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I think my cylinder head might be cracked, how can I tell?

A common problem that automobile owners face is a cracked cylinder head. The cylinder head facilitates cooling in the engine. The cylinder head gasket contains the engine coolant inside the head and keeps it from mixing and contaminating the engine oil. If something goes wrong with the cylinder head gasket, the coolant will not be able to abate the heat created by the engine and often times the head will overheat and crack. If your cylinder head is cracked, there a few telltale signs you can use to diagnose the problem.

The first sign that your cylinder head might be cracked is if you are experiencing a loss of coolant and you’re unable to pinpoint the source. If your cylinder head is cracked and leaking, you may not see an excess of fluid underneath your parked car like you would with some other mechanical issues yet you will notice the coolant reservoir is low. Before you jump to any conclusion make sure you have a mechanic do a pressure test to confirm the problem.

If your engine is losing coolant because of a leak in the cylinder head gasket, your engine will begin to overheat. Engine overheating is a serious issue that can cause a multitude of other technical difficulties in your car, so if you are experiencing engine overheating it is essential that you have your vehicle inspected by a mechanic immediately. The quicker you get it looked at the better, because you can often catch an issue before it develops into a serious problem. The cylinder head gasket often leaks before the head itself cracks-- if discovered early, your mechanic can easily fix the gasket without having to install a whole new cylinder head.

The next sign that your head gasket is leaking or the cylinder head itself is cracked is if you see white smoke when you first start your car. White smoke is a sign that coolant is spilling out of the cylinder head or head gasket and evaporating on the hot metal of your internal combustion engine.

The fourth and final way that you can tell if your cylinder head is cracked or leaking is if you discover that your engine oil has become foamy. One of the head gasket’s main functions is to prevent the mixing of engine oil and coolant as the cylinder head works to cool your engine. If your head cracks or there is a leak in the gasket, then the oil and coolant will begin to mix and create a foamy substance. This is the reason you won’t see fluid underneath your parked car when your head is cracked, because the leaking coolant is actually flowing into your oil reservoir.

Note: These symptoms could also be signs of other issues taking place in your vehicle. Always consult a mechanic before replacing any parts in your vehicle.

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