Replacing a Cylinder Head Gasket

Head Gasket
  • 6-12 hours
  • Advanced
  • 100-250
What You'll Need
Vehicle repair manual
Drop cloth
Torque wrench
Pry bar
Gasket scraper
Cylinder head gasket
Valve cover gasket
Intake manifold gasket
Exhaust manifold gasket

Replacing a cylinder head gasket can be an expensive repair and one you can consider doing yourself to save a few dollars if you have a mechanical knack. It is both a time-consuming and demanding repair so you will need time and patience when working on your cylinder head gasket. White or black smoke from your exhaust will be the first indicator that you have a head gasket problem but you will want to read through the following steps and your repair manual before getting started.

Step 1: Prepare Work Area

After reading your vehicle repair manual, place it in an easy-to-consult location open to the appropriate page. Arrange your tools next to your vehicle repair manual in the order that you will need them. Spread a clean drop cloth on the floor near your work area, but in a place where it won’t be under foot; this will give you a place to put parts as you remove them and will keep them handy for when it’s time to reassemble your engine.

Step 2: Remove Distributor

If your distributor enters the engine through the intake manifold, you will need to remove it. You will find a single bolt underneath the distributor that connects it to the engine which is removable with a wrench. Pull the distributor straight upwards once you have removed the attaching bolt.

Step 3: Remove Intake and Exhaust Manifolds

Drain coolant from engine. The intake manifold is located on the top on your engine while the exhaust manifold is located on side of the cylinder head. Starting with the intake manifold, use a wrench to remove the attaching bolts. Use a pry bar to gently break the seal and remove each from the engine.

Step 4: Remove Cylinder Head

Using your wrench, remove the bolts that hold the valve cover in place to access the rocker arms and push rods. You will need to remove the nut that holds each rocker arm in place before pulling out each rocker arm and push rod. Once the rocker arms and push rods have been removed you can take the cylinder head off the engine by removing its retaining bolts.

Step 5: Replace Cylinder Head Gasket

With a gasket scraper, you need to clean both the bottom of the cylinder head as well as the engine surface where the cylinder head sits. This will allow for a proper seal to be formed with the new head gasket in place. Put your new cylinder head gasket on the engine before replacing the cylinder head itself without putting gasket sealer on the head gasket. Replace the cylinder head retaining bolts by hand tightening at first, then using a torque wrench to tighten each bolt to the specifications outlined in your vehicle repair manual.

Step 6: Reassemble Engine Components

Working backwards, reassemble each of your engine’s components as you found them. Start with the rocker arms and push rods, using your torque wrench to tighten to your vehicle repair manual specifications. Take the time to install new valve cover, intake and exhaust manifold gaskets. Only valve cover and intake manifold gaskets need to be coated with gasket sealer. If you removed the distributor, replace it using the attaching bolt. Replace coolant.