A blown head gasket can be a pretty costly thing to repair, so you may be tempted to keep driving your car while you put off getting it fixed. Whatever you do, do not do this! Driving with a blown head gasket can be very dangerous and can end up damaging your car even further.
In this article, we’ll be going over what purpose a head gasket serves, why it’s dangerous to drive your car if the head gasket is blown, signs of a blown head gasket to be aware of, and ways that you can prevent your head gasket from blowing.
What Does a Head Gasket Do?
In order to better understand why driving with a blown head gasket is so dangerous, you must first understand what exactly a head gasket does. This part is located between the engine block and the cylinder head in your car, and it is what keeps oil and coolant from mixing together as they travel from the engine block to the cylinder head. It also helps to keep your engine cool so that your car does not overheat while you’re driving it.
Dangers of Driving With a Blown Head Gasket
Now that you know what a head gasket does, let’s take a look at why driving with a blown one can be dangerous.
Coolant May Escape From Your Engine
Without the head gasket there to serve as a blocker between the engine block and cylinder head, coolant can begin to escape from your engine. Without coolant, your engine can overheat while you’re driving it and you may end up damaging the engine in addition to the blown head gasket.
The leaking coolant becomes hot too, so if you pop the hood to take a look inside, you may end up burning yourself. When this hot coolant is leaking, it also puts your car at risk for catching on fire.
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Coolant May Enter Your Cylinders
The head gasket keeps the coolant and oil from mixing together, so without it working properly, those two things may mix and leak into your cylinders. If this happens, it can keep your engine from being properly lubricated and result in some major engine damage. So if you don’t want to end up having to pay to fix both your head gasket and your engine, then you’d better just take your car into a mechanic as soon as you suspect that your head gasket is blown rather than continue to drive it.
Signs of a Blown Head Gasket
You may now be wondering, “how do I know if I have a blown head gasket?” Luckily, there are signs that you can look for that will alert you if your head gasket is blown. Here are a few of the main ones:
- White smoke is blowing out of your tailpipe
- Water is leaking out of your tailpipe
- Your engine is overheating
- Your oil has turned a milky white color
- There is bubbling occurring in your radiator and coolant reservoir
- There are streaks of coolant and oil dripping from the head gasket’s seal
- Your engine loses power
All of these signs are caused from the coolant entering your cylinder. If you notice any of these signs happening in your car, get it to a safe space and shut the engine off immediately to avoid any further damage to your car.
Do not try to open up the hood of the car yourself, as there may be hot coolant that’s leaked down into the hood that could burn you. Instead, call your mechanic and get it in to have it looked at by him as soon as possible.
How Can I Prevent a Blown Head Gasket?
A blown head gasket usually occurs because the head gasket is regularly exposed to fluctuations in temperature, as well as high pressure levels. While a head gasket is meant to be able to withstand these temperature fluctuations and high pressure levels, sometimes both the temperature and pressure levels can climb to higher than normal which will cause the gasket to blow.
One thing that tends to cause the pressure levels to become higher than normal is something called knocking, or pre-ignition. If you take the proper measures to prevent knocking then it will also help to prevent your gasket from blowing. To help prevent knocking, make sure that your car’s fuel system is clean and that its ignition timing is set correctly to the manufacturer’s set point.
Carbon build up is another thing that can lead to a blown gasket because it can reduce the size of your car’s combustion chamber which can lead to an abnormally high compression ratio. To prevent carbon from building up, you can purchase a cleaner at your local auto shop and use it to clean out any carbon deposits in your engine.
Temperature levels that are higher than normal can cause your head gasket to warp and either expand or contract from its original shape, damaging the gasket. To help prevent the temperatures from getting to this abnormally high level, it is important for you to always keep your coolant levels topped off and to be sure that your cooling system is working properly at all times.
Pay attention to your temperature gauge while you’re driving, especially when transporting a heavier load, and if it seems off, then make sure that your coolant levels are where they need to be and that your cooling system is functioning properly. This may require taking your car into a mechanic, but it’s better to do this then than to wait and have to take it in when your head gasket eventually blows.
A blown head gasket can be a real pain to deal with, as well as an expensive repair to make on your car. Taking proper preventative measures can help to reduce your risk of blowing a head gasket though, so be sure to take those measures and always monitor your car for any signs of overheating. If your head gasket does end up getting blown though, do not continue driving the car under any circumstances, otherwise it could put the engine of your car at risk for damage.