When your car’s engine cylinder head is cracked, surely, you’re in for an expensive repair. But how are you sure it is the cylinder head that got spoilt? Well, of course, specific unusual symptoms are synonymous with faulty engine cylinder heads.
Oil leaks, misfiring, hot steam from the engine, and engine breakdown are all cracked cylinder head symptoms. There are other symptoms you may experience too, and when you start seeing these signs, you should have your car checked to confirm that, actually, you’ve got a bad engine cylinder head to deal with.
Good enough, this article highlights the functions of cylinder heads, while detailing the symptoms a bad cylinder head could exhibit, as well as what causes cylinder to crack in the first place.
Is Cracked Cylinder Head a Serious Concern?
The internal combustion engine model used for designing modern cars features a number of cylinders. These cylinders all have a top-end known as the “Cylinder Head.”
So, the cylinder head is the top end of an engine, which connects the cylinders with the engine blocks to form the combustion chamber – where air and fuel are mixed.
Cylinder heads feature a variety of valves and springs, which open/expand and close/contrast in specific intervals.
For pretty many reasons, including excessive wear due to aging or high mileage, the cylinder head may crack and exhibit symptoms similar to that of a blown head gasket or cracked engine blocks.
A cracked cylinder head is a big concern because it affects the combustion process, which in turn affects the engine’s performance. Also, if allowed to linger, an engine can get totaled because of a cracked cylinder head.
Can you Drive with a Cracked Cylinder Head?
Yes, you can drive with a cracked engine part; however, it’s worth noting that doing so is never a good idea as it’s just like driving with any other issue in your car that needs urgent attention. It will get worse over time and probably cost you more money if you continue to drive without tackling the problem.
Cracked Cylinder Head Symptoms
1. Poor Engine Performance
Although a blown or leaky head gasket can cause low engine performance, a cracked cylinder head can cause that too.
When your car’s engine starts outputting unusual low power even when you’re using the right motor oil, then it’s time to check the engine bay, and one of the components to check is the cylinder head.
2. Engine Misfiring
Here’s another sign that calls for checking the cylinder head. When a cylinder head is cracked or faulty, it causes improper air-fuel mixture inside the combustion chamber, which in turn, causes the engine to misfire.
Misfiring is the abrupt deadness of an engine while driving. A situation whereby the engine stops working and kick-up after some seconds. In manual vehicles, misfiring occurs normally when switching gears, but if it happens frequently when you’re not switching gears, then it calls for attention.
3. Oil or Coolant Leak
Apparently, a cracked cylinder head would cause oil leaks and coolant leaks. This is because oil and coolant pass through the cylinder head as it travels to the engine. So, if the cylinder head is cracked, the oil or coolant flowing to the engine would leak away from the cracked spots.
You’d notice this by seeing oil or coolant drop from under the engine bay. If the car is parked for long, when you come back to the car, you’d see the leaks on the floor – from where the oil or coolant is dropping down.
4. Thick White Smoke From The Exhaust
A cracked cylinder head can cause internal oil and coolant leaks – when this happens, the leaking oil or coolant mixes with the exhaust gas; thus, you’d notice that your car removes thick white smoke when you drive or throttle. The white smoke is due to coolant mixed with combusted gases/fumes.
5. Check Engine Light is Illuminated
Once there’s a problem with the engine’s components, most cars would throw up the check engine light. Although there are a lot of things that can trigger the illumination of the check engine light, a cracked cylinder head can cause that too.
So, to ascertain what actually illuminated the light/icon, use an OBDII scanner to troubleshoot the car.
What Causes Cylinder Head To Crack?
1. High Milage
The older a car gets, and the more mileage it covers, the engine components would keep getting weaker – up to a point of failure.
If the car is an old car with high mileage, then a cracked cylinder head can be linked with excessive wear from the thousands of mileage the car has done.
Overheating is something you should never allow your engine to experience. Once an engine is overheating, every one of its components stands at great risk, and of course, that includes the cylinders. Excessive heat from an overheating engine can wrap the cylinder head or make it crack.
Hard impacts from accidents can also cause the cylinder head to crack or bend; causing it to malfunction and trigger any of the symptoms explained above.
4. Failed Thermostat
The thermostat is there to moderate when coolant should flow into the engine to cool down the temperature. A failed thermostat can either get stuck open or stuck closed.
If it is stuck open, you’d experience low coolant levels all the time, because there’s no moderation. If the thermostat is stuck closed, then the engine would overheat easily, which can cause the cylinder head, and even the head gasket to warp, crack, or get blown.
FAQs About Cylinder Head
What does a cracked cylinder head sound like?
A cracked cylinder head typically sounds like an exhaust leak. If a cracked cylinder head gasket lets compressed air/fuel to pass through, the cylinder’s compression will be reduced, leading to a rough running engine and a noticeable decrease in engine power.
Can a cracked cylinder head be repaired?
Yes, a cracked cylinder head can be repaired; however, the difficulty level will depend on how many cracks you’re fixing and how severe each of them is. Therefore, when you want to repair a cracked cylinder head, you can do so either by pinning or welding.
How much does it cost to replace a cracked cylinder head?
The average cost of replacing a cylinder head is between $3,400 and $3,700. The parts alone goes between $2,176 and $2,204, while labor costs are estimated between $1,200 and $1,500. There are also other things that can affect this price, such as taxes, your specific vehicle, your location, and other fees.
How long does it take to replace a cylinder head?
A head gasket replacement can typically take between 5 and 6 hours for most mechanics to finish.
How long will a car run with a cracked cylinder head?
Some engines with a cracked cylinder head will stop functioning entirely within one day, while some cars might be able to run for a week or a few months if a temporary fix is used on it. But as a general rule of thumb, you should NOT drive your car if you suspect a cylinder head gasket issue.
Once there is a failed component inside the engine, if the component is not repaired early enough, it can cause other surrounding components to get spoilt too.
These cracked cylinder head symptoms apply to all cars; you should watch out for them and fix your car’s cylinder head as soon as possible – when you confirm it is cracked.