The average pricing for a head gasket replacement is from $1200 to $3000+. With the average mechanic asking from $30 to $100+ per hour, it is easy to see how the labour intensiveness of a head gasket replacement can drive costs high.
The engine is a crucial part of any vehicle, and even small problems with it can lead to big headaches, repairs and damage. The engine is often described with that single word, yet it is made of several key areas, and the cylinder head is one of them. It is sealed with a head gasket, and if that fails it can cause the engine to fail.
In this guide, we look at the signs of a head gasket problem, what it costs to get it replaced or repaired and how to choose the right mechanic for your needs.
As noted earlier, most of the head gasket replacement cost can be attributed to labour. In fact, up to 70% of the cost can be blamed on the 10+ hours it takes for the work. And as is the case for so many vehicle repairs, the costs are going to vary based on such factors as:
The age of the vehicle
The make and model of the vehicle
The type of engine – a V6 or V8 has two heads
The severity of the issue
Any further damages or problems relating to the issue
Whether the mechanic bills per job or per hour
Below are some standard costs for head gasket inspections prior to a replacement on common vehicles in Australia:
Type of Vehicle
2011 Jeep Wrangler
2007 Hyundai Elantra
2011 Volkswagen Golf
2014 Holden Cruze
These rates are for the initial inspection, and then after that, anticipate at least ten hours of labour and the costs of parts and materials. Prices for the gaskets themselves are often quite reasonable, and it is the large number of hours put in by the mechanic that make the repairs so costly. That is why it is best to spend on that inspection in order to be certain it is the head gasket and not another issue with a lower repair price.
On Airtasker, mechanics are asking from $99 to $550 for inspections or head gasket replacements.
The engine of any vehicle has an engine block and a cylinder head. Inside of the cylinder head are the fuel injectors and camshaft(s), while the block is where the pistons, valves and crankshaft are housed. Both the head and block rely on coolants and lubricants to function and keep the other systems running. However, the engine is clearly delineated by the different components and seals or gaskets between them.
The head gasket is one of the most crucial of these seals and it is the point at which the engine block and the head connect. The head is where coolant and oil enter the engine, and as you might imagine, the head gasket faces a lot of pressures. After all, there is combustion inside of the engine and the pressures of the moving components. There are extremes of temperature, and other issues, and all of them are the reason that a head gasket is designed to be the “weakest link” and fail before other components.
Why? When the engine overheats and blows the gasket, fluids mingle, and it becomes immediately obvious that something is wrong.
The signs that a head gasket failure has occurred are impossible to overlook. The engine overheats dramatically, there will be a lot of steam coming from the exhaust system, the engine will misfire or run badly. The engine may even fail.
There will also be obvious signs that coolant and oil have blended, such as a milky and muddy fluid inside of the engine compartment, and exhaust gases may enter the cooling system while the engine is operating. Other signs include:
The car constantly overheats
You must add a lot of coolant due to a difficult to locate leak
The check engine or oil temperature (or both) indicators illuminate
There is sweet smelling and/or white smoke exiting the tail pipe
One or more such issues are clear signs of trouble and indicate that a repair or replacement is essential. Waiting to get this done can result in damage or even engine failure.
When thinking about head gasket replacement costs and projects, keep in mind that the repairs themselves are simple. It is often a project that takes a great deal of time because so much disassembly and reassembly is required.
The typical approach includes:
Confirming that the head gasket is blown or bad
Draining all coolant and oil from the engine
Removing the cylinder head and all the associated components
Inspecting and cleaning the components (this may require the parts to be sent to another professional)
Removing the head gasket
Checking the entire engine block for any signs of damage
Fitting the new head gasket and applying the appropriate sealant
Refitting the cylinder head and other parts; checking that all have been installed to correct and original specifications
Refilling the engine with oil and fresh coolant
Running the engine to determine if there are any leaks or other issues
Road testing the vehicle
Keep in mind that a preliminary investigation of the issue is also part of any head gasket replacement task because it may not be the head gasket that is the problem. It could be a rocker cover issue, an exhaust issue, cooling system failure or another problem.
Though many say that you may be able to make it to a garage or short distance once the head gasket is blown or failed, it is unwise to do so. Every moment the engine runs without that tight seal, it increases the risks for serious damage to occur. Unfortunately, the signs may not be as obvious as many think they will and so you should stop the vehicle as soon as you notice an increase in the vehicle’s temperature, see even hints of smoke from the exhaust, notice a loss of engine power, or detect that distinct, sweet odour of burning coolant.
Are you ready to hire an expert to do an inspection and a head gasket replacement, if needed? If so, it takes only a few minutes to itemize your needs and use them to create a full listing on Airtasker. Once posted, all you do is wait for offers to arrive from qualified experts. Take time to compare them (considering everything from feedback to pricing) and make your choice. Your mechanic can then come to your location and handle the repair.
Here’s a list of issues we recommend you include in any listing:
Time frame required (emergency, longer amount of time available, etc.)
Budget (the amount you have for the project)
Your location and if you anticipate any issues or challenges posed by the location
The make, model and age of the vehicle
Clear explanation of why you believe it is the head gasket and if you are willing to pay for the inspection as well as the repairs needed
The materials and parts you will provide (and ask for a quote on them if you want to compare your options)
If you require a warranty on labour (and materials if you don’t supply them)
The more details you offer, the easier it is for a provider to give an accurate and competitive offer. Keep in mind that most will also use your listing as a guideline for when they arrive to do the work – so accuracy and honesty is key!
If you are eager to see how other vehicle owners phrase their Airtasker listings for head gasket replacement or repairs, we offer a selection of recent listings:
That depends entirely on the vehicle. If engine damage was done by driving the vehicle after the head gasket was blown, it could be that engine repairs are needed including new spark plug wires, removing frozen or rusted bolts, valve or piston damage, block damage, damage to the head, and more. Additionally, when the engine is disassembled, it could be a good idea to take advantage of the situation and replace things like timing belts, water pump, other gaskets, the coolant and oil, and more.
Some will advise you to “junk” a car that is older and which has sustained a blown head gasket. Yet, you must not make such a hasty choice without first investing the money in a basic inspection. A mechanic is the best option for discovering whether the damages are easily and affordably repaired or if so much damage has been done that you might be better off getting a different vehicle instead of paying for the repairs.
A small head gasket leak will worsen, but if you need a small window of time to get it to a garage there are some stop-leak products on the market. Whether or not they are safe or effective is an unknown and probably not worth the risk (nor is the use of black pepper in the coolant, which is a common “folk” remedy for this situation). Instead, either hire a mobile mechanic to come out and assess the vehicle or have it towed to a garage for repair.
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