Can You Drive With a Blown Head Gasket? Dangers Explained

“Can you drive with a blown head gasket?” is a question common among car owners and enthusiasts. People who understand what a head gasket is and its functions will agree that the question of whether you can drive with a blown gasket is valid. Also, it is one thing to be able to drive with a blown gasket, whether it is safe is another equally important issue.

Blown Head Gasket ~ Ran When Parked

Continue reading this complete guide on driving with a blown head gasket.

Is It Possible To Drive a Car With a Blown Head Gasket?

Yes, it is possible to drive a car with a blown head gasket, but the driving experience will be significantly affected and it is not recommended. The most noticeable discomfort is the loss of power from your engine, and your car will not be able to go as fast.

To fully understand the feasibility of driving with a blown head gasket, it is essential to consider first what a head gasket is and its roles.

The head gasket of a car forms part of the combustion engine, and it functions as a seal between the engine block and the car’s cylinder head. This keeps fluid from leaking and also ensures the smooth running of the compression process.

Since the head gasket forms a tight seal between engine compartments, it is exposed to a great deal of pressure. With time, the gasket weakens, and cracks start to appear. Eventually, the head gasket may blow, and it is then referred to as a blown head gasket.

While the head gasket is essential in maintaining correct pressure in the car engine, cracks in it do not make the car undrivable. In fact, you may go for weeks without noticing that there are cracks in the engine. You may not be able to travel more easily with a blown gasket, but you can still very much drive the car.

Is It Safe To Drive a Car With a Blown Head Gasket?

No, it is not safe to drive a car with a blown gasket, as it can damage the engine further, which can cause an abrupt power loss in the engine. If this happens while driving on a busy road, it could potentially risk the health of the driver and others.

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While it is technically possible to drive with a blown head gasket, it is not at all advisable. From a safety perspective, it is better to repair engine faults as soon as possible. Although there is no immediate serious safety risk with a blown head gasket, it may pose serious risks if the gasket is not attended to.

Also, if the head gasket of a car blows, the engine is at risk of overheating. This is because the coolant in the engine may leak and will not be able to coordinate appropriate heat transfer. This may lead to burns on individuals checking the car. Furthermore, at such high temperatures, the risk of a fire is significantly increased.

Why Do Head Gaskets of Cars Blow?

The head gaskets of cars blow for various reasons, including overheating of the engine, too many miles driven by the car, poor quality of installation and maintenance, and defects from stress. While these are the common culprits, it often takes skilled eyes to know exactly why the gasket has blown.


The most common reason the head gaskets blow is an overheating of the car engine. Interestingly, overheating can also result from the head gasket being blown. But there are multiple other reasons an engine may start to overheat, with leakage or deficiency of coolants being the most prominent.

Overheating Engine in Car ~ Ran When Parked

If the engine overheats, the seal the head gasket forms may weaken over time. This can eventually lead to the gasket failing and blowing. Therefore, car owners should not ignore their cars getting significantly hotter, even in the summer.

Mileage and Car Age

The mileage on the engine and the age of the car may be responsible for a car’s blown head gasket. The more miles on the engine, the weaker the gasket becomes. This is because the engine will have undergone more stress, and the likelihood of defects arising is higher.

Likewise, the older the car, the weaker the gasket gets. Additionally, for cars produced decades ago, the components used in making the gasket are not as strong as in new cars. This means the chances of the head gasket of an older car getting a blown head gasket is higher.

Installation Problems

Poor installation of the head gasket after it is repaired or replaced can make the head gasket blow. Normally, the head gasket of your car should not be visible after installation.

Installation of Head Gasket ~ Ran When Parked

If you can clearly see it, your mechanics may not have done a great job, or there may be other problems with your engine. Regardless, the risk of the gasket blowing greatly increases.

What Are the Signs That the Head Gasket of a Car Is Blown?

The signs that the head gasket of a car is blown include discoloration of the engine oil, the emanation of thick blue or white smoke from the exhaust, overheating of the engine, misfiring of the engine, and the generation of bubbles in the radiator.

Discoloration in Engine Oil

When the head gasket fails, there is a high tendency for the coolant to mix with the engine oil. When this occurs, the engine oil may take on another color, and it usually appears milky or cloudy.

Thick White or Blue Smoke

Another consequence of the coolant and engine oil mixing is the generation of thick white or blue smoke by the engine.

Blue Smoke of Car ~ Ran When Parked

When the smoke is thick white, it may indicate that coolants have entered the combustion chamber of the engine. The lubrication of the various engine parts is, therefore, not as good, and the result can be white smoke.

In contrast, blue smoke (usually a light shade of blue) may indicate that oil entered the combustion chamber of the engine. However, blue smoke can also be a sign that other components of the vehicle are worn out and need replacing.

Overheating Engine

If the car engine starts to overheat, it may be a sign of a head gasket failure. This sign is quite tricky because there are multiple reasons a car engine may start to overheat. Still, leakage of the coolant is almost always implicated, and issues that may cause coolant leakage, like a blown head gasket, can cause overheating.

Aside from being a sign of a blown head gasket, engine overheating may also be a cause of a blown head gasket. Either way, you should get your engine checked if it starts to overheat.

Engine Misfiring

When at least one of the cylinders in the engine cannot provide enough compression or spark to complete the combustion process, the engine misfires. There are multiple reasons an engine may misfire, including worn spark plugs, faulty cylinders, bad ignition coil, and, of course, a blown head gasket.

Radiator Bubbles

If the tight seal between the engine block and cylinder heads that the head gasket maintains loses its integrity due to a blown head gasket, there may be a massive pressure difference.

This may lead to exhaust gases penetrating the engine and entering the radiator of the car, where the coolant is located. This may present as visible bubbles in the coolant tank.

How Long Does a Car’s Head Gasket Typically Last?

A car’s head gasket typically lasts anywhere between 150,000 and 200,000 miles. Considering that the average American drives 14,000 miles a year, this implies that a head gasket can last about 14 years before needing to be replaced.

Since most cars last around 200,000 miles before needing to be replaced, there is a high possibility that you will never have to change the head gasket of your car. This can only be accomplished, however, by proper maintenance of the various engine components.

Can Using WD40 on a Blown Head Gasket Cause Further Damage to Your Car?

Using WD40 on a blown head gasket can actually cause further damage to your car. While it may temporarily seal the leak, it can also contaminate the cooling system and cause long-term damage. It’s important to address the underlying issue rather than relying on quick fixes like WD40’s impact on car paint.

Can You Fix Your Car’s Blown Head Gasket on Your Own?

Yes, you can fix your car’s blown head gasket on your own, but it is not easy. You will need to be experienced with handling car engines before you can fix the blown head gasket. Even then, you may need a professional to understand the cause of the issue.

Fix Blown Head Gasket ~ Ran When Parked

For most car owners, it is better and easier to give your car to the mechanic and let them work on the head gasket. While the fault with the head gasket repairs may be possible, mechanics usually recommend a total replacement of the head gasket.

Costs of Replacement

The costs of replacing a blown head gasket are around $1,500, with the cost of labor and parts included. The parts themselves do not cost that much, but labor does. This implies that people who replace their head gasket on their own will pay significantly less.

It takes mechanics a lot of time and effort to replace a blown head gasket. They factor in the stress and time it takes when billing you, meaning you can end up paying a lot for labor. Of course, the labor costs depend on the repair shops you visit.

Also, the time it takes to spot issues also matters. Still, you can expect a range between $1,000 and $3,000.

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