When is it time to install a new cylinder head gasket set?
Is your engine overheating frequently? Are you noticing white smoke coming out of your tail pipe? Do you notice a loss of power? If so, then all signs point to a blown cylinder head gasket. This could spell disaster for an engine, and should be attended to immediately. Potential (and eventual) side effects of operating a vehicle with a damaged cylinder head gasket include a loss of power due to lack of compression, overheating due to coolant loss, and complete engine failure due to mixture of engine fluids. A mechanic can perform several tests to see if your cylinder head gasket has blown. Compression and leak-down tests will tell you if one of your cylinders has a problem with the piston rings, valve stem, or cylinder head gasket. However if a lack of compression is accompanied by evidence of oil in your coolant reservoir, then it's likely you're mixing fluids and burning coolant. That's why any smoke coming from your tail pipe (especially white) is indicative of a cracked cylinder head or blown head gasket; and should be taken seriously. You wouldn't want the engine internals to overheat because of poor lubrication, and you wouldn't want the block or head to crack because it wasn't being kept cool.
Why do you need cylinder head gaskets in the first place?Cylinder head gaskets
are perhaps the most important sealing systems in your engine. If installed properly, they provide a perfect seal between your cylinder head and engine block so that you maintain cylinder compression and clearly flowing passageways for your engine coolant. The most common type of cylinder head gasket on the market today is a MLS (multiple layer steel) gasket. It is typically coated on the top and bottom with an adhesive layer made of rubber and elastomer compounds that stick to the surfaces, while the center layers of carbon steel remain solid. This provides a level of sealing quality much higher than the graphite or asbestos composite gaskets that came before it, and if you have the opportunity to use MLS as a replacement over a composite you should definitely do so. For racing applications, all copper cylinder head gaskets are often used due to their long life and durability. They are, however, expensive and not worth the extra cost unless you intend to really push your vehicle to the limits. In addition to the head gasket, a cylinder head gasket set will also include an intake manifold gasket, exhaust manifold gasket, valve cover gasket, valve stem seals, PCV and EGR gaskets, and other miscellaneous seals.
Are you experienced?
Replacing your cylinder head gasket usually requires the removal of your engine from the engine bay for the work to be done with greater ease. If you're replacing the head gaskets on your daily driver, it is going to be a task best left to professionals. A qualified and experienced mechanic will be able to do the job in one full day. However, if the cylinder head gaskets are being replaced on a project car and you have the luxury of time, then you might as well tackle the job yourself. If anything, it will be a learning experience.
- First, disconnect all ancillary engine components that would prohibit you from taking the engine out of the engine bay. That means ignition and distributor parts, cooling hoses, intake and exhaust manifolds, wire harness, and all else needs to come out. Make sure you have a detailed map of the engine, and take note of all the seals and gaskets for these parts you are removing. If your new head gasket set includes these seals, then you will be using the new ones later. If not, then you will need to save and re-install them. Remember fluids will need to be drained at this time, so prepare accordingly.
- Next, unbolt the transmission from the engine and use an engine hoist (cherry picker) to lift the engine and mount it outside the car. This will provide you with the easiest and most spacious environment in which to work.
- You are now ready to remove the timing and valve covers. There will likely be belts and/or chains you will have to remove along with tensioners, idler pulleys, water pump, camshaft(s), power steering pump, etc. Obviously, keep these for use later when you are putting the engine back together.
- If you have a push rod engine, you will have to remove each rocker arm and push rod before unbolting the head. If you have an OHV engine, then you will likely need to remove the camshaft and rockers in order to get to the head bolts. Either way, once you are able to do so, remove all the head bolts and lift the head off the block.
- Now you will have to scrape the old cylinder head gasket off the engine block and the bottom of the head. Make absolute sure there is no trace amount of old sealant or gasket on either surface. Once you are ready, install your new cylinder head gasket.
- As you reassemble the engine and its components, use all the new gaskets in your cylinder head gasket set. Simply work backwards toward complete assembly observing all manufacturer recommended tolerances and torque specifications.
Get the job done right the first time.
Keep in mind, when buying and installing a new cylinder head gasket set, most of the money you will spend is going towards labor. That means you do not want to have the job done twice. We know there are many manufacturers of engine sealing components out there, but when it comes to your cylinder head gaskets you shouldn't settle for anything less than the best. Car Parts Discount has head gaskets from original equipment suppliers as well as top quality aftermarket manufacturers, all at great prices and ready to ship right away. So if you have the misfortune of needing your cylinder head gaskets replaced, we've got you covered!