auto maintenance February 10, 2018

The Basics of Head Gaskets and Why They are Important

When car owners begin to suspect problems with their vehicle, they sometimes are tempted to push the thought away and focus on something else. Why? Because suspecting a problem with your car, truck or SUV is different than knowing something is wrong. When you know something is wrong, that means visiting the mechanic and bracing yourself for a repair bill. When you suspect something is wrong with the head gasket in your vehicle, you should never bury your head in the sand — it’s an issue that will not go away on its own, and will ultimately lead to an even greater expense for repairs. Here’s some basic information on what the head gasket is, what it does and why the repair bill is more than you may think.

It may seem like a gasket should not be that expensive to replace, after all, it is just a thin piece of rubber used between the engine block and the cylinder head. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong.

The engine block contains pistons that move up and down in the cylinder bores; the pistons are connected to rods, which are connected to a crankshaft — that’s what gives the vehicle the power to move. On top of the engine is the cylinder head, inside of that are the valves that open and close, allowing air and fuel into the cylinders and expels the spent gas. This is where the head gasket is located – meaning there are a lot of parts to move out of the way before the head gasket can be reached. So while the head gasket itself is not a very expensive part to replace, getting there is the hard part.

When a head gasket fails, it is typically the result of any number of reasons — and none of them are good. Usually, the head gasket fails because the engine overheated, causing the engine block and head to expand beyond its limits. When this happens, the head gasket gets pinched by the expansion, and will tear, rip or disintegrate.

The best way to avoid a head gasket replacement is through regular maintenance of your cooling system. Stop in today and let our certified technicians evaluate your cooling system, which includes the thermostat, thermostat housing, radiator and coolant. Replacing any of these parts will be greatly less expensive than replacing the head gasket, not to mention replacing the engine if excessive damage is caused as the head gasket fails.

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