The national cost for a cylinder head gasket replacement with CarAdvise in 2024 is between $53 and $2535 with an average of $843.

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What is a cylinder head gasket and how does it work?

A cylinder head gasket is a mechanical seal that prevents engine oil and coolant from escaping the engine and from entering the wrong compartments inside.

A 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).

Four-cycle internal combustion engines, like the one used in your non-electric vehicle, do 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 Gasket Replacement done?

It is a fairly complex task to replace a cylinder head gasket, since there are many steps to removing the cylinder head from the engine block. It is a 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 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
  • Clean the mounting surfaces of the head and the engine block of any old gasket material or sealant
  • Install the new gasket
  • Reinstall the cylinder head and torque the bolts to manufacturer’s specifications Once the cylinder head and gasket have been fastened in place, the timing components must be carefully aligned, and all of the other components must be reinstalled and fluids topped off.

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National average cost of a a Cylinder Head Gasket Replacement
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How do I know if my vehicle needs a new cylinder head gasket?

A bad or “blown” cylinder head gasket is one that no longer seals as it should. Engine oil or coolant might escape the engine. Or they might leak from one area of the engine to another, into places where they do not belong. For instance, coolant could mix into the oil through a blown head gasket. Or it could get into the combustion chamber where air and mix with the air and fuel inside.

Signs of a bad cylinder head gasket include:

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 better to fix a head gasket or replace the engine?
If your engine is otherwise undamaged, it is usually a better idea (and a less-costly one) to replace the cylinder head gasket when it fails. While head gasket replacement is not an inexpensive option, it usually does not bear the same cost or level of complexity as a new or rebuilt engine.
Is it okay to drive with a blown head gasket?
Sometimes an engine will still run with a blown head gasket. It will leak oil or coolant, perhaps internally, but it might still run. The question is, what other damage might occur if you drive with a blown head gasket? Engine coolant in the oil prevents proper lubrication. If it gets into the combustion chamber, your engine will misfire and the ECM might place your engine into limp mode as a result. There are a number of problems that a blown head gasket can cause, so it should be repaired as soon as possible.
Do head gaskets fail suddenly?
While it is common for a head gasket to deteriorate gradually, it can also fail suddenly. If your engine overheats for some other reason - low coolant level, an obstructed radiator, a bad thermostat, and the like - the head gasket can fail. Pre Ignition issues can also cause pressure to build up in the engine and damage the head gasket. Aggressive driving can sometimes contribute as well.

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