What is a gasket?
Your car’s engine has a wide range of fluids and gases constantly moving through it and aiding or performing certain critical functions. As these fluids and gases circulate, engine gaskets work as seals to maintain pressure, hold fluids, and prevent debris from entering the engine. There are several different types of gaskets used in various parts of the engine. Some are located inside the motor, while others connect the motor to other components like the intake manifold, exhaust manifold, and water pumps.
In order to perform their job, gaskets are designed to withstand extreme temperatures, tolerate a wide variety of chemicals, and mold themselves to imperfections on the surfaces they are sealing. Several important types of gaskets include:
- Head gasket – Also known as cylinder head gaskets, these prevent combustion gases from entering the coolant system. These are normally made of copper and are placed between the cylinder head and the engine block.
- Intake gasket – Ensures the fuel mixture in the cylinder has the proper amount of oxygen and prevents the air form leaking out during combustion.
- Exhaust gasket – Found between the cylinder and the exhaust manifold. The exhaust gasket prevents harmful fumes escaping the exhaust before the tailpipe and into the cabin of the car.
- Camshaft gasket – Also referred to as the cam seal, the camshaft gasket is made of rubber and prevents oil from leaking out of the camshaft. At the same time it also stops dust and dirt from entering the engine and causing damage.
- Bearing gasket – The main bearing gasket is designed to keep oil in the oil pan while the crankshaft is moving. This gasket is usually made of rubber or silicone to withstand very high temperatures.
A failed or “blown” gasket usually occurs due to an overheated engine, bad gasket design, detonation damage, or improper torque. High levels of compression can create holes in the gasket, which can lead to failure. When your engine has a blown gasket it may cause gargling, foaming, or bubbling inside the radiator, rapid pressure build up in the cooling system, white smoke coming from the tailpipe, oil in the coolant, or low cylinder pressure.
The primary cause of a damaged or blown gasket is extreme engine temperatures. High engine temperatures are often caused by not having enough coolant in the radiator or having a coolant leak, which then can lead to increased wear due to antifreeze being mixed with your car’s oil. A warning sign of head gasket failure in water cooled engines is the presence of a substance that resembles mayonnaise in the oil. This can usually be seen on the dipstick or oil filter cap.
How to prevent a blown gasket
There are a number of factors that can lead to a blown engine gasket but also many ways to prevent a failure. Regularly maintaining the cooling system will help keep your engine from overheating. Cooling system maintenance includes flushing and replacing the coolant on a set schedule and inspecting belts and hoses and replacing them before they fail.
To prevent blown gaskets, it is also important to use coolant recommended by the manufacturer, maintain proper torque on head bolts, and to watch for the signs of gasket failure.
If you notice any of these signs of a blown gasket, or your vehicle is suffering performance problems, bring it in to HEART Certified Auto Care to be looked at. We will give your car a full inspection, recommend any necessary repairs, and take pictures throughout the entire process.