Head Gasket » Repair / Replacement · Cost · Blown · Symptoms

How much does head gasket repair cost in the UK?

A blown head gasket is definitely one of the more serious car problems and should be dealt with quickly. We will show you which symptoms indicate a blown head gasket. Plus: What is the cost of a head gasket repair in the UK?

How much does head gasket repair cost in the UK?

AVERAGE PRICE SPAN » £400 – £1,000

The cost for a head gasket repair can range from £250 to £2,000. The cost of labour is usually much higher than the cost of materials, as installation and removal oft he parts is very costly.

The reason why there is such a big difference in price, is that the replacement is of varying complexity depending on the vehicle and the engine. In addition, the repair can be much more expensive, if for example the cylinder head is distorted.

This is an example of how the cost of a head gasket replacement for a Vauxhall Corsa D could look like:

Head gasket replacement • Vauxhall Corsa D
Overview
Cost
New head gasket
£90
Engine oil
£80
Oil filter
£20
Engine coolant
£20
Labour cost
£280
Total cost
£490
The biggest cost factor in the repair of a head gasket is always the working time. In most cases, the garage charges between three and ten working hours for changing the head gasket. With an average hourly rate of £60 – £150 per hour in the UK, the repair can therefore quickly become rather expensive.

Both cylinder head gaskets should always be replaced. In addition to a new head gasket and expansion bolts, the oil and coolant should also be replaced, as the quality of the oil and water is affected by a defective head gasket.

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Costs for head gasket replacement varies between car models

Depending on the car model and engine type, garage prices can vary considerably. On the one hand this is due to the varying difficulty of access to the head gasket due to the engine design, but also to the material costs for the head gasket itself.

The replacement cost for a blown head gasket will therefore be different for a Mini Cooper, Ford Transit, Peugeot 210 or Audi A3. All prices listed here are inclusive of VAT and are intended only as guidelines, which may vary.

Below is an overview with estimated head gasket replacement costs for different car models:

Overview car models
Estimate
Alfa Romeo Giulietta • Alfa Romeo Mito • Chevrolet Spark • Chevrolet Matiz • Fiat 500 • Fiat Panda • Fiat Punto • Ford Fiesta • Ford Ka • Ford Escort • Hyundai i10 • Hyundai i20 • Kia Ceed • Kia Picanto • Kia Rio • Nissan Micra • Vauxhall Corsa • Vauxhall Meriva • Peugeot 206, 207, 208 • Renault Clio • Renault Twingo • Seat Altea • Seat Ibiza • Smart Fortwo • Toyota Corolla • Toyota Auris • Toyota Yaris • VW Fox • VW Lupo • VW Polo
from £250
Audi A1, S1 • Audi A3, S3, RS3 • Citroen Berlingo • Citroen C3 • Citroen C4 • Citroen Jumper • Dacia Duster • Dacia Logan • Dacia Sandero • Ford Kuga • Ford Mondeo • Ford Transit • Honda Civic • Honda Jazz • Hyundai Tucson • Kia Sportage • Mazda CX 5 • Mercedes A Klasse • Mazda CX 3 • Mini • Nissan Qashqai • Vauxhall Astra • Vauxhall Mokka • Vauxhall Vectra • Vauxhall Zafira • Peugeot 308, 3008 • Renault Kangoo • Renault Megane • Seat Alhambra • Seat Leon • Skoda Fabia • Skoda Octavia • Skoda Roomster • Skoda Superb • Skoda Yeti • Toyota Avensis • Toyota Prius • Volvo V60 • VW Passat • VW Tiguan • VW Golf 4, 5, 6, 7
from £400
Audi A4, S4, RS4 • Audi A5, S5, RS5 • Audi A6, S6, RS6 • Audi Q2 • Audi Q5 • BMW X1 • BMW 1er • BMW 2er • BMW 3er • BMW 5er • Fiat Ducato • Ford Focus • Ford Galaxy • Jaguar XF • Land Rover Freelander • Mercedes B Klasse • Mercedes C Klasse • Mercedes E Klasse • Mercedes GLK, GLC • Vauxhall Insignia • Porsche 911 • Porsche Boxter • Rover 75 • Seat Alhambra • VW Caddy • VW Sharan • VW Touran • VW T5
from £550

What is a head gasket and what does it do?

The head gasket (or cylinder head gasket) is an important component of the combustion motor in vehicles. The head gasket is installed between the cylinder head and the crankcase. Without the head gasket, the circuits of lubricant and coolant would no longer work. It seals the paths of gas, oil and water and prevents these important substances from mixing.

In the process, the head gasket is exposed to heavy wear due to friction and extremely high temperatures.
It must therefore be able to withstand high thermal and mechanical strain. This makes the production of this component costly and complicated.

However, if the car and especially the engine are handled well, the head gasket can withstand quite a bit. However, there are differences in the type of vehicle. In diesel engines, the gaskets are subjected to much greater stress than in gasoline engines.

Head gasket blown: What does it mean?

» Time to take action!

If the head gasket is blown, this can have fatal consequences. High pressure due to water accumulation in the combustion chamber, but also overheating can lead to irreparable engine damage. The extent of the repair also depends on how quickly you react to warning signals.

The head gasket is not among the wearing parts of the vehicle and the repair means a considerable amount of intervention. On the one hand, it is a matter of replacing the damaged gasket, and on the other hand, it is important to eliminate the problem that caused it. If symptoms arise, an appointment should therefore be made at the garage.

Always rely on original part quality for head gaskets!

Given the low material costs, the use of ‘No Name’ head gaskets is definitely not advisable. After all, it would be annoying if a leak were to occur again after a short time just because of a new cheap gasket and another repair would become necessary.

Well-known manufacturers of high-quality head gaskets include:

Ajusa • Corteco • Stark • Herth+Buss • Febi Billstein • Elwis • Elring • Glaser • Victor Reinz • Payen • Ridex

5 possible causes of a blown head gasket

It is quite rare that a head gasket becomes blown. The possible causes for damage are nevertheless manifold. Here are 5 possible causes for a blown head gasket:
1. Overheating

Malfunctions of engine components such as the water pump or a thermostat, but also lime deposits, lack of liquid or incorrect antifreeze in the cooling system – and even defects in the exhaust system – can lead to overheating and damage the gasket.
2. Poor driving

An overly reckless driving style can also be responsible for damage to the sealing material. This results in faster wear of the components.
3. Faulty assembling and loose parts

If the head gasket is not sufficiently compressed because components are distorted or the assembling does not comply with the guidelines, oil and coolant leaks and the escape of combustion gases may occur. Loose parts can also cause mechanical damage.
4. Low quality fuel

An irregular combustion sequence, for example due to the use of an incompatible or inferior fuel, can clog the sealing material.
5. Normal wear and tear

As ordinary as it may sound, sometimes this robust component simply breaks down through use. Anyone who drives their car a great deal and rather often cannot prevent natural wear and tear.

Signs and symptoms of a blown head gasket

If the head gasket is blown, you will first notice this in most cases by the fact that oil and water no longer flow where they should. Typical first warning signs for a blown head gasket are the following:
» White smoke from the exhaust

Another symptom of a defective gasket is white smoke that comes out of the exhaust when the engine is started.

» Rapid rise in motor temperature

At high speed, for example on the motorway, the engine temperature will suddenly rise very quickly.

» Oil in cooling water

If oil has penetrated the cooling circuit, foam sometimes forms in the cooling water tank or the water turns brownish. There is a risk of overheating.
» Loss of cooling water

You may suddenly need to refill cooling water regularly. Under normal circumstances this would hardly be necessary.

Get your car checked if you see oil or coolant in uncommon places!

» Bubble formation in the cooling system

If emissions or pressure enter the cooling circuit, bubbles appear in the cooling water tank.

» Cooling water in engine oil

If water from the cooling system penetrates into the oil circuit, foam is deposited on the inside of the oil tank cover. Sometimes drops of water or yellowish residues also settle on the oil dipstick. Oil consumption also increases noticeably.

» Cooling water and engine oil on the engine block

If you notice damp or oily residues on the engine block, this can also indicate a defective gasket on the cylinder head. Look for yellowish slime around the oil filler neck.

» Black colouring on gasket

If gas is escaping from the head gasket due to a leak, you will see black residue on the gasket.

More advanced signs of a blown head gasket

If the first signs are ignored or overlooked, continued driving with a blown head gasket can lead to further advanced symptoms. These signs indicate that urgent action is needed:

The motor does not start at all
Noticeably poor engine performance
Coolant temperature display in red area shortly after starting to drive
When starting the engine darker / black smoke comes out of the exhaust

Is it worth fixing a blown head gasket?

» In the majority of cases it does.

This also depends on the current value of your car and the cost of the head gasket replacement. In any case it is worthwhile to make a free price comparison to find out how much the repair would cost in your region. You can also determine the current value of your car free of charge here.

Can I still drive with a blown head gasket?

» Drive to the garage immediately!

Driving on with a blown head gasket is not a good idea! If the oil pipe is leaking, your car will most likely lose engine oil. The oil leaking from the engine compartment can cause soil contamination and sensitive environmental pollution. If water gets into the oil, your car may break down or not start at all, especially in cold winter months.

So it is not worth delaying the repair any further. As soon as the defect is detected, action must be taken. Failure to act only leads to even greater problems and above all will result in one thing: much higher costs!

How is a head gasket replaced?

Find out how a head gasket replacement is done.
First of all it must be checked whether the head gasket is leaking or blown. It would be annoying if, after an elaborate dismantling process, it is found that the reason for a problem is another than the defective head gasket. The work involved in changing the head gasket would then have been unnecessary.

If the suspicion is confirmed, the disassembling of the parts starts until the seal is accessible and can be replaced. Before the cylinder head can be removed, the intake and exhaust manifolds, the air filter and, for some models, also various other components must first be dismantled.

Replacing a head gasket requires an enormous amount of work

Then the leaking head gasket will be removed and the contact surfaces thoroughly cleaned. Sometimes the cylinder head must also be sanded flat. At the same time it is also checked for fissures or other damage. After the head gasket has been replaced, a sealing agent is usually applied in order to be able to seal the cylinder head securely.

Then the head is reassembled and the valves are adjusted. This work must be carried out carefully and requires some expertise. After the head gasket replacement, all engine components that were previously removed must be reinstalled. After that, a change of the coolant is also necessary.

Before this, the entire cooling system should be cleaned so that there are no more oil residues in it. But it is also necessary to change the engine oil. There may still be coolant in the oil due to the previously defective head gasket. After repairing the engine, it is also recommended to reseal the intake and exhaust manifolds.

How long does a head gasket replacement take?

Garages usually charge between three to ten working hours for changing the head gasket. In extreme cases, the repair can even take up to 15 hours. That depends primarily on the engine. This means that your car can also be left in the garage for two days.

The repair can also become more expensive, for example if the cylinder head is distorted. Then the sealing surface of the head has to be sanded. Otherwise the head will not seal properly even with a new head gasket.

Can I replace a head gasket myself?

» Only if you are an expert!

In principle, the replacement should only be carried out by a qualified specialist as it is (as explained in the text above) extremely time-consuming and requires a lot of precision and automotive expertise. Head gasket replacement requires a lot of working materials and every little mistake could be damaging to the car.

Furthermore, you have to remove almost every part of the car up to the engine to get to the cylinder head and this requires a lot of knowledge about which cables are interconnected. Likewise, the engine oil must also be disposed of in accordance with the regulations, in the event of a loss of engine oil.

We therefore recommend going to a specialist garage. There you can also have the suspicion of a blown or leaking head gasket checked. After all, it would be annoying if the cause of the problem was actually another one.

How often does a head gasket need to be replaced?

The head gasket is one of the wear and tear components and therefore, has a limited service life of about 50,000 – 150,000 kilometres on average. However, mileages of 150,000 km and more are usually only achieved by very reserved drivers.

How quickly the cylinder head gasket wears out depends on the engine type and individual driving style. A heavily loaded engine will be plagued by a defect more quickly than one that is carefully operated.

3 Savings tips: How can I save money with the head gasket?

1. Change other parts at the same time

If the engine is already disassembled as far as it is necessary for a head gasket replacement, it is sometimes worthwhile to replace the cambelt or timing chain. The majority of the cost of these two repairs consists of the labour costs for installation and removal. The parts themselves are relatively cheap. It may therefore be worthwhile to have them replaced as well.

2. Let a specialist do the repair!

One reason why the head gaskets become blown is because of assembly errors. Often the contact surfaces are not sanded flat enough and attempts are made to correct leaks by tightening the screws more. This often leads to a burning of the valve. The list of possible errors is long. It is therefore worth investing money in a qualified professional.

3. Compare garage prices beforehand

Replacement of a blown head gasket is among the more expensive car repairs. The price differences in the garages can be correspondingly high. In a few cases, the repair costs may even exceed the value of the vehicle and then a head gasket replacement may no longer be worthwhile. In any case it is advisable to compare prices.

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