Engine Head Gaskets
The head gasket is used in between the cylinder head and the engine block, which is why it is the most important gasket used in an engine. The main purpose of using a gasket here is to create a strong seal between the two metal objects so that maximum compression in the cylinders can be achieved without a leakage of coolant or engine oil into the cylinders. Since this gasket is so close to the combustion chamber, it has to be made to tolerate the same conditions that other components in the combustion chamber have to withstand. To withstand the harsh conditions of the combustion chamber, the head gasket is made out of multiple layers of steel, solid copper, composite, and elastomeric. The most reliable and modern of these gaskets is the multiple layered steel design which is known as “MLS”. This type of gasket will usually consist of three layers of steel and a rubber coated surface to help provide the sealing element essential to the gasket. It is important to have a good quality head gasket installed because replacing this gasket is very expensive due to the amount of labor required to get to the gasket. It is estimated that up to 75% of the cost to replace this gasket will come from labor alone.
A damaged or leaking head gasket is often called a blown head gasket in the automotive industry. Signs of a blown head gasket include loss of compression and engine overheating issues. This overheating is due to exhaust gasses making their way into the cooling system. Driving on a blown head gasket can cause severe amounts of wear on the engine and can even ruin it in some situations. The condition of the head gasket can be monitored by checking the compression pressure with a pressure gauge. Leaking head gaskets are classified by either being internal or external. An external leak can be identified by looking to see if there is oil and coolant accumulating underneath the engine. An internal leak is diagnosed by seeing if there is excessive coolant accumulating in the expansion tank along with the presence of hydrocarbons in the form of foam.
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