How far you can drive on a blown head gasket will mostly be based on a number of factors we shall look at in this guide. But first, what is a head gasket?
For someone who is learning about a head gasket for the first time, just know it is a gasket that is fitted between the car’s cylinder head and engine block.
The work of this gasket is to keep fuel and air inside the combustion chamber to allow for the mixture to be ignited and burned correctly. It also keeps the oil or coolant from mixing into the combustion chamber.
Problems of Having a Blown Head Gasket
You can expect to have poor engine performance when you have coolant or oil leaking into the combustion chamber. This is because it ends up altering the air-fuel ratio. Sometimes it can lead to sensors failing.
Coolant in the combustion space can also make the piston ring, cylinder wall, and piston rust. Rust means more friction and low compression. Here, a full engine rebuild is necessary.
Of course when oil and coolant mix, the oil will no longer offer the best lubrication. Without proper lubrication, you can expect to end up with total engine failure.
Having a blown gasket could lead to a coolant leak meaning the engine does not have enough coolant to keep it within the right operating range.
An overheating engine is a next thing for you. Keep driving like this and you will end up with a seized engine.
Modern cars are likely to stop or get into limp mode until the head gasket is fixed. So, rather than driving a car that might break down anytime, it is best that you also consider having it repaired first.
Signs of a Blown Head Gasket
Once you understand the signs of a blown head gasket that is when you can take proper actions to repair the car. Here are some notable signs that you have a blown head gasket.
Coolant is leaking from the engine
This leak would be below the exhaust or intake manifold. You are likely to notice it, even more, when the engine is all warmed up.
In severe cases, it will appear as a stream of coolant spraying out of the engine.
The engine tends to overheat more often
Losing a lot of coolant means the engine can longer cool efficiently. If you do not address the issue in good time, chances are you can damage the engine further.
When the engine keeps overheating, you may have to consider an engine rebuild.
White smoke from the exhaust
If the coolant leak is internal, it means that the coolant would be removed from the engine via the exhaust system. The burning of coolant leaves you with a white smoke that sometimes also has a sweet smell.
Remember, white smoke when you start the engine, especially during cold mornings is fine. However, if the smoke still persists and the engine is already warm, then that is a red flag.
Radiator has bubbles
It is possible for the exhaust gases to enter the radiator thanks to an internal leak because of the blown gasket. The best part is that you can find a test kit for your radiator in most auto shops around the company.
If you get bubbles in the radiator, it is best to have it cleaned and also seal the head gasket.
The oil turns to a milky white color
Large internal leaks will lead to the coolant now mixing with the oil. When coolant mixes with oil, you end up with a milky white solution.
Check your dipstick or under the cap to see if you can find any possible milky solution.
Here is a quick video to consider too
How To Prevent a Blown Head Gasket
In most cases, it is possible to avoid having a blown gasket, but people tend to ignore the signs thus resulting in this problem.
Having too much pressure in the engine is not good for its operation. As much as a head gasket is built to withstand high pressure, but it gets blown when there is too much pressure.
Some of the reasons why you have high pressure include the engine is knocking, build-up of carbon deposits, and having failed pressure regulating systems such as those in a turbocharged engine.
Cost of Head Gasket Repair
Head gasket repair is not always cheap. Expect it to cost around $1000 to $2000 depending on the type of car. Other factors that might affect the cost of repair of a head gasket include;
- Type of cylinder head
- Engine block damage
- Cylinder head damage
- The number of cylinder banks
- Additional replacement of components
The gasket itself would be cheap. It is the labor and expertise that would be at a premium. Not every mechanic you meet will do such a job.
Here is a video on fixing a head gasket leak
Will drive a car with a blown head gasket damage the engine?
The longer you drive such a car, the more chances of damaging the engine. This is because the engine now operates at levels where it is starved of coolant or there is the mixing of coolant and oil thus no proper lubrication.
How long can a person drive with a blown head gasket?
It is advisable that you do not do it for long. The best would be to have the car towed to an auto shop and have it repaired before driving again.
Should you replace or fix a blown head gasket?
It is not worth fixing a blown head gasket. This is because it would not provide the seal that you want.
Which is cheaper? Replacing an engine or gasket?
Regardless of the car model, it is best to replace a gasket rather than the engine. Do not let the labor for changing a gasket scare you.
Should you use additives to seal your gasket?
As much as such coolant additives might help with temporary relief, it is best if you only have the gasket replaced correctly.