Causes of Blown Head Gaskets

13 September 2017

Few mechanical breakdown events engender as much dread in a car owner’s heart as a blown head gasket. Located between the engine block and the cylinder head compartment, this mechanically-essential seal is responsible for containing the internal combustion process, plus all of those explosively rising and falling cylinder parts. It’s because of these stress factors that this gasket doesn’t leak, it blows. What are the causes of blown head gaskets?

What is A Head Gasket?

As we briefly explained a moment ago, this is the all-important engine seal that contains internal combustion stress. When the engine block is mated to the cylinder head, this geometrically complex gasket is fitted between the two core engine parts as a seal. If you were to look at it, you’d see a row of cylinder apertures, plus an accompanying series of smaller holes. The latter array of openings exists to deliver the engine lubricant and a coolant. If this primary seal were to be breached, what would happen? Well, engine compression ratios drop like the proverbial stone if the gasket leaks. Furthermore, the once isolated lubricants and coolants leak and mix. From here, the engine overheats, it spits out clouds of smoke, and there’s an increased risk of permanent engine damage.

The Causes of Blown Head Gaskets

If we know the causes, we can avoid them. For instance, those two engine halves are forged from strong alloys. Still, even the smallest manufacturing difference can alter the way one of those segments reacts to stress. If combustion cycles do produce heat, the thermal energy is making the metal expand and contract. Mechanical creep hits the head gasket hard, especially if it’s made from an overly rigid material. The result of this expansion effect is head gasket fatigue, which means a blown head gasket is imminent. Head bolt overtightening is the other culprit here, with the bolt pressure over compressing the head gasket material. Engine assembly expertise rectifies this latter problem by applying the correct torque to each bolt and installing each one in the right sequence.

Substandard head gasket materials don’t react well when placed under pressure. The segment marrying stress, perhaps done out of sequence, over compresses the seal and introduces a weak spot. Meanwhile, a poor lubrication fluid or low coolant level causes rapid expansion and contraction cycling, a repeating event that’s felt as a mechanical creep effect. Have the engine serviced by an expert, someone who will install a high-quality head gasket correctly. On top of that provision, avoid high-temperature cycling effects by using a superior lubricant and a properly topped coolant reservoir.

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