The national cost for a cylinder head assembly replacement with CarAdvise in 2024 is between $502 and $4398 with an average of $1770.

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What is a cylinder head and how does it work?

An engine cylinder is a cylindrical compartment in which a piston travels inside your engine. Most modern engines feature four to eight cylinders. The cylinder head mounts on top of the engine, creating a cap on the cylinders. The cylinder head also houses the spark plugs, intake valves, exhaust valves, and, in most cases, the camshaft(s).

A four-cycle internal combustion engine, like the one used in your non-electric vehicle, does four things in succession. First, each piston in its turn moves downward in the cylinder, creating a vacuum and drawing in a mixture of air and fuel from the fuel injector. Second, the piston moves upward toward the cylinder head, compressing the air and fuel. Third, at just the right time, the spark plug fires, setting off a combustion event that drives the piston downward. Fourth, the piston travels upward again, this time expelling the exhaust gases that are the byproduct of combustion.

In order for this sequence of events to happen, each cylinder is fitted with one or more intake and exhaust valves that open and close in response to the action of the camshaft. Since an engine can have anywhere from four to eight cylinders or pistons, and each cylinder can have up to four valves, it is possible for a camshaft (multiple camshafts) to actuate thirty two valves at a time. All of this activity and more happens inside the cylinder head.


How is a a Cylinder Head Assembly Replacement done?

Cylinder head replacement is a complex task that requires a good deal of tools and training. A technician must drain the cooling system of coolant, remove any engine covers and other components that are in the way of access to the cylinder head, and remove both the intake and exhaust manifolds connected to it. Each of these tasks is fairly involved in and of itself, and that is only the beginning of the repair. From there, a technician will take the following general (and abbreviated) steps:

  • Remove the serpentine drive belt
  • Decompress and disconnect the fuel rail, throttle cable, and kickdown cable
  • Remove the valve cover(s)
  • Disconnect the spark plug wires (or remove the coils if they are mounted on the plugs)
  • Unplug and remove any sensors attached to the cylinder head (camshaft position sensor, etc.)
  • Remove the crankshaft pulley and timing cover
  • Remove the timing belt or chain
  • Remove the camshaft(s) and valves
  • Unbolt the cylinder head from the engine block and remove from the vehicle With the cylinder head outside of the vehicle, the replacement part must be prepped and a fresh gasket fitted before it is installed, torqued to manufacturer’s specifications, and refitted with the valves and camshaft(s). The timing components must be carefully synchronized to ensure proper engine operation. Then all of the other components must be reinstalled.

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National average cost of a a Cylinder Head Assembly Replacement
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How do I know if my vehicle needs a cylinder head replaced?

Problems with a cylinder head often stem from cracking or warping, often due to engine overheating. Lack of engine lubrication or oil changes that are few and far between can cause problems with components inside the cylinder head as well, the camshaft(s), valves, and more. If your cylinder head goes bad, you might notice one or more of the following signs:

Visible coolant leak from the engine

Low coolant level

Thick white smoke coming from the exhaust

A syrupy smell

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Other questions customers ask

Is it okay to replace just one cylinder head?
Engines that are arranged in a straight or inline configuration have only a single cylinder head. V6 and V8 engines, on the other hand, have two. If one cylinder head goes bad, but the other does not, it is usually okay to replace only the failed component. Unfortunately, the factors that contribute to one bad cylinder head can also affect the other.
Can a cylinder head be repaired?
Whether or not a cylinder head can be repaired depends on the severity of the damage. Small cracks can be welded and the old cylinder head can be machined to be reused. A warped head can sometimes be ground even and reused as well. But a severely damaged cylinder head cannot. In some cases, it might make economic sense to simply replace a bad cylinder head even if it might be repairable.
Why do cylinder heads fail?
The main reason that a cylinder head fails is engine overheating, usually caused by either low coolant, restricted flow of coolant, or a blown head gasket. Poor maintenance can also contribute to a bad cylinder head, as the components inside - the camshaft(s), valves, etc. - require ample oil to work properly.

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