How to Replace a VW Head Gasket

Updated November 21, 2016

Whether you have a Beetle, Eurovan, Golf or Jetta, replacing the head gasket is a relatively similar procedure. You may need to replace your head gasket when the engine overheats or if you have an improperly designed gasket for your vehicle. When you change the head gasket, you will remove and disconnect most of the components in the upper section of the engine to reach the gasket. It sits between the engine block and cylinder head.

Check to see if your Volkswagen's engine components are cold. Disconnect your battery terminals. Let the coolant drain from the system by unplugging the cap under the compressor or in the rear region of the power steering pump. Draining the coolant stops the coolant from going into the crankcase and pistons.

Write the name of each component located in the upper section of the engine in the Volkswagen. Remove or disconnect the ignition wires, spark plugs, intake ducts, vacuum lines, air cleaner and release the fuel pressure. Take the hose off the vehicle, such as heater hose, the upper radiator hose and coolant bypass hose. Remove the belt and pump from the power steering tank and sit it on a workstation. Keep the hydraulic line in place.

Support the vehicle on wooden blocks that sit on padded floor jacks. Take the engine anchor brackets off the vehicle situated in the front on the left side. Gently pull the air compressor belt from off the motor and disconnect the tension bracket from the alternator. Remove the distributor mounting and detach the fuel line. Seal the fuel line so the fluid does not spill.

Begin taking apart the upper parts on the engine and connections: exhaust gas recirculation valve electrical connector, manifold absolute pressure sensor connection, camshaft position electrical connector, engine coolant temperature sensor, electrical connector and crankshaft position sensor electrical connector. Keep in mind the location of the components you remove.

Take off the bolts secured to the cylinder head in a zigzag manner. Start with the outermost bolt and go to the centre of the cylinder head. Take the cylinder head from the vehicle and look for damage. If leaks and cracks persist, replace the entire unit. Sanitise the cylinder head if you do not plan to add a new cylinder head. Place oil on the new bolts for the cylinder head prior to installing. Clean the surface of the head gasket mating and put the new head gasket in place with "Top" facing up. Ensure the new head gasket sits upward and the dowel pins line up.

Pivot the crankshaft to Top Dead Center (TDC) of cylinder No. 1 and back up approximately one-fourth. Place the head cylinder down and install bolts No. 8 and 10 in position first. Position the rest of the bolts and torque in the correct sequence in three steps. Torque to 30 foot-pounds. Then torque to 44 foot-pounds and a complete half turn.

Place the rest of the parts in the opposite order of installation. Review a Volkswagen repair manual for the exact torque, since this can change with different model years.


Look at a repair manual to help recognise the parts of the Volkswagen.

Things You'll Need

  • Ratchet and socket
  • Screwdriver
  • Coolant
  • New head gasket
  • Torque wrench
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