Cylinder Head Gasket Problems & Symptoms

Updated February 21, 2017

The head gasket, located between the cylinder head and the engine block, is an important part of the internal combustion engine's cooling system. Its primary function is to limit heat generated by the combustion process. It keeps the engine cool by preventing oil from mixing with coolant as both fluids move into the cylinder head from the engine block. Head gaskets are difficult to access when damaged, so expert help is generally required when they need repair or replacement.


Overheating is a major symptom of a damaged cylinder head gasket. Because it's so close to the engine (source of almost all heat generated by the vehicle), the gasket can fail, causing the engine to become overheated. A creaky or tapping sound in the engine is one warning sign. White smoke may also come out of the exhaust pipe.

Improper Installation

Improper installation is a primary source of cylinder head gasket malfunction. Common installation problems include a bad surface finish, poor sealing or incomplete fitting of the gasket. If oil or coolant is leaking from your vehicle, the head gasket may have been installed improperly or is out of place.

Wear and Tear

Head gaskets are highly susceptible to wear and tear. If a poor-quality gasket is installed, it may wear out after only a few thousand miles of vehicle use. Look for oil or coolant leaks as a symptom of this problem.

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Alexis Writing has many years of freelance writing experience. She has written for a variety of online destinations, including She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from the University of Rochester.