In a gasoline engine, the air and fuel’s combustion can generate 700 psi in the chamber. A diesel engine generates even more psi at 2,000. The head gasket seals off the combustion chamber to keep this intense pressure inside. If the head gasket blows, combustion liquids and gases contaminate the cylinders and oil and coolant galleries. Kirk’s Auto Care lists seven signs you’ve got a blown head gasket.
1. Coolant or Oil Leak
If your engine is leaking oil from the seam between the cylinder head and engine block, it could be a cracked or blown head gasket. While this is devastating, the engine block could also be cracked and causing the leak. Either fix is expensive and the engine block requires an engine replacement.
2. Misfiring Cylinders
Sometimes, the breach in the head gasket is between two cylinders that rest on the same cylinder head. The cracked head gasket causes compression loss, and the resulting effect is misfiring cylinders. You’ll notice this when your engine is idling and while you are driving your vehicle.
3. Startup Misfires
Your vehicle might also misfire when you start it up. Generally, you’ll see a puff of white smoke come out of your tailpipe as the engine misfires. The white exhaust and cylinder misfire is caused by coolant leaking into the cylinders. The leak is likely being caused by a blown head gasket.
Overheating can be caused by many things, so it’s important to isolate the cause. In the case of a blown gasket, your vehicle might not overheat until the damage gets worse. Usually, a clue the head gasket is the culprit is bubbling in your coolant overflow tank from cylinder gases.
5. Blue Exhaust
If you see blue or grayish exhaust coming out of your tailpipe, you’ve got a serious oil problem. As mentioned above, a head gasket failure will mix liquid and gases with the oil, and this will burn off the oil and cause the blue exhaust you see coming out of your tailpipe.
6. Frothy Coolant
Once the head gasket cracks, everything mixes together. You’ve got the combustion chamber liquid and gases alongside the motor oil and engine coolant. Once the oil mixes with the coolant, it turns it frothy, almost like a latte. Unfortunately, your engine will not find this “beverage” delicious.
7. Oil Mayonnaise
On the oil’s side of this mixture, coolant in the oil makes it look almost like mayonnaise. There will be a creamy film in the coolant’s overflow reservoir or on the inside of the radiator cap. Your engine won’t like this, either. In fact, the mixtures can cause catastrophic engine failure.
Don’t take chances. If you suspect you have a cracked or blown gasket, stop by Kirk’s Auto Care in Livonia, MI, or Farmington Hills, MI, right away.