Can You Drive a Car with a Blown Head Gasket?

You cannot drive a car with a blown head gasket as it can result in overheating and damage to the engine.

The refrigerant and oil, along with engine pressure, may leak into other components where they are not required. Another likely downfall is that if the oil and coolant continue to keep leaking, then the engine will not get cooled.


How long will my car last with a blown head gasket?

A car can’t last longer than a month with a blown head gasket, but damage could occur within minutes.

The lifespan varies depending on the level of the leak or the number of punctured holes in the gasket.

The damaged head gasket must be repaired at the earliest but keeping the car in a parked position will allow a larger timeframe to rectify the gasket set.


Car has a blown head gasket


How to start a car with a blown head gasket?

If your car does not start due to a blown head gasket, then you must replace it to continue using the car.


Tools required:

  • Screwdriver
  • Clippers
  • Car Manual
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Wrench
  • Fresh coolant



  1. Disconnect the negative battery terminal situated at the head of the car battery.
  2. Take off the input hose and airbox from their positions inside the car.
  3. Pull out the compressor of the air conditioner by removing several bolts. Keep it on its side so that you can reach out to the top of the cylinder.
  4. Unfasten the clamp and detach the water pump hose using the screwdriver.
  5. Extract the alternator by taking off the bolts. You will not have to remove all the fittings of the alternator.
  6. Flush the radiator and take off the hoses connected to it.
  7. Disengage all the lines streaming to the air conditioner.
  8. Pull out the damaged head gasket from its position in the car.
  9. Clean the head of the cylinder so that the new head gasket can be placed perfectly.
  10. Install the new head gasket in place and secure the bolts once again in the right order using the car manual for reference if needed. You will need a torque wrench to perform this process as the bolts must be secured in place with a particular tightness that is pertinent to your car. These bolts must be torqued accurately. Otherwise, they may result in damaging the new head gasket.
  11. Replace the units and reconnect the hoses in the same way that they were disconnected. The alternator should also be replaced and you must make sure all vital parts are properly positioned.
  12. Fill up the cooling apparatus with a new coolant and switch ON the engine, allowing it to remain idle until the coolant reaches its functioning temperature.
  13. Let the engine run for a few minutes before putting it OFF and inspect your new head gasket for any spills or leaks.


What causes a blown head gasket?

A blown head gasket is often caused due to high engine temperature, aluminum cylinders, an explosion or a cracked head. 

  • High engine temperature
  • Aluminum cylinders
  • Explosion
  • Cracked head
  • Age
  • Inaccurate installation


High Engine Temperature

The main reason for a blown head gasket is high engine temperature. Overheating is often caused by a refrigerant leak or lack of it in the radiator. It’s essential to ensure that the refrigerant is at the right level and temperature.


Aluminum Cylinders

Aluminum is more likely to expand faster than any other metal when heated. So, an aluminum cylinder head may not be preferable over other available options.

Aluminum has a high thermal expansion rate that causes quick expansion of the head gasket and diminishes the durability of its material, thereby passing as a substandard choice for a head gasket.



An explosion is another cause of the head gasket malfunctioning as it breaks down the armors, aggravating cylinder pressure to leak over the armors.


Cracked Head

A engine that overheats can rupture due to the effect of heat. Heat has a major impact on metals and alters or distorts them. This can affect the sealing of the head gasket and result in leakage.



Over time, the head gasket’s seals can get damaged and tend not to function well to inhibit leakage and other issues. The best method is to understand when the manufacturer recommends replacing and doing so before or whenever you reach that mileage.


Inaccurate Installation

If the head gasket or coolant setup has been fixed or restored inappropriately, leaks and issues with engine temperature can trigger a blown head gasket.


How do I know if my head gasket is blown?

The first sign that would point towards a blown head gasket is that the engine light turns on abruptly. Another key sign is that the temperature indicator displays an overheated engine.

If you encounter such a situation, it’s best to pull over instantaneously and switch OFF the engine to cool it down.


How to test for a blown head gasket?

If your engine has overheated and you suspect a blown head gasket to be the reason behind it, you may want to run a few tests to confirm it.

Tools required:

  • Wrench
  • Screwdriver
  • Torchlight
  • Hand Gloves
  • Chemical Tester
  • Hand Pump
  • Test Tube

The below steps can be followed to check if you have a blown head gasket.


Step 1: Take Off and Inspect the Oil Filler Cap

After the engine has cooled down, take OFF the oil filler cap to inspect for milky ooze that may have been accumulated at the base of the cap. This is a classic sign of refrigerant leakage into the oil.

The spillage could be the effect of a ruptured cylinder head or a spill. The input gasket is also susceptible to this kind of breakdown.


Step 2: Check for Refrigerant in the Combustion Box

Head gaskets are designed to manage engine refrigerants all over the engine structure and cylinder head. When the gasket breaks down, it can create a leak that is noticeable when all the spark plugs are removed.

Apply pressure to the cooling system and start the engine. Observe the holes of the spark plug. If there is refrigerant in any hole, it can then be confirmed that the head gasket is damaged.


Step 3: Scan the Radiator

After reinstalling the spark plug, you must wait until the engine cools down and then pull off the radiator cap. Suppose the head gasket is faulty and allows inflammable gases into the cooling system.

In that case, they can be found by detaching the radiator cap and inspecting the liquid for an incessant stream of bubbles while the engine is running. This indicates that the engine is overheating because of a faulty head gasket and/or inflammable gases entering the cooling system.


Step 4: Chemical Examination

Check if exhaust gases are present inside the cooling system using a chemical tester. It can be confirmed that the head gasket is damaged if there are exhaust gases in the cooling system.

Evacuate a minuscule amount of refrigerant from the radiator to avoid contaminating the test. After this, slide in the test tube carefully and fill it with the test liquid, followed by an engine start.

If the liquid changes to yellow, it authenticates exhaust gases and a damaged head gasket.


Step 5: Extrinsic Spillage

Few engines are manufactured with oil pressure running through the engine structure and into the cylinder’s forefront along with the coolant over the head gasket.

If the gasket is faulty or blown, it can cause the coolant or oil to spill externally. This can be easily detected through inspection.


Blown head gasket symptoms

Some symptoms of a blown head gasket are oil or coolant spillage, an overheated or failing engine, white smoke emission, cloudy oil or foaming inside the radiator.

  • Oil or coolant spillage
  • Overheated or failing engine
  • White smoke emission
  • Cloudy oil
  • Foaming inside refrigerator


Oil or Coolant Spillage

If you observe coolant or oil spilling on or all over your engine head and structure, it could be a sign that your head gasket is blown and not secure anymore.


Overheated Engine

The engine is unable to cool down by itself to sustainable driving levels. Overheating can break down numerous parts of your car engine. It’s advisable that you instantaneously switch OFF the car until the source of the problem is ascertained.


Failing Engine

For an engine to function accurately, spark, air, and fuel have to work together uniformly with high accuracy. Air and fuel must be blended precisely and lighted with a specific spark voltage at a particular time. If any of these factors are not in synchrony, then it is one vital sign of a blown head gasket and can result in preignition or failure of the engine.


White Smoke Emitting from Exhaust System

If your head gasket has failed, the refrigerant may exert its way into the engine. In this case, a cloud of white smoke may be visible emerging from the exhaust system.


Cloudy Oil

If you observe cloudiness or a milky color in the engine oil, the reason behind it could be a blown gasket. This occurs when the coolant mixes with the oil and contaminates it.


Foaming Inside Radiator

If you observe foaming inside the radiator, it’s a sign that the radiator has air deposited inside, which may affect a blown head gasket.


Is it worth fixing a blown head gasket?

It’s worth fixing a blown head gasket. You certainly cannot avoid fixing it and expect your car to keep functioning in correct condition. If a blown head gasket isn’t rectified at the right time, then you may be at risk of experiencing more extensive damage.


Blown head gasket repair cost

The cost to repair a blown head gasket ranges from USD 1,000 to USD 3,000. On the other hand, a new head gasket is often priced between $15 and $50 USD.

The labor hours to repair a broken gasket are of longer duration, which explains the higher charges. It may take anywhere from six hours to a few days to fix a blown or damaged head gasket depending on the complexity of the engine.


Why is oil leaking from the head gasket?

Oil leaks from the head gasket when it’s blown or damaged because the gasket is unable to maintain a fitting seal. It’s worth noting that oil leaks often take place internally and not externally. External leakage is possible but rarely due to a blown head gasket.


How to fix a blown gasket without replacing it?

Using a sealant is the best and most reliable method of fixing a broken head gasket without replacing it. The sealant used to fix the gasket is often inexpensive and grants a few more months of life depending on the leak.

Although the procedure of sealing is identical for all sealants, it’s worth noting that not all sealants are compatible with every coolant. The result changes according to the compatibility of the sealant with the coolant.


Does sealing a head gasket work?

Yes, sealing a head gasket works as long as the right sealant is chosen for the process. There are numerous kinds of sealants available in the market with varying levels of effectiveness. Sealants for head gaskets are mostly temporary solutions to fixing a broken head gasket.

However, some of the top-quality sealants are regarded as a permanent solution to small splits and impairment to the head gasket.

The effectiveness of a sealant typically depends on the magnitude of damage to the head gasket and the type of sealer used.


What to expect after a head gasket replacement?

After the head gasket has been replaced on the car, you may require many other small repairs to be done as replacing the head gasket entails dismantling the engine. Therefore, it’s sensible to replace parts like the water pump on car models if needed while they are already accessible.

With this procedure, the important task of refurbishing the car engine will serve you well for the upcoming years.

If your car resumes overheating even after installing the new head gasket, you should stop driving the car as soon as possible and take it to a mechanic.

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