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What does your car’s head gasket do and when does it need repairs?

mechanic checking car’s head gasket

Unless you drive an electric car, your car runs on an internal combustion engine.

Engines are complex mechanical systems made up of many precision components, most of which can be very expensive to repair. To get coverage for engine repairs, you can sign up for a vehicle service contract, also known as an extended car warranty.

One of the major parts of your car’s engine is the head gasket. Read on to find out more about this component and how to know when it’s failing.

Where is the car’s head gasket located?

The head gasket is an essential part of your car’s engine. It sits between the engine block and the cylinder head. 

What does the head gasket do?

The head gasket seals the engine’s internal combustion process. The internal combustion process is the process by which energy of burning gasoline becomes mechanical work (also known as torque)

The head gasket also works to effectively prevent the mixing of coolant and oil as both these liquids move from the engine block to the cylinder head.

What are the different types of head gaskets?

A head gasket may be made up of multi-layer steel, copper or from composite materials, like graphite or asbestos. 

Most head gaskets today are made out of multi-layer steel. This material is better-suited to deal with compression and high temperatures.

Read our recent blog: Can changing your original parts void extended car warranties? 

What are the 4 signs that your head gasket is failing?

If your head gasket is failing, you’re likely to experience these problems:

  1. Engine overheating – You may notice a warning light come on on your dashboard or see your temperature gauge near maximum. You may also see steam coming from the hood.
  1. Reduced engine power – You may notice that your car isn’t accelerating properly or that a warning light has come on. 

(Note: Reduced Power Mode is triggered by your car’s ECU, Electronic Control Unit, to reduce your car’s performance and prevent damage to the engine when something is wrong).

  1. Coolant leaking into engine oil (or vice versa) – If you look inside your engine’s oil filler cap, or the oil dipstick, and you find a milky substance, this can be a clear sign that coolant has leaked into the oil.
  1. White smoke from the exhaust – This is one of the most common signs of a blown head gasket. When coolant enters your engine’s combustion chamber, water vapor exits the exhaust and that’s what causes the white smoke. Along with the white smoke, you may also notice a sweet smell.

Why are head gasket repairs so expensive?

The head gasket itself isn’t very expensive. The reason why it’s a costly repair is because it’s complicated to do. To get to the head gasket, the mechanic has to take apart the engine and remove the engine’s head. It’s estimated to take around 6 hours to do. Depending on any complications that may arise, the car may even have to sit in the shop for a few days.

Avoid expensive engine breakdown bills

Following regular maintenance schedules (which can be found in your owner’s manual) helps keep your engine in good running condition and without major costs. If a part fails, however, it could cost you thousands. A head gasket repair can cost anywhere between $1,500 and $2,000. Extended car warranties for used cars can help you skip those car repair bills that hurt your wallet. has created vehicle breakdown coverage that is simple, trustworthy and affordable. Transforming the extended car warranty marketplace through technology and transparency, offers a full suite of worry-free, no-haggle car care plans through low-cost, 100% online, monthly subscriptions that drivers can sign up for in less than five minutes. Get an instant quote today!