How to repair a Chevrolet Cavalier head gasket

Updated November 21, 2016

General Motors manufactured the Chevrolet Cavalier from 1982 to 2005. Regardless of the model year you own, repairing the head gasket is comparable in each model. It will take time and some patience to reach the head gasket, since it lodges in the middle of the engine block and cylinder head. Unfortunately, you will need to remove and disconnect most of the Cavalier's upper engine parts to complete the job. This job is typically meant for a professional mechanic.

Start repairing the head gasket after your engine and its surrounding components are cool. Detach the negative cable from the battery terminal. Release the coolant from the coolant system into a sealable container below the radiator petcock.

Mark and ticket the components on the Chevrolet Cavalier. Place a wooden block on cushioned floor jacks. Position cushioned floor jack securely under the Cavalier. Take off or detach the top components of the engine: timing belt, intake manifold, exhaust manifold, valve cover and distributor. Loosen the various engine hoses: heater hose and the top radiator hose. Disconnect the electrical connections, such as coolant temperature indicator, crankshaft position indicator and the camshaft position indicator. Note the location of each part of the Chevrolet Cavalier.

Loosen the cylinder head bolts in the reverse arrangement of the tightening cycle. Remove the cylinder head and worn head gasket off the Cavalier. Clean the surface of the gasket. Put a new head gasket in place on the Cavalier. Tighten the new bolts for the cylinder head with a torque wrench. Tighten the long bolts to 62 Nm (46 foot-pounds) in the correct sequence. Tighten the short bolts in sequence to 58 Nm (43 foot-pounds). Rotate an extra 90 degrees for each bolt.

Connect and replace all of the parts back on the Cavalier. Review a Cavalier repair guide to confirm the exact torque for all of the rest of the bolts.


Have a car manual handy to confirm what the different car parts should resemble for reference.

Things You'll Need

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