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Head Gasket Problems to Watch Out For

Omkar Phatak
Problems with the head gasket can lead to a significant drop in a car engine's efficiency. This Story is aimed at discussing some of the possible problems, that may crop up.
Every one of the engine components plays a vital role in its functioning. The head gasket is one such component of the engine assembly, whose functioning is vitally important.


A head gasket is positioned between the engine block and the head of a cylinder, inside every type of automobile engine. Its primary purpose is to ensure that maximum amount of compression is achieved inside the combustion cylinder and the pressure developed inside is maintained.
The cylinder is akin to a pressure cooker. Just as the gasket in the pressure cooker assembly ensures that the pressure inside is maintained and the cooker is sealed, the engine gasket plays a similar role.
Another important function is ensuring that engine oil and coolant do not mix with each other, in the combustion cylinder. Like every other part of an engine, the gasket is made to be sturdy and resilient to high temperatures and pressure.
They are generally tailor-made for different types of combustion engines. They may be made up of steel, solid copper, or elastomeric materials. Many times, they get blown, sending the engine functioning into a tizzy.

Typical Problems

The head gasket seals the cylinder. Sometimes, due to overheating, it can get damaged. Being metallic in nature, the cylinder head and gasket can expand on heating. This can cause major structural damage and blow the gasket. A blow up leads to mixing of engine oil and coolant.
Due to the leakage, pressure inside the cylinder diminishes and it leads to reduction in efficiency of the combustion engine. Especially when an aluminum cylinder head is used, stress caused on the gasket, due to thermal expansion, is the greatest. In such a case, the only way out is a replacement.
The most common problem is the mixing of coolant and engine oil. This leads to a disruption of engine cooling mechanism and also hampers working of the lubrication system. All these problems, lead to chronic engine overheating. The mixing of coolant may lead to damage of the catalytic converter, if the gasket is not replaced immediately.
There is a possibility of a condition called 'Hydrolock' to occur, if the gasket is not replaced soon and excessive amount of coolant is lost. Hydrolock is a total mechanical failure of a combustion cylinder, caused due to accumulation of fluid in the combustion cylinder.
The replacement cost can range from USD 1200 to USD 3000, depending on the car model and labor costs involved. This is a small amount to pay, compared to what you would have to shell out for extensive engine damage. A periodic maintenance check of the car is essential, to prevent such car problems from cropping up.