OwnershipWhat's a head gasket? And why does it cost so much to fix?
What It Was Like Taking a Road Trip in a 255,000 Mile Jeep Powered By a $145 Engine
Over Thanksgiving weekend, I drove my 255,000 mile 1992 Jeep Cherokee 1,300 miles from Michigan to and from Virginia. It’s a vehicle whose engine I had blown up three years prior and swapped with a $145 Craigslist motor that was being sold out of a field. Here’s how that cheap engine held up in its first real test. “You get what you pay for” is a phrase I hear and ignore quite often, so after I spotted a cheap 4.0-liter Jeep engine for sale on Craigslist a few years ago, I wasn’t surprised to find the thing sitting in the seller’s lawn with no protection other than a coffee cup over the intake.
I hate head gaskets.
That may seem like an impractical statement about a part that allows the two halves of your engine to work together, but it's a part that fails spectacularly, expensively and all too often in an era when little else fails on modern cars.
The head gasket is a piece of thin material with a lot of holes in it.
It seals the engine head, where the valves reside, to the engine block where the pistons live. It prevents compression, combustion, oil and coolant from escaping or mixing with each other in the channels running between the two major assemblies of the engine.
When even a small part of the head gasket is breached, or "blown," your car will run poorly -- if at all -- spewing white or blue smoke from the tailpipe and burning through a lot of oil, coolant or both.
The repair is to replace the gasket entirely, which involves removing about half of the engine to get to it. And when you've invested the labor to tear down the engine that far you often address other things like valve reconditioning, timing chain replacement, water pump service, or intake and exhaust gaskets. That's why a head gasket job is seldom just that. It usually starts around a grand and can easily hit several thousand dollars.
Here's Why Volkswagen Plans to Abandon Front-Wheel-Drive EVs
Future EVs will only be rear-drive or AWD
Easiest way to avoid this expensive nightmare? Get an electric car. They don't have engine blocks, cylinder heads or head gaskets mating the two. Problem solved.
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The 2020 Ford Mustang's Base Model Gets Its Own Performance Package.
This single box-check option, borrowed from the Focus RS, can take a 2.3-liter Mustang from base to race.
Your Email: What causes head gasket failure? | Cooley On Cars
Brian Cooley answers your questions. What is a head gasket and why did mine fail? What is a head gasket? And why does it cost so much to fix? Head gaskets ...
Blown Head Gasket Repair Cost
When most of us hear the phrase “blown head gasket” we see dollar signs flash before our eyes. If you haven't experienced it with one of your vehicles, you've ...