Signs of a Blown Head Gasket

Updated March 23, 2017

The head gasket on a car performs two important functions. First, it contains the internal combustion process; second, it separates the coolant from the oil as they work their way independently from the engine block to the car's cylinder head. The head gasket is located between a car's engine block and its cylinder head, making it difficult to access; this is why replacing one can be so expensive. There are many different signs indicating a blown head gasket; keeping them in mind and acting on them quickly is the best way to prevent major motor damage to your vehicle.

Bubbles In the Radiator

If you suspect that your car has a blown head gasket, checking its radiator is one way to confirm it. When a car's head gasket has a leak, air bubbles can travel into the radiator. To check this, remove the car's radiator cap. After letting the engine warm up, rev it a couple of times; if bubbles emerge from the radiator, you probably have a blown head gasket.

Exhaust Symptoms

Evidence of a blown head gasket can present itself in three different ways via a car's exhaust system. Unusually white smoke may be emitted from the tailpipe. Water may be seen dripping from a vehicle's exhaust pipe when there is a blown head gasket. Finally, a car's exhaust may have an unusually sweet smell when there is a problem with its head gasket.

Oil Symptoms

A car's oil can help diagnose a blown head gasket. Oil becomes contaminated when a head gasket has a leak or other problems. When the oil becomes contaminated, a milky looking ring will appear around the oil cap. This ring occurs when coolant mixes with engine oil.

Engine Symptoms

A slow, sluggish or unresponsive engine is another sign of a blown head gasket. This happens due to the compression loss which occurs when a head gasket has a leak, tear or other problem. A vehicle is much likelier to overheat under these circumstances as well.

Spark Plug Symptoms

For vehicles that use green coolant, the spark plugs may provide another symptom of a blown head gasket. In this case, the plugs may have a green tint around them. In extremely severe cases, coolant might even spray out of the spark plug holes.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Meaghan Ringwelski is a professional freelance writer. She's been writing for more than five years and has contributed to many websites. Currently, Meaghan is a contributing editor for Dimensions Weekly and also ghost writes blogs for many regular clients.