Fully understanding what goes on under a car bonnet nowadays is a complex task, with the prevalence of computer-based systems in cars. However, there remains one mainstay of the traditional car engine that most petrol or diesel-powered vehicles still share, and that is the head gasket. It is the seal over the junction between the engine block and cylinder, and its job is to contain the force of combustion inside the cylinder. In addition, it seals a number of passages for engine coolant, and undergoes huge variation in temperature as the engine warms and cools.
If this seal breaks, it can cause anything from mild annoyance to a total failure of the engine, so it is vitally important that the head gasket is fully functional and intact. Most symptoms of a blown head gasket can be detected through observation or with specialist tools.
The first symptom is oil in the coolant. With the head gasket seal broken, oil can seep through, and can go undetected for a long time. Regular inspection of the coolant can help combat this. If oil has mixed with the coolant, it will look like very milky coffee.
Likewise, coolant may seep through into the oil. This is a much more serious issue than the reverse, but again can go undetected for some time. Check the oil regularly, and look for any clumping or thickening, or that same milky coffee colour, either of which can indicate a severe problem. More minor issues can be detected by looking for the same symptoms around the rocker arms.
A blown head gasket may also cause a coolant leak. You can tell if this is the case by checking where you park for visible puddles of coolant on the ground, or if your engine is overheating. Most modern cars will have a dashboard warning icon for overheating. However, leaking coolant is a more common symptom of other issues, especially in older vehicles, so the best way to be sure is to get hold of an ultraviolet dye test kit, available at most automotive parts shops.
Lastly, a failed gasket may cause a cylinder to lose compression. This can be detected by an audible hissing or tapping sound, and in more serious cases, a loss of power from the engine. A compression gauge will offer the most accurate test for this issue.
For more information on your head gasket and other servicing issues in Kent, get in touch with Beadles Group.
How To Maintain: Head Gaskets
You can prevent a head gasket from completely blowing by spotting signs early.
Be on the look-out for a radiator that regularly needs topping up with water, or runs at high temperatures.
Check the oil to see if it’s white or milky.
Check under the car for coolant leaking from below the exhaust manifold.
Another symptom is a large cloud of smoke leaving the exhaust when you start the engine, or after it has been sitting idle for a long time. Look in your rear-view mirror every time you start the car to see if anything appears.
The final stage is a large cloud of smoke and sky-high engine temperature after a few minutes of running. If it gets to this point, it may be too late to prevent extensive damage.
If you’re worried about your engine, contact Beadles soon rather than later. Most head gasket failures happen during everyday driving, so your engine could fail at any moment.
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