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How to Replace a Head Gasket

Omkar Phatak
If you are looking for general guidelines, detailing the replacement of a head gasket, you will find the needful, in this story.
When it comes to automobile maintenance, there are many things that need to be taken care of. Keeping the whole machine in tune, is not a simple job. One important task is head gasket replacement.


The head gasket plays a vital role in the functioning of every car engine. It is placed between the engine block and combustion cylinder, for the specific purpose of sealing the cylinder head. It doesn't let the engine oil and coolant mix into each other.
With a blown gasket, engine efficiency is compromised and the coolant leaks into the engine cylinder. Some of the signs to watch out for, are chronic engine overheating, drop in coolant levels, and a significant drop in engine efficiency. So, in such a case, it's vital that you replace it, as soon as possible.

Replacement Procedure

This is a job which demands considerable technical acumen and is only recommended as a do-it-yourself project for people, who are experienced in repair jobs.
One thing that you need to do first is buy a new gasket, that is the correct one for your car model. There are many tools that you need to be equipped with, to get the job done.
Here they are:
  • Socket Wrench For Gaskets
  • Jack with Stands
  • Torque Wrench
  • Wire Brush
  • Screwdriver
  • RTV Silicon Tube
  • Brake Parts Cleaner
Let me walk you through the procedure. Disconnect the car battery's negative terminal and drain the engine coolant totally. Elevate the front of your car, with the help of jack stands.
Make sure that the car engine has cooled off totally before you undertake the procedure. Just to get an access to the engine's head gasket, you need to remove a lot of components and disconnect entire systems.
The car parts and components, that need to be removed to gain access (in the given order, along with interjecting instructions) are:
  • Two bolts that affix the exhaust pipe, with the exhaust assembly
  • Complete air cleaner assembly, along with an air intake pipe
  • Upper Radiator Hose
  • Bolt holding the dipstick tube bracket
  • Thermostat housing coil, along with coolant sensor
  • Distributor water shield, along with spark plug wires
  • Bolts holding distributor cap to remove rotor-cap assembly
  • Bolts from air conditioning top side, connected with alternator bracket
  • Wire connected with temperature sensing unit and upper half of timing belt cover
  • Valve Cover
  • Vacuum lines attached to throttle assembly, along with throttle cables and wiring harness
  • (Depress Schrader Valve)
  • Fuel Lines
  • Throttle position sensor, along with EGR valve
  • (Secure fuel lines, wiring harness and vacuum lines, using bungee cord and get them out of the way)
  • Intake system ground strap
  • Battery grounding wire bolts
  • Vacuum hose and heater hose
  • (Secure timing belt with camshaft pulley, using zip ties)
  • Pulley
  • (Engine cylinder piston needs to be set to top dead center (TDC) position)
  • Engine head Bolts
  • (Lift engine block and keep it aside. With that, finally, you can access the gasket)
Next, remove the old gasket and clean the head completely, using a wire brush. To get the head thoroughly cleaned, blow it with compressed air (if possible). When you are done with that, place the new gasket in place, with the right orientation.
Then, fix the head bolts back in place. Make sure that these bolts are secured in place, with the right torque wrench and they fit snugly. This finishes the replacement job. Clean the valve covers thoroughly and fix the seals, after placing beads of RTV silicon. Then go back and put everything as it was, by going in reverse order.
It is quite a complex job and if you can manage executing it, you can save a lot on the replacement cost. All it takes is an aptitude for mechanical tasks and an ability to execute instructions clinically, through understanding. It is not a simple job to pull off on your own and in case you are not entirely confident of pulling off the job, then leave it to an expert mechanic.