Blog Car Care Advice Can You Drive with a Blown Head Gasket & What are the Risks?
Car Care Advice

Can You Drive with a Blown Head Gasket & What are the Risks?

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Here’s something you don’t want: staring at the ominous signs of a potentially blown head gasket

However, it could happen, and if it did, you might wonder:
Should I continue driving, or is gasket failure a one-way ticket to an automotive disaster

Gear up as we lift the hood to answer the burning question — “Can you drive with a blown head gasket?” and address other related concerns. 

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Let’s get going.

Can You Drive with a Blown Head Gasket?

Short answer: No!

Even though you may technically be able to drive with a blown head gasket for a while, we strongly recommend that you don’t.

A head gasket failure is a severe engine issue that’s not only costly to fix, but ignoring it could lead to catastrophic engine damage. 

Here’s how:
The head gasket is installed between the engine block and the cylinder head. The moment it blows, it leads to an immediate pressure loss in the combustion chamber — resulting in a loss of engine power

But that’s not it.

The head gasket also helps keep the combustion gasses, coolant, and engine oil from mixing or entering the combustion chamber. 

In case of a blown gasket, the engine coolant can mix with your engine oil, reducing its ability to lubricate critical engine parts. The coolant can also foul a spark plug, affect the air-fuel mix in the combustion chamber, or damage sensors. 

If the coolant keeps leaking, there won’t be enough fluid in the cooling system to maintain optimum engine temperature. Soon, you’ll have an overheating engine, which may crack and cease to function. 

Likewise, an engine oil leak can lead to a loss of lubrication and engine overheating. It can also damage the bearings and camshaft, leading to a hefty engine repair bill. 

Remember: Most head gaskets don’t fail immediately but begin as a minor gasket leak. It’s important to watch for signs of head gasket failure so you can prevent severe engine damage. 

Let’s check out what these signs are. 

6 Tell Tale Signs of a Blown Head Gasket

Here are some symptoms that strongly indicate you have a blown or leaking head gasket: 

  1. Overheating engine: If the temperature gauge on your dash starts hitting its upper range, it could be due to a failing head gasket. Stop your car immediately and let your engine cool down before seeking help. 
  1. Milky white engine oil: If the engine oil on your dipstick or on the oil cap appears milky, it’s a surefire sign of a blown head gasket. This happens when the coolant leak causes the antifreeze to mix with engine oil. 
  1. White smoke from exhaust: If you can see white smoke emanating from the tailpipe, it means coolant has made its way from the coolant passage into a cylinder in the combustion chamber. 
  1. Blue smoke from exhaust: A blown gasket can allow engine oil to enter a cylinder in the combustion chamber, producing blue smoke. 
  1. Loss of engine power: A bad head gasket will lead to compression loss in the combustion chamber, resulting in loss of power. 
  1. Bubbles in the coolant reservoir: Gasket failure could cause the exhaust gasses to leak into the coolant passage and reach the radiator. As a result, you may see bubbles in the coolant tank. 

If you have noticed any of these signs, unfortunately, you are looking at a blown head gasket. But before you decide to get it fixed, let’s understand what could have led to a blown gasket. 

What Leads to a Blown Head Gasket?

Here are some of the common reasons that can cause your cylinder head gasket to blow up: 

Next, let’s find out how much a head gasket repair can set you back.

How Much Does a Head Gasket Repair Cost?

Since a head gasket repair is a pretty complex job, replacing it is a more viable option. The replacement typically ranges between $1,000 and $3,000 due to the extensive labor involved. 

The cost of head gasket replacement can also vary based on the year, make, and model of your car and the labor charges in your area. You may have to bear additional costs for fixing issues that caused gasket failure.

This brings us to the next question: 

Does a Blown Head Gasket Mean the End of My Car?

A bad head gasket doesn’t automatically spell doom for your vehicle, but it does require prompt attention.

Generally, replacing the faulty head gasket is possible. But, if the engine has suffered extensive damage or if replacing the gasket would cost more than the current value of the vehicle, it may be more practical to scrap your car instead of getting the costly fix. 

You should consult with a professional mechanic for a thorough evaluation in such situations.

Now that you have a fair idea about the gravity of a blown head gasket, let’s also address the additional questions you might have.  

3 FAQs on Head Gaskets

Here are answers to some common queries regarding this crucial seal: 

1. What Does a Head Gasket Do?

A head gasket is a metal seal that sits between the engine block and the cylinder head (the roof of the cylinder set) in an internal combustion engine. Its job is to seal the combustion chambers and prevent the leakage of engine oil and coolant into the combustion chamber. 

Likewise, it also prevents any combustion gas from escaping out of the cylinders. 

2. Is a Head Gasket Sealer Effective?

A head gasket sealer like “Bar’s Stop Leak” is a chemical that reacts to the engine heat and helps form a temporary seal. These sealers are poured into the radiator, which, once hot enough, are circulated through the cooling system to seal the damaged area. 

The “Stop Leak” sealer helps prevent further leakage of engine coolant or oil, providing a short-term solution for minor head gasket leak issues.

It’s important to note that a head gasket sealer may not be suitable for more extensive or severe engine damage. It can only buy you some time before you can get the engine repair done.

3. How to Prevent Head Gasket Failure

While a head gasket problem can be unpredictable, there are a few preventive measures you can take to reduce the risk:

Get Your Engine Purring in No Time with AutoNation Mobile Service 

Driving with a faulty head gasket poses significant risks to your engine’s health and will result in more extensive and costly repairs. If you suspect a gasket leak, you should avoid driving and seek professional help immediately.

And for that, AutoNation Mobile Service is at your service!

Contact us, and our expert mechanics will come to you to fix your auto troubles right in your driveway.