Is It Safe to Drive With a Blown Head Gasket?

blown head gasket repair cost

What is a Blown Head Gasket?

Some of the most unwelcome words to any car owner are ‘blown head gasket.’ Apart from the troublesome and expensive nature of fixing a blown head gasket, it takes lots of hours to replace the gasket. It gets worse because, by the time your gasket is blown, the engine might have suffered a lot of damage.

A car’s engine consists of two parts: the cylinder head and the cylinder block. The block hosts the cylinders and pistons while the head consists of the rocker arms and valves. The head gasket is located between the block and head. The head gasket’s primary role is to seal the area where the two parts of the engine meet. By the sealing process, oil, combusted gas, and engine coolant are all kept in their chambers.

The head gasket comes under extreme heat and mechanical stress from both the head and the block. The car’s engine operates in intensely high temperatures, and when the heat gets too high, it overheats, leading to a blown gasket. The engine block and cylinder head can expand due to the heat, making the head gasket to fail.

Symptoms of a Blown Head Gasket

While most car owners think that the most telltale sign of a blown head gasket is white smoke billowing from the exhaust pipe, here are other symptoms that you can quickly identify.

Poor engine performance may signify that your car’s head gasket has blown. If your car starts losing power or skipping suddenly, then you need to have that gasket head checked. If the combustion chamber is affected by the blown gasket, the proper burning of fuel is compromised, leading to decreased power output.

If your car experiences coolant loss and you cannot see any visible leaks, then there is cause for alarm. At times, there might not be leaked fluid into the combustion chamber, meaning the burning liquid might be unnoticeable. So when there is high coolant consumption without a noticeable leak, you need to take a step.

The car’s engine overheating is a frequent sign of a blown gasket. After the gasket blows, the coolant either leaks or it is entirely burned, leaving nothing to cool the engine. 

Why it is not Safe to Drive with a Blown Head Gasket

It is not advisable to drive with any faulty car part, let alone a blown head gasket. Apart from the financial consequences of driving a car with a blown head gasket due to additional repairs, there are also safety concerns. Many car engines have seized up in the long-run because the owner drove on, either unaware or fully aware of the blown gasket.

What makes driving with a blown gasket dangerous is that you will be driving with the engine’s gases and fluids in inappropriate places.

  • If the coolant leaks into the combustion chamber, then you might be faced with a myriad of problems. Firstly, the coolant in the combustion space can wreak havoc to the air-fuel ratios and destroy the sensors. 
  • When the coolant leaks in the chamber, it will foul the spark plugs leaving deposits from the combustion of the coolant. These deposits will significantly affect the engine’s performance.
  • Besides that, the coolant can lead to rusting of the cylinder wall, piston ring, and piston. If this happens, then a total engine rebuild will be required. 
  • Besides, the hot escaping coolant fluid can lead to severe burns in case you open the hood, and in the worst-case scenario, it can result in a fire.
  • Blown gaskets will allow engine oil to leak, lowering the levels of the oil and consequently affecting engine lubrication. This will, in turn, destroy the camshafts and bearings.
  • After a blown gasket, gases will leak from the combustion space, leading to extremely high pressures in the cooling process. Added to the leaked coolant, the combustion gases will give rise to a lot of heat, leading to cracking and erosion of the metal near the leak.

How Much it Costs to Repair a Blown Head Gasket

A head gasket is one of the cheapest and simplest parts in a car. For a brand new head gasket, you will hardly have to part with more than $100. But to have it repaired, you might have to pay between $1300 and $1800. This makes fixing a head gasket one of the most costly auto repair services.

So, why is the total cost for head gasket repairs is so high? You might have heard stories from friends whose gasket repair bills were painfully expensive.

Repairing a head gasket is very labor-intensive, and most importantly, it has to be handled by a certified professional.

Do you know that the price of a head gasket is only around 10% of the entire repair bill? Why is this so? It is because of the labor involved in the repair process. To make you understand why it is so expensive, let us look at the processes involved in gasket head repair.

  • Gasket head repair involves disassembling the top section of the engine, and in some car models, you have to transfer the engine to a workbench. 
  • The next step is to remove all the hoses, intake systems, and wires to reach the cylinder head. Extreme care is needed in this stage to avoid any damage.
  • Removing the cylinder head can be a little bit tricky, and you can consult the manufacturer’s manual according to the engine type. There are many engine types, and by adhering to the manual, you will be able to preserve all the components, including the bolts and cylinder heads. After this, you can now see the extent of the damage.
  • Remember, with the high number of wiring and sensors near the manifolds, plus the accessories that need to be checked, this is one of the factors that make gasket head repair so expensive.

Why would it be Better to Junk or Sell your Car Rather than Fix a Blown Head Gasket

Have you ever heard stories from people who prefer riding a bike to work rather than fixing a faulty head gasket? Well, with the repairs being so expensive, this is understandable.

The high cost of fixing the head gasket is the same reason why some car owners opt for selling their car or junking it. Faced with the option of repairing the blown gasket or buying another vehicle, other people prefer buying.

It gets worse if you have a pricey car with a complicated engine. While the repair for standard engines can range from $1300 to $1800, complicated engines can even hit the $2500 mark.

If the total cost of fixing the blown gasket is way higher than the cost of acquiring another car, your best bet would be to forgo the repairs.

To be on the safe side, before deciding the next step, look at a few quotes for the repair job and compare them with the car’s value. If the vehicle is less valuable than the repair costs, then it is recommended that you contact your nearest junk car dealer. You can even decide to sell the car.

In a nutshell, the next step regarding what to do with your vehicle should be influenced by a few factors. These include the worth of the car vis-à-vis the cost of repairs and whether the car has any additional problems caused by the blown head gasket.