How to Replace an Engine Head

A car engine
  • 4-10 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 100-600
What You'll Need
Cylinder head
Head gasket
Socket set
Wrench set
Torque wrench
Locking Tool
Brake cleaner
Pry bar
Scrubbing pads
Jack stands

It isn't always easy to replace engine heads or cylinder heads. However, you can undertake this project at home. The more automotive knowledge you have, the easier the task will be. Follow the steps below to successfully replace your engine head.

Step 1 - Removal

To begin, raise the front end of the car onto jack stands to help create workspace. Remove the left front wheel of the car, and take off all the belts for the accessories in the engine. Loosen the V belt and the timing belt tensioner. Now, use sockets to take off the exhaust pipe at the manifold by unbolting it. Remove the air cleaner and all of its hoses. Remove the sensors that are attached to the cylinder head. You should be able to do all of this by hand.

After relieving the fuel pressure, unbolt both the fuel lines, the throttle cable and the kick down cable for the transmission. Drain the radiator and remove the upper radiator hose. Finally, remove the spark plug wires. You will now have complete access to the engine head. To remove it, loosen the outside bolts on opposite sides and work inward. Once you’ve removed all the bolts, you will need a pry bar to remove the engine head.

Step 2 - Preparation

Before you replace the cylinder head, you have to clean off all the surfaces thoroughly to remove the accumulated grease and grime. A scrubbing pad is good for this and should be followed by using a rag soaked in brake cleaner.

Take time to align the timing mark on the cam gear according to the service manual. This ensures the valves will be in the right position. You’ll need a locking tool to hold them in place. Follow this by aligning the marks on the block to the marks on the crankshaft.

Step 3 - Gasket

Before putting on the new engine head, you’ll need to fit a new cylinder head gasket. Make sure the correct side is facing up and locate it over the pins on the block, ensuring everything is correctly lined up.

Step 4 - New Head

To replace the engine head, fit the new head on the block using the pins to ensure it’s placed properly on the block. Before fixing the bolts in place, you should lube each one and then tighten slightly with your hand.

To tighten down the engine head, you’ll need a torque wrench. Be aware that you need to tighten down the bolts in the proper order and to the correct torque. The information for this will be in your service manual. When fully tightened, begin to reattach all the other engine elements. You should do this in the reverse order to the way you disconnected them. With the belts, make sure they’re properly tensioned. Before lowering the car from the jack stands, check all connections once more for tightness.