Most of the do-it-yourself repairs that I’ve described in past columns are comparatively simple. Repairing a blown head gasket, on the other hand, is a major job. However, with the right knowledge and tools (and I can provide the first part), it can be done. If you have any questions about the process I’m about to explain, I encourage you to contact a trained mechanic. So, let’s get right into it.
First, disconnect the battery terminal (this is mostly a safety precaution). Then, you’ll need to drain the cooling system; if you do not, it’ll make a mess in your garage or workplace. Next, raise and support the front of the vehicle on a set of sturdy jacks. Let me make a quick aside and recommend that you invest in high-quality jack stands. Next, you’ll need to remove the exhaust pipe, which is connected to the exhaust manifold. It’s typically (though, not always) held into place by two bolts. After you’ve detached the exhaust pipe, lower your vehicle.
Dismantling Your Vehicle
Pop the hood of your car and remove the air cleaner and the upper radiator hose. Look around for the nut which is holding the dipstick tube bracket to the thermostat housing. You’ll need to remove it. Then, remove the coil if it’s attached to the thermostat housing. You’ll also find a coolant temperature sensor, which you’ll need to unplug. Next, remove the cap, wires, and water shield from your motor.
Now, remove the head bolts which are located on the uppermost part of the head. At this point, you’ll need to take off the upper half of the timing belt cover and the valve cover. Then, take off the wiring harness connector which lies right beside the throttle body.
Remove the throttle cables from the body, and also the two head bolts which help hold the bracket. Take the vacuum lines off the throttle body and do not disconnect the fuel lines. I can’t emphasize this enough: use extreme caution with the fuel lines; there may be a lot of pressure built withing and the fuel is flammable. Once it’s fully disconnected, lift the throttle body wiring harness, the fuel lines, and also the vacuum lines out of the way. I recommend that you use a bungee cord to keep everything managed.
Reaching The Head Gasket
With a little more dismantling, you’ll be able to reach the head gasket. Once you’ve removed the head, scrape the old gasket and replace it with the new one. You’ll also want to clean the head with an air compressor and a brush. Once you have applied best head gasket sealer, put the head back into place. You can now start putting your car back together again.
As I mentioned above, if you have any questions, speak with your mechanic. If you’re not accustomed to doing your own repairs (in other words, you barely know where to put the gas), let your mechanic perform the job for you. It’ll cost more, but he’s trained to do the job properly.