Can you reuse a head gasket and save some money while also doing a good thing for the environment? Yes, you can, and we will show you how below.
Most car owners don’t know about the importance of head gaskets. But they play an essential role in the vehicle. It provides a seal between the engine block and cylinder head and prevents the entry of coolant or oil inside the combustion chamber.
The head gasket can be worn or broken with time. Many of us throw the head gasket and prefer to buy a new one. But can you reuse a head gasket?
Fortunately, you can reuse a head gasket. The average life of the head gasket is approximately 55 years. However, it needs to have good strength and compressibility for reusing for many more years.
What Is Head Gasket?
Modern cars have two parts, i.e., engine block and cylinder head. The cylinder head acts as the roof of the combustion chamber and comprises sparkplugs and valves. These valves are open and close to enter and leave the air-fuel mixture from the combustion chamber.
The engine block comprises a cylinder and a piston. The piston is connected to the crankshaft, which provides power to the vehicle. The head gasket is located between the engine block and cylinder head and ensures that compression created by the ignited air-fuel mixture should be within the combustion chamber.
Simultaneously it acts as a sealant and prevents the entry of oil or coolant inside the combustion chamber. If the head gasket blows away with time, the coolant will enter the chamber and burn with air and fuel.
The engine can get overheated with time. You will even observe white smoke from the tailpipe. Head gaskets are usually thin and mainly composed of steel. Multilayer steel is commonly found in vehicles. They include two or three steel layers that are adhesive to each other.
Can I Reuse Head Gasket?
Most people throw the head gasket if it gets worn out within five to 10 years of using the vehicle. But experts recommend that you can use the old gasket for several years.
These head gaskets comprise mined metals and take almost 55 years to decompose. The breaking down process will be reduced if you start reusing the head gasket.
However, you can reuse the gasket if it satisfies the following points.
- If your old head gasket has enough thickness and seal compressibility, you can reuse it.
- If the old head gasket is not exposed to heat in the operating division, you can reuse it.
- If the old head gasket is not exposed to fluid in the operating division, then you can reuse it.
Is It Safe To Use My Old Head Gasket?
Yes, it is safe to use the old head gasket. You can reuse it by cleaning and maintaining it effectively. Additionally, they should satisfy either of the following criteria discussed above.
But if the old gasket does not satisfy the criteria, then you need to take expert advice and reuse the old head gasket in the vehicle.
What Are The Different Types Of Head Gaskets?
The primary purpose of the head gasket is to create a seal between the cylinder head and the engine block. But all the head gaskets are not made the same. There are various types of head gaskets which are discussed below.
#1. Multilayer Steel
Most vehicles are equipped with head gaskets that consist of multilayer steel. In some cars, you will find the head gasket comprising two to three layers of steel; in others, there can be more than three steel layers. These steel layers are connected by an adhesive. A rubber coating treats the surface of the multilayer head gasket. These gaskets can withstand much pressure in comparison to other gasket types.
Copper head gaskets are mainly comprised of solid copper and have higher chances of reusing. They provide good strength and prevent outside fluid from entering the combustion chamber. However, the installation of a copper gasket is a bit tricky. The mechanic needs to install the copper gasket with an o-ringing machine.
The composite head gasket is usually comprised of graphite or asbestos. These gaskets were used in 1980s vehicles. Graphite and asbestos are strong but don’t provide much protection against the outside field compared to other head gasket types. That’s why manufacturers don’t use composite head gaskets in any vehicle today.
These head gaskets comprise large hard steel with elastomeric beads. These beads help prevent the oil or coolant from entering the combustion chamber. It indirectly prevents the engine from getting overheated.
How Can You Clean the Head Gasket So That You Can Reuse It Again?
Your old gasket may become dirty with time. You can reuse it with proper cleaning. But if you start cleaning excessively, then, the gasket can break. Again, if you don’t clean it effectively, you cannot reuse it in your vehicle. So, we will recommend you clean the head gasket gently and follow the below steps.
- Take the head gasket to the machine shaft. The machine has a big circulating blade that can thoroughly clean the gasket and adequately seal the gases inside the chamber. However, in this method, you need some money to clean the gasket.
- You can even clean the head gasket easily at home with the help of a razor blade. But don’t keep the razor blade on an angle and start pushing against the metal because it can cause scars and pitting. Consequently, the head gasket will have issues with sealing. So, put the razor blade straight on the gasket, put some pressure and apply back and forth to remove all the contamination from the gasket surface.
- Now take an old stuff pad for cleaning the gasket. Apply uniform pressure all over it for effective cleaning.
- If you are not satisfied with the cleaning, a drill can also be used to clean the gasket.
What Are the Signs Of a Blown Head Gasket?
We are listing below a few symptoms which will indicate that the head gasket has blown away.
#1. Coolant Or Oil Leakage
If you find coolant or oil around the cylinder head and block, that indicates that the head gasket in the vehicle is now no more sealed.
#2. Engine overheating
If the gasket blows, the engine can get overheated because it has to work hard to provide enough power. Additionally, the coolant level becomes low when the gasket leaks. An overheated engine can damage several vital components.
#3. White Smoke Comes From The Tail Pipe
If the gasket malfunctions, coolant will enter the combustion chamber and burn along with air and fuel. Hence you will find white smoke from the vehicle’s exhaust tailpipe.
#4. Milky Oil
We all know that oil and water don’t mix. But if the head gasket blows away, then coolant starts mixing with the oil. Hence the oil loses its lubricating quality. Additionally, when the coolant and oil mix, the result is a frothy white mixture.
So, once you inspect the leakage in the head gasket, remove the oil cap and check the oil. If it appears milky, then the coolant has contaminated the oil.
#5. Wet Sparkplug
Coolant or oil goes inside the cylinder when the gasket blows away, which can wet the sparkplug. So if the sparkplug is wet, it indicates a blown head gasket.
#6.Bubbles Inside The Radiator
If you find bubbles inside the radiator or coolant reservoir, it indicates air inside the system. It is only because of the blown head gasket.
Why Does My Head Gasket Blow Away?
The head gasket has to consistently bear the stress of high pressure, temperature variations, and cylinder head and engine block movement. So, it can malfunction after using it for so many years.
#2. Crack Engine Block Or Cylinder Head
Excess heat can crack the engine block or cylinder head. A flat surface is quite essential for the head gasket to create a seal. But the gasket starts to leak when the engine block or head gets cracked.
#3. Improper Installation
It will malfunction if you have ever removed the head gasket and have not installed it correctly.
The engine can get overheated for various reasons; if there is a blockage in the radiator, it can get overheated. Remember, if the engine gets overheated, it puts more stress on the head and, finally, on the gasket. It may be the reason for the gasket to fail.
How Can I Do a Test For Blown Head Gasket?
You can do various tests easily at home to confirm that the head gasket has leakage issues.
#1. Check Whether Radiator Fluid Is Bubbling
If the radiator fluid bubbles, it indicates a problem with the head gasket. Open the car hood, remove the radiator cap, and turn the ignition key. If the radiator fluid bubbles, it indicates an issue in the head gasket.
#2.Head Gasket Leak Detector
The head gasket leak detector is available in the market. You can buy and do the test at home.
#3.Coolant Compression Test
Buy a coolant compression kit from the market and check the cooling system pressure. If the pressure has been reduced, there is coolant leakage, which can be due to a leaking gasket.
How Can I Correct Head Gasket Leakage On My Vehicle?
When the car has head gasket leakage, then you have two options. The first option is to replace the entire head gasket, and the second is to repair the leak by adding a sealant to the radiator.
Purchasing a new head gasket will cost you more than $1000. So, most people opt for the second option. Let’s discuss how you can easily repair gasket leakage at home. We will discuss them in different steps.
- Step 1: The radiator must have clean coolant. If you find the coolant dirty, flush it and add a new coolant.
- Step 2: Remove the two bolts from the thermostat housing, then remove the thermostat. When you remove the thermostat, the sealant has a higher chance of flowing better, and you can repair the leaks in the head gasket.
- Step 3: Now, you need to check all the spark plugs. Remove the spark plug if it burns the coolant.
- Step 4: Put add the seal to the radiator and leave the ignition on for 30 minutes.
You can turn off the car after 30 minutes and allow the engine to cool completely. Repeat the process five times. You can ride your car the next day, and there will be no head gasket leakage.
Advantages Of Each Type of Head Gasket
We have discussed various types of gaskets. Every gasket has its benefits.
- Copper head gasket: The thermal conductivity of copper is relatively high, so the heat transfer rate is also high. These gaskets are also durable and seal properly.
- Composite Head Gasket: These gaskets are lightweight and can bear high pressure.
- Elastomeric Gasket: These gaskets are used nowadays in modern cars because they are easy to install. They even provide excellent sealing.
- Multilayer Steel Gasket: The multiple steel layers prevent the gasket from overheating.
Disadvantages Of Using a Head Gasket Sealer
If the head gasket starts leaking, we use a head gasket sealer. Its function is to hold the gasket in its place. Sealant is a mix of various fluids. Whenever the head gasket leaks, we pour the sealant into the radiator so that it will flow into the engine and correct the head gasket leaks. But, sometimes, it can clog the radiator or engine water pump to pump the water inside the engine. The spark plug may also fail because of this reason.
Frequently Asked Questions
#1. When can you reuse a head gasket?
Yes, you can reuse a head gasket. Many people throw the head gasket and opt for a new one. But the average life span of a head gasket is usually 45-55 years. If the gasket has high strength and compressibility, you can use it for many years.
#2. Can you reuse the head gasket after torquing?
You can reuse the head gasket after torquing. However, try to clean the head gasket then and adequately reuse it.
You can clean the head gasket easily. First, clean the surface with a soft cotton cloth and then grit the surface gently. You can use a scotch pad on the head gasket to clean effectively. Don’t clean aggressively; otherwise, it can break the head gasket, and you must invest in a new gasket.
#3. Can I reuse MLS head gaskets?
Yes, you can reuse MLS head gaskets. But the failure rate can be higher after reusing. When the heat gasket is heat cycled, the embossments do not return to their original shape. So check the clearances of the gasket and then think of reusing.
#4. Do you have to replace the head gasket every time?
No, you don’t have to replace the head gasket every time. The longevity of the head gasket is 100,000 miles. If the head gasket has the proper strength and compressibility, you can reuse it. Additionally, clean it from time to time. The contamination may sometime prevent the head gasket from functioning effectively. Use a good sealant for correcting leakage problems in the gasket.
The Head gasket is one of the essential components of the car. The engine cannot run effectively without it. But, excess combustion or overheating may cause the head gasket to blow up or have leakage problems. Most people throw the old gasket and buy a new one.
But remember, the head gasket has quite a long decomposition period. When you reuse a head gasket, you are shortening its decomposition time. The deployment of natural metals from mother earth will be lowered. Thank you for reading this article.