What Is a Head Gasket in a Car?
The head gasket in your engine’s cylinder has the important job of preventing any combustion gases from getting into the cooling system. They are placed between the cylinder head and the engine block. While usually they are pretty reliable, the head gasket can fail in the instance of an engine overheating. When the head gasket fails, coolant can get into the combustion chamber and mix in with engine oil, causing significant engine damage.
Why Is a Head Gasket Important?
A head gasket is an essential component that is located between the cylinder head and the engine block. A vehicle’s engine is split into two parts, the engine block where the pistons and cylinders live, and the cylinder head, which houses parts such as the valves, spark plugs, etc.
Situated between these two engine parts, the head gasket is designed to seal the internal combustion process and keep any fluids from leaking and mixing. The head gasket plays a crucial role in sealing the engine’s combustion chamber so that your car can build the appropriate compression that is needed to maintain your engine power. It also keeps coolant or oil from leaking anywhere else, preventing your engine from overheating and catching fire.
Functions Of The Head Gasket:
Comprehending how a head gasket works means first understanding how the engine works as a whole. In the engine block reside pistons that move up and down in cylinders. The pistons are connected to a rotating crankshaft from which your car gets its power. At the top of the engine is the cylinder head where the valves open and close to let the air-fuel mixture in and out of the combustion chamber.
The head gasket ensures the compression generated by the ignition of the air-fuel mixture remains inside the combustion chamber. This allows your engine to operate correctly, thus creating enough power for the car to push forward.
Below is a detailed list of the functions of the head gasket in the car:
1. Handles pressure: The main purpose of a head gasket is to handle extreme pressures and temperatures, which is a heavy-lifting job in itself. For this, it requires extreme maintenance with coolant in the combustion chamber.
Gaskets are responsible for the smooth functioning of the engine. This is why they are essentially made with the research of the best materials for high performance.
2. Maintain Temperature: Subject to extreme pressure and Temperature, gaskets are also responsible for oil and coolant requirements in engine parts. Preventing damage from overheating, the gasket seals the coolant channels located between the cylinder head and the engine block.
For any car, its Temperature is controlled by the thermostat. When engines are cold, no coolant flows out of them. As soon as the engine temperature begins to reach an optimum temperature of about 200 degrees, the thermostat opens.
Signs You Have a Blown Head Gasket
Once a head gasket fails, it can cause all kinds of problems, including:
1. Overheating: Overheating is one of the indicators that your head gasket may have failed. It is usually caused by a lack of coolant or oil leakage into your coolant system. When either of these two things happens, it slows your engine’s ability to cool off, thereby causing overheating and blowing a head gasket.
If the car is driven during overheating, the alloy cylinder head may also warp, or the steam may damage the catalytic converter, significantly increasing repair costs.
2. Oil Contamination: Discolored engine oil is one of the most subtle symptoms of a broken head gasket. Your head gasket has the job of sealing in the coolant and oil, so if it stops working, it can lead to your coolant and oil mixing. If you see milky coloration in the oil, that indicates coolant mixing with the oil.
3. White Smoke: White smoke from the exhaust pipe is a warning sign of a blown head gasket. White smoke indicates that coolant leaked out into the combustion chamber. If you see blue smoke from the exhaust pipe, it suggests that oil has entered the combustion chamber.
4. Loss of Power: If the head gasket fails to let the compressed air/fuel out, the compression on that cylinder will decrease. This loss of compression results in rough engine running and a significant reduction in engine performance. These types of failures are usually accompanied by noise, such as an exhaust leak.
Preventing Head Gasket Failures
Head gasket failures are usually caused by repeated overheating, or continuing to drive after the car has overheated, so the best way to prevent a head gasket failure is to ensure your cooling system is in good condition. And if your car does start to boil over, stop, let it cool for at least an hour, and refill the radiator before continuing.
Checking the cooling system is easy: Ensure there are no leakages, that the radiator is working efficiently, that the thermostat opens properly, and that the coolant is topped up to the correct level. Also, make sure the fan (mechanical or electric) is working, has all of its blades, and has a shroud around it to increase efficiency.
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