Choosing the Right Header Gasket
A header gasket is an engine component that sits between the engine block and cylinder heads. Its primary job is to seal the cylinders to:
- ensure maximum compression
- avoid coolant leakage
- prevent engine oil to enter the cylinders
It is essentially the most critical seal in an engine. Besides sealing the cylinder, the head gasket also performs the vital function of sealing the water and oil conduits between the head and block. If the gasket fails and the water and oil conduits are connected, it will cause engine failure. Moreover, it can cause issues such as burning oil, which is usually indicated by blue exhaust smoke. Header gasket wear is also a main cause of coolant burning. If you need to replace your header gasket, you've come to the right place-we have prepared a guide to help you find the right one for your car.
Steel, rubber, copper, or composite
The header gasket is part of the combustion chamber, and as such, it needs to be as durable as the other combustion chamber components. Gaskets made from stainless steel are usually associated with added strength, enhanced ability to rebound, and resistance to corrosion. Rubber gaskets have the superior ability to withstand heat. We recommend getting gaskets made from these two materials. This is due to the fact that they need to be able to withstand exhaust gas temperatures in excess of 1,300 to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit several times a day for years.
Copper is still a choice material for most manufacturers, as it is extremely durable. Gaskets made of composite material are still being sold but ones we do not fully recommend. Asbestos and graphite are more prone to blowouts than newer gaskets.
Price vs. quality
Untreated blown gaskets can do serious damage to your engine. Fortunately, header gaskets are relatively cheaper than other car components. They are usually priced below $50-this makes replacing them easy on the wallet. Never compromise quality, though-finding a good-quality gasket replacement is very important, as you are buying a component that will take care of your engine for a long time.
How to Replace Your Header Gasket
The compression in the cylinder can cause a leak to form in the header gasket, or damage it altogether. This is what's known as a "blown" header gasket. Car manufacturers tried to solve this problem by using aluminum rather than iron cylinder heads, as aluminum has a much greater thermal expansion rate. However, a blown header gasket is still very common because the gasket is constantly exposed to heat several times a day. If you need to replace your header gasket, you're in luck-we will show you how to save on mechanic's fees by providing you with instructions on how to install a new one.
Difficulty level: Easy
Tools you'll need:
- Socket set
- Wrench and torque wrench
- Carburetor cleaner
- Clean rags
Step 1: Using a wrench, detach the bolts that attach the header gaskets to the engine block. The best way to remove seized bolts is to drench the bolt and surrounding area with penetrating oil.
Step 2: Clean the surface of the metal part of the header and where the header meets the engine block. Remove any remnants of the old gasket, and if necessary, apply some carburetor cleaner on any carbon deposits left by the old gasket.
Step 3: Use the pipe openings and bolt holes as guides in aligning the openings of the gasket to the header. Insert the bolts through the header mount holes to keep the gasket steadily in place.
Step 4: Place the header on the engine block. Screw the bolts into their appropriate sockets.
Step 5: Using a torque wrench, alternately tighten the upper and lower bolts down the length of the header. Tighten the bolts a bit further each time. Refer to the engine's torque specs to find out the specific torque for the vehicle engine and header mount.