaning the surfaces, and installing a new head gasket.
Use a Head Gasket Sealer
Another way to fix a blown head gasket is to use a head gasket sealer.
This involves pouring a sealer chemical/product into the coolant, which then flows to the engine through the head gasket and seals up the leaky parts of the blown head gasket.
Take the Car to a Mechanic
If you are uncomfortable fixing the blown head gasket, you can take your car to a mechanic.
However, this can be expensive as the labor costs can add up.
The mechanic will perform tests to confirm the head gasket is blown and then replace the head gasket for you.
Troubleshooting Other Causes Of Engine Overheating
Here are some other causes of engine overheating and how to troubleshoot them.
Malfunctioning Radiator Fan
A bad radiator fan can cause the engine to overheat, especially when the vehicle is idling.
The radiator fan plays an essential role in cooling the engine by drawing air through the radiator to dissipate heat.
If the fan is not working correctly, it can cause the engine to overheat.
Start the engine and let it idle to check if the radiator fan is functioning correctly.
Observe the fan blades to see if they are turning. If the fan is not turning, it may need to be replaced.
Broken Water Pump
The water pump circulates coolant through the engine and the radiator.
A faulty water pump can cause the engine to overheat by reducing the coolant flow.
One way to check if the water pump is working correctly is to remove the radiator cap and start the engine.
If the coolant is not circulating, it could indicate a faulty water pump.
Blown Head Gasket
A blown head gasket can cause engine overheating by allowing coolant to leak into the engine’s combustion chamber.
This can result in a loss of coolant and decreased engine performance. To check for a blown head gasket, look for coolant leaks and check the engine oil for signs of contamination.
Another way to diagnose a blown head gasket is to test the coolant for the presence of carbon monoxide using a test kit.
A clogged radiator can restrict the flow of coolant through the engine, leading to engine overheating.
To check if the radiator is clogged, inspect the outside of the radiator for debris and dirt buildup.
Also, check the coolant level to ensure it is not low. If the radiator is clogged, it may need to be flushed or replaced.
The thermostat regulates the flow of coolant through the engine.
A faulty thermostat can cause engine overheating by restricting the coolant flow or allowing too much coolant to circulate.
To check the thermostat, start the engine and let it warm up. Then, observe the temperature gauge to see if it is within the normal operating range.
If the engine overheats or the temperature gauge is not functioning correctly, it may indicate a faulty thermostat.
In marine engines, a scaled or rusted exhaust elbow can slow the water flow through the engine and cause overheating.
To check the exhaust elbow, inspect it for signs of rust or scaling.
Also, check the impeller to ensure it is intact and turning as the engine is turned over.
Cams wear evenly, so it may be difficult to determine how worn they are. If the exhaust elbow is rusted or scaled, it may need to be replaced.
Prevention Tips For Avoiding A Blown Head Gasket
Here are some prevention tips for avoiding a blown head gasket:
Regular maintenance is crucial to running your engine smoothly and preventing a blown head gasket.
A critical maintenance aspect is ensuring your cooling system is in good condition.
This includes flushing and replacing the coolant on a set schedule, inspecting belts and hoses, and replacing them before they fail.
Regularly checking and replacing the engine oil and air filters can also help prevent overheating and engine damage.
Overheating is one of the most common causes of a blown head gasket. Ensure your engine’s cooling system works correctly, and regularly check the coolant levels.
If your vehicle is overheating, stop driving immediately and allow it to cool for at least an hour before refilling the radiator and continuing driving.
Prevent Engine Detonation
Another common cause of a blown head gasket is engine detonation.
To avoid engine detonation, ensure you use the right fuel for your engine and avoid overloading your vehicle.
Check Cylinder Head and Block Surfaces
It is essential to check the cylinder head and block surfaces for flatness before installing a new head gasket.
Use a straight edge across the deck to ensure proper sealing.
Use Proper Coolant
Using the right coolant is essential to prevent a blown head gasket.
When raising the ratio of coolant in the system, use a full-strength coolant like PEAK Long Life® Full Strength. If your coolant is in bad condition, we recommend a full flush.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can You Tell If You Have A Blown Head Gasket?
There are a few signs that you might have a blown head gasket.
These include overheating, loss of coolant, white smoke from the exhaust, milky oil, and engine misfires.
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should have your engine checked by a professional mechanic.
Can A Blown Head Gasket Cause Additional Engine Damage?
Yes, a blown head gasket left alone can cause additional engine damage.
Coolant mixing with oil can destroy bearings and other engine parts that rely on oil for protection.
Exhaust gases entering the cooling passages can over-pressurize the cooling system leading to coolant loss and accelerated overheating.
Can A Bad Head Gasket Cause A Blow-By?
Yes, a bad head gasket can cause a blow-by when hot oily gasses are pushed out of the engine at the PCV hole or oil cap.
If combustion gasses enter the crankcase, they can push coolant out of the radiator, leading to overheating.
A blown head gasket can indeed cause overheating in your vehicle.
The head gasket is a vital component of your engine’s cooling system, and if it fails, it can lead to coolant leaks and poor engine performance.
If you suspect your head gasket may be blown, it’s important to have it inspected by a qualified mechanic to prevent further damage to your engine.
Don’t let a blown head gasket leave you stranded on the side of the road – take action and have it repaired today.