What you should understand about head Gaskets
A gasket is defined as a shaped ring or piece of material that is used to seal the space/junction between two flat surfaces e.g. engine and other components. Thus, a head gasket is gasket that seals the junction between the cylinder head and the engine block. The main function of a gasket is to ensure high compression in the engine by not allowing leakage of engine oil into the cylinders. A good gasket should be made from high temperature resistant material.
When should you change the head gasket?
Like stated above, a gasket should always seal the space between the cylinder head and the engine block. When the head gasket has ruptured, the coolant can easily leak into the cylinders. That means that the engine will consume the coolant very fast and the engine will start overheating. It is important to detect ruptured head gasket early enough and replace it as soon as possible? Minor gasket damage can lead to loss of coolant or lubricant forcing you to add engine oil and/or coolant more regularly. More severe gasket damages can lead to mixing of coolant and engine oil and loss of compression as a result. If your car can’t run anymore, you need to have it checked for head gasket damages.
How do you detect a ruptured head gasket?
Coolant runs through numerous passages within the engine block, picking excess heat and maintaining the temperature of the engine to within recommended levels. When a gasket is ruptured the coolant can find its way to the combustion chambers and be consumed in the process. You can detect coolant consumption by looking at the exhaust pipe while the engine is running. Sometimes you can see excess water dropping from the exhaust pipe or steam escaping with exhaust gases. You can test for steam availability in the exhaust gases by placing your hand close to the exhaust pipe and see whether it will get wet. You can also check the coolant reservoir and see whether you can detect bubble at the engine inlet.
Engine oil is used for lubricating various moving parts within the engine block. If your car is consuming excess oil, then the head gasket might be ruptured. When an engine is over consuming oil it idles poorly and if you detect that you should check for head gasket damages. Another way of detecting oil leaks is by looking at the exhaust gases; if you see bluish-whitish smoke, then you should think about possible head gasket rupture.
Installing a new head gasket
After establishing beyond doubt that the head gasket of your car is the problem, the next step should be acquiring a new one to replace the damaged one. You can replace it yourself, you have the technical expertise or you can take the car to your mechanic for easy installation. The process of installing a new gasket is fairly straightforward but if not done properly, the problem detect might still persist even after replacement.
What you require to replace a head gasket
- A new gasket that matches the old one; you can carry the ruptured gasket to the auto shop in case you are not sure about the size requirements.
- Owner’s manual – if you still have access to your manual then it will come in handy while you are replacing the head gasket.
- Wretch set
- Applicator and RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanant)
With the aid of your car manual, remove all engine components as will be directed by the manual. Make sure you handle each of them carefully to avoid dents and breakages. It is also important to arrange them in an order that you can easily follow when assembling them back.
Using the wretch set, remove all the bolts to free the cylinder head. Remove it and carefully put it aside. Now the damaged head gasket is accessible. Remove it using the prybar. Wide the surface that was covered by the old gasket to ensure that the surface is perfectly clean before you place the new gasket.
Wipe the head clean and examine it to ensure that there are not damages before you restore the parts. Push the new gasket tightly against the head to ensure a perfect seal. In case it doesn’t connect well on all corners, apply RTV then assemble the other parts and start the engine for testing purposes.
Selecting material for cylinder head gasket
There are many types of head gaskets available in the market, but they can be broadly be classified into two categories; composite and metallic head gaskets. What determines the type of head gasket to buy? Mostly, the material of the head gasket is determined by the performance requirements and the demands of the buyer. Below is a list of the most common head gasket types that you can buy;
Carbon head gaskets
Carbon is a good thermo conductor (though an insulator). Carbon gaskets can withstand high temperatures for a long time. They are also good fit for poor flange surfaces. They are safe for turbo charged environment
Composite head gaskets
Composites are more versatile as compared to other material. Mostly, they are made from asbestos or carbon (graphite). They are resistant to corrosion from coolants, alcohol, oil, et cetera. Composite gaskets are considered old generation gaskets and are not very common today because they are more prone to blowout than most of the other gaskets.
Solid copper head gaskets
Copper metal is a very good conductor. Gaskets made from copper are resistant to warping because of fair distribution of heat. They also conform to distorted surfaces very well, meaning they can last even longer.
MLS or Multi-Layered Steel Head Gaskets
These are more modern gaskets that are designed to perform well under high temperatures and higher compression ratios. Normally, the gaskets are made of three steel layers. The contact side is coated with viton or other rubber material. The rigid metallic nature of steel means that the gasket cannot be distorted easily, thus improving the performance of the gasket even under extreme conditions.
Neoprene, EPDM, Rubber Head Gaskets
Neoprene or polychloroprene synthetic rubber is produced through free-radical polymerization of chloroplene. It is has a wide range of properties and chemical inertia that makes it ideal for production of installations for electrical cables and other installation sealing. Neoprene rubber gaskets are resistant to salty water and oils. They perform well below the 110 0C.
Selecting the best Gasket sealant
There are so many sealant brands in the market today and it is easy to get mixed up while choosing the best fit for your head gasket. It important to understand that different gasket types will require different sealant type. The sealant can affect the longevity of the gasket, thus you should make the most fitting selection.
#1 Ultra black – Permatex 82180
The number one choice is the Permatex ultra black, which is considered to have superior oil resistance. It cures easily, resists oil, is non-corrosive and is still highly flexible. These gasket makers offer significant performance advantages, excellent torque retention and hi-temp, sensor-safe properties.