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Head Gasket

Your engine is a busy place – akin to say a packed dance hall on a Saturday night.

Think about it like this: the engine proper is like the venue and the cylinder heads, cams and valves are like rooms within it which are essential to maintaining the atmosphere. These rooms could include: bar rooms, dance areas, VIP suites and more.

Extrapolating further – let’s say that we are in the middle of a real life version of Westside Story - but it’s all taking place in a dance call called: “The Engine Block”. The “Sharks” faction represent your engine oil – this fluid comes up from the engine block to lubricate parts in the cylinder head. Adversely, the “Jets” faction represent your coolant, which circulates through the engine block and the head to cool the engine. Within the block: air, fuel and exhaust – which belong in the combustion chamber – circulate apart from one another as well. Let’s say these three elements represent the rest of the party.

The combustion chamber is your main bar area where the bottom of “the bar” is your vehicle’s engine block and the top of the “bar” is the head.

In the middle of the bar/combustion chamber is your Head Gasket– also known as the club’s “bouncer”. It is the job of the Head Gasket to make sure that none of these respective parties: Engine Oil/”Sharks”, Coolant/”Jets”, and air, fuel and exhaust/”rest of the party” ever mix with each other.

When the head gasket leaks or fails – then one or more of these elements can mix – which leads to a myriad of issues.

Here are a few examples:

  • Low combustion pressure – poor performance
  • Exhaust gets into the coolant – leads to overheating
  • Coolant gets into the oil – poor lubrication and possible engine damage
  • Coolant gets into the exhaust – can cause catalytic converter damage
  • Coolant gets into the combustion chamber – poor engine performance; an extensive leak could fill a cylinder with coolant which will cause catastrophic engine damage
  • Oil gets in the combustion chamber – poor performance and possible damage from oil loss

Like the violence that ensues from a “Westside rumble”: signs of head gasket deficiencies include: white exhaust smoke, engine overheating, higher than normal oil level, milky oil color and coolant loss without visible leaks. Signs of trouble take the form of: coolant leaks on driveway – stuck thermostat – or failed fan.

In order to maintain a happy engine, or dance hall – it is important that you notice these symptoms and bring your vehicle in for inspection. NAPA AutoCare trained technicians can diagnose the cause of your problem and make the necessary repairs to ensure a strong, happy and healthy head gasket.

Posted November, 12th 2015

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